The unofficial start to the summer season kicked off on Friday and whether or not mother nature co-operates, many are heading to the beach for Memorial Day.
Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison opened up on Friday morning for campers.
Hammonasset has 550 campsites and other than a few spots that were open for Friday night, Eyewitness News as told they're booked solid for the rest of the weekend.
While folks were ready to enjoy the weekend, plenty was also worried about how the state budget will help shape the rest of the summer.
Stafford resident Joe and his friends started early on Friday. They were setting up tables and unpacking tents as they planned to make Hammonasset Beach State Park their home for the weekend.
"It’s like a big vacation for us,” Direnzo said. "We have 10 vehicles full of stuff, cook a bunch of food, play yard games all day. It’s fun."
Just down the road, Wallingford resident Arlene Martin and her family have been bringing their camper to Hammonasset Beach State Park for the past 13 years.
“Close to home, beautiful place to be," Martin said.
Live @ 5: Hammonasset's is booked for the weekend, but some are worried how the state budget will impact state parks the rest of the summer pic.twitter.com/W4UU6D0cQc— Matt McFarland (@MattMcFarland3) May 26, 2017
While Friday is the camping kick off, Martin admitted, she's already keeping an eye on the rest of her reservations for the summer season.
"We try to come, almost every weekend,” Martin said. “This year they're closing Labor Day, which is very sad."
That's because the gray clouds hanging over Hammonasset on Friday morning had nothing to do with this weekend's forecast, but rather the state budget.
In order to save money to balance that budget, Gov. Dannel Malloy proposed cutting $6.5 million from state parks. The worry is that just like last year, some campgrounds could close early in July if the budget isn't worked out.
"Very sad, they promote the stay-cations in Connecticut, but take away this beautiful place,” Martin said. “They just re-did that beautiful nature center over, it’s sad."
It’s not just the campers who are concerned as the camp store stocks up for the weekend, its manager wonders how it will all play out at parks across the state.
"I get a feeling people are going to start getting tired of the cutbacks on everything here,” Wanda Bessette, who is the manager at Camp Store at Hammonasset, said. “And they'll start finding someplace else to go."
For the regulars, who love the camping, the camaraderie, along with the sand and the surf, they said they hope everything works out.
"They really take care of this place, so nicely, so hopefully it doesn't affect things too badly,” Martin said.
A final decision on the camping season and the parks will be made later once a state budget is set.
That warning about reservations is on the state parks' websites because if there isn't a budget in place by July 1, which is the start of the fiscal year. It’s likely the state could see some park campgrounds close again.
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