Nonprofit Group Sets Sights on Sunrise State Park

The Sunrise Foundation wants to develop a campground at the one-time resort.


A nonprofit organization is seeking the state’s permission to open a campground and cultural arts center at in the Moodus section of East Haddam.

The Sunrise Foundation Inc., a newly formed nonprofit, intends to file a proposal with the state in the next couple of weeks to operate the campground and arts center at the former 146-acre Sunrise Resort located off Route 151.

Sunrise Foundation’s officers also run or work with other nonprofit organizations in Connecticut that provide services to individuals with disabilities.

Katie O’Boyle, one of Sunrise Foundation’s organizers and executive director of Sensations Charitable Foundation Inc. of Moodus, said this week that one of the group’s goals is to restore Sunrise State Park to its former glory.

“Our goal is for Sunrise to be what it was at one time,” she said.

The state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection issued a “request for proposal” last month for the Sunrise property. The request seeks redevelopment ideas for the one-time resort that the state purchased in 2008.

O’Boyle and Mark G. Roberts, who is also part of Sunrise Foundation, said in an interview Thursday that the group intends to invest $500,000 initially and then will undertake additional fundraising efforts once the campground is open. If the state approves the foundation’s plans, the group hopes to open the facility in the summer of 2013.

While the campground and cultural arts center would be open to the public and other nonprofit groups in the region, including schools, the facility would be constructed in such a way to allow full access to those with disabilities. The programs offered there would also be tailored to accommodate for those with a wide range of both mental and physical disabilities, O’Boyle said.

The group hopes to start with 100 campsites and will build on that after opening, Roberts said. The foundation also would renovate and make use of two historic buildings on the site, the Tollhouse and the Whitehouse. Renovations of some of the site’s other 65 or so buildings would occur as funding allows, he added.

“Since we’re a nonprofit we’re not going to be rolling in here with a lot of money,” he said.

  • In its request for proposal the DEP has emphasized that any redevelopment of the site must:
  • Preserve the natural, cultural and historic resources of the property
  • Provide public access for recreation and amenities such as cultural or environmental education programs
  • Provide economic benefit for the region and the state over the long term that is compatible with the park setting
  • Thoughtful architectural design for new buildings which is appropriate to the park setting and DEEP’s guidelines
  • Promote best practices for sustainable development, including but not limited to water and energy conservation, beneficial reuse of materials, alternative energies and green technologies. LEED certification for the completed project is highly desirable.

Some of the uses the state will not allow on the site include:

  • Permanent, long-term residential uses
  • Industrial or manufacturing uses
  • Electric power generating stations other than those that furnish power only to Sunrise State Park
  • Telecommunication towers
  • Parking, except parking for vehicles used in connection with the maintenance and operation of Sunrise State Park or facilities there and the transportation of visitors to various locations throughout the park
  • Adult entertainment enterprises
  • Sunrise at one time was a major seasonal resort, part of a larger resort culture in East Haddam that saw its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s.  

“In combination, these resorts established a tourism culture in Moodus that flourished for over three decades and continues today even though many of the other resorts are gone,” the DEEP request for proposal says. Various claims have Moodus being home to 30 to 52 resorts during this time period. Moodus was often referred to as the "Catskills of Connecticut" and camps catered to different ethnicities and religions dedicated to various vacationing groups: Christian, Jewish, and Hungarian. Sunrise Resort made sure to accommodate its guests by providing buses to make the trip into town for church services.

The deadline for submitting proposal to the DEEP in March 15.

Corey Sipe February 25, 2012 at 06:54 AM
What would be the rental agreement between the organization and the state of Connecticut? Who would fund necessary cleanup and does the organization have the funding to make their project successful? Non-profit organizations are not setup like businesses. If a company took it over, the state could enter into a contract where the company pays a percentage of its profit to the state.
Kim March 19, 2012 at 01:22 AM
There are some little cottages on the end portion of the salmon river...they are white with green and sit right on the salmon river- next door to a regular sized house...does anyone know if any of those little houses can be purchased or rented out...are they a part of the States land deal or do individual people own those....If individual people own them does anyone know how they can be reached?
Keep the river front for all of us March 19, 2012 at 12:13 PM
I hope there is a "ContingencyPlan" required for this SWAP. I'm tired of having to pay for pipe dreams that fail.
gary b February 24, 2013 at 04:35 PM
this group is crazy if they think they can open this summer
Debbie March 20, 2013 at 10:28 PM
These pictures are heart breaking. As a young child and up into my 50's I have visited Sunrise Resort many years. The company my father worked for (Monsanto from Deep River) use to have their company picnic there every year (It was called Frank Davis Resort back then). I have vacationed in the cabins overlooking the Salmon River and have many, many happy memories from this once resort. This is very disheartening. The pictures make me cry!


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »