The West Haven shoreline has an impressive network of beaches and parks providing 3.5 miles of public coastal access. Many of these spaces are linked by a 1.7 mile walkway, or "urban greenway", which extends from Sandy Point to Bradley Point. Once the site of the Savin Rock Amusement Park, the city displayed remarkable foresight by purchasing this land after the park closed in the 1960's.
One of the more popular destinations is Oak Street Beach, which includes a sandy beach, fishing pier, activity building, and bocce court. Connecting the walkway to the beach and pier is a large deck that has become the focus of a local, heated debate.
For two decades, the deck has been the site of evening dances, complete with disc-jockeys and large audiences. In 2009 however, a woman fell, broke her pelvis, and threatened West Haven with a lawsuit.
According to the New Haven Register:
"The city, armed with a letter from its insurance carrier,..... said the city-owned deck wasn’t made for dancing, needs repair and is unsafe".
The city wants "to move the dances to a concrete pad in the nearby Old Grove Park".
"The Parks and Recreation Commission also wants to require the volunteer DJs to pay $100 a year for permits and may require them to buy their own liability insurance."
I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, but when I stopped by in late November, winter was fast approaching and there were no dancers to be found. Instead I spent a snowy day in January trying to brush up on the issue by forcing myself to sit through the directors cut of Footloose and Dirty Dancing. Research can be painfully exhausting sometimes!
I don't know if the dances have continued, been shut down, or moved to another location. Hopefully a compromise can be reached.
There is, however, one happy outcome from this story. I found a YouTube video from a 2008 dance at Oak Street Beach. It was comforting to learn that there are actually people who exist with worse wardrobes and dance skills than yours truly.
New Haven Register: Threat To Close Popular Music Spot Hits Sour Note
CT Coastal Access Guide: Oak Street Beach