Living in southwestern Connecticut, we are lucky to have many natural resources and recreations opportunities located only a short driving distance away. From the forests of Monroe to the banks of the Housatonic River to the shoreline of Long Island Sound, we can take advantage of the nice weather this summer and enjoy the great outdoors. In my previous column, I wrote about the major pieces of legislation that became law during this year’s legislative session. In this week’s column, I would like to focus on some of the new laws that will also improve our environment and protect these natural resources.
When we think of summertime, we often think about a trip to the beach full of sand, sun and water. From Short Beach Park in Stratford to Indian Well State Park in Shelton, there are many opportunities to have some fun and beat the heat close to home. For all of us to be able to enjoy these resources, we must make sure that they are protected and kept clean. This is where legislators have an important role to play. Personally, I believe that protecting our rivers and streams and Long Island Sound is an essential issue. Last year, I was appointed by Republican Minority Leader, Sen. John McKinney to the Bi-State Long Island Sound Marine Resources Committee and this year I also joined the Long Island Sound Caucus, a group of similar minded legislators dedicated to protecting this great natural resource.
After Tropical Storm Irene brought severe damage to coastal properties, new legislation was crafted to change the way we protect the coastline. Among its provisions, the law ensures the rights of private property owners living along the shoreline, allows structural options to protect property from severe weather, establishes a program to encourage low impact methods of protecting the coast, requires state and local officials to provide alternatives if a flood and erosion structure application is denied, and examines the potential impact from a rise in sea level, allowing residents to plan accordingly.
To protect the sound, we must also make sure that our rivers, lakes and streams are protected from contaminants as well. Another new law aims to do just that and improve the water quality of these resources by reducing the amount of phosphorus that can run off of land and into bodies of water, eventually making its way to the Sound. The new law restricts the use of certain fertilizers, soil amendments and composts that contain phosphate. Keeping in mind the useful benefits of phosphate to help grow crops and other plants, there is an exemption for agricultural land, golf courses and other fertilizers. The law also requires the state to develop a strategy to improve water quality and expand programs to remove unnecessary nutrients.
Beyond these water resources, other opportunities for outdoor recreation were also passed this session. For those who like to ride horses, a new law requires the state’s environmental agency to expand the number of multi-use trails available for equestrians to use in state parks and forests. It also requires the DEEP commissioner to work with the Connecticut Equine Advisory Council before prohibiting the use of horses on any trail. However, if natural resources need protection or there are safety concerns present, the trails may be closed temporarily. Introduced by Monroe State Representative DebraLee Hovey, I was proud to support this legislation to increase opportunities for horse owners to stay active on trails in our district.
Camping is a fun family activity for those of us who want to reconnect with nature. If you tried to go camping at one of the state’s shoreline parks recently, you probably had trouble making the reservation because it is becoming more popular in recent years. A new law will make it easier to book a campsite by prohibiting the park from leasing a campsite to the same family for more than three weeks total in a camping season. If families would like to stay longer, they may camp for an additional period if the party leaves the park for at least five days or if there are vacancies.
Overall, these new laws will help improve our environment and expand opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. With summer in full swing, I hope that you and your family take advantage of the nice weather and experience some of the fun activities Connecticut has to offer. In order to protect these resources, you can be sure that I will continue to vote in favor of smart legislation that both protects the environment and focuses on the major issues affecting our state today — especially jobs and the economy. If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to contact my office by calling 1-800-842-1421 or by emailing Kevin.Kelly@cga.ct.gov.
Sen. Kevin Kelly represents the 21st District, which includes all of Shelton, most of Stratford, and parts of Monroe and Seymour.