Post-Sandy, State Parks Ready For Memorial Day Weekend

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HC Beach002The first summer season since storm Sandy kicks off on Memorial Day weekend, and the state’s parks are ready, a state spokesman said Thursday.

The trees knocked down by the storm at many of the state’s 107 state parks have been cleared, said Dennis Schain, spokesman for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The state also oversees 32 forests.

The storm damaged the boardwalk at Silver Sands State Park in Milford, but the walkway — believed to be Connecticut’s longest — is largely fixed. Visitors can’t walk the entire length yet, but most of it has been dug out from under the sand that Sandy piled onto it, he said.

“We’ve been working very hard to get everything ready for summer,” Schain said.

After heavy rain on Thursday that slowed the evening commute and caused flooding in some places across the state, the forecast is calling for cold, rainy weather Saturday and Sunday, but some state parks have indoor spaces to visit, Schain said.

Those include Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill, the nature centers at Hammonasset Beach and Sherwood Island state parks in Madison and Westport, and the museum at Putnam Memorial State Park, which straddles the Redding/Bethel border.

There also are indoor places to visit at Gillette Castle State Park in East Haddam, Fort Trumbull State Park in New London, Osbornedale State Park in Derby and Talcott Mountain State Park in Simsbury — although one has to hike the trial to get there.

For people who like to fish in the rain, “We have stocked hundreds of thousands of fish, so they’re there for the taking,” Schain said.

Anyone who plans on camping is asked not to transport firewood from one place to another to guard against the spread of destructive wood-boring insects. The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station confirmed the presence of one such insect, the emerald ash borer, earlier this week in Hamden. Eight other towns in New Haven County have reported the insect, the agency said. Emerald ash borer larvae eat tree bark.

With wood or without, 1.56 million people from Connecticut and five other New England states are expected travel at least 50 miles from home this weekend, a decline of 0.7 percent from last year, the American Automobile Association projected. Popular driving destinations from Connecticut include Cape Cod, the Carolinas and Washington, D.C., said AAA spokesman Aaron Kupec.

Most of the travelers, nearly 1.42 million New Englanders, plan to drive to their destination, a 0.1 percent increase over last year, Kupec stated in a release. While gasoline prices have been on the rise in the past week or so, Connecticut motorists still are paying 17 cents per gallon less than a year ago, he said.

Those driving in the state will likely notice stepped-up highway patrols.

From Friday through Monday, the Connecticut State Police will be participating in the national Operation Combined Accident Reduction Effort, a national program through which police look for drunken drivers and motorists who break seat belt laws. Troopers also will watch for drivers who are using their cell phones illegally, police said.

There will be extra patrols and sobriety checkpoints in Stamford, New Haven and North Stonington, said Lt. J. Paul Vance, state police spokesman.

On Memorial Day weekend last year, state police investigated 279 car crashes, one of which was fatal. Troopers also charged 77 drivers with operating while under the influence and 1,797 with speeding, he said.

By Christine Dempsey, Hartford Courant

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