Camping at Hammonasset Beach State Park has been a summer tradition for Larry Hart for more than five decades.
“We never had electricity when I first came,” he said. “They had outhouses.”
The Waterbury resident has been monitoring the state’s budget crisis.
“It’s a shame the way they are laying people off,” Hart said.
Hart is among the many visitors worried how funding cuts will affect Connecticut’s state parks.
“I am concerned that they do maintain them and don’t cut too much,” Hart said. “Because if they do we’ll be hurting here.”
The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) operates and maintains more than a hundred state parks. The new state budget slashes DEEP funding by 11 percent or about $8 million.
“After July 4th we’re likely to need to make some changes to live with the reduced resources we have,” DEEP Spokesperson Dennis Schain said.
The funding cuts could mean reduced hours for seasonal park employees or fewer hires, Schain said.
“It’s going to be tough for the kids, college kids, high school kids that work here, a lot of them depend on doing this year after year,” said Dennis Leghorn while spending the afternoon at the Hammonasset Beach.
There may be even fewer lifeguards on duty at the beaches and not as many ticket takers at park entrances.
“That’s definitely an issue if I want to bring my kids, we would definitely come back here,” said Esther Rosenkranz from Queens, New York, during a visit to the Connecticut beach.
“If they eliminate some of the lines on the weekend you’ve got people will probably be way outside the highway just to get in,” Hart said.
On a perfect Wednesday to be outside on the shoreline, visitors had no complaints.
“The question is what will it be like at the end of the summer,” Leghorn said.
None of the state parks are in jeopardy of being shut down, Schain said, but some smaller campgrounds may need to close to stay within budget.