Memorial Day weekend is seen as the traditional launch of the summer season and The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) released an operational plan that outlines for DEEP staff and visitors current guidelines around the operation and use of Connecticut state park grounds, trails, beaches, boat launches, and other areas during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some new information includes DEEP’s current plan for the swimming areas it oversees and provides a “one-stop-shop” for the latest information on outdoor recreation offerings administered by DEEP.
As the state begins a phased re-opening of its economy, the vast majority of state parks remain open, as they’ve been throughout the pandemic. The restrictions that they’ve operated under, such as daily capacity limits, social distancing guidelines for visitors, and use of face coverings, also remain in place.
Here's what to expect:
Swimming and Beaches:
State beaches will be open starting Friday, May 22nd with limited capacity and social distancing guidelines.
At this time, DEEP is permitting swimming only at shoreline State Parks (not inland State Park swim areas). DEEP will make decisions about permitting swimming at State Parks based on potential crowding and the ability to maintain social distancing onshore, at beach locations.
Shoreline parks that feature beaches operating under limited capacity, can safely accommodate visitors on beaches provided they follow recommended social distancing guidelines. Visitors to shoreline parks must maintain 15 feet of space from other beachgoers (blanket-to-blanket). DEEP says this distance will allow for a 6-foot radius around each person or family and a 3-foot walkway in between groups.
DEEP says that based on the very limited size of the beach and swim areas at inland state parks, and current social distancing guidelines, they will close beaches at inland State Parks, and prohibit swimming at inland State Parks.
Park staff will monitor beach closure and educate the public to ensure compliance with the closures. DEEP says they will continue to review this policy in alignment with public health recommendations and will consider the reopening of designated swim areas on a case-by-case basis.
If you choose to visit a shoreline state park that features a beach, visitors are encouraged to select locations closest to home and consider visiting early in the morning before crowds gather.
At least 6 feet of social distancing must be maintained between people, and groups over five remain prohibited. Visitors are asked to come with members of their immediate household and not meet up with others.
DEEP says visitors should bring face coverings and use them whenever they are in proximity to others. Face coverings should not be worn in the water. Visitors should not expect that restroom buildings will be open, but most locations will have portable toilets available.
DEEP will reduce parking capacity and close beaches for the day if social distancing cannot be maintained, and will make adjustments to operations and consider longer-term closures if the situation warrants.
Updates on closures are posted on the state parks Twitter feed, @CTStateParks.
Lifeguards will not be on shoreline beaches in Connecticut state parks early in the season.
These beaches are currently posted as "No Lifeguards on Duty." It is expected that shoreline beaches will begin lifeguarding when adequate staffing, training, and safety practices meeting DEEP standards are in place.
Lifeguards will be provided with training to reduce the risk of virus transmission in the course of their duties, including providing CPR. Guidance for lifeguards is available from the American Red Cross. Lifeguards will not be posted at inland beaches while swimming is prohibited at those beaches.
Staff in DEEP’s Water Monitoring and Assessment Program will be monitoring water quality at the shoreline parks open for swimming.
The water quality at the beaches will be tested for the presence of infectious diseases using standard bacteria indicator species.
Residents will be able to find swimming area closure information at DEEP’s state parks Twitter feed, @CTStateParks, and will soon also be able to find that information on the DEEP website, or on DEEP’s toll free Water Quality Information Phone Line at 1-866-287-2757.
State Campgrounds, Cabins, and Youth Sites:
State campgrounds, cabins, youth sites, backcountry and river camping sites are closed until at least June 11.
Additional campground reservations for the 2020 season have been postponed for the time being to prevent the need to reimburse the public for future reservations if campgrounds remain closed.
Other options to open campgrounds are being considered that minimize staff and public risk.
Visit less-traveled parks
On nice weather days, even before COVID-19, many parks would reach capacity and close to new visitors for the day.
To avoid closures, DEEP’s guidance is the same as it’s been for several weeks now: visit a less-traveled park, earlier in the day; check DEEP’s state parks Twitter feed, @CTStateParks, or the DEEP Boating Division’s Twitter feed, @CTBoatingInfo, to make sure the park or boat launch you want to visit isn’t already closed, and have a back-up plan ready in case it is when you get there.
Don’t forget to consider municipal parks, a trail maintained by another organization, such as the Connecticut Forest & Park Association (https://www.ctwoodlands.org/), or a land trust (http://www.ctconservation.org/findalandtrust).
Despite the restrictions, people are still encouraged to bike, hike, boat, fish, etc.
You can find a list of Connecticut state parks here.
You can find a list of boat launches here.
See what's open in the state here.
Click here for more information regarding fishing and hunting.
If you do visit a DEEP-administered outdoor recreation area, it’s important to do so safely. For a complete list of DEEP’s social distancing recommendations in the outdoors, visit their website.
DEEP also announced the Friday ahead of Memorial Day that some state parks have closed for the day after reaching full capacity amid social distancing rules.
Here were the parks closed Friday, May 22:
- Rocky Neck State Park, East Lyme
- Hammonasset Beach State Park, Madison
- Harkness Memorial State Park, Waterford
- Wadsworth Falls State Park, Middletown