Hearing this week on Silver Sands Park improvements

Residents will get a chance this week to hear about plans for improvements at Silver Sands State Park and to comment on them.

Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) will hold a public information meeting in Milford to present plans for improvements to the park Thursday, Sept. 24, at 6:30 p.m. at Milford City Hall.

The DEEP will present plans it has developed for Silver Sands, including adding public bathrooms, changing areas, lifeguard and law enforcement space, and a snack bar with a wraparound deck. State officials have said that when the improvements are complete, there will be an admission fee to the park, as there is at other state parks. Today entrance is free.

The agenda for Thursday’s public meeting will consist of a presentation of the project plans, followed by an opportunity for questions and answers in a one-on-one format with staff. The meeting will conclude with time for citizens to provide public comment on the project.

“Our goal is to provide better services to people who visit Silver Sands State Park,” said DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee in a press release. “With thousands of visitors annually, it is important to provide bathroom facilities, a snack bar, and a place for staff support at this popular location on Long Island Sound,”

The project is the next phase of many years of improvements at Silver Sands State Park, according to the state DEEP. The state of Connecticut has invested more than $10 million since 1960 in acquiring property, addressing landfill closure, and adding park amenities, including the Silver Sands Boardwalk, the DEEP said.

The project is also part of DEEP’s “Lead by Example” effort and includes many features intended to enhance the environmental sustainability of the area. The new restrooms will be on an elevated deck above the flood zone and behind sand dunes; wildlife habitat improvements are part of the project; and the parking area will include spaces for electric vehicles and handicapped parking

Earlier this year, Milford officials, including the city’s representatives in Hartford, engaged in verbal battle with the DEEP over improvement plans.

State Senator Gayle S. Slossberg (D-Milford) testified along with Mayor Benjamin Blake and State Reps. Kim Rose (D-Milford), Pam Staneski (R-Milford) and Charles Ferraro (R-West Haven) in March in support of legislation to take back ownership of land at Silver Sands State Park from the DEEP.

“Over the years the city has voluntarily conveyed land to the state with the understanding that the state would treat it in a manner that was environmentally sound, and respectful of the historic, densely populated community,” Sen. Slossberg said at the time. “DEEP has failed miserably in its stewardship of the land. We’ve seen crime, the dumping of waste and the closing off of critical emergency vehicle access points.”

In reviewing improvements planned by the state, city officials said they found that many of their concerns regarding the cleaning of blighted areas were not included.

During the March public hearing Rep. Rose said, “While the DEEP has ambitious goals to restore the area with offices, dining and other amenities, the city’s priorities for restoring the park’s natural beauty and engaging massive cleaning efforts to get rid of undesirable debris have not been committed. Serious concerns have been discussed, such as street parking congestion and other issues that would be detrimental to homeowners if the proposed improvements were to be undertaken.”

Rose said that she, Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey and Mayor Ben Blake will be doing a walk-through at Silver Sands before the meeting Thursday.