State representative wants state to address safety at state park

By Jason Harris - Staff Writer
East Haddam - posted Tue., Jan. 22, 2013
One of the lodges in Sunrise State Park. Photos by Jason Harris.
One of the lodges in Sunrise State Park. Photos by Jason Harris.

State Rep. Melissa Hoy Ziobron (R-34) has introduced House Bill 5261 which, according to her, “simply states that general statutes should be amended to require the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to develop a plan for the use of Sunrise State Park to ensure the safety of the premises.” The state created Sunrise State Park after purchasing the Sunrise State Resort back in 2009.

Before the resort closed after Labor Day in 2008, it covered 144 acres. It had a large swimming pool, tennis courts, shuffleboard, volleyball and miniature golf, which the state purchased for $3.2 million.

The state wants to turn it into a campground, Ziobron said. “My contention is that the state purchased it without absolutely any resources to turn their plan into reality,” she said. Ziobron wants DEEP to be accountable for the property and to address the safety concerns, of which there are too many to count, involving the 80 buildings on-site.

Windows have been smashed by bricks or fire extinguishers, Ziobron said. There are shards of glass hanging in some of the windows where an adventurous child could get hurt. Doors have been busted open. Holes have been punched in the walls. Graffiti has been left on walls, windows and in the empty pool. These are only a few of the problems at the resort, according to Ziobran.

“Vandals or whoever it was have emptied drawers,” Ziobron said. “I was in the dining room, which looked like a bomb hit it. My report is the entire site has been severely compromised, damaged and vandalized to the point that I don’t know if any of the buildings can be salvaged. You don’t see this type of destruction anywhere else unless you literally have seen a looting incident.”

The scary thing is that people can go into any of the buildings on the property, Ziobron said.

When the Johnson family turned over the keys to the place to the state, they left a fully intact resort with dishes, beds, lounge chairs and bed sheets, Ziobron said. Anything a resort needed to operate was there. Over the years, things have been stolen from the property, like grills and canoes, she said.

Ziobron recounted stories she has heard from residents about people going to the property with their trucks and filling them up with items from the resort. She said she wonders why the state didn’t auction off some of the items like tables and chairs, since it knew they didn’t have the money to turn it into a campground. Those items could have been donated to nonprofits like Easter Seals, instead of getting moldy and deteriorating on the property, she said.

Ziobron said the state will be allocating money for the park on Friday, Jan. 25, but she can’t seem to find out the exact amount the State Bond Commission will dole out. “My long-term goal is to see it redeveloped by the state, but in this fiscal climate I don’t know what that’s going to look like,” Ziobron said.

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