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Your New Passport to Connecticut State Parks

A visit to Hammonasset Beach State Park, is more than just another day at the beach. As  Connecticut’s largest shoreline park, it offers over 2 miles of beach to enjoy swimming, strolling along the boardwalk, or just relaxing in the sun and surf.

Connecticut’s system of state parks and forests, state boat launches, and waterways, provide many opportunities for outdoor recreation for residents and visitors alike. These range from camping and fishing to hiking, boating, and picnicking.

As Connecticut residents, we now have equal access to these wonderful natural resources that are the economic driver for our state and the communities in which they are located.

Effective January 1, if you are a Connecticut resident, you are able to enjoy all of Connecticut’s state parks and forests for free. Well, almost.

The Passport to the Parks program is part of the recently passed state budget. Twenty-four state parks and three state forests will no longer have an entrance fee for state residents.

Registered in Connecticut vehicles receive the benefit of free parking and admission where last year a fee was charged. Out-of-state registered vehicles are welcome and will still pay the daily parking fee that is in effect, or purchase a season pass.

Each year more than nine million people visit our state parks. This makes Connecticut state parks one of the top tourism destinations in the state.

When people visit our state parks they also visit local restaurants, shops and local farms. The Passport to the Parks program brings numerous economic benefits.

How does the increase benefit Connecticut residents?

This program is a great first step in helping to restore Connecticut Forests and State Parks hurt by budget woes.

To make park and forest admission free, the program calls for additional DMV registration fees of $10 that are paid every other year.

Residents are no longer required to pay a parking fee at CT State Parks and Forest recreation areas, due to DMV collecting a $10 fee ($5 per year) on behalf of DEEP at the time of registration and registration renewals for non-commercial motor vehicles.

A University of Connecticut study, released several years ago, proved our state parks and forests generate over $1 billion a year for Connecticut’s economy and support more than 9,000 private-sector jobs.

Money collected will be kept seperate from the states general fund.

If you go to the beach a lot in the summertime, it’s worth the $10 because you pay more than that to park.

Some residents feel if you implement it as free, it should be free without paying the DMV the hidden $10. It is expected the program will generate $16 million of the $18 million annually needed to upkeep and operate the parks.

For the frequent park visitor from out-of-state, Connecticut offers a special season pass at a low fee. The pass allows unlimited non-resident vehicle access with the window sticker to any state park or recreation area that has a parking fee for no extra charge.

Non-Resident Season Passes are valid for one non-resident vehicle per pass for the entire calendar year and are non-transferable to any other vehicle.

How will the funds be used to support the state parks and beaches?

The fee allows the State of Connecticut to give more to the public that has now invested in our park system. Increased lifeguards, improved park maintenance, shoulder season camping for opening day of fishing and into the fall foliage, and longer hours at our museums and nature centers.

For more information about Connecticut state parks, visit http://www.ct.gov/deep/stateparks

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