Environmental Accomplishments of the Past 40 Years
State Parks 75th Anniversary Leads To 100th Park Acquisition
In 1988 DEPís State Parks Division celebrated its 75th Anniversary. To mark the event, special summer programs were held across the State. These included concerts at Harkness Memorial State Park, Revolutionary War reenactments at Fort Griswold and Putnam Memorial State Parks, workshops and lectures at Dinosaur State Park, and statewide free fishing days. The celebration culminated with a large public event held at Rocky Neck State Park on August 6th. Then Governor OíNeill joined DEP and parks managers, and great numbers of the public in the activities of the day including exhibits of State Parkís history in the Stone Pavilion, a sand sculpture contest, musical performances, a kite demonstration, life guarding demonstrations and the cutting and distribution of the large birthday cake.
At the time of the celebration DEP renewed its dedication to acquiring and maintaining important park and recreation properties across the state. This commitment set the stage for the 1988 acquisition of the DEPís 100th State Park. Machimoodus State Park in East Haddam added its 300 acres to the 34,000 acres already protected for the benefit and enjoyment of the people of the state. The diversity of this beautiful expanse overlooking the Salmon River is testament to the mission of the Connecticut Parks to preserve valuable recreational lands as the opportunities continue to become available. Scenic vistas, hiking trails, wildflower meadows, woodlands, and ponds combine to protect and offer a wide variety of recreational activities while providing and preserving wildlife and riparian habitat.
The Connecticut State Park system began in 1913 with the formation of the State Park Commission, the governing body charged with researching and selecting properties for use as state parks and for the development of public recreational areas. The first piece of property purchased specifically by the Commission to become a state park was in 1914 and included five marshy acres in Westport, which would become Sherwood Island State Park. That purchase set a precedent and opened the way for Connecticutís long tradition of obtaining and maintaining shoreline, woodland, and water based recreational opportunities.
Connecticut established its 50th park in 1949, with the purchase of Chatfield Hollow State Park in Killingworth. At the time of the 75th Anniversary, in 1988, State Parks managed over 30,000 acres of land in 94 state parks. Today, DEPís 107 state parks encompass 35,000 acres and embrace diverse landscapes from the Long Island Sound shoreline to the western highlands. They range in size from the one acre Minnie Island in Salem to the massive 1,822 acre Macedonia Park in Kent. One of the state parks even features a unique reminder of prehistoric times. That park is Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill, where dinosaur tracks were discovered in 1966 and protected with a distinctive geodesic dome that opened in 1978. The dome also provides space for interpretive exhibits and educational programs. Those parks, and all the others in between, attracted over 6 million day users and more than 407,000 campground users in 2009.
What You Can Do
- Continue to support Connecticutís State Parks by taking advantage of diverse recreational activities and beautiful landscapes provided by the 100 plus state park locations across the state.
- Plans are currently underway for the Division of State Parks to celebrate its 100th Anniversary in 2013. Stay alert to opportunities to help in the planning of this event!
ďÖ let me assure you that we intend to carry the early inspiration forward: to continue to acquire significant new State Park sites . . . and create a legacy of lands for future generations of which we all can be justifiably proud.Ē
Richard Clifford, Director of State Parks, August 6, 1998