Small Beach Bill Has Big Implications

Connecticut House Bill 5254 is short: just 9 lines long.

But if passed by the General Assembly, it could profoundly alter the look of every town beach in Connecticut.

Titled “An Act Ensuring Access To Parking Near Public Beaches And Recreational And Scenic Areas,” it says that beginning with the fiscal year ending June 30, 2023:

no municipality … that receives a (state grant for roads) shall restrict access to parking spaces or parking facilities near a public entrance to a public beach, recreational area or scenic area to visitors who are residents of such municipality.

Further, those municipalities could not “establish different parking fees for such parking spaces or parking facilities for visitors who are residents of such municipality.”

In other words: No different prices for parking for Westporters and everyone else at Compo, Old Mill or Burying Hill Beaches. First-come, first-served.

Compo Beach is quiet in winter. It may look different in summer, if House Bill 5254 becomes law.

To drive the point home, the bill’s Statement of Purpose reads: “To prohibit municipalities that receive town-aid grants for roads from restricting access to parking near public beaches and recreational and scenic areas.”

The bill was referred to the Joint Committee on Transportation on February 24 by the sponsor, the House Transportation Committee.

A public hearing is scheduled for Monday, March 7. A time and site have not yet been posted.

Click here for the full bill, and more details.

48 responses to “Small Beach Bill Has Big Implications

  1. Guess we liberals in Westport are gonna’ have to rely on them more conservative folk in Darien, New Canaan and Greenwich to fight like hell against this craziness.

  2. Bruce Fernie SHS 1970

    YIKES… This could make the town beaches available to everyone and not just to those that are taxed for the privilege. I guess Marthas Vineyard will be the only liberal stronghold that will keep its shoreline private and off limits to the riffraff.

  3. Bruce, Bruce, Bruce…you can’t really mean that them that have not paid taxes but use Westport beaches are “riffraff”, can you? Jesus, man, where the hell are you coming from…oh yeah, Westport.
    They ain’t “riffraff” for Christ’s sake…they’re just folks who would overcrowd beaches and the roads to those beaches and should not be allowed to do so…but they are no more “riffraff” than are you and yours.

  4. Todd groovy tracy

    Its a public beach, should be free to all. Westporters dont own the ocean.

    • Although we do pay the taxes for the preservation and maintainance of the beaches, you’re correct, Westporters don’t own the ocean (or more accurately, the Long Island Sound). So anyone is legally entitled to swim to our beaches from any other town of their choosing. No issue there.

  5. Interesting. Does this mean Sherwood Island Beach fees for out of state cars is eliminated?

  6. Solution: No daily parking. Only season passes. Increase prices of season passes substantially and reduce taxes by equivalent amount

  7. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    The problem and largest threat to life is climate change. Solutions include: Close all beachfront parking lots and convert them to solar farms. Everyone must park downtown. Walk to the beach. Shuttle service for the obese/lazy using electricity from the solar farm at the former parking lot. Anyone paying taxes is prohibited from beach access because they are selfish. Rename Westport as Kerrygrad. Need new landing strip so that Savior Kerry can fly his Gulfstream for dedication. Barack and Michele will walk directly from the Vineyard.

  8. Diana B Pils Marino

    Eeeks. That sucks. So I can live down the street and if my town beaches are full by 10am then I can’t go. What would the same price for everyone be? Then there would be no more beach passes for residents to buy because that’s preferential. Hartford should still charge OUT OF STATE people a higher rate since it’s CT taxpayer money that pays the CT local roads we’re discussing. I think it stinks. Compo Beach hasn’t been the beach I grew up on in the 1970’s for YEARS. Other people have always gone to the State Parks. My college boyfriend and my husband always went to the State parks because they didn’t live on the Coast. Sherwood Island is always full by 11am in the summer so that’s even hard to get in to. You’re just making more people leave this ridiculous, liberal State.

  9. Charles WK Haberstroh

    What are Jonathan Steinberg and Will Haskell’s positions on this?

    • More importantly, why aren’t they already working to block such legislation? Answer: one party state means most bills that clear the filing vet get passed. SAD

  10. This story will have amusing consequences, because so many local folks who consider themselves to be liberal will go through contortions to explain why they’re against the bill. But, while amusing, not terribly important.

    What IS important is this story in the CT Mirror explaining that, despite spending more than MA on educating poor children, CT lags far, far behind in the achievement gap.

    https://ctmirror.org/2017/12/12/massachusetts-spends-less-per-poor-student-than-we-do-gets-better-results/

    Even the left-of-center CT Mirror chalks this up to CT politicians caving to teachers’ unions who oppose reforms similar to those implemented in MA

    How many local progressives have followed this, advocated on this, care about this?

    Forget about the beach. THIS is what Westport folks should be concerned with.

  11. Richard Johnson

    Will Haskell is co-chair of the transportation committee, this bill’s sponsor. What’s his position (now that he’s leaving town, maybe he doesn’t care)? What are the candidates for his replacement’s positions?

    I’ve seen no evidence that there is a serious problem with beach access in Connecticut. There are numerous state beaches that are open to all Connecticut residents for free, and all municipalities permit visitors to purchase day passes. If you don’t want to pay $50 for Westport, you can go to Sherwood Island for free or pay a lower rate for Norwalk or Greenwich or Darien or Stamford or Fairfield and on and on. This is a solution in search of a problem, and it seems likely to have the perverse effect of further privatizing the shoreline. That benefits the ultrawealthy who are members of private beach clubs or live on beachfront property, at the expense of ordinary people who chose to live and pay taxes here in part because it provides them with cheap and easy beach access. What would stop the town from selling the parking lots at Compo to a private nonprofit organized for the purpose of providing beach parking to Westport residents, and charging a fee to do so? How much state aid does the town receive for road maintenance? I would imagine it’s a lot less than the revenue earned from beach stickers, and if so, that’d be an easy choice to make.

  12. Will Haskell and Jonathan Steinberg are members of the transportation committee. Hence why they were brought into this conversation since they sponsored the bill.

    • Amie, as I noted above, Will Haskell is a state senator. The bill is sponsored by the House Transportation Committee. Will is not a member of the group that sponsored the bill.

  13. https://www2.cbia.com/ga/CT_Transportation_Committee/-ATRA
    they both are members of the House Transportation Committee.

  14. Elaine Marino

    On February 24, 2022, HB05254 was referred to the Joint Committee on Transportation, for which Will Haskell is Senate chairman:

    http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/cgabillstatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&bill_num=HB05254&which_year=2022

    • And, as the state website says, the bill is now pending before the committee:

      Pending: Joint Transportation Committee

      The bill came out of the House Committee on Transportation, NOT out of the Joint Committee.

  15. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    I think the town is finally ready to accept a nuclear power plant on Cockenoe Island (assuming it’s OK with Ferris Bueller – aka Will Haskell)

  16. Patrick J Church

    Any member that votes for that bill should be voted out. I don’t care Democrat or republican. Period.

  17. Jonathan Steinberg

    I really try to avoid responding to these strings because they often get nasty. To be clear: we have not had a vote on this bill and I had nothing to do with its introduction. I’m inclined to vote against it, but I think Westport ought to evaluate its out-of-towners fees (which seem pretty high) — on its own, not required by the state.

    • MICHAEL J PERRY

      “nothing to do with it’s introduction” and nothing to do with it’s opposition. Thanks a lot! Any not so great effort.

  18. Welcome to the strings, its not so bad. I hear the arguments in Congress can get bad as well. In the early seventies it was identified to me and other students that the policy of Fairfield County towns, of blocking out of towners from the beaches, is in actuality discrimination against lower income people — because of the high average income of Westport residents. all the poor have to go to Sherwood Island. Its always been a bad look for Westport and Fairfield County. Westport cant have it both ways, a public beach is not a private concern.

  19. Excuse my possible ignorance, but I’m just trying to get a clear handle on what is actually being proposed here. Does HB-5254 apply to just Westport residents? In other words, the municipality of Westport alone, with the ‘out-of-towners’ issue not being part of this particular proposal? The wording would seem to suggest that.

    • No. Statewide.

      • Thanks for responding, Dan. I’m certainly no legal scholar, but doesn’t “municipality” refer to towns and not States? CT has 169 municipalities. This proposal refers to a municipality and “to visitors who are residents of such municipality.” Again, I’m not being argumentative or even offering an opinion, I’m just struggling to understand the precise terminology of the proposal.

        “…no municipality … that receives a (state grant for roads) shall restrict access to parking spaces or parking facilities near a public entrance to a public beach, recreational area or scenic area to visitors who are residents of such municipality.”

      • If I’m reading correctly, this proposed bill would affect not only the shoreline towns, but countless others. Mudge Pond Town Beach in Sharon, Danbury Town Park and New Milford’s Lynn Deming Park on Lake Candlewood, even Merwin Meadows in Wilton – all favor or limit access to residents.

  20. Wow, look at all the conservative boomers up at 5am to immediately comment and complain, and whine like middle school kids, about how things aren’t like they were in the 1970s. Lololol!

    Would you people just get it over with and move to South Carolina already please?

    Down there they LOVE “conservatism,” otherwise known in 2022 as evangelicalism, white supremacy, misogyny, and of course support for authoritarianism, fascism, terrorist insurrectionist traitors to the United States Constitution, Donald Trump, and of course Vladimir Putin (the Republican’s very special favorite murderous authoritarian dictator!)

    In other words, South Carolina is filled with Conservative Republicans, your kind, open carrying weapons with no requirements for training or restrictions on where weapons can go – hell you can bring your pistol to church with you, yeee hawww!!

    Plus, as an added bonus for you lucky whiners, they make sure minority kids in the Piedmont get the absolute worst education possible, and you all will obviously feel WAY MORE comfortable surrounded by those who share your “values.”

    Especially those “Christian” and “family” values you’ve all been going on-and-on about for the past four or five decades right by up until you supported and worshipped at the he feet of President Porn Star Payoff Putin Lover.

    Move on down to South Cacky Lacky and live the rest of your days “Blessed and highly favored” with your fellow conservatives!

    OK, boomers?

    • Well said. The Republicans who posted above know that below the mean tide line is State property. But they don’t want non-Westporters (a euphemism if there ever was one) to have equal access to that State property.

      Did these people get as upset about January 6?

  21. I would “like” Mr. Grimm’s comment, but I don’t want another PW in my life. Would also like to add that Westport might wind up with some of that Passport to Parks money (fee tacked on to vehicle registration) if the State changes up beach access laws.

  22. 11am to 12:30 this Saturday on the Ruth Protest Bridge, join us as community not Democrats, Republicans etc, but as one to show our support for the Ukrainian people and their fight for their democracy….nice we can all agree to disagree here…peace be with you all

  23. I am no crazy 5am conservative. Just a Westporter who intelligently reads bills (LAWS) that affect where and how I live.
    My problem with this type of legislation is that we need to look at the need and the reasons for it’s inception. Is this a forced pass down from the federal government as a ” do this in your state or no federal road or infrastructure funding to your state?”
    As one other nicely mentioned here ” a solution looking for a problem”
    I can say my biggest concern here with this legislation is the problems it will precipitate for many of Connecticut’s beach areas on or adjacent to beach access.
    I am a transplant California native who can speak to the problems created in beach areas there by California’s similar laws. It will create major traffic and parking problems at our beaches where many inconsiderate new users doubl or illegally park, block driveways,and don’t use public transportation to reach the beach. The problems placed on the town with excessive beach and trazh clean up escalate. The incidence of illegal drinking and drug use at the beach and ajoining neighborhoods increase.
    Let’s hope Connecticut’s coastal towns and state representatives can use a little foresight and hopefully see the forest thru the (peoples) trees!
    As for Todd Freeman’s nasty bigoted rant! ARGO!

  24. Jennifer Rankine

    Hurling political insults is unnecessary, it’s about taxpayer v nontaxpayer. No one restricts access to the public trust area of water/mean high tide waterline at Westport beaches. For 7/12 of the year anyone can park and use the beach. For 5/12 of the year resident-taxpayer-pass-pricing goes to the Westport taxpayer who pays for the year-round & seasonal town employees, trash removal, lifeguards, beach grooming, storm cleanup, new bathrooms, new sidewalks, grills, new picnic tables, playground, pavilion, mobi-mats, lot & beach maintenance, lighting, equipment and more – – all of which exist above “the public trust area that comprises submerged lands and waters waterward of the mean high water line in tidal coastal, or navigable waters of the state of Connecticut.” If non-taxpayers wish to use the town’s limited parking/property and facilities in peak-season they pay a higher price than residents for a pass. If they wish to forego that price they can park elsewhere and uber, be dropped off, or ride a bike and access the beach at n/c – – many do, and access is not prohibited. It is not just Westport or Fairfield County towns either, as up/down CT similar policies apply. Sherwood Island State Park also has a resident/non-resident fee structure. If you register your car in CT, you pay the fee for the state parks with your registration, along with your CT state taxes, and your entry to the state park beach is included. If you enter in a vehicle that is not CT-registered, you pay $22/day on weekends and $15/day weekdays for access to Sherwood Island.
    The rates can be debated, but I don’t see what is unfair about everyone paying a share of the costs either through their resident taxes + pass, or via a non-resident higher-fee beach/park pass. The bill should be voted down.

  25. The bill is about rich versus poor. The dirty little secret about Fairfield County is the lengths residents will go to keep the poor people away. That money you spent on the bathroom at the south-end means nothing(bathroom closed by the way– not working?). Maybe we can put a needle exchange next the beach school… that’s how it works in poor communities. Housing for people arriving without documentation. Perfect spot for tents. Compo should be for all the public.
    If you show up with your family but you cant afford the hundred bucks for a parking space it is because you must move along, go back to where you came from. Lets face it, Westport is a bedroom community, residents don’t like poor people from out of town near their children.
    Only fair way is to have a flat fee — 3 bucks for the day. That way everybody can enjoy the natural beauty. If anything, Westporters should pay more because their average income is so much higher. 200 a day for residents, after all if residents don’t like it they can just go to Sherwood.

  26. Bad idea, these beaches are small and maintained by our taxes and they represent a big chunk of the value of our homes (which we paid for already). They are the jewel of Westport. This is a bill probably done by people that decided to buy larger properties at a more affordable cost in the non-coastal towns and now want to get it all. Reminds me of that bill about redoing school districts, pushed mainly by Norwalk, Stamford and Bridgeport lobbies.

    With that said, reading the comments I would suggest many of you disconnect from Hannity and Carlson for a couple of weeks. Your levels of stress will go down, I promise.

  27. This beach acess bill is sponsored by Michael Winkler a state rep from East Hartford. Being someshat unaware of all Connecticut beaches I am trying very hard to locate beaches in and around East Hartford?
    Interesting prospective on Michael Winler is viewed by clicking on this bill online and then run down the list of Mr. Winkler’s list of sponsorships.
    This state has been and will continue to suffer if this type of micro-focused social engineering leadership. There is and should be a “Big Picture” emphasis on how to make Connecticut a economically viable, opportunity providing and successful living enviroment for all its residents and businesses!

  28. Michael Rafferty

    We moved from California, where all beaches are forced to be accesible. Sounds great but it’s actually horrible. Our favorite part of Connecticut is the limits on beach access. Without restrictions, the beachgoers treat OUR beaches as their trash dump. The more accessible. The more environment destruction you see. When people come from outside the area they have no respect for the coastline, for the beautification. For the efforts that we West porters who take pride in our coastline.

    Opening the beaches up to outsiders is going to lead to the destruction of habitat the murder of local wildlife, the trashing of our beaches, this is a pariah on our community. Save our beaches, block the trash from outside.

  29. Adrian J Little

    ‘A public hearing is scheduled for Monday, March 7. A time and site have not yet been posted.”

    Dan – do you know if this public hearing happened?

  30. Rick Carpenter

    I find this bill/proposal to have a lot of inconsistencies that don’t take into effect overall context. What do Sherwood Island (and other state parks) exist for, for example. If the law changes re town beaches, then does the State cede Sherwood Island to Westport? Or does the State take over the costs associated with Compo. State beaches and parks were constructed so that there were other options than the “private” beaches of individual towns.

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