Connecticut to expand access to parks, beaches, camping
Connecticut is planning to provide full access this summer to its outdoor recreation areas including state parks, camp grounds, shoreline beaches, boat launches and inland swimming spots, after providing partial access to its park system last summer even at the height of the pandemic.
Katie Dykes, the commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said the state began accepting reservations for some cabins and campgrounds on Friday and most indoor facilities, including park buildings, museums, nature centers and public restrooms, will be open starting on Memorial Day weekend.
“Really, we’re going back to the way we were before the pandemic,” Dykes said, speaking at Peoples State Forest in Barkhamsted on Friday. “We close parks when parking lots get full, and we can’t accommodate more cars. That’s what we’re looking forward to this coming summer.”
Dykes said plans could change and the DEEP is working with the state Department of Public Health to ensure public safety. She said group gatherings, including weddings, will be allowed in line with the state limit of 200 people at outdoor events.
The state set a record with more than 10 million visitors to its parks last year, a 10% increase over 2019 numbers, despite restrictions on capacity and parking, Dykes said.
This year, permanent food concessions will open on May 29 at Rocky Neck, Hammonasset Beach, Gillette Castle, Silver Sands and Sherwood Island State Parks, with visitors required to stay 6-feet apart while standing in line.
Masks wearing and social distancing will still be encouraged, even at beaches, except during swimming, officials said.
Gov. Ned Lamont said also on Friday that he will ask the state Bond Commission to approve $2 million in bonding for repairs and maintenance work in the state parks, forests and wildlife management areas.
There will be free parking for state residents and free bus service to many of recreation areas on weekends, he said.
“We’re making an extra, extra, extra effort this summer to make sure that our kids have access to free and affordable summer camp; we have access to all of our parks and museums and aquariums,” he said.