Connecticut may do away with state park fees for residents
HARTFORD — Supporters of Connecticut state parks are celebrating the inclusion of the Passport to the Parks program in the bipartisan state budget approved overwhelmingly last week in the House and Senate.
The budget still needs to be signed by Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy for it to become law. He has until Wednesday to reach a decision about the $41.34 billion package. If he were to sign it into law it means there would no longer be any parking fees for state residents, as of Jan. 1, 2018, to use any state parks.
This past year the parking fee was $13 for one weekend day to Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison and $9 at most other parks, according to Eric Hammerling, executive director of the Connecticut Forest and Park Association.
Last year budget cuts forced three of the state’s 14 campgrounds to close after the July 4th weekend. Nine other campgrounds were shut down after Labor Day.
Only Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison and Rocky Neck camping areas were open last year between Labor Day and Columbus Day weekend.
The free parking for Connecticut residents is expected to be a big draw for the bigger parks — such as Hammonasset and Rocky Neck in East Lyme.
To pay for the program, and cover the parking fees, the program adds a $10 charge (or $5 per year) to Department of Motor Vehicle registration two-year renewals.