HARTFORD — Governor Dannel P. Malloy and Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Commissioner Robert Klee this week announced that as part of the ongoing celebration of the state parks centennial, Saturday and Sunday, July 26-27, will be “Free State Parks Weekend” in Connecticut. For the weekend, all parking and museum fees will be waived throughout Connecticut’s state park system.
“To encourage everyone to visit a state park in this Centennial year, we are waiving fees at our parks this Saturday and Sunday,” said Gov Malloy, who made the announcement during an event at Sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden, one of Connecticut’s 107 state parks. “This means we will not charge the usual parking fees and we will not collect admission fees at state park museums. With this added incentive, we expect many new patrons to visit a park and experience first-hand the beauty and outdoor recreation opportunities they offer so close to home.”
“Many of our parks have been at or close to capacity on nice weekend days this summer,” continued the governor. “I would urge residents to find and explore a park off the beaten path so they can take full advantage of this weekend.”
More details about Free State Parks Weekend are available online. The web site offers a Top 10 list for the best places for swimming, hiking, boating, fishing and picnicking in Connecticut’s State Parks. It also offers details on special programs for this weekend, including a live reptile show Sunday at Stratton Brook State Park in Simsbury, tours of Gillette Castle in East Haddam, Fort Trumbull in New London, Heublein Tower at Talcott Mountain State Park in Bloomfield/Simsbury, and the Harkness Memorial Mansion in Waterford; and hands-on nature and crafting programs at the Goodwin Conservation Center in Hampton and the Kellogg Environmental Center/Osborne Homestead Museum in Derby.
DEEP Commissioner Klee said, “Our park staff is ready to welcome visitors at the 107 park locations across our state. We do advise, however, that you arrive early if you plan to visit one of our beaches on Long Island Sound or an inland lake, as parking lots at those locations can reach capacity quickly.
“We also recommend taking the ‘road less traveled’ to avoid possible crowds by visiting a park a little off the beaten path,” Commissioner Klee added. “At one of these parks you can enjoy a day of hiking, fishing, picnicking, or simply some quiet time in the great outdoors with your family.”
Cmmsr Klee also said those planning to head out to a state park over the weekend can check the Connecticut State Parks Twitter feed for up-to-the-minute information, such as updates on locations where parking lots are filled to capacity, suggestions on parks to visit, and details on special activities.
Information about state parks can also be found on mobile devices by downloading the Connecticut State Parks & Forests app, which can be found by searching Pocket Ranger in either the App Store or Google Play. This guide to state parks is free and provides access to park locations, features, advanced GPS maps, and other features.
Connecticut State Park History
Connecticut formed a State Park Commission in 1913. The first purchase of land made by the Commission was in December 1914, when it closed on five acres in Westport for what later become Sherwood Island State Park.
The Connecticut State Park System today consists of 107 parks with more than 32,000 acres of land and more than eight million visitors a year.
The system includes four shoreline parks: Hammonasset Beach in Madison, Rocky Neck in Old Lyme, Silver Sands in Milford, and Sherwood Island in Westport. It also includes several inland lakes with beaches.
The park system also offers nature centers with educational programming at several locations, 14 campgrounds with 1,400 campsites, publicly available boat launches, miles of hiking trails, excellent fishing locations, and picnic grounds.
A list of Connecticut’s State Parks that includes visitor information can be found online at www.ct.gov/deep.
“Important investments made by our state in land purchases and facilities, as well as the commitment of a dedicated staff over the past century, have created an enviable state parks network,” Gov Malloy said. “This network has stood the test of time and continues to provide convenient ways for families to get outside for recreation and environmental education opportunities.
“Thanks to a strong tradition of protecting our environment, investing in open space, and vigorously pursuing clean, safe, healthy waterways, Connecticut has a wide variety of natural resources to explore and enjoy,” said Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman. “Free parks weekend is a great opportunity to travel the state and see how these investments improve our quality of life — and a chance to better connect residents to a tremendous ecosystem.”
Free State Parks Weekend is part of the state’s celebration of the Centennial of Connecticut’s State Park System. At many park locations this weekend, visitors will be offered a free brochure on the history of our state parks, which will detail, complete with many historic photos, steps that were taken beginning in the early years of the 20th Century to create the state parks system being enjoyed today. The brochure will also be available online on the DEEP website at www.ct.gov/deep.
“As we celebrate the Centennial of our parks, the most fitting way to honor the legacy of the conservation-minded leaders who came before us is to make certain we maintain these lands and ensure that they will provide outdoor recreational opportunities for residents and visitors well into the future,” Gov Malloy continued. “We have been making exactly those kinds of investments and we will continue to do so.”