Just in time for the Memorial Day holiday weekend, Gov. Dannel Malloy joined First Selectman Tom Banisch, State Senator Ted Kennedy (D-12), and other local and state representatives to open the new Meigs Point Nature Center and West Beach Bathhouse at Hammonasset Beach State Park on May 26.
The new Nature Center, which broke ground last year and cost $3.5 million to construct, covers 4,000 square feet and includes year-round environmental exhibit space, an observation deck, and hands-on experiences for visitors.
The West Beach Bathhouse, which suffered significant damage during Hurricane Irene, includes new facilities, a concession building, Environmental Conservation Police Offices, and a First Aid location. The new structure is built above maximum flood elevation.
Hammonasset Beach State Park is one of 109 state parks across Connecticut and receives approximately 2 million visitors a year. First Selectman Tom Banisch said the town was pleased to be part of the project.
“We are very proud to have Hammonasset State Park in our town and we consider them to be great partners with us,” he said.
Friends of Hammonasset (FOH), a non-profit group, funded the project and developed the educational exhibits. President Christine Koster said she was pleased to see the whole project come together after a long fundraising process.
“Supporting fundraisers will continue to be a critical part of the education here in the park,” she said. “Our mission as the FOH is to enhance and beautify the park through education.”
The new nature center incorporate geothermal heating and cooling technology and features photovoltaic solar panels to generate electricity. Kennedy, who serves as the chair of the senate environmental committee, said he is excited about the environmental education opportunities the center provides.
“What makes me so excited is this center we are about to dedicate is going to inspire the next generation of environmentalists,” he said. “When the school children come in here and they learn about the biodiversity and they learn about environmental protection and they learn about how toxic substances can impact our environment, they are going to get hooked on a commitment to make sure we can protect these assets for future generations.”
Gov. Malloy said he was pleased to see so many people dedicated to preserving the state park system attend the ribbon cutting.
“We are very much committed to maintain a quality parks system and making sure we have first in class facilities available to our 8 million visitors,” he said. “I have great memories of the state parks system and I want future generations to have equally great memories as well.”