Friday, May 16, 2008

Family revives summer camping retreat

Litchfield Enquirer - Litchfield,CT,USA
Duane Caldwell's best memory of camping with his family at Cozy Hills in Bantam leaps to his mind easily: "Catching frogs in the pond." then added, "We'd get here and I'd never wear shoes."

He and his family, including the late Jim and Carol Caldwell and siblings Kim (Lang) and Dan, spent part of their summers growing up at Cozy Hills, located off Route 202 just over the Litchfield-Bantam town line and two miles east of Mount Tom State Park.

Time passed, and unfortunately the years weren't kind to the 52-acre property. Once owned by the aircraft giant Igor Sikorsky in the 1930s, the property was a Scout camp, was subdivided, and had a number of owners, ending up with the name Looking Glass Hill Campground, whose owner began trying to sell it in the late 1990s.

It stood vacant and unused for a number of years. And now, in his mid-40s, Mr. Caldwell owns it. And the first thing he did was change the name-back to Cozy Hills.

"People call us up and say 'Is this the same Cozy Hills in Bantam? We thought that closed,'" said Mr. Caldwell's wife Monica. "They're so excited, and they're so glad we bought it. Some people say 'We were thinking about buying it too.' They can't wait to get a site and come up."

Mr. Caldwell, a welder by trade whose business in New Milford continues while he keeps busy at the campground, had his work cut out for him when he signed the mortgage papers for the property in early December 2007. The first order of business was to get the small house in shape so he and his wife and son, Nikolai, could move in. "It was a mess," he said with a laugh. "It was full of mice. It was infested. But we got in there, gutted it and got it ready. We moved in 21 days later."

Then the work really began. Mr. Caldwell and his crew, consisting of friends with a variety of expertise, began clearing the old roads, removing debris, years of fallen leaves and cutting trees down to discover the more than 100 campsites, suitable for tents, campers or RVs with electrical hookups, scattered on loop roads inside the campground.

Today the place is nearly ready and has undergone a complete and utter facelift. Gone are the spindly overgrown trees, leaf bogs and muddy roads. The pond grew from three to 12 acres, thanks to the work of busy beavers over the years, and Mr. Caldwell is happy to have them. "There're two huts (beaver houses) and a nice big dam there," he said. "It's a good fishing place. There're lots of frogs."

The dirt roads are graded, and will soon be filled with gravel and ready to welcome RV campers. Power for those sites is established, and Mr. Caldwell is impatiently waiting for CL&P to finish the work so he can rent the rest of his anxious customers a place for the summer. Tent sites are also ready for weekend and week-long visits.
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