Budget cuts mean changes for many Connecticut State Parks

(WTNH)–Enjoy the 4th of July because some changes are coming as early as the 5th of July to state parks.Changes include some days without lifeguards on beaches, closed campgrounds, shorter hours and cutbacks in the number of days some attractions are open, and an overall shorter operating season for many parks.

The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection got its budget slashed by $10 million. As a result, there is $1.8 million less for State Parks.

That will mean some changes to staffing at the 109 state parks as early as tomorrow. At Hammonasset and the other big shoreline beaches – Rocky Neck, Silver Sands and Sherwood Island, there will no longer be lifeguards 7 days a week. Lifeguard stations will now sit empty on Mondays and Tuesdays.

For the inland beaches like Squantz Pond, Indian Well and Burr Pond in Torrington, where a 6 year-old had to be pulled out of the water just Sunday night, some of those inland parks will have lifeguards just three days a week.

Another big change will come to some state campgrounds.

“That will, unfortunately, involve closing 3 of the 14 state park campgrounds. Three of the really lesser-used state park campgrounds,” said CT State Parks Director, Tom Tyler.

Those are Devil’s Hopyard in East Haddam, Salt Rock in Baltic, and Greens Falls in Voluntown.

At Devil’s Hopyard on Monday, several campers were packing up and heading out, the last overnight visitors the campground will see.

“I’ve been coming here since I can remember. You know, I love to go into the falls and going swimming. Can’t now. Sucks to not be able come camping now,” said Keegan Coburn of Enfiled.

“I can’t imagine why there wouldn’t be enough money for it to stay open. You know, a little bit of trash removal, somebody come and collects, you know, whatever to pay to stay here or even on-line reservations, little bit of lawn care. Not enough to keep it open?” said Amber Fabi of Enfield.

Nine other campgrounds will close after Labor Day and not stay open until the end of September like they used to.  Hammonasset and Rocky Neck the campgrounds will stay open until Columbus Day.

Gillette Castle is also seeing some big changes in their operating schedule. The Castle itself will now be closed Monday through Wednesday and will only be open for tours from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.The park grounds will remain open seven days a week.

DEEP is not laying anyone off, but to save money it is cutting the hours of its 500 seasonal employees, so you could see cuts in maintenance like less frequent lawn mowing and bathroom cleaning in your favorite park.

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