Darien’s Great Island opens for limited public access

Its walking path is open from sunrise to sunset. For now, dogs and bicycles are not allowed. Visitors must park at the adjacent Pear Tree Point Beach.

Tom Krosnowski and Rose Shannon

Mar 13, 2024, 12:36 PM

Updated 33 days ago

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Great Island off the coast of Darien has opened for limited public access.
The town purchased it from its longtime private owners last year for $85 million.
"A picture is worth 1,000 words. If you just stand here and you look at the island, you'll start to see that it's a truly unique place," says First Selectman Jon Zagrodzky (R-Darien).
The island is free for residents.
Its walking path is open from sunrise to sunset. For now, dogs and bicycles are not allowed. Visitors must park at the adjacent Pear Tree Point Beach.
"This island was privately held for more than a century, so a lot of the things that you'd expect to have for safety, none of that really is in place," says Zagrodzky.
Construction is expected to begin by May to widen the entry road for two-way traffic.
Once it begins, pedestrian access will be limited to weekends.
Until then, visitors can enjoy the path and view the original owners' 100-year-old mansion and horse stables.
Officials tell News 12 they have plans for the island, including possible municipal and commercial development. Options include building an ice rink or a pool.
Zagrodzky says the key is balancing development with the nature of the island.
"I think the island is large enough that you can get that balance geographically. For example, we're standing in an area right by the water, it feels like this is the kind of thing we should preserve. Inside the island might be a great spot to have a municipal asset because it's a less sensitive area," says Zagrodzky.
The goal is for the island to become a centerpiece for the town, without losing the heart.
"This should be a huge source of pride. I'd really like this to be the finest municipal asset on the water anywhere on the east coast of the country. I think we really will end up with an asset that will make the name Darien known to a lot of people," says Zagrodzky.


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