(WFSB) - Environmental officials announced stricter rules when it comes to social distancing at state parks.
The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection announced on Wednesday that it is reducing visitor capacity at all state parks.
While State Parks remain open for solitary recreation, DEEP is closely monitoring park visitorship, and is closing parking lots when lots become full and lowering parking thresholds where necessary. In some locations, DEEP has observed additional visitors parking outside of park entrances closed for capacity and walking in, which undermines DEEP’s ability to maintain manageable visitor levels through park closures. Executive Order No. 7R provides DEEP discretion to impose penalties on individuals who enter parks after they have reached capacity. These penalties include fines and even arrest, up to and including Class D felony charges for interfering or obstructing any lawful civil preparedness activity. In addition, any person who violates the ban will be subject to a 30-day eviction from all State Parks and other lands under DEEP’s oversight. These new measures will help DEEP manage parks safely as warmer weather is anticipated to attract more visitors to state parks.
Law enforcement has the ability close state parks if they get too crowded.
Gov. Ned Lamont told environmental officers on Tuesday that they have that power.
Lamont said it would only happen if people couldn't easily stand the recommended 6 feet away from each other.
"The executive order I'm signing [Tuesday] will give [the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection] the authority to limit visitors at [Connecticut state parks] to the extent necessary in order to ensure people can adhere to safe social distancing," Lamont posted to Twitter. "We want people to enjoy fresh air and recreation, but it must be done safely!"
DEEP officers will be able to use their judgement to ensure trails don't become too crowded.
"DEEP staff are adapting operational plans for the state’s most popular parks, including Hammonasset Beach State Park, including targeted reductions in parking availability and other measures on a park-specific basis," the department said. "Park visitors are strongly encouraged to take these common-sense steps when visiting state parks."
People Channel 3 spoke with at Sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden said as long as people take precautions and practice social distancing, the state parks can still help people get through the outbreak.
"I think that’s what we should do with everything," said Thomas Comrey-Warren of Hamden. "Follow the doctors, follow the experts' orders with this like we don’t know what’s really going to happen. We don’t know what’s going on, so just trust what they have to say."
"It seems like people are keeping their distance although I feel most people are becoming friendlier," said Janina Brecht of Haddam. "More people are smiling which is really nice to see."
Park goers are urged to check DEEP's website to see if any have closed. See it here.
The best time to go, Channel 3 found, is early in the morning during the week. Bigger crowds have been spotted at the parks on the weekends.