Now that the summer vacation season is just about over, it makes sense to note that the state’s Passport to Parks program appears to be a big success. Attendance at state beaches and parks has been up by around 10 percent this year over last year, just as 2018 was up around 10 percent over 2017.
This is due in large part to the two-year-old program, which provides free admittance to state parks for vehicles with Connecticut license plates.
Before the Passport to Parks program, people paid $13 for one visit to a location such as Hammonasset Beach State Park. Now they can make unlimited visits to state parks for free — covered by an extra $10 they paid for their car registration. Also, parking fees for out-of-state cars have been increased.
The $10 fee on car registrations is expected to generate around $16 million annually, most of which goes to covering the cost of seasonal workers and operational expenses — costs that in recent years had led to park closings and reduced hours of operation due to layoffs, making the parks less attractive during the state’s recurring budget crises. Some of the money also goes to certain environmental purposes.
So far, the Passport to Parks program looks like a resounding success. Let’s hope the state leadership can resist the urge to use that $16 million for other purposes.