Note: This is part one of a four part series regarding the future of the Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, CT. Part 1 reports on the new Shoreline Greenway Trail parking lot, part 2 will report on the new rustic cabins, part 3 will focus on the new West Beach Pavilion, and part 4 will inform readers about the new Meigs Point Nature Center.
Located in the meadow near the Friends of Hammonasset plant and Christmas tree sales and east of the Hammonasset entrance, the new parking lot is marked with a yellow gate.
Traffic will be able to access the lot from Route 1 without having to pay any parking fees, said Henry Alves, Parks and Recreation Supervisor of Hammonasset. He said that the lot will have a gate that blocks off vehicular access to the rest of the park.
Alves said the lot is 80% complete and only requires signs and another layer of gravel.
During a recent visit, the new lot was drivable.
Tom Tyler, Director of the State Parks and Public Outreach Division from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), said that the lot, which should be completed by Memorial Day 2014, will have 61 parking spaces including three ADA spaces and three RV spaces.
“The lot as it sits has enough distance from the marsh and the suitable soil conditions to absorb runoff from the entire parking lot. However, we added a central rain garden to catch half of the runoff with an overflow connected to a pre-existing storm drain in the area,” Tyler said.
The estimated cost, including design, materials, and installation, is $124,278, Tyler explained, adding that 80% came from grant funds.
While Tyler said that construction began in the fall of 2013, it was put on hold due to severe winter weather.
SGT received funds from the DEEP Recreational Trails Grant Program. The program provides federal highway funds to the DEEP, who in turn awards grants to municipalities, organizations or federal, state, and regional agencies for creating or maintaining trails. Other funds were raised by the SGT.
Tyler credited volunteers who donated their time towards the project.
About the Trail
The lot will have identical hours as the trail and will be open daily from sunrise to sunset.
To access the Madison trail, visitors can park in the lot, walk up the service road, and cross the park entrance. It’s about 1/4 of a mile from the lot to the beginning of the 8/10 of a mile trail, which runs parallel to Route 1.
This SGT section opened Aug. 22, 2013.
Once land is acquired, future plans would extend the off-road trail about 25 miles to Lighthouse Point in New Haven.
When that happens, Alves expects the lot will be more heavily used.
Early Morning Parking Problems
When the lot officially opens, early morning park visitors will be encouraged to use it.
Park gates don’t open to vehicular traffic until 8 a.m. so some park along the entrance road and in front of the gate and walk in Hammonasset with their dogs.
Alves says that while many leave before 8 a.m., it is still an unsafe practice.
He said the rules will become more strictly enforced after the new lot opens and informational notices are handed out.
Signs along the trail’s boardwalk state “Parking ban on entrance road is enforced. Cars parked here are subject to a $75 fine.”
There are “no parking” signs along the road and in front of the gate.
Tyler says it’s about a one mile walk from the lot to the beach.
Alves believes the difficulty of lugging supplies will deter beachgoers from using the lot to avoid paying the seasonal parking fee, which ranges from $6 to $22 depending on day, time, and residency status.
Parking fees at Chatfield and Harkness range from $6 to $15.
The SGT website’s page on Madison states that folks can currently park in the partially finished SGT parking lot, the campground parking lot during the off-season, or on the grassy strip on the south side of the Boston Post Road between Webster Point Road and the park entrance.