Debate swirls over proposed site of Sandy Hook memorial playground

WEST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – The proposed shoreline location for a Sandy Hook memorial playground is catching some flak here from the local land trust which must OK any waterfront development.

“If we had more room, perhaps we’d have room for it,” said Violet Borneman of the West Haven Land Trust. “But as it stands now, I think it’s a lovely place to be.”

The Sandy Ground Project to date has built 18 playgrounds in memory of the victims of the Sandy Hook School shooting, constructed in communities impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

The one proposed for West Haven – near the Savin Rock boardwalk – would be in memory of 6-year-old Charlotte Bacon, who visited the city’s shoreline with family.

While Mayor Ed O’Brien said he’s not in favor of developing the shoreline, he added, “I think there does, though, have to be a balance of smart development.”

“I didn’t think there would be any issue at all,” the mayor said. “I thought the land trust would, like the rest of West Haven, welcome this project.”

As far as the current proposed location is concerned, Borneman said the playground would disrupt what’s already there.

“We could use it somewhere else, where children don’t have water and sand and a boardwalk,” she said.

Last June, the Sandy Ground Project received approval to build a memorial playground on Fairfield’s Penfield Beach, though there were some concerns about the site.

O’Brien said the city is exploring other locations and he’s hoping to come to an agreement soon.

Others, however, are for the shoreline location.

“Anytime you can do things to enhance an area and bring people in, it helps the community,” said Paul Gagliardi, who owns the nearby Jimmies restaurant.

“I bring my grandkids down to the beach and there’s not much else we can do with them,” said West Haven resident Kathy Dechello. “I think a playground would be wonderful.”

The City Council votes Monday to accept the playground as a gift. The land trust has to approve the location by next week.

Stephanie Simoni reporting

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