State park campgrounds end season earlier than usual

MADISON, Conn. (WTNH) — For Donna Baker-Gilroy and her husband their vintage 1968 Airstream is their second home. Baker-Gilroy said camping at Hammonasset Beach State Park is a family tradition that has been going on for decades.

“I’ve been here every year since 1949 when my mother and I could stay all summer. I’d get out of school, we’d head to the beach, I wouldn’t come home until like a day before school started,” said Baker-Gilroy who lives in East Granby.

This year the fun will stop a little earlier than usual. Donna’s crew would normally camp through October, but budget cuts at the state level mean Hammonasset and all other state parks will close their campgrounds after Labor Day.

“There is not fall camping this year. There are no lifeguards on duty, but we still have people maintaining the parks and staffing the parks and parks remain open all year,” said Dennis Schain with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Out of 14 state park campgrounds, only 10 remained open this year after a first round of cuts back in 2016. Schain says all of the campgrounds are full this weekend which has many campers questioning the state’s decision.

“We’re all upset over it. I believe they want us all to stay in Connecticut to vacation and that’s what we’re trying to do and they’re taking it away,” said Patty Stein of Vernon.

As for Donna, she says despite her disappointment with the state she will be back next year.

“This is our home. This has been our summer home for as long as I can remember,” said Baker-Gilroy.

She hopes someone at the Capitol will reconsider their decision.

“This park attracts people not just from Connecticut, people from other states and people from other countries and closing the park early really diminishes the attraction for the state,” said Baker-Gilroy.

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