Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ghosts of Pleasure Beach

If you take a drive down Rt 113 Main Street in the Lordship area of in Stratford, passing Short Beach and the Sea Wall, and take a left onto Oak Bluff Ave., you come to the Long Beach parking lot. Start walking west along the narrow sandy peninsula, which feels more like an island. And walk. And walk. This is why they call it Long Beach. There are no facilities, but there are lots of shells - no one else seems to be picking them up. This time of year you may not see a single person. After 3/4 mile of beach walking, the island widens and you will start to see abandoned cottages. Stratford recently evicted the cottage owners, who were leasing the property from them. It's a ghost town.

Keep walking. When you reach the first radio tower, you've entered Pleasure Beach, Bridgeport, and the ghosts of a former amusement park. A bridge once connected downtown Bridgeport with the island, but it burned. There is no way to get here from Bridgeport, except by boat. Most of the rides and buildings are gone, but some remain, like the carosel shown above. The postcard below shows what the place looked like about 80 years ago.

This is a fascinating place. It looks like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may buy the property for a wildlife refuge and would certainly remove the old structures. Until then, anyone can take a nice long walk down the beach. If you walk the entire route and back it's almost 3 miles.

Update 3/7/2008: Last night 3 of the cottages burned down, and the two men who called 911 after seeing smoke were given $94 trespassing tickets for walking down the beach, according to the CT Post. I called up the Stratford Recreation Department and was assured that the public is welcome to walk down the beach - just stay away from the 45 cottages - they are strictly off limits. But you can walk past the cottages, staying down by the water. When you get to the Bridgeport side, and Pleasure Beach, I saw no signs prohibiting entry to the park.

Update 3/16/2008: How quickly things change! Stratford has officially closed all of Long Beach past the parking lot and there are no trespassing signs up. However, under state law, the public is guarenteed access to the beach below the mean high tide line. I was surprised to learn this law originates from Roman times. Apparently there is a very long tradition of shoreline property owners trying to keep everyone away, so that laws were passed to allow the public to fish, hunt, gather shellfish and, more recently, just recreate along the shore. This time it's the City of Stratford trying to deny public access, ostensibly worried about someone damaging the abandoned cottages that need to be demolished (I'm not exactly sure why that is such a catastrophe if they're going to remove them anyway, but what do I know?)

3/26/2008: Per the CT Post this morning, someone stole the 'no trespassing' signs, and due to lots of angry residents calling the Mayor, the new signs will say 'no trespassing near the cottages'. How surprising that people might get angry about a mile of beach being closed.


Anonymous said...

So can we still walk through pleasure beach or is it off limits?

Lisa D said...

I was wondering the same thing myself. I'd love to go visit and I'd love to find out if anything is being done with this land.

Anonymous said...

Day was the second time ever for me they have a rocky road and yes there are sighns but idgaf