Amid pressure to equalize access to the beach, local officials say they won’t change the rules


The perennial issue of equalizing beach access is being debated in the General Assembly, with many city officials saying they have no plans to change their rules which include higher fees for non-residents.

State Representative Roland Lemar, co-chair of the General Assembly Transportation Committee, is renew his push, citing Connecticut’s long history of excluding nonresidents and minorities from suburban beaches. This year’s proposal would eliminate state funding for local road repairs in towns that don’t provide better public access, though Lemar acknowledged the bill needs to be rewritten.

Residents and officials of Fairfield are among the strongest opponents of legislation. Former State Representative Brian Farnen, R-Fairfield, recently created a online petition against the proposal, which had been signed by more than 3,500 people by Friday afternoon. Anthony Calabrese, director of the city’s parks and recreation department, and the Fairfield Beach Association spoke out against the bill at a public hearing last week.

“Not being able to restrict parking along our already congested beach neighborhoods would overwhelm our residents during beach seasons,” Calabrese said. “This increase in traffic is a cause for concern for the health and safety of our residents.

In 2001, the state Supreme Court ruled that the residents’ beach ordinances were unconstitutional, but the issue of fees and permits remained unresolved. Cities have routinely charged non-residents more for parking or for beach passes.

Most of Milford’s 17.5 miles of beaches have no parking restrictions for residents or non-residents, Mayor Ben Blake said in an email this week. Lots directly adjacent to Gulf and Walnut beaches require vehicles to display a beach sticker or pay parking fees of about $5 per hour during the summer, he said.

In Westport, first coach Jennifer Tooker said there was no vote or discussion scheduled regarding beach fees. Stratford Mayor Laura Hoydick said her city also won’t change how it manages beach access.

Many local officials have cited increased use of their beaches and parks during the pandemic, which has led to increased costs such as additional staffing.

In Madison, visitor traffic at Hammonasset Beach State Park, the state’s largest beach, has increased in recent years, with nearly 30,000 people on peak days, nearly double the population as a whole. the city’s year, first coach Peggy Lyons said in her testimony against the bill.

“This has put a significant burden on local roads, beaches and Madison’s first responders, pushing our city’s public safety resources to the limit,” Lyons said.

During the summer, the city sells over 8,000 parking passes to residents and non-residents for about 580 parking spaces, but the sales “nearly don’t cover our capital, maintenance or staff to manage beach operations, which are the responsibility of the local taxpayer. ,” she says.

Guilford’s longtime parks and recreation director Rick Maynard, who is also against the proposal, said the city has “always maintained reasonable fees” for access to its beaches, which include Jacobs Beach and a small beach at Lake Quonnipaug. Maynard said it’s fair that residents pay less than non-residents since they pay taxes that help cover the costs of maintaining and operating beaches.

In Greenwich, defendant in the 2001 Supreme Court case, Mayor Fred Camillo said the city’s beach rules are in line with the court order and its beach fees are “in line with neighboring communities.” He said the city has calculated beach maintenance costs per taxpaying resident, which is factored into the fee structure.

If the bill passes in its current state, Camillo said, many local beaches would be “dominated by non-residents who aren’t paying their fair share, an issue Hartford lawmakers always like to talk about when it comes to taxation. “.

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