A Fond Farewell to CFPA’s Many Friends of Forests, Parks, and Trails


Dear CFPA Friends,

It has been my distinct honor to serve as CFPA’s Executive Director for the past 15 years. We have accomplished so much together on behalf of Connecticut’s forests, parks, and trails!

When I leave CFPA on June 9th to begin my next career at the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection, CFPA is fortunate to have an amazing Interim Executive Director in Clare Cain, who will step-in while also serving as CFPA’s Trails Director. CFPA’s Board is conducting a search for a full-time Executive Director. You can learn more about Executive Director position on the CFPA Careers page now.

In addition to the pleasure of working with CFPA’s magnificent staff, board, volunteers, and generous supporters for the past decade-and-a-half, I was fortunate to lead CFPA’s advocacy efforts at the state and federal levels championing policies and funding to support forests, parks, trails, and open spaces statewide.

A few proud advocacy highlights during my tenure follow – these were all true team efforts that would not have been possible without your support:

  • 2009: Congress designates the New England Trail as one of only 11 national scenic trails in the nation. CFPA maintains the NET with many partners and landowner hosts across 20 towns.
  • 2010/2011: Connecticut’s recreational liability law is amended to better protect municipalities that host free recreational activities for the public. This was an urgent priority after the Metropolitan District Commission almost closed its lands to public recreation due to liability concerns after a jury awarded $2.9 million to an individual injured in a biking accident.
  • 2012: In response to the storms now known as the “October Nor’easter” and Tropical Storm Irene (which separately knocked out power in large swaths of the state), I was asked in 2012 to chair the State Vegetation Management Task Force and develop consensus recommendations with a balanced approach to both ensure healthy roadside forests and increased electric reliability. Several pieces of legislation were inspired by this report.
  • 2017/2018: The “Passport to the Parks” program generates more than $20 million per year to support the operations and maintenance of state parks. Starting in 2018, the Passport also opened up state parks and forests to all Connecticut residents who no longer have to pay a gate fee for parking.
  • 2018: Statewide referendum (Question #2) passed with 85% support at the ballot box, providing new protections for public lands in the State Constitution. Previous to this referendum, public lands such as state parks or forests were being sold, swapped, and given away by the CT General Assembly to municipal or private interests with inadequate public input or transparency.
  • 2023: New goal for increasing urban tree cover by 5% in environmental justice communities (with current tree cover under 40%). 15 new Park Maintainers supported by the Passport to the Parks recommended as part of the FY 2024-25 Budget.

Looking forward, there is so much more important work for CFPA to do. I encourage you to read through CFPA’s three-year Strategic Plan for 2023-2025 to both get a preview and find out ways that you can assist.

One last request from me … please give CFPA’s incoming new leaders the same enthusiastic support you have always given to my colleagues and me, and of course, happy trails to you!

Best regards,

Eric Hammerling

CFPA Executive Director from May 5, 2008 – June 9, 2023