Lamont announces initiative promoting outdoor recreation

Gov. Ned Lamont made a stop at Mohawk Mountain State Park Ski Area for a press conference about outdoor recreation, Jan. 11.

Photo by Riley Klein

Lamont announces initiative promoting outdoor recreation

CORNWALL — Gov. Ned Lamont visited the Northwest Corner on Thursday, Jan. 11, to unveil a new push to improve and promote outdoor recreation in the state.

Attendance at state parks has risen from about 10 million guests in 2019 to roughly 17 million guests in 2022, making state parks the top tourist destinations in Connecticut.

The press conference was held at Mohawk Mountain, a private ski lodge situated within a state park in Cornwall. Mohawk maintains a longterm lease of the land to offer year-round activities. Guests can hit the slopes in the winter months, hike the trails in the summer, or take part in community events throughout the year such as job fairs, craft fairs, and rummage sales.

Lamont’s outdoor recreation initiative was designed to improve on the existing amenities at state parks while supporting new public-private ventures that operate similarly to Mohawk Mountain.

As the second largest outdoor recreation economy in New England, Lamont said Connecticut will “do everything we can to protect and expand that open space.”

“We can make sure we bring people to our parks and maximize use out of that,” said Lamont. “You can come and really enjoy yourself here.”

The state has designated $80 million in funds to put toward the initiative. The funding will be used to improve and repair facilities while also seeking to partner with the private sector to improve activities and services at state parks.

To accomplish this goal, Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) created the Outdoor Industry and Experience Office to head up the initiative and oversee the new Partnership for Parks program.

“DEEP is launching today a request for information where we’re going to be seeking concepts from nonprofits, from businesses and individuals who have ideas about public-private partnerships that we can launch that will expand the types of services and amenities that visitors to our state parks can enjoy,” said DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes.

Dykes said potential partnerships could include equipment rentals, event hosting and increased concessions. Through this initiative the state intends to build on the success of existing agreements, such as the one at Mohawk Mountain, Essex steam train, and Farmington River tubing.

“In the Northwest Corner, we are very lucky to be so rich in natural beauty,” said State Rep. Maria Horn (D-64). “Our economic development is intimately tied to that natural beauty.”

“When you talk about outdoor recreation, when you talk about beauty, it starts with the Northwest Corner,” said State Sen. Stephen Harding (R-30). “Let’s work on our open space and preservation.”

“Come on down to Mohawk,” said Lamont. “I’ll be out there. Hope you are, too.”

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