Connecticut DEP Highlights Summer Recreational Activities in Advance of Traditional Memorial Day Weekend Opening

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106 State Parks and 32 state forests ready for summer season

The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today declared that state parks and forests will be “open for business” this Memorial Day weekend and encouraged all state residents to take the time to enjoy the “great outdoors” during this summer season.

At a pre-opening day park preview at Chatfield Hollow State Park, Killingworth, DEP Commissioner Gina McCarthy said, “As state parks open for the season visitors will see continued improvements in park facilities and programs. Despite difficult economic times, we continue to move our parks forward – to make them even more attractive, inviting, fun and educational places for families to visit. Through our No Child Left Insidecampaign we are encouraging families to get outside and enjoy our parks and we have them ready for the long-awaited Memorial Day weekend.

Commissioner McCarthy said that among highlights visitors will see through the year are:

  • Sherwood Island State Park – New nature center opening July 1 in partnership with the Friends of Sherwood Island State Park
  • Interpretive programs in 25 state parks, forests and historic sites staffed by more than 40 Park Interpreters
  • Squantz Pond State Park – Expanded main beach and other measures to improve park safety
  • Putnam State Park – New exhibit in Visitor’s Center on Revolutionary War troop encampment at park site
  • Gillette Castle State Park – New exhibits including display of train engine that William Gillette used there

Commissioner McCarthy said, “Connecticut State Parks continue to amaze me with their natural beauty and splendor for all to enjoy. Whether you hike, fish or horseback ride, or are simply looking for a beautiful spot for a family picnic, you will find a park nearby where you can spend quality time with your family.

Park Passes

State residents are encouraged to purchase a state parks season pass, which now sell for $50 for residents and $75 for out-of-state residents. The pass covers the cost of parking at major state parks where daily parking fees are charged.

Park passes can be purchased at the DEP Bookstore and at a variety of other park locations. To find a location to purchase a park pass, visit the DEP web site at or call the Division of State Parks at (860) 424-3200.

Tom Morrissey, Chief, Bureau of Outdoor Recreation added, “Money collected from state park fees goes directly back into supporting the parks and programs such as seasonal interpretive programs and lifeguards so people purchasing passes and visiting parks know they are supporting our great state park system by their patronage.”

No Child Left Inside

As part of the 2008 No Child Left Insideinitiative, The Great Park Pursuit, family game, continues throughout June. Families follow clues as they visit seven state parks and forests and participate in activities such as hiking, letterboxing, canoeing, arts and crafts and more. Registered families compete for exciting outdoor prizes. All families are invited to participate in any of the remaining Great Park Pursuit activities whether registered or not. Visit for clues to the next great adventure.

No Child Left Inside

was introduced in 2006 by Governor M. Jodi Rell and is designed to reconnect children with the outdoors, showcase the recreational opportunities available in Connecticut’s state parks and forests, and build the next generation of environmental stewards.Lifeguards

DEP has a squad of 80 guards at 11 state parks on duty from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. Positions are still available. For more information call (860) 424-3200.

General Information

For more information on Connecticut’s State Parks, visit the DEP web site at or call the Division of State Parks at (860) 424-3200.

  • State Park Improvements for 2008

    Facilities Improvement

    Ft. Griswold Battlefield SP – Groton

    The finishing touches were put on the new restroom building at Ft Trumbull this spring.Gillette Castle SP – Hadlyme

    New exhibits in the House (Castle) and be sure to see William Gillette’s Train engine restored in 2007 through the generosity of the friends of Gillette Castle SP and Ted Tine Motorsports.Putnam Memorial SP – Redding

    New Interpretive exhibits in the Putnam Memorial Visitor’s center. Exhibits tell the story of the 1779 Continental Army’s Winter Encampment at this site and, show how the Visitor’s Center was painstakingly restored. The Visitor’s Center is the oldest building designed specifically for park use in the state.Sherwood Island SP – Westport

    New Nature Center – The construction of the building will be completed by July 1, 2008. Over the course of the summer, exhibits will be designed and constructed. The Park will have interpretive programs during this summer season.

  • The Nature Center was developed through a partnership of the DEP, Friends of Sherwood Island SP. The Friends of Sherwood Island SP raised $140,000 toward the construction of the Nature center through fundraising events and grants from Newman’s Own and the Long Island Sound License Plate Program.
  • The Nature Center is 36 x 72 feet (2592 sq ft) in size and, to date, has cost $292,000. The total construction budget is $300,000.
  • Squantz Pond SP – New Fairfield

    New Beach (wider and deeper)

  • New ENCON Police Sub-station
  • Closing East Beach
  • Limiting car capacity to 250 cars
  • Officers on patrol in park and in jet boat
  • Lifeguards – Statewide

    Connecticut’s beaches will be staffed and ready for the Memorial Day Holiday.

  • Guards are still needed at the following locations:

Black Rock – Watertown (2 guards needed) Hammonasset Beach – Madison (1 guard needed) Osbornedale (Indian Well & Silver Sands) (6 guards needed) Sherwood Island – Westport (5 guards needed) Wharton Brook – Wallingford (2 guards needed)

Special Use Application

CT State Park & Forest Recreation Areas host more than 300 Special Events every year. These include fundraising events, antique car shows, filming, competitions and much more. Information regarding how to apply for a special event at a park or forest and the Application Form for such events may now be accessed on line at:

State Park & Forest Survey

A new survey will be available on the DEP website beginning today that will enable visitors to tell us about their experience at the park and forest day-use areas and campgrounds. The survey will help the DEP to better serve the visitors and help to plan for future needs of the recreational user. You can access the survey at: Parks Interpretive Program

This year the DEP will continue to have programs in twenty-five state parks, forests and historic sites; staffed by over forty Park Interpreters. Nature walks, live animal programs, fishing, geology hikes, and Civil War enactments are just some of the programs being offered. Sherwood Island Nature Center in Westport will be opened during the summer of 2008.

“Give Children Back the Night” will provide special evening programs meant to expose participants to the world that exists after the sun goes down, through astronomy programs, moonlight walks and owl prowls. Through “Across the Generations” grandparents, and older caregivers, will get outdoors with the children in their care.

“Bike to Health and Happiness” will help families develop healthy lifestyles. Riding a bicycle is one of the many joys of childhood. During the program bikes that have been donated to the DEP will be tuned-up and loaned to families so they can learn to ride safely together in some of our multi-purpose trails.


Trout Parks:

Connecticut currently has nine Trout Parks spread throughout the state from Fairfield County to the Northeastern Hills.

Trout Parks include:

Black Rock State Park – Watertown
Chatfield Hollow State Park – Killingworth
Day Pond State Park – Colchester
Kent Falls State Park – Kent
Mohegan Park Pond – Norwich
Natchaug River – Eastford
Southford Falls State Park – Oxford
Stratton Brook state Park – Simsbury
Valley Falls Park – Vernon
Wharton Brook State Park – Wallingford
Wolfe Park – Monroe

Trout Parks are ideal locations for a family fishing outing. They are located in well-maintained state or municipal parks with bathroom and picnic facilities. Novice anglers are more likely to catch trout at these locations because of frequent stockings (approximately once per week during the spring) and a reduced creel limit (2 trout per day). The reduced creel limit spreads the fish among more anglers and helps to maintain consistently high catch rates throughout the spring trout fishing season. These areas are ideal for introducing young anglers to the sport of fishing.

CARE (Connecticut Aquatic Resource Education) Program:

Fishing is wholesome family fun in the great outdoors. Instructors from the DEP CARE program, offer Family Fishing courses across the State. Some are being held right now and all instruction is FREE! If your children enroll in summer camps, CARE Instructors may be visiting soon to teach them about water, fish and fishing. And as part of the DEP’s “No Child Left Inside” campaign, CARE Instructors will lead fishing events in several state parks this summer. CARE has even helped hundreds of new anglers catch their very first rainbow trout right here in Chatfield Hollow State Park! Over 100,000 families have learned about the wonders of family fishing since the program began, including 6,000 in 2007. Thousands more will join us this year. If you would like to be one of them, simply visit the DEP website for a schedule of upcoming Family Fishing courses.Urban Fishing Program:

This new program seeks to enhance fishing opportunities in Connecticut’s major population centers. It began in 2006 in Bridgeport with the initiation of trout stocking at Bunnells Pond at Beardsley Park. Three more areas were added in 2007 at Keney Park Pond (Hartford), Lake Wintergreen (New Haven), and Mohegan Park Pond (Norwich). In addition to trout, the DEP began stocking these areas with catfish to provide good fishing during the summer months. In June of 2008, the Agency will be announcing the addition of an urban fishery in Waterbury. This will complete the list of sites to be stocked and evaluated as part of a pilot study to find out if people like fishing these areas and to determine if we’re stocking appropriate numbers, sizes and types of fish.Boating

The DEP Boating Division is putting forward three major initiatives this summer to increase boating safety in Connecticut. The Department is reaching out to boaters to make them aware of simple things they can do to become responsible boaters. The intent is to reduce boating fatalities and promote safety on our waterways.

Get It On Connecticut….Wear It!

  • The Division will be combing the shoreline and the waters this summer to talk to boaters directly about the importance of wearing life jackets. The Division has purchased a new Public Relations trailer and a boat to show boaters all the advances in options in life jacket apparel. Life jackets can fit any lifestyle. Those caught wearing a life jacket will be rewarded with an incentive gift.
  • The boating fatality rate is creeping back up in Connecticut. Review of boating accident data from the last five years reveals that more than half of fatalities (56%) occur from capsizes and falls overboard alone. Therefore, the Boating Division is encouraging those boating in open motorboats under 21 feet to wear their life jackets at all times. So far this boating season, we have had two fatalities as a result of falls overboard. Additionally, 36 percent of the fatalities in the last 5 years involved fishing and 16% were canoeing or kayaking. These groups are especially encouraged to always wear their life jackets.

Coastal Boater Endorsement Program

  • As a result of concerns voiced by the Connecticut Boating Advisory Council (which Council advises the DEP regarding boating issues), an initiative, developed last summer, will continue. The Council advised that many boaters on LIS do not possess the navigation skills necessary to safely travel the Sound. With all the wonderful courses offered by the United States Power Squadrons, US Coast Guard Auxiliary, and others, DEP agreed to promote the classes that would enable boaters to safely navigate, even if their electronics failed. Boaters who successfully pass a navigation course earn a Coastal Boater Endorsement Decal that can be placed on their current boating certificate. Boaters will hear a number of radio spots this summer directing them to navigation courses in Connecticut. To date approximately 1,600 decals have been issued.

Water Safety

Swim Lessons

  • After the success of the program last summer, plans are ongoing to offer free swimming lessons at several state parks again this summer with the YMCA.
  • Also in conjunction with the YMCA, we are going to be celebrating Water Safety Week (June 21-28) with an Extravaganza on 6/28.
  • The Extravaganza will be at Indian Well State Park in Shelton, where there will be free swim lessons, interactive games, and safe boating demos – a free, fun activity for the whole family. Lifeguard program


  • DEP has a squad of 80 guards at 11 of our State Parks, they are on duty from 10a.m.-6p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day
  • Continue to foster the excellent teamwork skills that were evident in the multiple rescues last summer
  • There are still positions available at some of the Parks, check our website for more details (currently we have 63 guards hired)
  • Great opportunity for lifeguards
    – Work outside at parks that host many visitors
    – Get to experience first hand how the DEP works
    – Find out about other areas of expertise within the DEP (i.e. Students who are majoring in the environmental field)

NEW Water Safety Mascot, Floatie

  • Coast guard approved personal floatation device (allowed in swim areas)
  • Safe boating mascot, by Jacky Gorman
  • This is a fun figure to help attract children’s attention to the important message we’re trying to send

Water Quality Testing

The DEP conducts weekly samplings at 23 state-owned and managed swimming areas that include four on Connecticut’s coastline. Cities and towns test their own beach areas.

Water testing, which is done once a week, begins the week before Memorial Day weekend and continues through Labor Day weekend. Water samples, which may contain fecal contamination from wildlife or storm run-off, are analyzed at a Department of Public Health lab. Retesting is done if the first weekly sample is contaminated.

Test results may be found at:


Connecticut’s Parks, Forests and Wildlife Management Areas are great places to have some “wild” experiences. If you are quiet and observant, there’s a whole world of wildlife waiting to be discovered in our many unique places.

Tiny red efts sharing a shaded trail, blue jays dancing through the trees, a cottontail sprinting for cover, or a chipmunk running in and out of a stonewall are just a few of the magical things you can see if you look around.

Some areas even have special wildlife viewing areas that make it even easier to observe wildlife. At Topsmead State Forest (Litchfield) you can spy on bobolinks feeding in a hay field. At Harkness Memorial State Park (Waterford) you can watch ducks and shorebirds in Goshen Cove.

A visit to Sherwood Island (Westport) provides a great view of nesting osprey. Lurking in the marsh at James L. Goodwin State Forest (Chaplin/Hampton) you’ll often find red-wing blackbirds, tree swallows and even a beaver or two!

Visit the Wildlife Division on DEP’s website for tips on watching wildlife and more suggestions for a truly wild experience.


The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has campsites in 13 state parks and forests. There is a toll free telephone and on-line system to reserve campsites at state park and forest campgrounds. Reservations for all state campgrounds are available online at Reserve America or by calling toll free 1-877-668-CAMP (2267)

Parks with Camp Areas:

Black Rock  |  Devil’s Hopyard |  Hammonasset Beach  |  Hopeville Pond
Housatonic Meadows  |  Kettletown   |  Lake Waramaug  |  Macedonia Brook  |  Mashamoquet Brook  |  Rocky Neck |  Salt Rock

Forests with Camp Areas:
American Legion State Forest  |  Pachaug State Forest

Horse Camp Areas: Natchaug State Forest  |  Pachaug State Forest