Plans for expanded Milford state park face local criticism

- FILE - Silver Sands State Park in Milford (WTNH)

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A plan to improve Silver Sands State Park in Milford — complete with new restrooms, a snack bar and an entrance fee — is likely to draw criticism from locals when state officials unveil it next month.

Local leaders and residents have made it clear in recent months they’re unhappy with the multi-million-dollar upgrade, predicting it will lead to traffic congestion problems in the densely populated neighborhood and put the park’s charm at risk.

Besides wanting the park to remain free for residents, some want the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to clean up the existing site and restore its natural beauty before constructing new buildings. An online petition has been started.

“Let us do what is right for the environment and for the city of Milford,” Rep. Charles Ferraro, R-West Haven, said in March at a legislative hearing. “This land deserves to be treated like the gem it is.”

DEEP officials are scheduled to present their improvement plans for the park at a public informational meeting in Milford on Sept. 24. The project calls for three new structures, including a concessions building, restrooms and an office. The project also includes a new boardwalk across the tidal wetlands that will connect an existing boardwalk to the new bath house.

Dennis Schain, a spokesman for DEEP, said the agency expects feedback from residents on the plan.

“We understand. If there’s going to be a change in people’s community, that they would have feelings about it and we want to hear that and take their concerns into consideration,” he said. Schain said the agency “always wants to strike the right balance” between providing access to the outdoors, including the shoreline, and the concerns of the local residents.

“By and large, we enjoy very positive relations with host communities where our state parks are located,” he said.

DEEP’s plans for a new waterfront state park in Waterford have also received some resistance from residents who share similar concerns about traffic congestion and crowds. The agency is currently developing a master plan for the old Seaside Sanatorium site.

Earlier this month, a Farmington-based developer who has been trying to build condominiums on the property for about 15 years filed a $20 million claim against the state after his contract was suddenly terminated. Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy surprised Waterford officials and residents last year when he announced he wanted to transform the site into a state park.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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