Thursday, May 10, 2012

Occupy Hammonasset State Park

I came across a press release this week from state Senator Ed Meyer completely by accident and frankly, it irritated the crap out of me:
Sen. Meyer Leads Passage of Bill That Will Improve Access to Hammonasset Campgrounds
Legislation would allow families to camp for three weeks, take five days off and return for three more weeks
HARTFORD – Responding to requests from outdoor enthusiasts around Connecticut, state Sen. Ed Meyer (D-Guilford) led passage in the Senate of a bill that will let families spend more time camping under the stars in state parks along the shoreline. The bill now goes for a final vote in the House.
Senate Bill 85 would allow families to camp for an extended period in two shoreline state parks if they leave the campground for five days after every three weeks and if the sites are vacant on a first come, first served basis. The bill would also allow for five percent of the available campsites to be leased continuously for the entire summer without limitations. The only parks affected are Hammonasset State Park and Rocky Neck State Park, the state’s only shoreline parks with camping.
“For families who make it a summer tradition to pack up and head for the beachside campgrounds at Hammonasset and Rocky Neck, this bill lets them maximize that experience,” Sen. Meyer said. “In the past, rules for camping at these state parks were not always followed and it caused confusion for campers looking to schedule their summer. Now anyone who wants to enjoy sleeping out under the stars with waves crashing in the distance can have more access to that lifestyle.”
The bill requires the commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to establish a pilot program for the 2013 camping season that allows five percent of shore park camping sites to be leased to the same family without a limit on the number of nights. Anyone wishing to lease a site for the entire summer would be charged a $30 nightly fee.
If the legislation passes in the House and is signed into law, the DEEP commissioner must report back to the Legislature by February 2014 on the program’s impact on camping site availability, reaction of families using camp sites and recommendations for changes.
I'm sorry.....what?  

Obviously the two shoreline campgrounds in Connecticut are extremely popular because of the beach access.  The campsites are able to be booked 11 months in advance and trying to book a site can prove to be quite challenging.  That's why I couldn't help but laugh when I read the title of this press release - how, exactly, would this bill "improve" access to Hammonasset campgrounds?  It's already difficult to book, and now you'll have to deal with seasonal campers monopolizing 5% of the sites and other people staying on one site for weeks and weeks on end.  What is this, the New Haven green?  The original intent of these campgrounds was not for them to be a summer home. They are meant to be enjoyed and accessed by everyone and a continual flow of new campers every week would be a huge benefit to the surrounding communities.  Currently, the maximum allowed stay at either of these parks is 21 days per calendar year.  It can be broken up into small trips or done all once. Seems more than reasonable to me!  But proponents of this new bill claim that those who truly enjoy staying at the campground and are there for extended periods are the ones keeping it booked during the week and taking care of their sites.  So why not just let these die-hard campers stay as long as they please?  In my opinion it just puts further limitations on these already over-priced, difficult to book shoreline parks.  If you want to spend 2 months in the Summer at the beach - buy a beach house, or better yet find a privately owned campground on the shore and get a seasonal site.  Don't monopolize public campgrounds.

So Senate Bill 85 would change the current rules regarding length of stay.  It would allow families to camp for an extended period in both Hammonasset and Rocky Neck State Parks if they leave the campground for five days after every three weeks and if the sites are vacant on a first come, first served basis. The bill would also allow for five percent of the campsites to be leased as seasonal campsites for the entire summer.  Keep in mind that every other campground in CT has a 14 day length of stay rule which, to me, seems pretty darn sufficient.  A 3 week long camping trip in one spot, with the option of leaving for 5 days and coming back for 3 more weeks and doing it all over again?  Don't get me wrong, I love camping as much as the next guy, but isn't that a tad excessive?

This new bill has already passed through both the House and Senate so it's only a matter of time before it's signed into law I'm sure.  Regardless, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this - have you camped at either of these campgrounds?  What do you think about the extended length of stay?  Do you agree that the new law will improve access or do you think CT needs to get its' head out of its' ass like I do?

Oh, and here's a little camping tip for you before I go - if you are lucky enough to book one of the sites with electric hook ups at Hammonasset (frankly I think the odds are better that you'll win Powerball) you'll pay $35 a night as a CT resident.  But if you prefer, you can always head up to Cape Cod, MA, camp at Scussett Beach and get water AND electric hook ups for $22 a night as an out of state resident.   And along with your campground reservation comes the added bonus of not having to swim in Long Island Sound.

I think you already know where I'll be camping this Summer...


  1. I think you should start up the CT camping rights lobby! Get your butt up to the State Capitol, girl!! :)

  2. I don't see how this will increase my chances of getting a site at Hammonasett. I often think I'd like to try some weekends there because it's an easy ride after work on a Friday, but it's been tough enough with the existing rules. The people who are camping 3 weeks and "re-upping" are not camping, they are living in their summer beach home. It's not an RV Park!