On March 31, a public forum on Long Beach West was hosted by Protect Our Environment of Stratford at . This is the fourth story in a series.
Two members of the Connecticut Audubon Society sitting in the audience then added their voices to the continuing discussion over the future of Long Beach West.
The Audubon’s Sandy Breslin, Director of Governmental Affairs, congratulated the town “for having achieved a conservation success at Long Beach West. I just want to thank you and to say that Audubon is very proud to have been a small part of that success.”
She noted that bringing federal stimulus money was key to the restoration effort including removal of the cottages. “It is really gratifying to see that it was carried out successfully,” she said, adding, “The Audubon is ready and willing to offer our expertise” as the town moves forward in the process. She also praised Mayor John Harkins for ‘hitting the nail on the head’ regarding his comment that Long Beach West can be “an asset for people and for wildlife.”
A second Audubon spokesman, Patrick Comins, Director of Bird Conservation, noted that “it’s been wonderful working with the town on a project that can now be enjoyed by people” safely, adding that prior to the restoration that Long Beach West “wasn’t safe for the birds, either.
“We are seeing a solution that is best for the birds and the people,” Comins continued, adding that the Audubon Society has “a volunteer program to help manage beach areas,” if the town is interested in utilizing them. He also invited town residents to join the beach ambassador program. “All you have to do is to not step on the nests.”
Regarding the persistent question of whether or not the federal Fish & Wildlife Service would be interested in acquiring Long Beach West from the town, Comins said, “It’s impossible to say at this point.” The issue is closely related to the Stewart B. McKinney Wildlife Refuge, one unit of which is located adjacent to Long Beach West in the Great Meadows in Stratford.
He noted that there is a comprehensive conservation planning process for each acquisition that includes outlining the resource, gauging public reaction and access. Among the questions asked when the service is considers areas to be acquired, are: “What areas should be acquired?” and, “What areas can be protected without acquiring?”
“We are all going to have an opportunity to have input in that planning process,” he said.
Then it was the turn of a resident who said “I have lived here for 40 years and I say keep control in the town of Stratford” in order to preserve the rights of citizens to have access.
She was critical of the construction company’s timing of the roadway that was built to gain access to tear down the cottages on Long Beach West. “Why do it over the summer?” she asked. “Don’t give up that control to anybody,” adding, “I trust the mayor. But I think the problem is you already have all these people with their hands in the pie … When you have money, you have control.”
Resident George Mulligan then asked, “What is to stop a future mayor from doing something to expand the airport?”
Mayor John Harkins noted that such decisions would have to be taken up by the Town Council.
Afterward, Mulligan, a self-proclaimed conspiracy believer and regular speaker at local town meetings, noted in an email to local editors that he believes that the town of Stratford and City of Bridgeport may at some time in the future swap the airport for Long Beach West.
Mulligan said that Stratford would benefit in that it would be better able to develop the greater airport area, including the adjacent U.S. Army plant site. Meanwhile, Bridgeport would have easier access to city-owned Pleasure Beach located adjacent to Stratford-owned Long Beach West, he noted.
On Tuesday, our fifth and final installment.