DEEP Issues Updated State Park Operations Plan Heading into July 4th
State Parks, Shoreline Swimming Areas Remain Open; Inland Swimming Areas Remain Closed, Campgrounds Begin to Open and Capacity Limits and Social Distancing Guidelines Remain
As we approach July 4th weekend, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) has released an updated operational plan that outlines for DEEP staff and visitors current guidelines around the operation and use of Connecticut state park grounds, trails, beaches, campgrounds, picnic areas and pavilions, boat launches and other areas as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
While much of the operational guidance DEEP has employed through most of the pandemic remains in place-such as daily capacity limits, social distancing guidelines for visitors, and use of face coverings- there are certain updates to note with regard to swimming, camping, group sizes, and picnicking.
Swimming and Beaches: DEEP continues to permit swimming only at shoreline State Parks (not inland State Park swim areas) at this time. This decision is based on considerations of potential crowding and the ability to maintain social distancing onshore and in the water at beach locations. Guidance from the state Department of Public Health indicates that recreational swimming is not a known form of transmission of COVID-19, in saltwater or freshwater.
Swimming is permitted at shoreline State Parks. These parks have sufficiently large beach areas to allow visitors to spread out and maintain social distance.
- Lifeguards are now on duty at shoreline beaches in Connecticut state parks, as staffing allows. On days and times when these beaches do not have lifeguards on duty, they will be posted as "No Lifeguards on Duty."
- Restroom buildings at our shoreline parks are now open.
- Visitors to shoreline parks must maintain 15’ of space from other beachgoers (blanket-to-blanket). This distance will allow for a 6’ radius around each person or family and a 3’ walkway in between groups.
- Shoreline parks continue to operate at lower capacity levels, to prevent overcrowding and support social distancing.If you choose to visit a shoreline state park that features a beach, visitors are encouraged to select locations closest to home, and consider visiting early in the morning before crowds gather.Shoreline parks have been reaching capacity and closing early, especially during weekends.Visitors should be ready with a back-up plan if their first choice is closed. Real-time updates on closures are posted on the state parks Twitter feed, @CTStateParks and at https://portal.ct.gov/whatsopenoutdoors.
- Visitors should bring face coverings and use them whenever they are in proximity to others. Face coverings should not be worn in the water.
At this time, DEEP continues to prohibit swimming at inland State Parks. Based on the very limited size of our beach and swim areas at inland state parks, and current social distancing guidance, DEEP has closed beaches at inland State Parks, and prohibits swimming at inland State Parks. Park staff will monitor beach closure and educate the public to ensure compliance. Lifeguards are not posted at inland beaches. DEEP recognizes how much these inland swim areas are valued and is continuing to review this policy in alignment with public health recommendations and will consider the reopening of designated swim areas on a case-by-case basis and as guidance changes.
State Campgrounds, Cabins, and Youth Sites: State Park Campgrounds opened July 1 for RV campers. The campgrounds will be open to all campers (including tent campers) beginning Wednesday, July 8. The campground reservation system has been re-opened to make reservations for camping between July 8 and the end of the 2020 season. Cabins, Youth Group and River Camping will not be open for the 2020 season. All camping is by reservation and walk-ins will not be permitted.
Group size: According to the state’s Phase 2 re-opening guidance, there is a limit of 100 people for outdoor group activities. Six feet of distance between non-household members remains in place for group events, as well as use of masks where appropriate distancing can’t be maintained. It can be difficult to maintain social distancing in large groups, so DEEP encourages visitors to consider enjoying parks in smaller groups.
Picnicking: Picnicking remains limited in parks.Household members are permitted to bring a blanket, sit on the ground or bring their own table and chairs to picnic. Larger groups of up to 100 can picnic as long as members of the group stay 6’ apart. Picnic tables may be available on a limited basis and placed to ensure adequate social distancing can be maintained. However, DEEP is not disinfecting picnic tables and encourages the public to bring a table cover.
DEEP anticipates a very busy 4th of July weekend at all of our parks and forests. While many associate July 4th with visiting a beach, it’s important to keep in mind that it isn’t the only beach day of the year, and beaches are likely to fill up early. We encourage people to consider visiting one of our less-traveled state parks and forests.
DEEP also asks that visitors do their part in following the recommended guidelines. If you arrive at a park and it is closed for capacity, please move on to your back-up plan. Also, do not park outside and walk in, as that is not permitted, and will be enforced, through a fine or arrest.
Another popular activity on the Fourth of July is boating, and DEEP’s more than 117 state boat launches are open, though capacity limits and social distancing guidance apply to those as well. Also, DEEP reminds boaters planning to get on the water this holiday weekend to do so responsibly. Operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal on all bodies of water and can lead to serious injuries and consequences. To that end, DEEP is participating in the national Operation Dry Water campaign, a period of heightened awareness and enforcement during the 4th of July holiday weekend from July 3 – 5. DEEP reminds boaters to boat sober and always wear a life jacket when on the water.
“I encourage visitors to state parks and forests this holiday weekend to continue to recreate responsibly,” DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes said. “Visitors have done an amazing job thus far during the pandemic, and it’s important that we stay the course by keeping up the good practices that have our state trending in the right direction.”
Finally, DEEP is still hiring for seasonal positions at State Park locations around the state in customer relations, facilities and grounds maintenance, environmental conservation and education, life guarding, office administration and more. Apply now to receive valuable work experience, paid training, and hourly wages supporting DEEP’s outdoor recreation mission. A full list of positions and locations is available at https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP/Outdoor-Recreation/Work-Outdoors.
To view the updated operations plan, go here: https://portal.ct.gov/deep-parkscovid19.