CHAPTER 447
STATE PARKS AND FORESTS

Table of Contents

Sec. 23-8. Open spaces for recreation. State goal for acquisition of open space.
Sec. 23-15b. Maintenance, repair and improvement account. Established. Subaccounts. Use of funds.
Sec. 23-20. Powers and duties of commissioner.
Sec. 23-26. Revenue from state parks and facilities. Motor vehicle parking passes. Lifetime passes for residents sixty-five years of age or older or disabled veterans.

      Sec. 23-8. Open spaces for recreation. State goal for acquisition of open space. (a) The Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection shall have power, acting by himself or with local authorities, to acquire, maintain and make available to the public open spaces for recreation. Said commissioner may take, in the name of the state and for the benefit of the public, by purchase, gift or devise, lands and rights in land and personal estate for public open spaces, or take bonds for the conveyance thereof, or may lease the same for a period not exceeding five years, with an option to buy, and may preserve and care for such public reservations, and, in his discretion and upon such terms as he may approve, such other open spaces within this state as may be entrusted, given or devised to the state by the United States or by cities, towns, corporations or individuals for the purposes of public recreation, or for the preservation of natural beauty or historical association, provided said commissioner shall not take or contract to take by purchase or lease any land or other property for an amount or amounts beyond such sum or sums as have been appropriated or contributed therefor. No provision of this section shall be construed to set aside any terms or conditions under which gifts or bequests of land have been accepted by the commissioner.

      (b) Twenty-one per cent of the state's land area shall be held as open space land. The goal of the state's open space acquisition program shall be to acquire land such that ten per cent of the state's land area is held by the state as open space land and not less than eleven per cent of the state's land area is held by municipalities, water companies or nonprofit land conservation organizations as open space land consistent with the provisions of sections 7-131d to 7-131g, inclusive. Such program shall not affect the ability of any water company to reclassify or sell any land, or interest in land, which was not acquired, in whole or in part, with funds made available under the program established under sections 7-131d to 7-131g, inclusive. The goal for state open space acquisition shall be three thousand acres acquired in 1999, four thousand acres acquired in 2000, four thousand acres acquired in 2001 and five thousand acres acquired in 2002, provided such acquisition program shall continue until the overall state goal of open space acquisition is achieved. The commissioner, in consultation with the Council on Environmental Quality established under section 22a-11 and private nonprofit land conservation organizations, shall prepare, and update as necessary, a comprehensive strategy for achieving the state goal and shall set an appropriate additional goal for increasing the amount of land held as open space by municipalities or by private nonprofit land conservation organizations and shall include in such strategy provisions for achieving such goal. Such strategy shall include, but not be limited to, recommendations regarding: (1) Timetables for acquisition of land by the state, (2) management of such land, (3) resources to be used for acquisition and management of such land, and (4) acquisition and maintenance of open space land by municipalities and by private entities. On or before January 1, 1998, and annually thereafter, the commissioner shall submit a report to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to the environment regarding the strategy and the progress being made towards the goals.

      (c) To further the efforts to preserve open space in the state and to help realize the goal established in subsection (b) of this section to have at least twenty-one per cent of the state's land held by the state, municipalities, land conservation organizations and water utilities as open space, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection shall conduct an evaluation of lands of class A water companies, as defined in section 16-1, to determine the resource value and potential desirability of such lands for purchase for open space or public outdoor recreation or natural resource conservation or preservation. The water companies and land conservation organizations shall work cooperatively with the department and provide maps and other information to assist the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection in the evaluation of these properties and said department shall develop strategies for alternative methods of funding the preservation of water company lands in perpetuity as open space.

      (1949 Rev., S. 3436; 1951, 1953, S. 1857d; 1971, P.A. 872, S. 169; P.A. 96-180, S. 84, 166; P.A. 97-227, S. 1, 5; P.A. 99-173, S. 46, 65; 99-235, S. 2, 7; P.A. 00-26, S. 3; P.A. 01-204, S. 12, 29; June Sp. Sess. P.A. 01-9, S. 73, 131; P.A. 11-80, S. 1, 71.)

      History: 1971 act replaced references to state park and forest commission with references to environmental protection commissioner; P.A. 96-180 changed "Said commissioner" to "The Commissioner of Environmental Protection", effective June 3, 1996; P.A. 97-227 added new Subsec. (b) re state goal for the acquisition of open space and designated existing provisions as Subsec. (a), effective July 1, 1997; P.A. 99-173 amended Subsec. (b) re state goal of 11% of state land held by municipalities, water companies or nonprofit land conservation organizations as open space, effective June 23, 1999; P.A. 99-235 amended Subsec. (b) to reword the state goal of open space acquisition, to delete a reference to consistency of certain open space with Sec. 25-37c, to clarify that this section shall not affect the ability of water companies to sell land not purchased with money from the state for open space acquisition and to provide specific calendar year goals for open space acquisition, effective June 29, 1999; P.A. 00-26 amended Subsec. (b) by deleting "by the state" re land held as open space land and making a technical change; P.A. 01-204, S. 12, codified as new Subsec. (c), required the Department of Environmental Protection, in furtherance of the state's open space goal, to evaluate the lands of class A water companies to determine their resource value and potential for purchase for open space or public outdoor recreation or natural resource conservation or preservation, required water companies and land conservation or organizations to work cooperatively with the department, and required the department to develop strategies for alternative methods of funding the preservation of water company lands as open space, effective July 11, 2001 (Revisor's note: The Revisors editorially designated P.A. 01-204, S. 12 as new Subsec. (c), and deemed a reference to "public act 99-173" to be a reference to section 46 of public act 99-173 which amended Subsec. (b) of this section); June Sp. Sess. P.A. 01-9 revised effective date of P.A. 01-204 but without affecting this section; P.A. 11-80 changed "Commissioner of Environmental Protection" to "Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection" and changed "Department of Environmental Protection" to "Department of Energy and Environmental Protection", effective July 1, 2011.

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      Sec. 23-15b. Maintenance, repair and improvement account. Established. Subaccounts. Use of funds. (a) There is established a separate, nonlapsing account within the General Fund, known as the maintenance, repair and improvement account. All funds collected from rent paid by any person for the use of state park property for any special event of limited duration, including, but not limited to, weddings and receptions, shall be deposited into the account unless the Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection enters into a written agreement, signs an instrument or issues a license which specifically states otherwise. Said account may also receive funds from private or public sources, including the federal government or a municipal government.

      (b) Notwithstanding any provision of the general statutes, any funds received by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection pursuant to subsection (a) of this section shall be deposited in the General Fund and credited to the maintenance, repair and improvement account. Within said account there shall be a subaccount for each state park from which funds are collected pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, which subaccounts shall be held separate and apart from each other. Each subaccount shall be available to the Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection for maintaining, making improvements to, erecting structures on or repairing the property, including houses and other buildings, of the state park for which such subaccount was established. Nothing in this section shall prevent the commissioner from obtaining or using funds from sources other than the maintenance, repair and improvement account for the purposes described in this subsection. Funds in the maintenance, repair and improvement account shall be used to supplement state funds appropriated for the general operation of state parks and shall not replace such appropriated funds for purposes of such general operation.

      (c) On or before October 1, 2010, and semiannually thereafter, the Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection shall report to the Office of Fiscal Analysis on the state parks for which funds have been collected pursuant to subsection (a) of this section. Such report shall include (1) the amount of funds received into the maintenance, repair and improvement account, itemized by subaccount, (2) the amount of funds the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has expended from the account for each park, and (3) the projects for which such funds have been expended. Said commissioner shall post the same information on the department's Internet web site.

      (P.A. 10-3, S. 19; P.A. 11-59, S. 10; 11-80, S. 1.)

      History: P.A. 10-3 effective April 14, 2010; P.A. 11-59 made a technical change in Subsec. (c), effective July 1, 2011; pursuant to P.A. 11-80, "Commissioner of Environmental Protection" and "Department of Environmental Protection" were changed editorially by the Revisors to "Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection" and "Department of Energy and Environmental Protection", respectively, effective July 1, 2011.

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      Sec. 23-20. Powers and duties of commissioner. (a) The Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection shall administer the statutes relating to forestry and the protection of forests. The commissioner may: (1) Employ such field and office assistants as may be necessary for the execution of his or her duties, (2) from time to time, publish the forestry laws of the state and other literature of general interest and practical value pertaining to forestry, (3) enter into cooperation with departments of the federal government for the promotion of forest resource management and protection within the state, and (4) with the assistance of the State Forester, develop and administer plans for the protection and management of publicly owned woodlands. Such plans shall include, but not be limited to, proposals for the establishment of forest plantations and the marketing of forest products.

      (b) Not later than January 10, 2010, the commissioner shall apply to have publicly owned woodlands or products from such woodlands certified or licensed under one or more of the following, provided the commissioner uses private funding from gifts, donations or bequests, as authorized in this section, for the cost of all such applications: (1) The Sustainable Forestry Initiative Program, (2) the American Tree Farm System, (3) the Canadian Standards Association's Sustainable Management System Standards, (4) the Finnish Standard, (5) the Forest Stewardship Council, (6) the Pan-European Forest Certification Program, (7) the Swedish Standards, (8) the United Kingdom Woodland Assurance Scheme, (9) the Smart Wood Program, as administered by the Rainforest Alliance, or (10) any other programs deemed necessary, as determined by the commissioner. The commissioner shall implement any sustainable forestry practice necessary for such certification or licensure. The commissioner may accept, on behalf of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, any gifts, donations or bequests for the purposes of applying for and obtaining such certification or licensure.

      (c) (1) The commissioner may harvest forest products from woodlands owned by the state and take such other measures as the commissioner deems necessary for the efficient management and protection of such woodlands and may sell wood, timber and other products from any state woodlands whenever the commissioner deems such sales desirable and may develop recreational facilities in the woodlands managed by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The commissioner shall charge no less than ten dollars per cord for any such wood or timber sold as fuel.

      (2) There is established an account to be known as the "timber harvesting revolving account" which shall be a separate, nonlapsing account within the General Fund. Proceeds from the harvest of timber from state forests and state wildlife management areas shall be deposited in such account. The commissioner shall use moneys in such account for the purpose of developing forest management plans to guide the harvest of timber from state forests and state wildlife management areas and for all reasonable direct expenses relating to the administration and operation of such plans in such state forests and wildlife management areas. The commissioner may accept, on behalf of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, any gifts, donations, loans or bequests for the purposes of depositing such funds into the timber harvesting revolving account. Any such loan from a nonprofit organization qualified under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, or any subsequent corresponding internal revenue code of the United States, as amended from time to time, shall be repaid from such account not later than two years after entering such loan agreement or at a time and upon terms agreed upon by the commissioner and such nonprofit organization. The account shall not exceed one hundred thousand dollars. Any remaining proceeds shall be deposited in the General Fund.

      (d) The commissioner may rent state forest property and buildings thereon under his or her jurisdiction for a period not exceeding twenty-five years, provided any lease for such property and building for a term of more than ten years shall be subject to the review and approval of the State Properties Review Board. The proceeds of such sales, rentals and any receipts resulting from management of the state forests, or from reimbursements from other state departments or state institutions, shall be deposited in the General Fund in accordance with the provisions of section 4-32. Expenditures incurred by the commissioner for the protection, management and development of the forests, the preparation and marketing of forest products and the acquisition of land for the extension and completion of the state forests as provided in section 23-21 may be paid with moneys appropriated from the General Fund.

      (e) The provisions of this section shall not apply to land owned or managed by the state on which forest resource management measures may be restricted by deed, statute, or incompatible use. As used in this section, "woodland" means land owned or managed by a state agency and stocked with forest tree species not less than six hundred stems per acre and at least one year old.

      (1949 Rev., S. 3446; 1949, 1951, June, 1955, S. 1864d; 1971, P.A. 872, S. 183; P.A. 74-83, S. 1; P.A. 81-354, S. 1, 4; P.A. 82-142; P.A. 84-82; P.A. 04-115, S. 1; P.A. 08-172, S. 1; June Sp. Sess. P.A. 09-3, S. 469; P.A. 11-80, S. 1; 11-192, S. 1.)

      History: 1971 act transferred power to administer statutes concerning forests from state forester to commissioner of environmental protection, deleted references to supervisory duties of state park and forest commission and its director with regard to actions for which state forester was formerly responsible under section and replaced reference to the commission with reference to environmental protection commissioner; P.A. 74-83 substituted "personnel" for "men"; P.A. 81-354 required commissioner to charge no less than $10 per cord; P.A. 82-142 amended the section to expand land available for forest resource management and sale of wood from state forests to state woodlands, defined "woodlands" and authorized the commissioner of environmental protection to prepare forest management and protection plans without a prior request where previously his actions were dependent upon request of state agencies and institutions or municipalities if applicable; P.A. 84-82 extended the maximum duration of leases from 2 to 25 years and added a provision requiring review by the state properties review board for leases of 10 years or more; P.A. 04-115 authorized commissioner to have publicly-owned woodlands or products from such woodlands certified or licensed by specified entities, provided private funding is used for the cost of all applications, authorized commissioner to accept gifts, donations and bequests on behalf of department re applying for and obtaining certification and licensure, provided that proceeds from management of state forests in excess of $875,000 derived from sale of wood, timber and other products from publicly-owned woodlands shall be deposited in the Conservation Fund and made technical changes; P.A. 08-172 required commissioner to apply to have publicly owned woodlands or products from such woodlands certified or licensed not later than January 10, 2010, added "(10) any other programs deemed necessary, as determined by the commissioner" to list of authorized programs, changed proceeds deposit amount to amount in excess of $600,000, specified that moneys are only to be used to support forestry programs and changed certain mandatory expenditure payments to discretionary payments for moneys appropriated from the General Fund, effective June 6, 2008; June Sp. Sess. P.A. 09-3 deleted provision re deposit of annual proceeds in excess of $600,000 derived from sale of certain products in the Conservation Fund and re use of same to support forestry programs; pursuant to P.A. 11-80, "Commissioner of Environmental Protection" and "Department of Environmental Protection" were changed editorially by the Revisors to "Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection" and "Department of Energy and Environmental Protection", respectively, effective July 1, 2011; P.A. 11-192 designated existing provisions as Subsecs. (a), (b), (c)(1), (d) and (e), added Subsec. (c)(2) re timber harvesting revolving account and made technical changes, effective July 13, 2011.

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      Sec. 23-26. Revenue from state parks and facilities. Motor vehicle parking passes. Lifetime passes for residents sixty-five years of age or older or disabled veterans. (a) The commissioner may (1) provide for the collection of fees for parking, admission, boat launching and other uses of state parks, forests, boat launches and other state recreational facilities, (2) establish from time to time the daily and seasonal amount thereof, (3) enter into contractual relations with other persons for the operation of concessions, (4) establish other sources of revenue to be derived from services to the general public using such parks, forests and facilities, (5) employ such assistants as may be necessary for the collection of such revenue. The commissioner shall deposit such revenue derived therefrom with the State Treasurer in the General Fund. On and after July 1, 1992, any increase in any fee or any establishment of a new fee under this section shall be by regulations adopted in accordance with the provisions of chapter 54. Not later than May 1, 2010, said commissioner shall establish the daily and seasonal amount of such parking, admission, boat launching and other use fees for residents of this state in amounts not greater than one hundred thirty-five per cent of the amounts charged for such fees by said commissioner as of April 1, 2009. Not later than May 1, 2010, said commissioner shall establish the daily and seasonal amount of such parking, admission, boat launching and other use fees for nonresidents of this state in amounts not greater than one hundred fifty per cent of the amounts charged for such fees by said commissioner as of April 1, 2009. Notwithstanding the provisions of this section, the commissioner may enter into an agreement with any municipality under which the municipality may retain fees collected by municipal officers at state boat launches when state employees are not on duty.

      (b) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a) of this section, the commissioner may establish fees for the public use of the mansion at Harkness Memorial State Park in Waterford, the Ellie Mitchell Pavilion at Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme and Gillette Castle in East Haddam provided no fee shall be charged to any group organized as a nonprofit corporation under 26 USC 501(c)(3) for purposes of providing support to such parks or facilities and further provided the commissioner shall specify procedures and criteria for the selection of any private business which is engaged by the state to provide services during any such public use, including, but not limited to, catering services. Such fees, procedures and criteria shall be effective until June 30, 1999, or until regulations are adopted, whichever is sooner. Regulations implementing such fees, procedures and criteria shall be adopted in accordance with the provisions of chapter 54 on or before July 1, 1999. Such fees shall be comparable with rents and charges of similar properties based on fair market rates.

      (c) The commissioner shall issue to any resident of the state, upon payment of a fee established by said commissioner, a nontransferable Connecticut private passenger motor vehicle pass which permits free parking throughout the calendar year at any state park, forest, boat launch or other state recreational facility, provided the commissioner shall not be required to issue such a pass to any park, forest or facility which is wholly managed by a private concessionaire and may require payment of fees for special events. Not later than May 1, 2010, said commissioner shall establish the amount of such fee for residents of this state in an amount not greater than one hundred thirty-five per cent of the amount charged for such fee by said commissioner as of April 1, 2009. Not later than May 1, 2010, said commissioner shall establish the amount of such fee for nonresidents of this state in an amount not greater than one hundred fifty per cent of the amount charged for such fee by said commissioner as of April 1, 2009.

      (d) The commissioner shall issue to any resident of the state who is sixty-five years of age or older and to any resident of this state who is a disabled veteran, as defined in section 14-254, or under federal law, without fee, upon application of such resident, a nontransferable lifetime pass which shall permit free parking, admission and boat access parking for use at any state park, forest or state recreational facility, provided the commissioner shall not be required to issue such a pass for use of any park, forest or facility which is wholly managed by a private concessionaire and may require payment of fees for special events.

      (1949 Rev., S. 3458; 1955, S. 1872d; 1971, P.A. 872, S. 189; P.A. 73-580; P.A. 77-614, S. 19, 610; P.A. 80-172; P.A. 84-96, S. 1, 2; P.A. 87-589, S. 40, 87; P.A. 92-217, S. 4, 5; P.A. 97-229, S. 2, 3; P.A. 98-149, S. 2, 3; P.A. 10-3, S. 65; P.A. 11-59, S. 11; 11-68, S. 2.)

      History: 1971 act replaced references to commission and its treasurer with references to environmental protection commissioner; P.A. 73-580 added reference to "daily and seasonal" parking fees and substituted "establish" for "fix"; P.A. 77-614 replaced commissioner of finance and control with secretary of the office of policy and management; P.A. 80-172 added Subsec. (b) authorizing commissioner to issue annual parking passes; P.A. 84-96 amended Subsec. (a) by deleting the provision requiring approval by the secretary of the office of policy and management re parking fees, concessions and other revenue sources; P.A. 87-589 made technical changes; P.A. 92-217 amended Subsec. (a) to specify activities and facilities the use of which the commissioner may charge fees for under this section and to specify that fee increases or new fees be by regulations adopted in accordance with chapter 54, amended Subsec. (b) to expand the days on which motor vehicle parking passes may be valid at state parks and facilities and to specify certain facilities for which the commissioner may not be required to issue such passes and added a new Subsec. (c) re lifetime passes for residents 65 years of age or older; P.A. 97-229 amended Subsec. (a) to permit agreements between commissioner and municipality re municipal retention of fees, effective June 24, 1997; P.A. 98-149 added a new Subsec. (b) re fees for use of certain state facilities and related regulations and relettered the remaining Subsecs. accordingly, effective June 4, 1998; P.A. 10-3 amended Subsec. (a) by adding provisions requiring commissioner, not later than May 1, 2010, to establish daily and seasonal amounts of parking, admission, boat launching and other use fees for state residents in amounts not greater than 135% of amounts charged by commissioner as of April 1, 2009, and for nonresidents in amounts not greater than 150% of amounts charged by commissioner as of April 1, 2009, and amended Subsec. (c) by adding provisions requiring commissioner, not later than May 1, 2010, to establish fee for pass for state residents in amount not greater than 135% of amount charged by commissioner as of April 1, 2009, and for nonresidents in amount not greater than 150% of amount charged by commissioner as of April 1, 2009, effective April 14, 2010, and applicable to fees charged on and after May 1, 2010; P.A. 11-59 made a technical change in Subsec. (c), effective July 1, 2011; P.A. 11-68 amended Subsec. (d) by adding provision re disabled veterans, effective July 8, 2011.

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