Big changes happening at Hammonasset Beach in Madison

MADISON, Conn. (WTNH)– News 8 has been taking you to some of the top beaches along the shoreline and there are some big changes at today’s stop – Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison.

Hammonasset is the crown jewel of Connecticut’s state parks. With two and a half miles of sand, it’s the largest state beach, and on a hot summer weekend, it is also one of the busiest. Despite its size, the parking lots will fill up. And don’t even try to get a spot in the campground.

“For Memorial Day Weekend, we are already booked in the campground. There are no sites to be had, period,” said Park Supervisor Bill Mattioli. “So that just shows the popularity of this facility.”

Related: Silver Sands: a no-frills, wildlife dedicated beach in Milford

Near the campground, a new bath house and concession building is opening up this week. It replaces one damaged by Irene back 2011. Mattioli said that storm had a pretty big impact on Hammonasset.

“Personally, I came down during hurricane Irene and I’ve never seen water in places it was that day,” said Mattioli. “That was many years ago and, thankfully, we’ve done the necessary repairs so we’re back up and ready for business.”

People have been using this land for centuries. Hammonasset is a Native American name meaning “where we dig holes in the ground” – a reference to farming going on here hundreds of years ago.

Related: New Haven’s Lighthouse Park has been hosting summer fun for almost 100 years

Winchester repeating arms bought the land in 1898 and used it to test rifles. In World War Two, is was used for target practice by military planes. These days, the focus is on nature. Three years ago, a greenway trail opened up through some of the wetlands. This year, Miegs Point gets a bigger, better Nature Center, for summer learning or visits during the school year.

“Top of the line, state of the art, so to speak. Inside there are displays of basically what goes on here in this area both in the water, what goes on in the marsh, what goes on in the woods area,” said Mattioli. “We are really busy all year round. even when it snows, we have a tremendous number of people here. They want to see what the wildlife is doing. They want to see what the area looks like in a snowstorm. So it’s a very popular place regardless of the time of year.”

That opens Thursday and so does the  bathroom, changing room and concession stand building on the west beach. Last we heard the governor will be here to cut the ribbon himself.

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