State parks will be free this weekend in Connecticut

It will be free to visit Connecticut state parks this weekend as part of the ongoing celebration of the system’s centennial.

Free State Parks Weekend means there will be no parking, admission or museum fees on Saturday and Sunday, July 26 and 27. Connecticut has 107 state parks, including Indian Well in Shelton.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced the promotion during an event at Sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden on Thursday.

“To encourage everyone to visit a state park in this centennial year, we are waiving fees at our parks this Saturday and Sunday,” Malloy said. “This means we will not charge the usual parking fees and we will not collect admission fees at state park museums.”

Going off the beaten path

Noting that many parks have been at, or close to, capacity on nice weekend days this summer, Malloy added, “I would urge residents to find and explore a park off the beaten path so they can take full advantage of this weekend.”

Robert Klee, state energy and environmental protection commissioner, also suggested people take “the road less traveled” to avoid possible crowds at parks with beaches on Long Island Sound and inland lakes. Parking lots at some parks reach capacity and they are then closed to new visitors.

Getting more information

For details about Free State Parks Weekend, residents should visit its website.

This website offers a “Top 10” list for the best places for swimming, hiking, boating, fishing and picnicking in the state parks. It also offers details on special programs for this weekend, such as hands-on nature and crafting programs at the Kellogg Environmental Center/Osborne Homestead Museum in Derby.

At many park locations this weekend, visitors will be offered a free brochure on the history of the state park system, which will detail — complete with many historic photos — steps that were taken beginning in the early years of the 20th century to create the state parks system we enjoy today.

State park history

Connecticut formed a State Park Commission in 1913. The first purchase of land made by the commission was in December 1914, when it closed on five acres in Westport for what would later become Sherwood Island State Park.

The Connecticut state park system today consists of 107 parks with more than 32,000 acres of land. They are visited by eight million people a year.

The system includes four shoreline parks — Hammonasset Beach in Madison; Rocky Neck in Old Lyme; Silver Sands in Milford; and Sherwood Island in Westport. The park system offers nature centers with educational programming at several locations, 14 campgrounds with 1,400 campsites, publicly available boat launches, miles of hiking trails, excellent fishing locations, and picnic grounds.

A list of Connecticut’s state parks that includes visitor information can be found online.

Information about state parks can also be found on mobile devices by downloading the Connecticut State Parks and Forests app, which can be found by searching “Pocket Ranger” in either the App Store or Google Play. This guide to state parks is free and provides access to park locations, features, advanced GPS maps, and other features.