Sen. Kissel Applauds Alcohol Ban at Scantic River State Park (Journal Inquirer)

May 22, 2015

DEEP imposes ban on alcohol at state park in Enfield
By Annemarie A. Smith
Journal Inquirer
Friday, May 22, 2015

ENFIELD — As the Memorial Day weekend festivities get underway, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is warning revelers not to bring or consume alcohol at Scantic River State Park.

The DEEP has instituted a ban on the possession and consumption of alcohol in the park, effective for the next 90 days.

The department acted in response to reports of big crowds consuming large volumes of alcohol in the park, according to DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee.

He said that the alcohol consumption by groups of people visiting the park “is not a combination conducive to public safety and enjoyment of our state’s natural resources.”

“The ban I have issued means no alcohol at Scantic River State Park and environmental conservation police officers from this agency will vigorously patrol the park to enforce this,” he added.

DEEP spokesman Dennis Schain said today that the department will issue a $77 fine to any individual found in possession of or consuming alcohol. He added that environmental conservation police may on a case-by-case basis also escort imbibing individuals from the park.

However, Schain said that the department will ease into the new ban.

“Our first efforts are going to be outreach and education,” he said. “We are not looking to show up tomorrow morning and paper the place with tickets … unless it’s a situation that is really egregious. We are going to talk to people, have them put their alcohol away, and advise them its no loner allowed.”

Schain said this will also hold true on Memorial Day. Still, he warns that the environmental conservation police will be present and “visible” throughout the holiday.

Sen. John A. Kissel, R-Enfield, applauded the new policy.

“I thank our state environmental officials for taking this necessary step just in time for Memorial Day weekend, which marks the unofficial start of summer,” he said. “Last summer, I urged state officials to step up efforts to protect the pristine setting of the park. Many north-central Connecticut residents have expressed to me their dismay about the way the park has been treated by out-of-state visitors using the space for large barbecues, drinking, and unsupervised swimming.

“Despite the efforts of volunteers who clean up the park, large groups who picnic and party there on weekends leave behind litter and debris,” Kissel said. “This decision will make the park safer, cleaner, and more family friendly.”

Scantic River State Park is a linear park along the Scantic River, located mainly in Enfield but also touching upon the towns of East Windsor and Somers. One especially popular spot is located near the Maple Street Bridge in Enfield in what is known as the Powder Hollow area.

During the past few summers, environmental conservation police and DEEP state parks staff have observed heavy consumption of alcohol at the park, leading to intoxicated visitors breaking bottles on the ground and in the water, conflicts between groups of people vying for space along the river bank, and much litter left behind, a news release says.

Crowds attracted to the park have also taxed limited parking facilities leading to unsafe overflow parking on local roads.

Mayor Scott R. Kaupin said he is too familiar with the messes left behind in the park during the summer.

“We’ve had numerous problems during the summer months … especially on weekends with unnecessary drinking,” he said. “People leave their trash, anything from just normal plates and cups, to broken bottles, diapers, and cooking equipment. I really have been disappointed with folks that come in and use park and leave it in a totally irresponsible manner.”

The DEEP has been working closely with local police to address issues in the park.

Police Chief Carl Sferrazza said today that officers often deal with the trash and mess left behind after a weekend of revelry.

“We’ve encountered parking issues, a lot of litter and trash and alcohol bottles left behind, that kind of problem,” he said.

Though the town police do not patrol the park, Sferrazza hopes the new action will make the park — and Enfield — a better, safer place.

Additionally, the DEEP has allied with the town to find a way to improve the park.

Kaupin said the town has provided tipper barrels on its own dime in an effort to curb the trash problems in the park. Still, it hasn’t been enough.

“We’ve been asking the DEEP to step up enforcement in the park for many summers,” Kaupin said. “This is a big step in the right direction and hopefully they can provide the needed enforcement officers to enforce the ban.”

He added that the town is ready to continue working side-by-side with the DEEP.

“Hopefully, this summer it will be a return to a park used by people that respect the heritage of the park, the history there, and the natural beauty there,” Kaupin said.