New Connecticut beach access bill meets tidal wave of opposition
One local town is trying to turn the tide on a Connecticut House bill it says will stop town public beaches from offering discounted parking fees to residents who pay taxes.
House Bill 5254, an act ensuring access to parking near public beaches and recreation and scenic areas, wants to make beach access fair to everyone. It would make sure there are no different prices for anyone to park on a first-come, first-served basis.
Former State Rep. Brian Farnen, of Fairfield, says the bill is not fair for his constituents.
"At the end of the day, everyone should be welcome to Fairfield's beaches – but if taxpayers in town are paying for the maintenance and upkeep of the beaches and the parking, they should get some benefit in lower pricing. It's just fair," said Farnen.
Farnen started a petition that already has about 2,500 signatures.
State legislators like Ronald Lemar, of New Haven, say towns like Fairfield have already received millions of dollars for their beaches from environmental grants.
"We have a national reputation for being ridiculously restrictive when it comes to beach access and we've got to do better," said Lemar.
State Rep. Jennifer Leeper, who serves Fairfield, says Fairfield's beach neighborhoods are already congested.
"I agree that no resident should be priced out of a day at the beach with their family just because they do not live in a coastal community. However, saying that parking fees must be the same for non-residents as residents denies the reality that coastal community taxpayers disproportionately fund the maintenance," Leeper said.
Leeper says anyone can get a season beach pass in Fairfield, and the town has not abused its privileges.
If the bill passes it would take effect next summer.