July 12, 2020

Griswold Tells BOS “Beach Closures Accomplished What We Wanted,” Hopes Beaches May Reopen May 20

Old Lyme First Selectman Timothy Griswold. File photo.

OLD LYME — At last Monday evening’s Old Lyme Board of Selectmen’s meeting, First Selectman Timothy Griswold discussed the subject of the Old Lyme beach closures, which had been enforced the immediately preceding weekend and met with mixed reactions. He said, “I made a decision to close the [Old Lyme] beaches to the public. In talking with the president of Miami Beach [Association], he agreed Miami Beach should be closed too.”

The meeting was broadcast live as a telephone conference.

Griswold referenced the landmark Greenwich lawsuit regarding town beaches, which he said those involved in the decision had “looked at” and concluded it meant in the case of Old Lyme that they “had to close all town beaches.”  He noted the president of White Sand Beach Association had agreed with the decision.

Recognizing it was a “controversial decision,” he said that at the meeting he called Wednesday of representatives from the beaches and emergency services, the consensus was that primarily due to the sunny weather expected, “it would be pretty unwise to have business as usual at Sound View Beach” during the coming weekend.

He reported that “things went relatively well,” with only some “very minor violations,” and a Beach Ranger worked at White Sand Beach “instructing visitors that the beach was closed.” Noting he had met with the owners of the Sound View restaurants Kokomo’s and The Pavilion, Griswold said both had agreed to serve take-out only.

He emphasized his hope that these would be short-term closures and that the beaches might re-open soon.

He summarized the results of the closures saying they, “accomplished what we wanted … it would have been a real problem if we had done nothing.”

During public comment, Susan Kneen Way of Old Lyme asked if Griswold, “Would be willing to reconsider the closure of White Sand Beach and Hains Park” since beach-goers there and at Hains Park are required to have car hang tags in order to park. She noted “Since the private beaches have been advised to govern themselves, the rest of Old Lyme should be afforded the same opportunity.”

Griswold responded, “There are certain legal issues that govern these public beaches. It would be unusual to restrict them to town residents when the public itself can’t come to the beach.” He again referenced the Greenwich lawsuit, which he explained requires a town to consider “access to public beaches as access to a park.”

Kneen Way countered, “My understanding is that White Sand Beach is for town residents only, hence the requirement for hang tags.” Griswold responded, “Non-residents can acquire a beach pass — though not at the same rate,” adding, “It’s [White Sand Beach] not the exclusive domain of town residents.”

Saying that she has seen clear evidence on the beach at the weekend of  Old Lyme residents observing social distancing, Kneen Way did however stress to Griswold, “I understand your reasons for closing Sound View.”

Griswold concurred that, “We would very much like to have these beaches open, but I think with Sound View, there’s no good way of regulating that.”

He concluded, “Maybe on the 20th of May we’ll have some good news from the Governor, but meanwhile, we have to be really careful.”

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Comments

  1. Marcy Hayden says

    Do Old Lyme residents’ taxes pay for the upkeep of White Sand Beach? I’ve been on the beach on the weekend and all the families are or could be 6’ from each other. I hope this decision is reversed.

  2. L frantz says

    I am wondering why our town Beach is different than East Lyme
    They usually seell day and even season passes to non-residents but this year are refusing to sell any passes to out of towers.

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