Area Lawmakers Push for More Safety Precautions at Gardner Lake State Park in Salem

Posted on February 29, 2024


(Gardner Lake Photo Credit Courtesy of

HARTFORD- State Reps. Holly Cheeseman (R-37), Kathleen McCarty (R-38) and Irene Haines (R-34) along with Salem First Selectman Ed Chmielewski came together to support a legislative proposal which develops a safety capacity for Gardner Lake State Park in order to protect public safety in the area.

The legislation, 5216, An Act Concerning The Safety Capacity At Gardner Lake State Park received a public hearing in the legislature’s Environment Committee on Wednesday February 28th.

According to the state and local officials, in recent years the Gardner Lake State Park has seen dramatic growth in the numbers of people using both the beach and the water, leading to even more concern about safety and noise. Complaints about raucous music, speeding jet skis have been a constant refrain. Mothers relate their fears as their children bathe in the Lake as jet skis roar past.

“When the parking lot is full, parkgoers use neighboring streets, sometimes parking on residents’ lawns and have been known to carpool from the parking lot of a Dollar General store, four miles away. On hot summer weekends, the numbers at the Park, and resulting problems explode,” said Rep. Holly Cheeseman. “To address the issues and to avert possible tragedy, it seems only prudent for DEEP to carry out the process that was outlined in the proposed bill. Our residents deserve no less.”

“Public safety must always be the number one priority at all of our state parks, and repeated reports of overcrowding, insufficient lifeguard staffing, parking, and other quality of life issues have me concerned for the future health and safety of visitors to our beautiful Gardner Lake State Park,” State Rep. Kathleen McCarty said. ” The Gardner Lake Authority and Connecticut Environmental Conservation Police need additional help to enforce the rules and keep visitors safe. It is critical that capacity limits be established at Gardner Lake State Park to ensure the safety of its visitors while also providing access to swimming, water skiing, fishing, picnicking, and boating.”

Rep. Irene Haines added, “I am happy to join Reps. Cheeseman and McCarty in supporting this important piece of legislation for the families who enjoy Gardner Lake. Water safety is paramount, and whatever additional safeguards we can put in place to keep people safe is a priority as the weather turns warmer.”

In his testimony Salem First Selectman Ed Chmielewski stated that Department of Energy and Environmental Protection does not have enough staff members to send to every park and, at any given time, there might be only two state Environmental Conservation police officers working in the eastern district and two or three troopers operating out of the regional state police barracks in Colchester.

“It’s something that’s not fair we have to foot the bill for, but we also have these quality-of-life issues and concerns of our residents, and we have to act accordingly,” Chmielewski said…”

Gardner Lake is a 528-acre lake that borders the towns of Bozrah, Montville, and Salem. Gardner Lake State Park is overseen and policed by DEEP, which added a paved boat launch with parking for 54 vehicles in 2008. The shores of the Lake also host homes and commercial campsites that are privately owned.

To view my submitted testimony for H.B. No. 5216, click here.