I am writing in response to the article by Keith M. Phaneuf regarding Connecticut beaches. As a long -time resident of both Old Saybrook and Westbrook, I have been enjoying our beaches since 1943. Westbrook presently has approximately 7,000 year- round residents swelling to double that and more during the summer. We have one beach that stretches along Seaside Avenue for those who live there or perhaps are renting. The other town beach is for everyone else. The parking lot is quite large; some do park at the town hall and walk down and pay for the privilege of a day at the beach. As it is now, there is barely enough room for everyone who wants a day at the beach or even a couple of hours. The other beaches in town are barely enough for those residents who live there.
Old Saybrook has two beaches: one is Harvey’s Beach for residents who can enter with a parking pass or others who pay a day rate. Town Beach, is a little farther up Great Hammock Road, parking there is for residents only with a pass, and anyone who tries to park after 11 a.m. is disappointed– the lot is full. With more than 10,000 year- round residents and more than double that in the summer, there is simply not enough room for everyone. Many don’t even bother going anymore as it is a futile effort. We have not had many nice beach days this summer so when a nice day arrives, everyone wants to get to the sand and water.
Personally, I don’t blame anyone who wants to come to our beaches. Who I do blame are those commenting on the problems without actually visiting these beaches and talking to residents. It would be a wonderful world to open all the beaches to anyone who wants to come. The truth is there just isn’t room at most of the beaches! Luckily, we have Hammonassett, Rocky Neck, and Ocean Beach, both are large and well-kept beaches that usually fill up by 11. Many more state-owned beaches are available to residents at the many lakes and state parks.
Every summer we put up with long lines of traffic, not just on Route 9, or I-95, but on Route 1– the main artery connecting all the towns. Restaurants are crowded, lines are long and, yet, we still welcome the visitors. Please come and enjoy these communities for a day, a week or a month or move here, like so many others have done. We are cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter thanks to the Sound. Life is good.
On the subject of beaches: no state legislator is going to tell us we have to open our beaches to everyone. This is an on-going subject and a very touchy one in many respects as it is not about race, nationality or anything else. It is the very simple fact the residents who pay the taxes to support these beaches have the right to be able to get to them. State residents can go to many other beaches. Why try to invade an area so tiny as it is? I think the towns have every right to charge non-residents whatever they want, whatever the traffic will bear.
And to those legislators? It’s a very local problem many towns are struggling to solve. If you really want to help, then start by grabbing a bathing suit and coming down for the day. Don’t be surprised if you can’t find a place to park.
Sybil Nassau lives in Westbrook.