Officials hope new sign at Silver Sands will keep beachgoers safe
Officials hope recently added signs will encourage beachgoers to heed warnings about the sandbar at Silver Sands State Park.
The park’s beach is connected to Charles Island by a half-mile-long sandbar — also known as a tombolo — that poses a danger to those stranded by rising tides.
Before the summer, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection added a large, double-sided warning sign to the three smaller signs that were already posted at the base of the tombolo.
Beach visitors have always been attracted to the sandbar, sometimes with disastrous results.
“Local folks have always walked out to the island,” Milford Mayor Ben Blake said. “When folks that aren’t aware of the tides and currents ... that’s where things get dangerous.”
Last summer, 28-year-old George Swaby, of Bridgeport, died after he and his friend were swept off the sandbar. Swaby’s friend was rescued from the water. A search for Swaby’s body went on for days before it was recovered.
A year before that, crews rescued a 52-year-old Waterbury man after he and his 24-year-old son attempted the trek to Charles Island across the sandbar on Sept. 20, 2016, and the father was swept out by the current, Milford Fire Battalion Chief Anthony Fabrizi said at the time.
And firefighters rescued eight children and two adults on July 25, 2016, after the group walked to Charles Island and were trapped because they misjudged the incoming tide, Fabrizi said then.
DEEP spokesman Chris Collibee said the new sign “details the danger of the tombolo and the risks of going out on it.”
He said he hopes it will keep people safe by providing more information.
“It’s very hard to miss,” Collibee said. “It’s a very large, noticeable sign. You have no choice but to notice it.”
And for those who still don’t read the signs, there will be other warnings.
“They have folks that work for DEEP this year that are there (at the beach) to echo what the signs say,” Blake said.
Those employees are rangers who educate and warn beach visitors about the changing tides and the potential dangers of the tombolo.
“We want people to be safe,” Collibee said. “Not everyone understands the danger of going out there on the tombolo and what can happen.”
Incidents involving the sandbar go back for decades.
In 1989, an unidentified female swimmer was caught in an undertow at the tombolo and narrowly escaped drowning, fire officials said at the time. One official said the currents off the sandbar were “the worst” of any along the city’s 17-mile shoreline.
At about that same time, the state considered building a 3,500-foot boardwalk to connect Charles Island and the beach.
The DEEP website for Silver Sands says Capt. William Kidd, a pirate who supposedly visited Charles Island in the late 1600s, was said to have buried treasure there.
But the island’s most recent inhabitants are egret rookeries and heron. The interior of the island is closed to visitors from May 1 to Aug. 31 each year to protect the nesting birds.