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Long Beach West Boardwalk Bound?

Commission ships list of recommendations for Long Beach West to Mayor John A. Harkins.

It may be number nine on the priority list, but the construction of a boardwalk on Long Beach West is no doubt the most contentious recommendation for the future use of the barrier beach.

Back in May 2011, Mayor John A. Harkins created the Long Beach West Blue Ribbon Commission, a seven-member task force charged with addressing the future options and potential uses of Long Beach West.

And last week that commission approved and shipped a priority list of 18 recommendations to the mayor -- but not before members argued at length about number nine: the construction of a 1,320-foot-long boardwalk similar to the one at Silver Sands State Park in Milford.

"One of the reasons I got involved in this is for the boardwalk," said Chairman Patrick Gribbon, in response to two members who wanted the omission of Milford's boardwalk in the wording of the recommendation. "We voted on this in August [and during the] last two meetings it wasn't brought up."

Commission member John Zbell said there was a change made after that vote to include the reference of Milford's boardwalk. Either way, he said, he approves of a similar boardwalk.

Other members, however, said the comparison to Milford's beach and boardwalk is not applicable to Long Beach West, a unique barrier beach that borders a wildlife refuge.

"I don't think there's enough land to build a boardwalk like Milford," said Marcia Stewart, president of Protect Your Environment. "The barrier beach is very small and the middle section is where diamondback turtles nest and you're going to build a boardwalk on them."

"These are priorities everyone voted on," Gribbon answered. "The maximum width would be 12 feet. The [Department of Energy and Environmental Protection] told me it would take people off the conservation area."

"I want people to come back from the boardwalk and say 'that's terrific,'" he added.

"I'm not opposed to a boardwalk approved by regulatory agencies [but] Milford is indeed a different situation," said Milan Bull, a commission member from the Connecticut Audubon Society, "It's like comparing apples and oranges … I'd say let DEEP and regulatory agencies decide the length."

"Milford's boardwalk is built to last 100 years," Gribbon said.

"So will I-95," Bull said.

"Why is there so much hate for the Milford boardwalk?" Gribbon asked select members of his commission. "I think you're being obstructive. If I'm wrong, stab me."

"Your job is to steer this commission," Bull said. "You are suppose to take the consensus."

In the end, the promise of provisions eased the nerves of the commission and the recommendation was included with the Milford model. "The vision offers provisions for what [Gribbon] is saying, to meet statutes, regulations," Zbell said.

After the list of priorities receives input from the mayor, the Town Council, other groups in town and the public, it will be the responsibility of a stewardship to follow that 'vision.' The list has not yet been made public. The number one priority, however, is entryway improvements, Gribbon said.

"The stewardship is set up to work on its own," said the chairman, who compared it to an organization that runs a trust at Boothe Memorial Park. "They would work as an advisory group."

Gribbon added, "I will tell the mayor we'd be happy to present this to the Town Council, to the public."

Would you like to see a boardwalk on Long Beach West? Vote in our poll and comment below.

Mike March 26, 2012 at 11:40 AM
Build the boardwalk, and it will be, "People are required to stay on the boardwalk. Birds only will be allowed to use the beach."
Charlie Barnard Jr. March 26, 2012 at 12:04 PM
The boardwalk, as it is described, would extend into the core of Piping Plover nesting territory. At that point, the barrier beach is very narrow and a boardwalk would prevent the birds from being able to nest. How does that fit with the idea of "stewardship?" The town of Stratford shares responsibility for taking care of a federally endangered species and it seems that some members of the Long Beach West Blue Ribbon Commission have abdicated that responsibility.
Kim Tall March 26, 2012 at 01:46 PM
I say build the boardwalk. Couples with little kids can't make it across the sand without a hard struggle. A boardwalk at least part of the way will be a big help.
Rich Tomas March 26, 2012 at 02:03 PM
...anything is better than what we have there now...which is nothing
Jason Bagley (Editor) March 26, 2012 at 04:15 PM
A few comments left on the Stratford Patch Facebook page: Matt DeBernardo: "they should focus on cutting town payrolls and privatizing services before they start using tax dollars to build boardwalks." Donna Rae Henault Caporaso: "I think the property should go to the FWS and added tothe McKinley Wildlife Refuge. If the FWS will maintain a Boardwalk, then I think one should be put in to deter people from walking where the Plovers breed." Jason Lyman: "We need to worry about more important things other than a boardwalk. It is a waste of our already high taxes. Allocate the funds to other things." Matt DeBernardo: "how about give the funds back to the tax payers." Monica Short: "I'd rather have an outdoor pool for Stratford residents than a boardwalk." Claudine Roy: "I think it's a great idea. Just like Silver Sands in Milford which does have a beautiful boardwalk. People may walk, enjoy the fresh air and respect the natural space even more because the safety and integrity of the wildlife and their habitat is maintained because of the boardwalk" Like us: http://www.facebook.com/StratfordPatch
Jason Bagley (Editor) March 26, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Here's some more background on the relationship between US Fish & Wildlife and the town of Stratford as it relates to the ownership of Long Beach West: http://stratford.patch.com/articles/commission-reviews-early-plan-for-long-beach-west
Baseball Mom March 26, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Long Beach is more for wildlife they should use Short Beach if you want to walk a boardwalk.
Tom March 26, 2012 at 11:22 PM
Nice idea...not grounded in reality...where is million+ dollars coming from to build this? Seriously?.... Have you done a gut check of the economy? Lets see what we can do with what we have as a refreshing change...shall we?
Linda March 27, 2012 at 01:49 AM
I agree! Also it will disturb the Plovers!
Steve Spector March 27, 2012 at 01:42 PM
As someone who has monitored Piping Plovers at Silver Sands State Park for the USF&W for the past five years, I urge Stratford not to embark any boardwalk at Long Beach West for at least 4-5 years in order to evaluate the environmental impact of the boardwalk at Silver Sands. Even though the Silver Sands boardwalk was supposed to be designed to protect the breeding Piping Plovers, last summer, the first one for the new boardwalk, there were no nests on the stretch from the main beach west to Walnut Beach for the first time in many years, most likely because the boardwalk brought many people onto the beaches where Pipers used to nest and raise their chicks; also, the boardwalk itself goes right through the old nesting and foraging areas. As for the main beach, last year one Piping Plover couple had three chicks right on the beach (near the lifeguard stand) around the beginning of July, but all chicks perished within a week. The stressed adults tried to cope with crowds of, but they could not move the chicks to their traditional safe area west of the main beach because the beach goers, facilitated by the new boardwalk, were too numerous. Before building a boardwalk at Long Beach West, allow time for the environmental impact of the boardwalk at Silver Sands to be fully understood. It's best to be conservative when dealing with our threatened natural resources Steve Spector
Brad Madigan March 27, 2012 at 05:42 PM
who cares ?/??????? PEOPLE FIRST
Brad Madigan March 27, 2012 at 05:47 PM
How great would it be if other people than enviros would want to walk out into the middle of those barrier sands. What , it's only for birds ? People first!!!!!!
Brad Madigan March 27, 2012 at 05:54 PM
HOW COME , WHEN IT COMES TO THE BIRDS and the BEES and the FLOWERS and the TREES , and the FISH , the very few get to dictate to the majority? Oh I know why! Liberals allways think they Know whats best for everyone else !
Jennifer March 27, 2012 at 10:06 PM
I agree with you Steve! The Patch article I just read indicated that the Long Beach West Blue Ribbon Commision Chairman, Patrick Gribbon wad told that the boardwalk would take people off the conservation area. I lived near a Boardwalk for 10 years. It will bring the multitudes, many of which will use the easy access for activities other than walking, above and under the boardwalk. I guarantee, with the masses,there will be an abundance of trash.Most of the trash out there, has been washed up on shores, from storms, boaters, etc. Not by the locals, who like myself thoroughly enjoy walking down Long Beach West, appreciating the beauty, while respecting the wildlife.I noticed that,if you walk too close to a nest, the plovers feel threatened, and will let you know it. Mind you, I love walking on boardwalks!!! The ones I frequent, have a large expanse of beach, and municipal services to maintain it. This beach is too narrow, and will encourage to many humans to be consistently and disruptively too close to sensitive habitats. Without a boardwalk, there IS room for BOTH humans and birds, as there has been for years. It's also my experiences that many of the issues (agendas) regarding this beach have been LESS than transparent. Meetings went on for years that the public was not privy too. I hope this is different now.Just think...if we sold this magnificent beach for all eternity, for the pittence and terms previously offered, we couldn't even have this discussion now.
Kathy Dia March 28, 2012 at 12:14 AM
I am planning a trip soon to Hawaii and was shocked that the number of bird species which were once endemic to those islands have been reduced from 200 to 20. How could people let this happen, and much of it in the 1980's and 90's when people ought to know better? Well, this is how..."people first". We are the stewards of what nature, or God if you like, has given us and it is up to us to treat it with respect. There must be a way that we can accommodate both people and birds; really, it cannot be that difficult. Thank you for your consideration, Kathy
Jennifer March 29, 2012 at 01:51 AM
I have been walking on Long Beach West since I was very young. With your children's sense of adventure, and all the exploring opportunies out there, they might end up running with glee, or with bucket in hand slowly walk in search of the next great shell. One doesn't need amenities to enjoy relatively undisturbed beauty...but don't forget your camera!
Joe April 03, 2012 at 03:27 PM
Perhaps we can close down a school, or layoff police, firefighters, or other town employees to pay for the cost of properly constructing, maintaining, and policing a boardwalk...another tax increase can also do it.
Roberta Shea April 04, 2012 at 12:37 AM
Respect for our Environment isn’t just some silly hobby. “Tree- Huggers” hug trees for a very good reason. We desperately need birds and their nesting places, as well as sea creatures and their natural homes. The birds and the sea life existed there before people came and disrupted it. We're just proposing to give it back to our Benefactor, God. When we disrupt nature, we introduce deadly viruses, such as AIDS. Did you ever wonder why so many more people are suffering from pollen allergies? It’s because we have cut down so many trees. There is so much about nature and the need to preserve it, that so many people need to learn. Here is my suggestion: Row across the Pond to the Connecticut Audubon Center. There is a wealth of information there that will explain just how important it is for people to respect nature.

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