Connecticut’s state parks are opening. Now they need more lifeguards

2 months ago
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While record numbers of people are expected to stop in Connecticut, possibly eclipsing last year’s nearly 68 million visitors, a lifeguard shortage is preventing all state swimming locations from opening, according to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Silver Sands, Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme, Sherwood Island State Park in Westport and Black Rock State Park in Watertown will all have lifeguards on duty starting this weekend. With only 90 guards hired so far, including 65 veteran guards, the DEEP still needs 20. They will earn between $20 and $22 an hour, depending on experience.

But at this point, there will be no guards at Indian Well State Park in Shelton, Burr Pond State Pond in Torrington and Squantz Pond State Park in New Fairfield, DEEP officials said during a half-hour-long celebration of the coming season. Those swimming areas are expected to be staffed by the July 4 holiday. Other summer jobs are also available through the DEEP’s website.

Lamont recalled the big storms of 1955, which wrecked Connecticut’s coastline and riverbanks, including the area along Silver Sands. “I grew up on Long Island Sound as a kid and you couldn’t swim in the water, it was so horrible,” Lamont said. “And today the water is as clean as it’s ever been. It just shows you the care and attention it takes to make a facility like this in a location like this the piece of paradise that it is.”

Mason Trumble, deputy DEEP commissioner, stressed that Connecticut offers 142 state parks and forests, 14 campgrounds, 22 swimming areas and beaches and 117 boat launches, which includes free admission for Connecticut cars under the Passport to Parks program, funded by $5 surcharges on non-commercial vehicle registrations, which will increase to $8 next year.

There is also a newly redesigned parks website for people planning visits and to find out in surrounding areas. It’s also the fourth year for the Park Connect program, offering free beach shuttles from transit hubs to Silver Sands, Hammonasset and Sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden.

“Over the last couple of years, Connecticut has placed itself on the map,” said Anthony Anthony, the state’s chief marketing officer. “We’re transforming the perception that Connecticut is a drive-through state and we’re becoming a drive-to state.” Lodging revenue last year was about $1.5 billion, also an increase from the previous year. The Visit Connecticut website had a record 9.4 million visits. “It’s because we have so much to do in this small but incredible state.”

There’s also a new Connecticut Oyster Trail. “This is going to be the food item, besides pizza, that we want to be recognized for,” Anthony said. “In fact, we are trying to make oysters in Connecticut what lobsters are to Maine.”

Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz noted that there is more than 300 miles of coastline in the state, and a variety of publications including Conde Nast Traveler and Bloomberg have noticed Connecticut’s range of attractions, hiking destinations, restaurant and museums. “It’s the welcoming nature that we have in our state,” she said. “Our state’s been recognized as one of the top places for LGBTQ-plus community members to visit.”…Read more by Ken Dixon

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