More Crowding and Parking Issues Precipitate New Madison Beach Restrictions
In an update provided last week, First Selectman Peggy Lyons announced significant changes to policy related to the beaches as the town continues to see crowding and parking issues that Lyons characterized as potentially a “public safety hazard.”
The changes include a maximum capacity at both East and West Wharf beaches that will potentially close those facilities temporarily when reached, new signage and parking restrictions on nearby streets along with “tightening enforcement” of current rules, and limiting the number of out-of-town passes sold during the week.
These new policies took effect last weekend, July 18 and 19, according to the update.
Lyons also extended her executive order that restricts beaches to residents only on weekends essentially through the rest of the summer, until Sept. 9.
“The governor’s recent pause on the roll-out of Phase 3, coupled with new quarantine restrictions for travelers, has compelled many people to find recreation options closer to home—they are choosing Madison’s beaches as an alternative,” Lyons wrote.
Lyons said that last Sunday, she personally witnessed issues with how many people were walking onto the beach after parking on side streets, creating a crowd that was “problematic.”
One of Madison’s biggest issues that began long before the pandemic is overflow traffic from Hammonasset Beach State Park filtering into the town’s beaches. With that beach—Connecticut’s most popular in terms of number of visitors—limiting its parking capacity during the pandemic, Madison has seen upticks in visitors generally, but particularly at the beaches.
In the update, Lyons also cited people in the region taking “staycations” during the quarantine, many seeking to alleviate both the pressure of the pandemic and the summer heat in town.
Hammonasset has closed due to reaching parking capacity 17 times this season, according to the official Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) Twitter account, which tracks park and beach closures around the state.
Lyons said in the update that she anticipates more closures at Hammonasset, particularly during the week, which precipitated the limiting of non-resident pass sales to “a number that maintains safe visitor volume.”
As far as town beach closures, Lyons said staff would be monitoring both cars and walk-ons at East and West Wharf beaches, and would disallow both if the crowds become too large. Staff would then reassess every half-hour, keeping track of how many people are leaving as they consider when to potentially re-open.
In terms of those parking on the side streets, Lyons said a task force involving the Police Department, Public Works Department, and the Board of Police Commissioners would be evaluating what to do, looking specifically at Madison Avenue and East Wharf Road.
Lyons asked people living on those roads to reach out to her directly if they had input or concerns related to beachgoer parking.
Lyons also reminded people that there are many people with out-of-state license plates who are Madison property owners who are allowed on the beaches, even on weekends.
“We ask the public for your continued patience and understanding as we work through these unprecedented, stressful times,” Lyons concluded. “We will continually evaluate and update our policies to address both community and public health concerns as they evolve in this fluid situation.”