Imagine a place where you can conveniently go to the beach anytime you want.
No waiting in long lines of traffic for a few spots on an overcrowded piece of land. No lugging beach chairs and coolers from a parking lot that is far from the water. No walking forever to find a bathroom, only to have to wait in a long line before you can use the facilities. No more sidestepping other people’s trash. No more dodging unruly kids and adults and pets.
Imagine wide expanses of pristine sand for making castles, or walking, or just lying in your chair enjoying the scenery.
All this, and more, is available near where we have a second home. It is only seven miles from our front door to the beach.
After many frustrating years of trying to find a shoreline beach in Connecticut that has even a few of the above amenities, we gave up. We had to travel to Florida to find open, accessible shoreline.
Volusia County, Florida has 47 miles of beaches that are open to the public, free of charge. Parking is also free. There are also several areas where beach driving is allowed. It costs $5.00 per vehicle, per day. A yearly driving beach pass is $20.00 for residents and property owners. It is $40.00 for non-residents. There are also eleven fully equipped beach-side parks along this 47 mile stretch. Each park has free parking, play equipment, outside showers, changing and bathroom facilities and picnic benches. In addition, there are innumerable places to just walk onto the beach from the road. Most of the beaches are up to 500 feet wide at low tide.
There is a Beach Patrol and Lifeguards who are employed by the county. They make sure that people are safe and that they obey the posted rules concerning littering, rowdy behavior and pets. A special area is set aside near one local beach for dogs to swim and romp around off-leash.
My favorite thing is to park the car right on the beach, take out my chair and sit for an hour or two reading and people watching, with an occasional dip in the waves to cool off. When I’ve had enough, the chair goes back in the car and off I go. Then I might come back in the evening, just for a walk along the shore.
For a Connecticut native who stopped going to the beach years ago because of the hassle involved, this is truly paradise.
I have asked myself many times why it is so difficult to find a public beach in Connecticut that is easily accessed, free, and large enough to accommodate a crowd. Even tiny Rhode Island has more public beach space than we do. We have almost one hundred miles of coastline and only four coastal state parks. The rest of the shoreline is inaccessible to the general public, unless you want to face a lot of aggravation. That is certainly not worth my time or energy. I’d rather go where my tax dollars are appreciated, and give me something in return.
The four coastal state parks in Connecticut charge anywhere from $9.00 to $15.00 a day to park, and if you don’t get there early enough you often find them to be full, especially on weekends. Also, the facilities leave a lot to be desired.
The remaining shoreline property belongs either to individuals or towns, who guard their pieces of sand with a zeal that is astonishing to me. There are barriers and restrictions galore. There are also the self-appointed guardians of specifics areas who have been known to threaten physical violence to anyone who dares to come near. Despite lawsuits galore, the selfish and boorish behavior of many individuals and towns persists to this day.
It’s a shame that long-time residents and taxpayers of our state have to travel elsewhere to enjoy what should be available to all.