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Rep. McCarty Fights for Camp Harkness

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HARTFORD — State Representative Kathleen McCarty (R-Waterford), who just released a statement last week in strong opposition to Governor Malloy’s May Deficit Mitigation Plan, which raids Connecticut’s State Park Maintenance, Repair, and Improvement accounts (MRIs), is appalled at the new announcement of the governor’s plan to close Camp Harkness.

“Many of my constituents have reached out to me and expressed how devastating it would be to individuals with disabilities if the camp closed,” said Rep. McCarty, who legislatively adopted Harkness Memorial State Park in 2015 and is a member of the ID/D caucus in Hartford.  “Camp Harkness is a wonderful and unique place because it offers access and opportunities for veterans and people with disabilities not available in other Connecticut State parks. It has long served as a place for individuals with disabilities and their families to relax, make friends, find support and have an authentic nature-centered experience that enhances their quality of life.

“The Governor himself said in 2013 that ‘Camp Harkness is a jewel of Connecticut,’” continued Rep. McCarty, “So I am very disappointed that his proposal looks to close this unique camp. Additionally, the state has spent a significant amount of taxpayer dollars on improvements to the camp’s facilities and user experience, which makes its closing even more frustrating and unacceptable.

According to Stan Soby, Chair of the Camp Harkness Advisory Committee, each year over 35,000 individuals and families, and over 100 groups, visit Camp Harkness and/or participate in a camp program.

“Having been bequeathed to the State by Mary Harkness in 1952 for the ‘perpetual use’ by people with disabilities and veterans, the camp’s offerings are made possible by a unique public-private partnership with organizations like United Cerebral Palsy (UCP), the Arc of New London County, Oak Hill, High Hopes and the Camp Harkness Foundation, all 501(c)3 organizations, and the Department of Developmental Services. The camp provides priceless experiences, respite, playgroups, therapeutic riding, and much more to people of all ages with disabilities,” said Soby. “Many, if not most, of those served would not have the means to find those experiences elsewhere.”

Beverly Jackson, Legislative Member of the Camp Harkness Advisory Committee and Representative of the United Cerebral Palsy Association, says: “Camp Harkness represents a true public and private collaboration. The camp is a necessity for so many individuals (especially those with disabilities) and their families. We applaud the work of its 600 volunteers and encourage the state and the community to continue their strong support for the Camp. The camp must be maintained to the highest standards to ensure the enjoyment of all campers, volunteers and staff.”

“I will do everything I can to prevent the closure of Camp Harkness,” said Rep. McCarty. “I appreciate and take great pride in the value the camp provides to individuals with disabilities and their families. Camp Harkness must be preserved for the enjoyment and respite care for individuals with disabilities for generations to come.”