State park a popular site for locals and visitors

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Griswold - posted Tue., Jul. 12, 2011
Crowds of locals and visitors flock to Hopeville Pond to cool off from the 90-plus-degree heat on July 11. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
Crowds of locals and visitors flock to Hopeville Pond to cool off from the 90-plus-degree heat on July 11. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

With gas prices rising and family budgets tight, state parks are seeing more local people taking advantage of their free or inexpensive recreation options.

That’s one of the reasons John Kennerson of Plainfield brought his wife, Katie, and their three children to Hopeville Pond State Park on a sweltering Monday.

“It’s close and it’s free during the week,” he said, as John Jr., Samantha and Lillian splashed nearby in the pond. “With kids, if you go 100 miles or 10 miles, they don’t care, as long as it’s different scenery. Just to be out of the house is a good thing.”

Kennerson said that his family visits the beach at Hopeville perhaps eight or 10 times a summer, swimming at the sandy beach and getting a treat from the ice cream truck that pays a daily visit. “As long as the bacteria count is good in the pond,” he said, the family will make the short drive on hot days.

Department of Environmental Protection employees at the ranger’s station said the park has seen steady use since Memorial Day weekend, when the campground was full. “Any holiday weekend it’s pretty full, and last weekend it was pretty full,” said camp manager Alyssa Wilczek. “A lot of the people camping here live right down the road.”

Torree Adams of Plainfield, who was visiting the beach, said he’s camped at the park. “It’s probably one of the best places in eastern Connecticut to camp,” he said.

The McNabney family, from Ledyard, was spending their “staycation” of a few days in the campground. Megan McNabney said her family camps out at the park three times or so a summer, and often plans a camping trip around son Aidan’s June birthday. “We always try to get a spot on the water so we can swim,” she said.

Rates for a campsite at Hopeville are $20 per night for in-state residents, with a $3 discount if reservations are made beforehand. Out-of-state campers pay $27 a night if they make reservations, $30 if they don’t. Fees for camping at the Green Falls section of the park, a 15-minute drive down Route 138, are the same.

Camping at the Mount Misery and Frog Hollow campsites at nearby Pachaug State Forest are $14 per night for residents, $24 for out-of-state campers.

Hopeville does not charge park-goers for use of the park during the week. On summer weekends, the fee per vehicle is $9 for Connecticut plates, $15 for out-of-state plates. Camping at the 80 campsites is available through Sept. 30.

DEP employee Amanda Slonski, who works at Hopeville, pointed out that besides the beach, the park boasts hiking and biking trails, a picnic area and a boat launch near the campground. Canoeists and kayakers also often put in at the beach, across the pond from the campground. “A lot of people go fishing here, too,” she said.

Thomas Byrum, of Virginia, wasn’t doing much of anything, just relaxing in the shade with his book as his dog, Jesse, slept in his car nearby. He was staying at Mohegan Sun casino but “needed a break from the lights and buzzers,” he said.

Having stumbled upon Hopeville, he said he'll have to come back. “This is gorgeous,” he said of the park. “Y’all have got a real gem here.”

To reserve a campsite at Hopeville, call 860-376-0313.

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