Connecticut to Enforce Beach Camping Limits in 2012
A number of campers who overstayed their welcome at the state of Connecticut’s two shoreline parks prompted the state to enforce a law that limits camping stays to 21 days, much to the dismay of some avid campers.
According to Tom Tyler, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s state parks director, the law passed in 1969 by the General Assembly limits camping stays at Hammonasset Beach and Rocky Neck state parks, in Madison and East Lyme, respectively, to 21 days per year, the Middleton Press reported.
“The law for the inland campgrounds in the state allowed campers to stay for 14 days, leave for five, then come back,” said Tyler. “Somewhere, at least 10 years ago, that got muddled, and campers began to stay in the shoreline parks for 21 days, leave for five, then return.”
He said there has been a “growing issue” with campers in which a single family would put a campsite in other family members’ names and manage to stay on one campsite for the entire summer.
“That caused us to look at the statute,” said Tyler, who acknowledged that the 21-day limit will be enforced for the 2012 camping season.
Paul Diglio of New Haven said he agrees with the law because some parks are monopolized by campers.
“These people virtually live in our parks for six weeks every summer, which does not allow room for those of us who want to stay for a few days,” he said.
Bill Mattioli, Hammonasset park supervisor, said the campgrounds were never meant to be someone’s vacation home.
“Unfortunately, we have a bunch of people who want to stay all summer,” he said.
But the enforcement issue has also attracted opposition.
Paula Pellerin, co-owner of Hammonasset RV and Camp Center in Westbrook, started a petition in September that has been circulating around the Internet and has garnered a lot of support, as well as 171 signatures.
“I am so against this,” she said. “I have never camped (for more than 21 days), but I don’t like being told I can’t do that.”
Pellerin added that enforcing the law will affect her business because she hauls campers’ RVs in and out of storage several times a year, but will lose that revenue because people will camp for a shorter time.
“It won’t just affect us, though; the state is going to lose revenue,” she said. “People who are serious campers are going to go to other parks. And the towns will lose money, too, because the people who stay there for a few weeks are the ones who spend money in the community.”
Tyler said it is true that there is potential for a loss of revenue, but he stressed that this won’t chase people out of the state, because the 21-day limit only applies to the shoreline parks.
“If people are willing to move every couple of weeks, they can stay in the state,” he said.
Rich Otlowski, a Cheshire resident and an ardent camper, also does not agree with the enforcement of the 21-day limit.
“Camping is an affordable vacation that my family of five and I really enjoy,” he said. “But because I won’t be able to stay (for more than) 21 days, that means less money I will spend at the area merchants.”
Otlowski is one of many campers that agree a limit should be enforced, but one along the lines of a 14-day stay, and a five-day departure, and then campers may return.
“If a family wants to do consecutive stays under a different name, they need to pack up, check out, then check back in,” said Middletown resident Barry Burke.
Louis Nero, a Cheshire resident who has camped at Hammonasset for 25 years, said enforcing the law is making him rethink his camping investments.
“I’m going to have to make a decision,” he said. “I can’t justify having an (RV) costing me money to store and maintain only to use it for 21 days.”
But Tyler said there is hope.
“I think there is enough interest in the issue that the General Assembly will look at it again, and I think there could be additional flexibility,” he said. “Personally, I don’t think there is any reason to turn people away even if they reached the 21-day stay limit, but wanted to stay on a weekend in September when the campground is empty.”
The General Assembly will meet in February, and Tyler said that the topic could surface as a legislative debate; if something comes from it, campers might be able to park their RV at the same park for more than 21 days next summer.