Public Beach Access: A Deep Dive

The issue of public beach access has been a topic of debate in Connecticut for many years. Connecticut’s shoreline is home to many private beaches, which are often inaccessible to the public.

The debate over public beach access in Connecticut dates back to the 1800s, when wealthy landowners began to build homes along the state’s shoreline. In the early 20th century, public pressure led to the creation of several state and local parks, which provided public access to some beaches.

However, the issue of public beach access remained contentious, and in the 1960s and 1970s, several lawsuits were filed in an attempt to secure public access to private beaches. In 1971, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled in the case of Matthews v. Bay Head Improvement Association that the public has a right to access the beach up to the mean high water mark. This ruling established the so-called “public trust doctrine,” which states that the state holds certain natural resources, including tidal waters and the shore, in trust for the public.

In 1975, members of Ned Coll’s Revitalization Corps demonstrated in Old Saybrook, for access to the beach. (Photo courtesy of Bob Adelman)

Despite this ruling, public beach access in Connecticut remains a contentious issue, and many private beach associations continue to limit access to their beaches. In recent years, there have been efforts to increase public beach access through legislation and legal action. In 2021, for example, the Connecticut General Assembly passed a bill that requires beach associations to allow the public to use their beaches in exchange for tax breaks.

Overall, the history of public beach access in Connecticut has been marked by conflict and controversy, but there have been some positive developments in recent years that have increased access to the state’s beautiful coastline.

Public beach access in Connecticut involves both pros and cons.


Equal access: Public beach access ensures that all people, regardless of income or social status, have the right to enjoy the state’s natural resources. This creates a more equitable and inclusive society, and allows everyone to enjoy the beauty and benefits of the state’s coastline.

Economic benefits: Public beach access can have positive economic impacts on local communities, as it can attract visitors, boost tourism, and support local businesses such as restaurants and hotels. This can result in increased revenue and employment opportunities.

Environmental protection: Public beach access can promote environmental protection and conservation, as it raises public awareness about the importance of preserving natural resources, such as beaches, dunes, and coastal habitats. This can encourage people to be more responsible and respectful towards the environment.

There is plenty of room at Compo Beach. But how crowded is “too” crowded? (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)


Cost: Providing public beach access can be costly for towns and cities, as it requires investment in infrastructure, maintenance, and staff. This can be a burden on local budgets, and may result in higher taxes or fees for residents.

Overcrowding: Public beach access can lead to overcrowding, especially during peak tourist season. This can result in congestion, traffic, and litter, which can negatively impact the environment and the quality of the beach experience.

Property rights: Some people argue that public beach access infringes on property rights of private beach owners, who have invested in maintaining and improving their beaches. They argue that it is unfair to force them to allow access to their beaches, which can result in security and liability issues.

Overall, public beach access in Connecticut can provide a range of benefits, but it also has some challenges and limitations. The debate over how to balance the interests of property owners, local communities, and the general public is ongoing, and requires careful consideration of the potential impacts and trade-offs involved.

Interesting, no? But I have a confession to make: I did not research or write this. Neither did an “06880” reader. Today’s post was generated entirely by ChatGPT, the chatbot launched in November that has electrified the world (and terrified educators).

My only involvement with today’s post was generating the questions for ChatGPT, selecting the photos, and writing the headline and this end note.

My takeaway: We have much more to fear from this new technology, than from opening our beaches to non-residents.

35 responses to “Public Beach Access: A Deep Dive

  1. There was something eerie about this from the get-go.
    More detached than a first year law school essay.

  2. … I wonder if ChatGPT can write snarky comments if asked, snarky enough to get kicked off a forum…

  3. Would be interesting to see the exact question you posed to ChatGPT…

    • There were 2: “Tell me the history of public beach access in Connecticut,” and “Give me the pros and cons of public beach access in Connecticut.”

      • Dan, that was a really great, creative and fun idea- and very helpful in trying to understand what this technology does!

  4. I really hope ChatGPT learns how to play Tic Tac Toe ASAP

  5. This is amazing. Thanks Dan for bringing this to our collective attention. While ChatGPT is still not ready to write the Great American Novel it is more than ready for creating content suitable for how the growing majority now read: scrolling on their IPhones through Social Media for short, concise “stories” that can be read in minutes if not seconds. It perfectly meets that communication format. Scary stuff indeed!

  6. Your fear is fear of change and progress

  7. My sun worshipping days are over- no longer do I park my beach chair on a beach and broil myself all day. On the other hand, I have wonderful memories of beach days, both as a child and an adult. The public should be permitted access for all the reasons listed by Chatty Cathy . If traffic and congestion are a concern, why not have a “Beach Shuttle?” Westport could be a leader in this.

  8. There is a story going around the internet of a guy who used this crazy technology to write and illustrate a children’s book within hours. My human thoughts drifted back to standing in line at Remarkable to have my latest book signed by Joan Walsh Anglund herself. Her amazing illustrations teaching about human relationships and how to navigate them as a child. We can’t let this taken us over. We lose our humanity. Don’t live in Westport anymore but yeah…let people visit the beaches and enjoy them as fellow humans! We live in the Pacific Northwest and can still go to many beaches for free and rarely see another soul depending on the beach we choose. And if we want people, we know which beaches to travel to. And those are fun too! Freedom! Let everyone be free.

  9. Beach access is one issue, but this chatGPT AI is definitly another. I am not well versed in AI for sure, but it seems that AI itself is not the problem in itself but the result of the problem.My thought here is that it appears that to create this type of AI for it’s thought processes are created by millions and billions of data points. My concern and question is who compiles and decides which data points and what those points are. If CHATGpt is fashioned in this way then it’s so called concious thought is really the data that some group or collection decided to inject. Can we all spell slanted or biased! This will be the DANGER of this form of AI. We should be very careful as people fawn with wonder as this genie crawls out of the lamp! JMHO

  10. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    I wish they’d had this when I was at Staples. It would have been easier than all that paraphrasing I did.

    • Well, I got an A on an author paper at SHS. To this day, I doubt she actually read it. On a serious note, has the chemical train derailment affected you directly? You have mentioned that you live in Ohio.

      • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

        Thanks for asking. Congrats on the author paper. When I was at Staples they were experimenting with pass/fail (guess what I got on mine) I’m in Cincinnati 236 miles southwest of ground zero in East Palestine. People are paranoid because there has been NO analysis/involvement from anyone in a position to know/do anything other than to say they can’t find anything wrong with the water (despite the fact that three train carloads of highly toxic chemicals were spilled). I’m still working through leftover beer/wine/hard stuff from my son’s wedding reception in October (bride’s father doesn’t drink) so I’m OK.

  11. Dan you’ve been replaced by a computer? How sad
    What are we teaching the students of our schools?
    What do we say when we meet you on the street? Was that you or ChatGPT?
    At least, now you have an excuse when someone doesn’t agree with you. “It wasn’t me”

  12. 1. What is being overlooked is that, as far as I know, Westport beaches have never been off limits to anyone. You could walk, run, bike, taxi, carpool, etc. and there were no beach police to stop or evict you. You ID was never an entry requirement. Parking availability and cost was the only issue. AND Sherwood Island is virtually the same shoreline a stone throw away.
    2. AI concerns are both appropriate, and frightening. Although in many ways beneficial, nefarious intent will/has already become problematic and unintended consequences are likely to become extremely and irrevocably consequential. I fear that this incredible technology should not be entrusted to a species that despite many examples of kindness, has been continuously more impacted by power, greed, selfishness and injustice.

  13. Jay Walshon is usually direct and aggressive in his observations. He also captures much of the essence of issues. A small shout out to Jay for his commitment to our Town through his public engagement. I also liked John Suggs’ words, another who is often contentious.

  14. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70 (my BMI’s a little high)

    Open the beach to ALL. Put wind farms in the sound and solar panels in the beach parking lot. Force everyone to walk to the beach. Out of towners can park their cars downtown which has always been free. Work off some of that excess adipose (fat) that is driving up our healthcare costs.

    • Usually I agree with some of your comments. This beach access issue? No. If you restrict access to only those in in town who can pay the high prices to go and enjoy the beach then you may as well erect a gate around all of Westport. An elite, expensive community that talks compassion but shows none. The waters and sands of the earth should be free to all. I’m not defending free rides for other life experiences. But the sands and seas…from the creator to all of His children. And not apologizing for mentioning a creator. All of us in the rest of the country have had to make shifts in what we think is fair…and frankly Im not on board with a lot going on right now. But anyone who is respectful and neighborly in a a public beach setting deserves at least a towel spot for the day with their childen. Or just make the whole of Westport private and waaay too expensive for outsiders. And charge admission to the whole town before one can enjoy it includingthe shops. And respectfully enjoy that is. Going on peoples lawns, porches, etc would be disrespectful and not sure that would be happening for people who just would like a day at the beach. We live on the earth with a lot of different people. We all have to figure out how to get along and have peace including Westport residents. Compo Beach ? Special but as far as understand, much of it is town property. Maybe allocate days of the month it accepts visitors to start. I’m glad we lived in Westport where school teacher and musician parents could afford to take us to the beach every summer. Wouldn’t happen at the current prices being charged.

      • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

        I’m glad you only agree with SOME of my comments. (I feel the same way about my comments)

  15. At the end of the day, the one thing to question is whether a legal citation ChatGPT includes actually exists. Otherwise, laugh.

  16. Deb Rosenfield

    So cool that you did this with AI, Dan. A friend who was a tv producer asked a ChatBot to write a resume for him and the AI bot came up with a completely inaccurate but well-written few paragraphs about him. He said not a thing in the bio was true. For example, it had him starting his career at a tv station in Michigan. He said he has never set foot inside that tv station.

    We have quite a way to go with this technology but it does do some neat things while being sort of terrifying at the potential misinformation aspect. Or, as the NYT reporter showed us the other day in his 2-hour ‘chat,’ the weird take on “love.”

  17. Claudia Jensen


  18. David J. Loffredo

    AI needs to be trained, so it only gets better as it’s used.

    What’s starting as a novelty will eventually wipe us all out once these things take over the power grid, defense systems, etc.

    Relish in these innocent early days, but perhaps watch Terminator again.

  19. Thanks for providing us with such an interesting and relevant example of this much talked about technology. It seems to explain this issue pretty accurately. Who knows how it’s evolution will affect us. I understand that AI is being developed to police Chat gtp. Scary stuff.