Car registration fees going up, but free parking at state parks a perk

MADISON, Conn. (WTNH)–Fees are going up for everyone in the state that registers a car or truck, but the increase comes with a new perk.

The newly implemented ‘Passport to Parks’ program will allow non-commercial drivers with a Connecticut license plate to park at any of the 110 state parks to park for free. The trade off is a $10 increase in fees for new car registrations, license plate transfers or the two year registration renewal. The typical range of parking fees is between $7-$22 and more than nine million people visit Connecticut’s state parks every year.

Guilford resident Wallie Festa-Hammer is encouraged by the program. She’s a volunteer at the Meigs Point Nature Center at the Hammonasset State Park.

“This is the jewel in the crown of Connecticut,” said Festa-Hammer. “We need more people. It’s an absolutely fantastic idea that should have been done four years ago.”

The coordination between the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is expected to bring some much needed revenue to the state park system.

DEEP Spokesman Chris Collibee says the revenue will go to opening previously closed campgrounds, improved trail and park maintanence, add more lifeguards and allow museum to open for longer.

“This really will allow us to help restore those services that residents here in Connecticut really want to see,” said Collibee from outside his Hartford office.

While Collibee hopes it will bring more people out to Connecticut’s state parks, not all Hammonasset State Beach visitors are excited about the idea.

Madison resident Ed Healey says seniors are already allowed discounts to state parks and he believes it will increase traffic in the area.

“You go by here in the summertime and the traffic is backed up to the highway and Route 1,” said Healey. “It’s a very busy place.”

The state legislature passed Passport to Parks program in the 2017 budget and it went into effect this week.

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