NORWALK, Conn. — There will be 500 spaces available only to Norwalk residents in the Calf Pasture Beach parking lot when it reopens, hopefully on May 20, according to Norwalk Communications Manager Josh Morgan.
This clears up some confusion inspired by Tuesday’s release of the Reopen Norwalk Plan, which led some to believe that there would only be 300 spaces for residents and 150 for nonresidents. Morgan also said there will be 50 spaces in the Taylor Farm lot for nonresidents and any nonresident vehicles in the main lot will be towed. So no, there won’t be 150 spaces for non-Norwalkers, as was stated Tuesday.
Tuesday’s press release stated that the lots at Calf Pasture Beach, Shady Beach and Cranbury Park will open on May 20, if Gov. Ned Lamont goes forward with his plan to reopen the state on that date, but be limited to 50 percent of their capacity.
The goal is to maintain the physical distancing limiting the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The beaches and parks will be open, but all athletic fields, playgrounds and amenities will be off-limits until Phase II of the reopening. Lamont speculated Wednesday that Phase II might happen on June 20, but this, like Phase I, hinges on the data coming in about infections.
You will not be able to swim, fish or use the beach amenities, including splash pad, picnic tables, grills, restrooms, and playgrounds. “Summer concerts, movies, softball, volleyball, bocce ball leagues and all events, including the Fourth of July Fireworks, have been canceled,” the plan states.
With some Norwalkers complaining about Tuesday’s announcement that nonresidents would get 150 parking spaces in the lot, NancyOnNorwalk asked Morgan if Norwalk required to have non-resident beach parking.
“The Greenwich Court Case is pretty clear about restricting a person’s access and their constitutional right to public property. It is unclear if the current public health crisis supersedes that, but we are doing our due diligence,” Morgan replied.
In 2001, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that a municipality that restricted access to a beach would be violating the First Amendment rights of the citizens who were prohibited from entering.
The Court ruled that “Greenwich Point is a traditional public forum like a public park and the ordinance (that was being challenged) did not satisfy the test for a valid regulation of speech in a traditional public forum,” according to a research report done for the State. “…the government cannot restrict someone’s access to public property unless that person intends to engage in expressive activity that is basically incompatible with the customary use of the property at the time in question.”
In other words, nonresidents have a Constitutional right to access the beach.
Mayor Harry Rilling did not reply to a NancyOnNorwalk email Wednesday asking about the situation.
“We have to allow people from out of town or out of state to come into the beach as long as they pay their fee and as long as they abide by our rules and regulations,” he said in July.
The Common Council revised the City’s ordinance for resident passes on April 14, voting to allow free parking at the beach only for vehicles that generate tax revenue to Norwalk. In other words, if the vehicle’s owner lives in Norwalk but the vehicle is registered elsewhere, that owner doesn’t get a pass for that vehicle.
“The pass goes to the vehicle,” Ordinance Committee Chairwoman Lisa Shanahan (D-District E) said, during that meeting.
Nonresidents are charged $40 to park at Calf Pasture Beach on weekdays and $65 on weekends and holidays, according to the City’s website. It’s $20 after 5 p.m.
A season pass is available to New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston and Wilton residents for $325.
So, under the COVID-19 phase I reopening plan, a nonresident would be paying a minimum $20 to visit a beach that does not include amenities such as open restrooms. The playgrounds and athletic facilities will be closed. They would not be able to go swimming or go fishing.
Morgan said Wednesday that the City is “looking at a couple of locations for nonresident parking up to 150 spots.” It’s a total 550 parking spaces at the beach.
“Mayor Rilling has instructed Recreation and Parks to have nonresident parking of 50 vehicles max at Taylor Farm,” Morgan wrote. “We will update the Reopen Norwalk Plan to reflect that information. Residents can certainly choose to park at Taylor Farm if they wish, but the main lot is available only to them. Nonresidents who park in the main lot at Calf or Shady will be towed.”
He continued, “I also want to emphasize that when the beach opens for Phase One, there will be a strict reduction in the amenities and activities available. Those who violate the guidelines, such as using the playground, or bringing in a grill/table, will be removed from the park.”