Connecticut Post News Article published May 13, 2004

Legislator pushes to return Pleasure Beach to former glory



City and state officials should work together to reestablish Pleasure Beach as the city's preeminent leisure site, a state legislator said Tuesday night.

Rep. Charles D. Clemons, D-Bridgeport, told the Board of Park Commissioners he envisions a minimum-cost startup plan for the beach, with fishing and swimming areas, restrooms, a concession stand and a few water taxis to shuttle people to and from its peninsula.

It would cost the city more than $300,000 to buy shuttle craft, restore bathhouses and purchase equipment and an additional $272,000 for staffing, supplies and boats, according to Clemons' presentation.

The beach peninsula was virtually cut off and abandoned in 1996 after a fire destroyed part of a wooden bridge connecting it to Seaview Avenue in the East End.

"Maybe with a meeting of the minds between this board and the city, we can add some dollars from the city," he said. "I think if something modest can be done, we would show the General Assembly that we're serious."

The board took no action on the issue.

Clemons, recalling Pleasure Beach from his childhood when it had an amusement park, said he requested $250,000 from the State Bond Commission to help defray the costs of the water taxis.

Clemons also asked the City Council's Budget and Appropriations Committee to recommend approval of city funding to restore recreational activity at the 63-acre peninsula in January.

The committee tabled the request until the exact amount of money needed is known.

"I'm planning to knock on the door of Derecktor Shipyards and ask if they can donate or defray the costs for a few water taxis," Clemons said.

Since the 1996 fire, the beach can be reached only by boat or by walking over a narrow stretch of land from Stratford.

The bridge has not been replaced because neither the city nor the state has the $24 million needed for the project.

Joseph Savino, Bridgeport harbormaster, said the city would need two water taxis manned by four captains, at a cost of about $200,000, to open the beach again to the public.

Morgan Kaolian, who founded the Long Island Sound America Committee in an effort to save Pleasure Beach, presented the commissioners with a large aerial photo of the abandoned peninsula, which some of them described as "beautiful."

"I hope you look at it as much as possible to remind you that there's no one out there," he said.

Kaolian, a Stratford resident who formerly lived in Bridgeport, is a freelance aerial photographer for the Connecticut Post.

Frank Washkuch Jr., who covers regional issues, can be reached at 330-6388.

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