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MADISON — The new lower beach pass rates for nonresidents are making waves on social media.
With this year’s price for nonresident weekend daily parking passes reduced by 50 percent, some residents are complaining that this is just too low a price, will encourage more out of towners to the shoreline and make it difficult for residents to find parking spaces.
“Perhaps nonresidents should consider Hammonassett [sic] instead,” Carla Egletes wrote on a Madison, CT Facebook post.
“I’m sick of trying to get onto our beaches in favor of nonresidents; they should be paying a lot more — we’re the taxpayers, not them,” the Madison resident wrote.
Some 135 comments — both positive and negative — are registered on the site for a May 24 a post on the Madison, CT Facebook, about the new rates.
Under the new prices, nonresidents can visit any of the town’s three beaches, The Surf Club, West Wharf and East Wharf, daily for $20 per vehicle and $112 for a seasonal parking pass.
“Yes, those Surf Club Non-resident [sic] daily and seasonal beach parking pass prices are much too low,” wrote Hank Drought.
He compared the local rates to Westport Compo Beach nonresident seasonal passes, which are $545 (plus sales tax) and daily passes, $45 weekdays and $70 for weekends and holidays.
Last year’s daily rates for nonresidents to park at Madison beaches were Monday through Thursday, $25 and Friday and Saturday and Sunday, $40.
For residents, seasonal rates are $40 for first vehicle and $20 for a second one; senior beach parking passes, for those 65 and older, $10 per vehicle; and veterans, any age, will pay $10 for the first vehicle and $20 for the second vehicle.
Residents can also buy a day beach parking pass for visitors for $10 per vehicle.
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Details regarding purchase of all these passes are on the town website, madisonct.org.
The rates, which have not changed “in forever” are recommended by the Beach and Rec Commission and approved by the Board of Selectmen, said Austin Hall, director of Beach, Recreation and Senior Services.
Hall said that the new rates this year for nonresidents were a condition of “a state grant for the reconstruction of the Garvan Point seawall.”
The town received a $770,000 state grant, which required matching funds, for coastal resilience and beach restoration efforts. Work is estimated to cost $1.5 million.
“A stipulation of that state grant is that the price of a nonresident parking pass couldn’t be more than double that of a resident parking pass,” Hall said.
“So, our resident daily parking passes are $10 per day, so if a resident wanted to buy a daily pass to give to a friend it’s $10 per day,” he said.
“So, our pricing for nonresident daily passes was more than that so we had to lower them to $20 per day,” he said.
In addition, said Hall, the town had to offer a nonresident seasonal pass, which was not an option in years past.
“The state of Connecticut charges $112 for a non-Connecticut resident state park pass,” he said. “So, we are charging $112 for a nonresident seasonal pass.”
Prior to this arrangement season parking passes were not an option for non-residents.
Hall said these same rates will not continue once the Garvan Point work is completed.
Hall declined to comment on the pros and cons of the new rates, but he did say that the work being done at Point “is a necessity to maintain one of the most beautiful assets that we have in town.”
“Maintaining Garvan Point is a critical project for the town, and we have to abide by the state grant guidelines and it’s for the life of the grant project, so this will not be a policy going forward next year,” he said.
Hall said the decision to continue offering the annual nonresident passes, going forward, “will be up to the Beach and Rec Commission or selectmen.”
The town limits the number of daily nonresident parking passes to 75 per day. These are available for purchase at the Surf Club and allow for visits to any of the town beaches.
“Over the last three years we’ve only reached that number twice,” said Hall.
“The other days were in the teens on weekends for the amount of nonresident passes we sold,” he said.
“So, it’s never been a parking issue and I would say most of the nonresidents who do come to town to go to the beaches – you have to purchase it at Surf Club, and they stay at Surf Club because it’s got the concession stand, it’s the largest beach and they’re here already,” he said.
The three beaches in town have the following number of parking spaces for visitors: East Wharf with 53 spots, West Wharf, 38 and the Surf Club has some 450 spaces, according to Hall.
The Fourth of July weekend has been handled differently than the rest of the summer for the past three years.
“We stop selling passes to anybody on Friday at noon,” Hall said. “So, if you do not have your parking pass prior to Friday at noon you cannot come to the beaches for the Fourth of July weekend.”
On that holiday weekend, Surf Club Road is closed to cars that do not have a valid beach parking pass.
Meagan Jane grew up in town and has since moved away but comes back to visit her family “so I visit the beaches often with them,” she wrote on Facebook.
She believes everyone, residents and nonresidents alike, should have the opportunity to enjoy the coastline in town.
“Let people come and enjoy the beaches!” she wrote. “Will there ever be a year where this town doesn’t complain about beach passes?”
“Just be grateful for where you live and stop trying to keep everyone else out!” she wrote.
With beaches fully staffed with lifeguards, gate guards and patrol, Hall said his department is ready to welcome beachgoers to enjoy the town amenities,
“We have some great returning senior level staff, as well as some new people, which is important so we have some continuity in staffing every year,” he said.
He said he does not expect more out of towners flocking to the town beaches this year.
“We have the largest state park a mile from here and any Connecticut resident can enter Hammonasset State Park for free, so I don’t think envision it being an issue,” he said.
Contact Sarah Page Kyrcz at [email protected]