France state

Camping season kicks off at Connecticut state parks

(WFSB) – The holiday weekend marks the unofficial start of summer and kicks off the camping season at Connecticut state parks.

After what was a Memorial Day weekend last year, campers are looking forward to good weather once the rain rolls through Friday night.

Connecticut has 14 state park campgrounds, and according to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), they’re all full for the holiday weekend.

At Hammonasset in Madison, that means over 500 campsites, and for those who have been showing up there for years with their families and friends, they wouldn’t want it any other way.

“Family time, the kids go, go to the beach, they love it,” Michelle Buccheri of Stafford said. “Family time, the kids go, go to the beach, they love it.”

“The outdoors, the camaraderie, the campfire and the s’mores, who doesn’t love s’mores?” said Chris Baril of Meriden. “We have 13 sites here, we’ve been coming here for 40 years, same sites every year, so we’re waiting for the rest of the family to show up.”

While it’s the start of the camping season, Connecticut is also highlighting its summer tourism.

Eyewitness News caught up with people from New York, Massachusetts, North Carolina and even Germany on Friday enjoying Hammonnasset.

The state says these parks are a big draw, but they feel the state has something for everyone.

Riding their motorhome, Hedda Mastrobuono and her husband have been camping in Hammonasset for 50 years.

“We’re here for 3 weeks, then we come home for 5, come back for 3,” said Mastrobuono, of Mahopac, New York.

For this couple, the people here are like an extended family.

“We have a lot of friends, this camp here with us, we’re kind of a group,” Mastrobuono said.

Connecticut says about 13 million people visited its state parks last year, making it the biggest tourist destination in the state.

“Okay, France has the Riviera, but they don’t have Hammonasset Park here and they’re jealous as hell,” Governor Ned Lamont said.

The numbers have soared over the past two years with the pandemic with people wanting to get out and explore.

The state expects the same this summer, with the governor adding a new ad campaign, telling tourists and their dollars and even residents to find your vibe.

“The theory is that there’s a bit of something for everyone here in this state, from pizza house to right here on the beautiful beaches and everything in between,” Lamont said.

For those who live in Connecticut, the popular Passport to Parks program, which with a $15 fee when you register your car with the DMV, makes a day at the beach free.

“A few days ago I thought I hadn’t been to the beach here in over 30 years and this might be a great way to recharge and let go,” said Eric Fleming of West Hartford.

Connecticut Tourism Program Invites Residents to State Parks

Camping season begins at state parks