To Milford’s annoyance, Bond Commission OK’s Silver Sands makeover

Warren Disbrow, of Middletown, photographs a feeding Great Blue Heron from the boardwalk at Silver Sands State Park in Milford, Conn. on Wednesday, November 29, 2017.

Photo: Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media

On Tuesday, Milford’s entire Hartford delegation staged a press conference deriding a $9.1 million improvement project for Silver Sands State Park.

Their appeal to the media was all for naught. Less than 24 hours after that event, the state Bond Commission approved $9.1 million to fund the construction of a number of amenities there, the only undeveloped one of the four shore-front state parks.

“Today’s decision was deeply disappointing, but not at all surprising,” Slossberg said after the Bond Commission meeting. “This project has been widely opposed from the beginning, and that opposition has consistently been ignored. The simple fact is that no one wants this project and the State of Connecticut cannot afford it.”

The improvements will include a new concession building, restrooms and an office as well as a 4,700-square-foot maintenance garage — a garage that Slossberg described as “a mansion.”

Related Stories

Sen. Slossberg: Leave Silver Sands the way it is

Milford officials say no, Malloy’s office says yes

Gov. Dannel Malloy defended the $9.1 million for improvements despite the local opposition, noting it's a state asset.

Back in March, DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee said the state “considered the positive impact on the local economy that is likely to result from hosting a premier shoreline park. We are planning to proceed with this project because visitors deserve restrooms, changing areas and other modest amenities to make their visit sanitary, safe and convenient.”

Klee said thousands of Connecticut families “enjoy this park each year” and that their experience “would be improved with basic amenities.”

But state Rep. Kim Rose, who joined Slossberg at Tuesday’s press conference, said it’s “not a dead issue.”

“We will see what we can do legislatively to stop it,” Rose said.

But state officials have long sought to bring Silver Sands in line with the three other shorefront state parks — Hammonasset Beach, Rocky Neck and Sherwood Island. Other than portable toilets and a parking lot, there isn’t much in the way of amenities there. A long boardwalk linking Silver Sands with the Walnut Beach enclave opened in 2011.

Milfordites have in recent years opposed the Silver Sands “build out” idea because they said that they’d have to pay for parking at a park that they frequent a lot.

But that’s a moot issue now; the Legislature in recent weeks passed its “Passport to Parks” bill which gives state residents free parking at all state parks in exchange for a $5 assessment added per year to your vehicle’s registration charge.

“Parking wasn’t the only issue,” Rose said. “The scope of this project was absolutely nothing that we could support. I don’t understand the need — already we have a quarter-million people going there in the summer.”

Mayor Benjamin Blake suggested that DEEP (the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection) would be wise to consider a scaled-down effort at Silver Sands, which has only portable toilets and no place to change out of a wet swimsuit.

“Sure, bathrooms would be great,” he said. “And how about lifeguards? We’ve asked DEEP for lifeguards, but they turned us down — and there have been drownings out there. Why would they turn down lifeguards at $40,000 a year while backing an outlandish $9.1 million expansion?”