Conserving Connecticut for over 127 Years (since 1895). Wow!
Dear Friend of Forests, Parks, and Trails,

The 2022 session of the CT General Assembly ended at midnight Wednesday night. Overall, this was a very good year for forests, parks, and trails (budget updates at the bottom).

But it almost wasn't.

There were three bills that passed the Senate and awaited final action in the House on Wednesday:
  • SB 117, which proposed new requirements for DEEP's approach to trees considered to be hazardous to people in State Parks and Campgrounds;
  • SB 238, which included technical fixes to Connecticut’s Forest Fire compact with other states, Forest Practices Act administrative improvements, and several technical changes to unrelated DEEP programs; and
  • SB 491, which proposed selling a piece of Housatonic Meadows State Park in Sharon to an abutting private interest with no restrictions and no known public benefit. Wait, what?! (imagine the screeching of brakes here)
So, what happened?!
SB 238 passed with an amendment incorporating the spirit but not the most expensive elements of SB 117. The amended SB 238 requires that DEEP develop a policy for hazard tree mitigation by August 1st and report on the changes in policy to the Legislature by December 1st. DEEP also will conduct a tree replacement pilot project at Housatonic Meadows State Park to restore the area where trees had been removed last October.
After a lot of targeted outreach to Legislators and advocacy by partners such as CLCC, CTLCV, HVA, and others, SB 491 thankfully died without being called. If you were watching the debate in the House, you would have noticed that SB 491 was the only one out of 6 proposed public land conveyances that was not called and approved. Since the passage of the constitutional amendment in 2018, no DEEP-held public lands have been sold, swapped, or given away. That's great news, but this one was a true nail-biter!
FY 2023 Budget Changes

State Parks
  • $52.5 million was approved for State Park Infrastructure to make parks more accessible, repair public facilities, etc. A last-minute budget amendment earmarked $1 million of this funding to East Rock Park (a municipal park) and $1 million to West Rock Park (a state park) in New Haven. This will help reduce DEEP’s building repair/maintenance backlog of over $150 million.
  • Passport to the Parks funding for State Park operations (~$20 million) stayed intact with no diversions or exceptions to paying the reasonable $5/year/vehicle Passport to the Parks fee.
  • An extra $2.5 million for the Passport to the Parks was included in both FY 22 and FY 23 to compensate the Passport fund for the cost of fringe benefits for seasonal workers (who rarely receive most of these benefits).
Recreational Trails & Open Space
  • $6 million in bonding (an increase of $3 million) was authorized for Recreational Trails & Greenways matching grants.
  • $15 million in bonding (an increase of $5 million) was authorized for the Open Space & Watershed Land Acquisition program matching grants.
  • Community Investment Act funding for open space ($5 million) was not diverted.
  • $14 million was included to support climate smart agriculture & forestry practices funded through the Department of Agriculture.

Thank you for taking action to support your forests, parks, and trails, and for your support of CFPA! If you have any questions about this recap, feel free to reach out to me by email or phone anytime.

All the best,

P.S. Without your support, none of these important advances for forests, parks, and trails would have been possible. Your support leveraged the testimony that CFPA provided at 10 public hearings on over 20 bills, and your willingness to reach out to your Legislators makes the biggest difference of all. Thank you!

P.P.S. This year was successful, but there is so much more to accomplish for your forests, parks, and trails next year and into the future. For example, establishing an incentive for private landowners who host trails on their property will continue to be a top priority in 2023, and much more.