At Scantic River State Park Meeting, Sen. Kissel Speaks on Behalf of Constituents (Hartford Courant)

September 2, 2015

DEEP, Enfield Officials Discuss Issues At Scantic River Park
By Mikaela Porter

Hartford Courant

ENFIELD — A group of about 40 people, including town and state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection officials, met Tuesday morning for nearly two hours to discuss ongoing issues at Scantic River State Park.

Residents contacted town officials throughout the summer after seeing crowds, upward of 300 people, at the park on weekends, who were leaving behind garbage, including used diapers, beer bottles and cans, and feces tied to trees.

About a month ago, a resident cleanup event yielded about half a ton of garbage, including toilets and other excessive litter.

“There’s a lot of concern as to how this is impacting the natural setting here,” Deputy Mayor Bill Lee said to DEEP officials Tuesday morning. “There’s escarpment issues with the river, trails are getting wider … the question is, what can we do?”

Enfield Deputy Police Chief Gary Collins explained the police department’s role with the state park — addressing illegal parking outside the park, assist DEEP when they patrol the park and respond to emergency calls or violations. Enfield Police do not do routine patrols through the park.

Tom Tyler, DEEP’s director of parks, said officials think the solution is “a continued partnership with town officials. … We have ramped up law enforcement at the park over the last few weekends.”

Tyler acknowledged that while there is an alcohol ban in place at the park, the DEEP doesn’t “have great compliance” with park visitors. “It takes time,” Tyler said.

The Scantic is one of 109 parks managed by DEEP with about 60 environmental conservation police officers. Tyler said, “resources are limited.”

Colonel Kyle Overturf, director of environmental conservation police, said his weekend staff for Windham, Tolland and part of Hartford county is about five officers, and they are tasked with covering about 25 state parks.

Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, asked, on behalf of constituents, if an entrance fee per visitor was an option. Neighboring residents said they were concerned with the use of boom boxes, fires, whether DEEP could ban swimming and picnicking at the park, and timed parking in the approximate 10-car parking lot.

Tyler said DEEP’s “last management tool” is to ban picnicking at state parks.

Town councilor Tom Arnone suggested transferring some control over the park to the town, saying town staff could respond to issues at the Scantic faster.

Tyler said it isn’t DEEP’s “mission” to turn parks over to towns for management, but to work with town officials.

One resident asked DEEP officials if it would take a forest fire or death for the issues at the Scantic to be addressed.

Mayor Scott Kaupin said now, “town officials will take what was said and put it into a proposal to DEEP” and schedule another meeting with DEEP officials. “We’ll get the proposals and solutions down on paper while it’s still fresh in our minds, we’ll continue the effort with town staff and get ideas down and work on meeting again in the near future.”

Officials said parkgoers at the Scantic will see an increased presence for the upcoming holiday weekend.