It was a great weekend for catching sun

Monday, July 6, 2009
By Amanda Pinto and Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

After weeks of rainy weather that kept people away from the beaches, tens of thousands of people descended on area parks during the holiday weekend.

Long-awaited rays of sunshine were a pleasant surprise for people like Pauline Findley, of Hartford, who strolled along the water at Long Wharf Sunday afternoon.

Findley, who visited the area after she dropped her daughter off at the University of New Haven, said she was happy able to be able to go for a walk on the morning of Independence Day.

“It was nice yesterday,” she said Sunday. “It made up for the rain the last couple of days.”

While some state parks reached capacity and had to turn away visitors on the sunny holiday, Hammonasset Beach State Park was able to accommodate the 6,000 cars that arrived Saturday, Park Supervisor Roger Kinderman said. Hammonasset has the largest car capacity of any state park.

With officials estimating that each carload averages four people, Kinderman said there were upwards of 24,000 day visitors at the park Saturday, in addition to the 3,200 people staying at the campground, which was full.

“We had a big day yesterday,” Kinderman said Sunday afternoon. “We hate to turn anyone away and I don’t want to do that ever because some come here with their kids and their picnics and their floats, and if we turn anyone away they’re sad — we don’t want anyone to be sad here.”

The “big day” for the state park was also part of a busy weekend for state cops.

As revelers across the state and nation celebrated Independence Day, state police also responded to 166 accidents between midnight July 3 and 9:30 p.m. July 4, according to a statement. State cops arrested 46 people for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, issued 2325 speeding tickets, and 351 seat belt tickets.

The area became a popular destination for out-of-staters this weekend; Raquel Zelayndia and her family stopped off at Long Wharf Sunday to picnic.

The group was returning from watching fireworks in Atlantic City, N.J., and couldn’t resist a stop along the water on the way back to their home in Worcester, Mass., Zelayndia said.

The parking lot across from Long Wharf was jam-packed with cars Sunday, some from as far away as South Carolina.

While Hammonasset’s parking lot was able to accommodate all the visitors Saturday, Kinderman said the number of people using the bathroom facilities caused a temporary drop in water pressure. Park workers had to close one of the bathrooms and turn the water off for a few minutes before reopening the facility.

“We had 25,000 people in the park yesterday all using our bathrooms, so the water consumption is enormous,” Kinderman said. “We had a little bit of a problem there but … we were able to fix it in short order and get it back open.”

As of about 2 p.m. Sunday, the park had seen 3,000 carloads of day visitors, Kinderman added. With June’s rainy weather, more people may be hitting the beaches now that the sun is out.

“June was abysmal — it rained probably 24 days in June — and now that the holiday is on us and it’s sunny, people are saying, ‘Let’s go to the beach,’” Kinderman said.

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