Thursday, May 19, 2011

State Parks

Sherwood Island State Park; April 2010

Unfortunately, this is the time of year when restrictions and fees go into effect at local beaches and parks on Long Island Sound. If you are not a town resident, chances are you will be denied entry to the park, or else, be  required to pay a much heftier admission fee.

The argument goes something like this:
Local taxes pay for the upkeep and operating costs, therefore, the beach should be restricted to town residents only.

Makes sense -- until you realize what would happen if every town behaved this way. Get injured in a car accident on your way to work? "Sorry, the ambulance and rescue squad are for local taxpayers only." Spend a weekend in New York or Boston?  "There's a $40 cover charge to use the sidewalks. We don't want nonresidents getting a free ride,...or a free walk!" Need to report a crime?  "Unfortunately, police protection is only for taxpayers who fund the department." Want to take a walk in Central Park? "Hit the road freeloader! You're from Great Neck and your date is from Greenwich!  No deadbeat outsiders allowed!"
The "we paid for it" argument rings hollow as well. While the beach may be operated and maintained with local tax dollars, it is similar to a college student bragging that they buy their own groceries. What they  fail to mention is that the tuition, rent, and car payments are being paid by someone else.
Coastal towns receive county, state and federal dollars  for sewage and water treatment plants. Try going to the beach without that! The U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers assists with dredging, bulkheads and causeways; while the boardwalks and buildings are insured through a federally subsidized  program. Landlocked residents pay a significant share of the cost for  beaches they cannot use!

What's an inland boy to do?
There are some places like Huntington, and Compo Beach in Westport which charge more for non-residents, but are reasonable about it (last I checked).  Then there are jewels such as Manor Park in Larchmont which deserve a gold star; no beach, but no fees or residency requirements - just be respectful of the rules.
Another option would be the state parks. I've put together a list below which should provide a few options you were not aware of. I'm generalizing, but the Long Island parks are nicer than the Connecticut ones. With apologies to Hammonasset, Long Island is blessed with a prettier  natural shoreline, and a better understanding of the role state parks can play. 
But both sides of the Sound have their shortcomings. The state park list may seem extensive, but it is misleading, in the same way a lobbyist for Clear Channel  Communications will argue that radio today is more diverse and appealing as ever. Sure there are more radio- stations and genres, but they all play Phil Collins, Billy Joel, and Sting.
There are very few options west of the Northport-Norwalk  divide; and many state parks are not beaches, but simply state land which borders the shoreline. They are a great place to take a hike, but  they are not a public beach.  Only then, do the deficiencies begin to glare. 

Whenever I write about this issue, I am always reminded of my 5 years spent in Southern California. Yes, I had some gripes with that sun-splashed, sprawling McDonaldland, where funeral homes had drive-thru windows and one often needed a car just to cross the street. What I admired most was that beaches were public land; not just for local residents, but for everyone.
San Diego, you can keep the Padres and the Olive Garden, but your public beaches I truly miss!


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Long Island

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WILDWOOD*: website  Explore LI
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HALLOCK: website  
ORIENT POINT*: website
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HITHER HILLS*: website  Explore LI


* beach with lifeguards,concessions, restrooms, etc


Ken Mac said...

there's limited beach space to go around, so I get it. You want Belmar or Spring Lake?

Dave Gibson said...

I agree with you, Matthew. Coming from upstate New York, I was flabbergasted to learn town parks and beaches are for residents of the town only. Heck, these things would be a tourist draw and good for local businesses and sales tax revenue. Why limit it?

Mersad said...

These state parks are beautiful. Love your images. But it sucks how they treat outsiders.

Book said...

Great article, great pictures.