August 21, 2002
If you're a beach aficionado like me, then you've probably been to a large number of sandy spots, thrown down a blanket and enjoyed the sun and surf. Well, living in Connecticut has its disadvantages when it comes to state parks and public beaches. I'm not talking about the fact, that there is little surf at Hammonassett - I can't hold public entities accountable for land formations and bad luck, but I can hold them accountable for running the parks like a mini-police state.
I often go to Rhode Island beaches; Scarborough North & South Beaches and Misquamicut State Beach are two great places that I frequent. There are others, but I'll leave the secret spots from curious eyes. But my argument is that there are reasons to travel a little farther beyond the state line to enjoy a day at the beach.
Have you ever gone to a Rhode Island beach? The thing that you will notice right off the bat at a Rhode Island beach is that people are actually allowed to "have fun". No, I'm serious. Bathers can discreetly pop open a beer or drink and enjoy themselves, go on the beach after sunset, and get this - it is not illegal to have a floatation device in the water. Imagine! And for those who want to make the day a full family event - even pet Fido can come with you.
Last weekend, it was interesting to watch a guy and his family put together a windsurfer and then venture out beyond the shore. While I watched this guy struggle to keep upright, I thought to myself, "Boy, you couldn't do that in Connecticut, they would take you out in chains."
Oh, and a lobster bake with friends on the beach under the stars? Forget it Nutmeggers! That's what they do in movies. Although honestly you do have to pay a modest fee and get a permit to do so in Rhode Island - but at least it's possible.
Unlike Rhode Island beaches, which post friendly welcome signs, Connecticut state beaches post large signs that spell out what is prohibited. Connecticut beaches do not permit the use of alcohol, floatation devices, beach balls, games, or even glass. No dogs, no night visits, no noise, lights out in camp grounds after 10pm, no campfires…no fun! Connecticut Beaches only take up a miniscule seven-mile stretch along the coastline. You can make the argument that it's got to be one of the most overly regulated patches of land in New England. All for the purposes of making your beach stay far less enjoyable than any competing Rhode Island beach. And don't worry, those laws I mentioned, are strictly enforced!
Connecticut State Police and green-suited, well-armed DEP troops are highly visible characters at state beaches. They are often seen marching up and down the boardwalk at Hammonassett, scanning the beachscape with binoculars for violators. Wielding their high-powered pistols and ticket-writing paraphernalia, they seek out opportunities to write tickets for the most ridiculous of infractions. They give the impression that beaches are a high-security area and that the public is merely in the way.
Connecticut Lifeguards also fall into the same category. Hardly a minute goes by without seen one of them angrily pointing and blowing their whistle. Most of the time, they blow the whistle when someone ventures out more than 10 feet from shore. This usually leaves the bather both embarrassed and surprised that they have violated some unknown law regarding swimming so many feet from shore. The other law-breakers are usually children having fun in the surf with a beach ball. I mean, you know how deadly beach balls can be.
While the fees for entering Connecticut and Rhode Island beaches are fairly commensurate ($7 bucks on the weekdays, $12 on the weekends), the number of beaches in each state isn't commensurate. If the State of Connecticut pumps tax dollars into its beaches proportionate to the amount that Rhode Island does, than you would figure that entry fees would be less and not more. There are far fewer state beaches in Connecticut to maintain, so why not reduce the fees to for Connecticut residents? I understand that generally when you have a limited number of items for sale, the price rises, but in the case of state beaches, the state is the custodian of the land and therefore the rules of supply and demand don't apply.
I could make a stink about charging working families more on the weekend for parking, but what would be the point. We all know that a parking space paid for on the weekday is equal in value to the same exact space when it's rented out on a weekend. State officials don't see it that way. Just think of it this way: the State of Connecticut's decision to charge you more on the weekend is simply another way of penalizing you for enjoying your weekend. I guess I should watch what I write here or else you could end up paying $12 bucks -- seven days a week.
So what's the point of all of this?
Well, my summer recommendation is that when seeking out a nice day at the beach, pack the car, fill the cooler with a few beers, and head up I-95 North - a tad bit further - and find yourself a nice Rhode Island beach. Less hassle, less regulation and more beach for your buck!
Connecticut DEP takes the fun out of summer
By Tom Evers
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