Milford mayor, state officials seek info on $10M park plan
MILFORD >> Democratic state Sen. Gayle Slossberg is demanding answers from the state on a planned $10 million project at Silver Sands State Park, and questioning the wisdom of such a costly project when millions in state aid is being cut from the schools and city.
She is joined in the sentiment by other Milford officials, including Mayor Benjamin G. Blake and state Rep. Kim Rose, D-118.
Slossberg has submitted a Freedom of Information Request to Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Rob Klee, concerning the project that has been opposed by residents.
“It is just incredible to me that this unwanted, multimillion dollar project would move forward at the same time that it’s being proposed that millions will be cut from our schools and town,” Slossberg said in a press release.
“It’s insulting to propose cutting funding from our town and then using our tax dollars to build out the beach in our neighborhoods and charge us and others to use it.”
According to a DEEP website entry of 2015, when budget cuts were raised as a concern by residents as well, the funding would come from available capital bonds, not the general fund, which is where the deficit exists.
Blake agrees with Slossberg.
He said via email that it’s “incomprehensible,” that while faced with a $1.5 billion deficit and looking to slash funding, the state would “dump tens of millions of dollars into massive guardhouses, dining facilities, and beachside administrative offices no one wants.”
“We’d much prefer to see the park’s natural environment kept up, and avoid any projects which will have such a negative impact on the traffic, parking and public safety in the streets and neighborhoods adjacent to Silver Sands,” Blake said.
Generally, Blake is working closely with Milford’s delegation and meeting with other affected mayors and first selectmen to rally support for a Connecticut budget that makes sense.
Rose, too, has a been an outspoken advocate for the neighbors — part of her district — who fear, in part, that visitors looking to dodge a new fee to park at Silver Sands would park on residential streets.
The shorefront park is uniquely situated next to three residential neighborhoods.
Rose said she supports Slossberg’s FOI request and position.
“It’s irresponsible spending, especially now in a budget crisis,” Rose said. “If they have the extra money, they can give it back to the towns.”
According to Slossberg, more than a year has passed since she posed questions that DEEP has failed to answer.
Documents requested by Slossberg in the FOI request include:
• Financial analysis for the proposed construction, including the capital and operating costs, revenue projections, short- and long-term cost projections, staffing requirements, and any other item that may have a fiscal impact on the state budget.
• Traffic congestion analysis, studies, and proposed solutions to visitors parking in the neighborhood.
• Environmental impact evaluation and any updates.
• Formal basis that DEEP used to determine the need for the construction.
• Information that demonstrates public support or need for this project.
The 297-acre park faces Charles Island and Long Island Sound.
WHY GO AHEAD?
The DEEP website also answers the question: “Why move forward with a project that has so much opposition from local residents?”
DEEP’s answer: “Silver Sands State Park has grown increasingly popular over the years, and now welcomes an estimated 250,000 visitors a year.
“The public who use this park need the basic services that this project will provide, including bathrooms, an area to change clothes, space for lifeguards and environmental conservation police staff, and a small stand for food and drink.
“The project will also increase the efficiency of the management of the property.”
400 IN OPPOSITION
Residents showed up 400 strong in 2015 to oppose the Silver Sands State Park project.
Slossberg put it bluntly at that meeting.
“We like our park the way it is — why do we need this?” Slossberg said.
She grilled DEEP officials, asking why DEEP was working off a 22-year-old environmental impact evaluation when the department has environmental protection department in its name.
Slossberg called for a current environmental impact study and requested a traffic study. She received thunderous applause that night.
As part of the upgrades to Silver Sands, the state is planning amenities such as a snack bar, bathhouse, storage building for maintenance equipment and a booth for collecting the parking fee.
DEEP officials have said they may consider revisions to the plan based on input, but the overall project — including charging for parking — is likely to go forward.
When the park is revamped, fees are likely to be the same as at the other state coastal parks, DEEP officials have said.
Those seasonal fees roughly between Memorial Day and Labor Day are $9 plus tax on weekdays for state residents, and $13 plus tax on weekends and for nonresidents, $15 plus tax during the week and $22 plus tax weekends.
Milford residents would have to pay as well, just as Madison residents pay to park at Hammonasset, Old Lyme residents at Rocky Neck State Park and Westport residents at Sherwood Island, DEEP officials have said.