SIMSBURY, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut environmental officials have announced plans to reopen eight inland swimming area as the state eases restrictions put in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Katie Dykes, the commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said the decision was made to expand swimming from just shoreline parks because of continued low infection rates in the state.
“With hot weather coming, we know that people are looking for relief,” Dykes said at a news conference held on the beach at Stratton Brook State Park in Simsbury. ”We want to make sure that people have availability to enjoy swimming, not just at the shoreline, but inland.”
The inland parks that will begin to offer swimming this weekend include: Stratton Brook, Gay City State Park in Hebron, Wharton Brook State Park in Wallingford, Day Pond State Park in Colchester, Chatfield Hollow State Park in Killingworth, Black Rock State Park in Watertown, Hopeville Pond State Park in Griswold and Lake Waramaug State Park in Kent.
The state also is reopening Seaside State Park along the shore in Waterford, which had been closed to motor vehicles since April.
Before Friday, the only state parks open for swimming were Sherwood Island in Westport, Silver Sands in Milford, Hammonasset in Madison and Rocky Neck in East Lyme.
Dykes said other parks may reopen as the state continues to assess water quality, staffing and whether the public is maintaining social distancing at parks that are open.
Mike Lambert, the DEEP’s bureau chief for outdoor recreation, said the state has seen unprecedented use of its more than 100 state parks during the pandemic.
“Last summer our parks reached capacity 117 times,” he said. “So far since April of this year, we’ve reached capacity over 350 times.”
The state is asking people to keep their blankets 15 feet (4.5 meters) away from others on the beach and to wear masks when not in the water.
Dykes said the state will not be providing lifeguards.
The state recorded 142 new COVID-19 cases on Friday and reported seven more deaths linked to the virus, bringing Connecticut’s total to 4,396. The number of people hospitalized with the virus remained unchanged from Thursday at 66.