Gov. Malloy Announces Launch of Passport to Parks Program, Providing Connecticut Residents Greater Access to State Park System
Residents with Valid Connecticut License Plates Can Now Access All State Parks for Free
Governor Dannel P. Malloy today announced the launch of the state’s Passport to Parks program, a new system that supports services at the state parks system while allowing Connecticut residents who have valid state license plates to access all state parks for free, effective immediately.
Created by the bipartisan state budget that was adopted late last year, Passport to Parks is supported through a $10 fee that is being applied through the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to non-commercial vehicles that have new registrations, renewals, and plate transfers registered. These include passenger cars and vehicles with combination plates, as well as motorcycles, campers/motor homes, and vehicles with antique car plates.
Funds generated through this system will provide the Connecticut State Park system – a division of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) – with greater financial support, allowing a number of services at the parks that had been previously reduced to be restored, such as the reopening of several closed campgrounds, increased staffing of state beaches during the summer, and the restoration of regular hours of operation at certain nature centers and museums.
Launching the program now will allow DEEP adequate time to begin restoring these services for the upcoming 2018 spring and summer season, and give time for visitors to make reservations at several campgrounds, including those that had previously been closed.
Out-of-state vehicles will still be charged parking fees ranging from $7 to $22 depending on the park and time of day. Fees to reserve overnight campgrounds for both in-state and out-of-state visitors will still apply.
“Our state parks are one of our most valuable resources, providing recreation and enjoyment to families across our state and serving as an important economic engine,” Governor Malloy said. “Adopting the Passport to Parks system will help ensure that our state parks remain an attractive destination and continue adding to the quality of life and natural beauty we enjoy in our state.”
“We are incredibly grateful to Governor Malloy, members of the General Assembly, stakeholders, and residents of Connecticut who advocated for this program to help fund our state parks,” DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee said. “Each year, nine million people visit our 110 Connecticut State Parks, providing enjoyment to all who visit. It is important that we provide adequate funding to ensure a safe and positive visitor experience. With this dedicated source of funding, we are able to restore many of the services that had been previously cut as a result of fiscal constraints.”
“We are happy to help with providing access to many of Connecticut’s tremendous natural resources and give everyone an opportunity to visit and enjoy them,” DMV Commissioner Michael Bzdyra said.
“Passport to the Parks is a great idea launched at the right time,” Eric Hammerling, Executive Director of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association, said. “Without the revenues generated by the program, there would be further cuts to the state park budget, further closures of campgrounds, and further reductions of full-time and seasonal workers like lifeguards who hold the park system together. We are hopeful that this is a huge leap forward toward both sustainably funding Connecticut’s state parks and opening opportunities for all Connecticut residents to experience them.”
Implementation of the Passport to Parks program will support the restoration of a number of services throughout the state park system, including:
- All of the state’s eight lifeguarded state park beaches are anticipated to be fully staffed for the summer, including at Hammonasset, Rocky Neck, Sherwood Island, Silver Sands, Black Rock, Burr Pond, Indian Well, and Squantz Pond. (Staffing is contingent upon adequate levels of lifeguards being available each season and adjustments may be made toward the end of the season when many of the lifeguards begin school.)
- Hours of operation at the state’s museums and nature centers will be restored from Memorial Day to Labor Day, including at Dinosaur, Gillette Castle, Meigs Point Nature Center, and Fort Trumbull.
- Four campgrounds will reopen:
- Devil’s Hopyard (East Haddam) – Opening day of fishing season through Labor Day
- Green Falls (Voluntown) – Opening day of fishing season through Labor Day
- Macedonia Brook (Kent) – Opening day of fishing season through Labor Day
- Salt Rock (Sprague) – Weekend before Memorial Day through Labor Day
- Spring camping will be restored at the following locations:
- American Legion and Peoples State Forests (Barkhamsted) – Opening day of fishing season through Labor Day
- Mount Misery (Voluntown) – Opening day of fishing season through Labor Day
- Fall camping will be restored at the following locations:
- Hammonasset Beach (Madison) – Weekend before Memorial Day through Columbus Day
- Rocky Neck (East Lyme) – Weekend before Memorial Day through the end of September
- Housatonic Meadows (Sharon) – Weekend before Memorial Day through Columbus Day
- Hopeville Pond (Griswold) – Weekend before Memorial Day through the end of September
This year, the opening day of the fishing season is on Saturday, April 14, 2018.
Reservations at all state campgrounds for the 2018 season can be made beginning at noon on Thursday, February 8, 2018. Camping reservations can be made online through the Reserve America service or by calling 1-877-668-CAMP (2267).
The bipartisan state budget, which was adopted by an overwhelming vote of the Connecticut General Assembly, created the Passport to the Parks non-lapsing account that was to fund expenses of the Council on Environmental Quality beginning with the fiscal year ending June 30, 2019, and for the care, maintenance, operation and improvement of state parks and campgrounds, the soil and water conservation districts and environmental review teams. Unfortunately, the law was drafted to require appropriation of funds but none were made, necessitating a legislative fix this session. The Governor’s FY19 budget adjustment proposes to fix this problem by moving these government expenditures back on-budget through a separate appropriated fund called the Passport to the Parks Fund.