Camp Harkness getting big boost in funding to upgrade the park to better serve people with disabilities

New London

WATERFORD, Conn (WTNH) – Over the years some upgrades have been made at Camp Harkness in Waterford. John Massicotte the Plant Facilities Engineer for the CT Department of Developmental Services showed News8 one of the cabins expanded a couple of years ago.

“What they did is they added on about 12 feet,” explained Massicotte.

The state park serves people with disabilities along with their families and friends.

“It gives me freedom to be me. I can go on a walk and I don’t have to take a person. My children can just go around who have special needs also,” said Annie Poudrier of Chaplin. 

She has been coming to the waterfront park for 18 years and was on hand for the governor’s visit.

“First of all let’s talk about the love,” said Governor Ned Lamont who was at the park to talk about the $500,000 which was bonded to fund upgrades to Camp Harkness like moving the underground telephone wires, upgrading the bathhouse, and expanding two more cabins.

“Some of them do need improvement because they were made for manual chairs basically and obviously nowadays we have eclectic so we have more mobility,” said Poudrier.

Electric chairs are bigger and need more room to navigate.

“The roll in shower,” said Massicotte. “So there’s no barrier to people coming.”

News8 also saw one of the cabins which will be renovated.

The shower is much smaller and there is a lip which makes it difficult for someone in a wheelchair to roll inside it.

“I look forward to getting this rolling and really making this place as good as it is so much better,” said Sen. Paul Formica, (R) East Lyme.

“What was considered accessible was a ramp not a ramp at any particular degree of slope,” said Jordan Scheff, Commissioner of the CT Department of Developmental Services.

The money from the American Rescue Plan will be used to improve accessibility. 

“And it’s also going to make it so much more safe for people and above all fun,” said Camp Director Elisa Marcoux.

“By investing in programs like this we are not gonna return to pre-pandemic we’re going to actually go to a higher and better place,” said Cong. Joe Courtney, (D) Connecticut.

And this is a special place for those who may have difficulty getting around other state parks.

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