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Governor Ned Lamont


Governor Lamont Announces New Initiative To Promote Outdoor Recreation Economy

State Seeking To Expand Park Services and Amenities Through Partnerships With the Private Sector

(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Ned Lamont today announced the establishment of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s (DEEP) Office of Outdoor Industry and Experiences, which seeks to grow Connecticut’s outdoor recreation economy by creating partnerships with the private sector. Coinciding with establishing this new office, DEEP is launching a request for information (RFI) as an initial step to expand services and amenities in state parks through partnerships with businesses, nonprofits, and other private sector entities.

The first task for this new office will be to facilitate the RFI process to establish partnerships with organizations that share our values for both conservation and outdoor recreation, and ultimately result in enhanced outdoor experiences in state parks.

Governor Lamont and DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes made the announcement at the Mohawk Mountain Ski Area in West Cornwall, a family-operated outdoor recreation business currently operating through a partnership with Connecticut State Parks.

“Connecticut’s state parks are among the best in the country and provide the setting for many memorable outdoor recreation experiences,” Governor Lamont said. “Our private partners help facilitate those experiences, whether it be a great day of skiing at Mohawk, tubing with family and friends on the Farmington River, or taking a ride on the Essex Steam Train. There are so many wonderful ways to experience the outdoors in our state, and with this new office and RFI, we look forward to discovering new ways to play in the outdoors in our beautiful state.”

Demand for outdoor recreation has spiked since the COVID-19 pandemic, with state park visitation increasing from just under 10 million in 2019, to an estimated 17 million in 2022. DEEP has embraced these higher visitor levels and the opportunities to connect park visitors with other Connecticut tourist destinations, with the launch of a new, interactive state parks website, Connecticut’s $4.6 billion outdoor recreation economy also has demonstrated robust growth each year since the pandemic, expanding by 20% in 2021 and then by another 11% in 2022. This is the second largest in New England, supporting almost 46,000 jobs.

Thanks to the Passport to the Parks program, DEEP is able to maintain parks services and operations without charging Connecticut residents a fee to park at popular park destinations. The recent increase in public demand for outdoor recreation at state parks coincides with a historic investment in state park facilities and services. Since 2022, the Lamont administration and the legislature have committed $80 million in capital investments as part of the Restore CT State Parks initiative. This initiative is funding repairs and improvements at more than 40 park locations, from renovations of Heublein Tower at Talcott Mountain State Park in Simsbury, to site improvements at Gillette Castle State Park in East Haddam.

Against this backdrop of increased visitation, a growing outdoor economy, and a once-in-a-generation level of capital investment in park facilities, DEEP is launching a RFI to solicit ideas and concepts from strategic partners – businesses, nonprofits, and other interested stakeholders – about new or expanded partnerships DEEP could pursue to elevate the outdoor recreation experience in state parks, create new tourism destinations, and provide equitable access to the outdoors.

“Through this new office and initiative, we are elevating the outdoor recreation experience in our parks, creating new tourism destinations, and building on the Lamont administration’s commitment to providing equitable access to the outdoors,” Commissioner Dykes said. “I encourage private sector organizations who share our values for both outdoor recreation and conservation to submit partnership concepts. We’re eager to hear ideas from nonprofits and businesses about ways they could partner with us to provide expanded services and amenities for state park visitors, that reflect our values for both outdoor recreation and natural resource conservation. We want to hear from our visitors about the kinds of experiences you’d like to see result from these partnerships.”

“The initial steps established by DEEP’s RFI are bold, smart, and innovative,” Anthony Anthony, Connecticut’s chief marketing officer, said. “These kinds of partnerships with the private sector have long been encouraged by the Lamont administration, and this one in particular will build sustainable development of the tourism industry. More importantly, it will expand access to our state parks, which are some of Connecticut’s finest and most visited tourist destinations. It’s a win-win for everyone — tourists and residents alike, private industry, and our economy.”

This RFI will seek to add to DEEP’s successful partnerships, which includes canoe and kayak rentals through Clarke Outdoors at Burr Pond State Park; the Essex Steam Train, an iconic regional tourism destination in Connecticut Valley Railroad State Park; Farmington River Tubing, which provides a safe, enjoyable experience in Satan’s Kingdom State Park; and the Mohawk Mountain Ski Area.

Businesses, nonprofits, and individuals are invited to apply to the RFI, which can be found on the website for DEEP’s Office of Outdoor Industry and Experiences at

The RFI seeks to:

  • Elevate outdoor recreation and visitor experiences: DEEP is interested in exploring partnerships to provide services that elevate the public’s experience in Connecticut State Parks. Potential services could include boat or bike rentals, events, locally sourced farmers’ markets held in parks, guided experiences, “glamping,” rafting or tubing, skiing, biking, marinas or boat shares, food and beverage, and other outdoor recreation partnerships concepts.
  • Expand tourism destinations: State parks are one of Connecticut’s largest tourism attractions, and DEEP seeks to build on our success through partnerships that expand sustainable tourism opportunities and support local economic development.
  • Provide equitable and sustainable access to the outdoors: DEEP seeks to establish partnerships that provide all visitors with equitable opportunities to participate in outdoor recreation experiences, such as universal, adaptive, and ADA-compliant equipment rental, experiences, and education.

“With today’s announcement of the new Office of Outdoor Industry and Experiences, Governor Lamont is demonstrating great leadership in recognizing the relationship between outdoor recreation and public health, economic development, and state competitiveness,” Chris Perkins, vice president of programs for Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, said. “Connecticut is joining 20 other states around the country who have created dedicated offices and positions to advance the outdoor recreation economy. At a time when the outdoor recreation economy has reached $1.1 trillion in economic impact nationwide and $4.6 billion in Connecticut, we couldn’t be more excited to support the new office’s work.”

“We’re thrilled to support Governor Lamont’s vision for the future of outdoor recreation here in Connecticut,” Neil Johnson, store manager for REI Co-op in Milford, said. The outdoor retailer has three locations in the state and operates a wide range of educational experiences and programs. “Whether you prefer to explore the waters of the Long Island Sound or traipse our extensive segment of the Appalachian Trail, the $4.6 billion outdoor recreation industry provides health, economic and social benefits to everyone in our state. We look forward to working with this new office as we strive to make time outside more accessible for all.”

“Excited is an understatement,” Mick Ferraro, secretary of the Connecticut Outdoor Recreation Alliance, said. “The new Office of Outdoor Industry and Experiences will be a game-changer for promoting outdoor recreation in Connecticut and embodies Governor Lamont’s initiative to ‘Make It Here.’ With outdoor recreation contributing more than $1 trillion to the U.S. economy, this office is poised to impact the health of our state in a multitude of ways. We look forward to collaborating with the new office to continue increasing outdoor recreation opportunities, supporting economic development, and stewarding Connecticut’s natural resources.”

“I applaud DEEP for their innovation in establishing an office of Outdoor Industry and Experiences to partner with the private sector to enhance outdoor recreation in state parks,” Ryan Snide, president of Friends of Connecticut State Parks, said. “I encourage our various Friends groups to consider and share the RFI with the organizations that they think would be best fit for their local state parks.”

To learn more about the new Office of Outdoor Industry or to submit a proposal through the RFI, visit

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