Passport to our parks

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial beginning of summer. That is generally when our thoughts turn to plans for outdoor activities, days at the beach, outings with the family, hiking with the dog and generally enjoying the warm weather and long days.

But summer also can be expensive, leaving families on tight budgets worrying about how they will afford the myriad of museum admissions, parking fees, increased gasoline costs and food budgets strained to encompass clam shack meals and plenty of ice cream.

There is a program, however, that will help make the summer of 2018 especially sweet, and less costly, for all Connecticut residents. Called Passport to the Parks, it allows anyone with a Connecticut-registered vehicle to park for free at any of the more than 100 state parks, forests and beaches. Out-of-staters will still be assessed parking fees.

This is thanks to a program that in February began imposing a $10 fee to two-year vehicle registrations in the state. It’s estimated the program will generate some $14.3 million annually for the state’s parks. The bonus is that, unlike some other fees enacted in recent years, this one offers a direct benefit to all Nutmeggers with Connecticut-registered vehicles.

If the lack of parking fees isn’t enticement enough to discover or rediscover the state’s century-old park system, consider what else the parks offer. There are the beautiful beaches at Hammonasset and Rocky Neck, the miles of hiking trails over a wide variety of terrain at the likes of Pachaug State Forest and Kent and Wadsworth Falls parks, and don’t forget the quirky stone castle overlooking the Connecticut River at Gillette Castle State Park.

Some parks offer wildflower sanctuaries that burst with laurel and rhododendron blooms. Others are bird watchers paradises. Still others offer swimming and paddling, fishing and crabbing. For a small added fee that can be as low as $14 a night, many of the parks also offer campsites.

Connecticut’s state parks serve an important ecological and environmental purpose, but they also provide public access to green and natural spaces that many residents would not otherwise experience.

Take advantage of the Passport to the Parks program this summer. Make some family memories while avoiding some of summer’s financial strains. The best part of summer is outdoors and some of Connecticut’s best outdoor places are its state parks, beaches and forests.


The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Pat Richardson, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, retired Day editor Lisa McGinley, Managing Editor Tim Cotter and Staff Writer Julia Bergman. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.


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