The former owner of the former Sunrise Resort in Moodus has told state legislators he thought the state would take better care of the land when it bought the former popular vacation spot several years ago.
"By selling the property to the State my family was under the impression the property would be used for the enjoyment of the public, specifically hiking, access to the Salmon River for kayaking, canoeing and the like and possibly camping," Jim Johnson told the legislature's Environment Committee in written testimony he submitted on a bill that seeks to force the state to clean up the land.
Johnson was one of dozens of people who either testified before the legislature's environment committee on Friday or submitted testimony to the panel on a bill that seeks to force the state to care better for Sunrise State Park in Moodus.
The bill was introduced by state Rep. Melissa Ziobron, R-East Haddam, as a means of getting the state to take action on the former Sunrise Resort, now called Sunrise State Park. The 143-acre property, located in Moodus, was once a thriving and popular recreational destination spot for vacationers. It was purchased by the state in 2008 and has fallen into despair over the years.
The state has said it intends to tear down the former resort buildings as most have become derelict and present a hazard to curiosity-seekers, officials have said.
Ziobron has pushed for action on Sunrise since taking office in January. She wants the state to clean up the site, make it more appealing for public use and preserve two historic buildings on the property.
"This is very unique land and should not have been allowed to disintegrate as it has, but even with the budgetary constraints, a viable environmental partnership could be sought," Melissa Schlagg, of Haddam, said in testimony before the committee. "There are many creative ways the property could be constructively cared for. For example, I believe the Girl Scouts and/or Boy Scouts of Connecticut (or America) would be happy to enter into a concession agreement to take over management of the State Park for camping, fishing and many of the outdoor recreational activities it is so perfect for."
Others echoed Schlag's testimony, saying the state is letting a tourism opportunity slip through its grasp by not improving Sunrise State Park.
"What could be a goldmine for the State and East Haddam (putting aside all the positive environmental considerations) has now become a haven for vandals, crooks, arsonists, the homeless, and worse — not to mention the dangers to any youngsters that might be exploring the abandoned remains of buildings — now sits in mute testimony to the mindlessness of the DEP in particular, but also our State government in general: The failure to create a great opportunity for its citizens to enjoy culture, sporting & camping, hiking & environmental studies, 4th of July celebrations, preservation of beautful & safe open space, and at the same time benefitting economically instead of taxing everything that moves," David Sloan, of East Haddam, told the committee.
In testimony it submitted on the bill Friday, the DEEP says it currently has crews working on the site and intends to start demolishing some of the old buildings here to restore the land and make it available to the public for passive recreational uses.