Letters: The latest feedback on Pear Tree Point Beach renovations
Pear Tree Point Beach needs another police station
To the Editor:
For decades the police have had a small space in the Darien Boat Club next to the police boat. The arrangement has worked well for both the police and the Club. It is typically used only in the summer to meet the minimal onshore paperwork requirements, such as end shift report writing. More serious uses such as processing DUI incidents are processed at police HQ, where specialized equipment is available. They also have small storage space in the concession building at the other end of the beach which is used to store fuel drums and marine equipment.
Three weeks ago, Chief Anderson wrote to P&R requesting more space for a watertight marine office on the beach. When questioned at Wednesdays P&R Commission about what uses the additional space would service, he was vague.
In his view police marine officers are expected to spend their shifts on the water not in an office. Any beach office would be manned only part shift and then mostly over the summer. His testimony was followed by the DBC Commodore who went out of his way to appreciate the police presence at the DBC.
This is not an anti-police screed. The police boat saves lives. This is an essential public service. The police have a small office at the club because that is where the police boat is berthed and sometimes, they need to get out on the water fast. Seconds save lives from drowning.
The town is dragging the police department into its agenda against public opinion over its universally condemned beach building proposals. Please don’t relocate this essential service to an elevated office on the other side of the beach to win your argument.
What is the impact of Pear Tree Point Beach project on wildlife?
To the Editor:
My name is Nina (Millett) Miller. I have lived in Darien most of my life. In the 50’s, I learned to swim in the sound at Pear Tree Point Beach with the legendary Ray Donnell. In the 60’s, I hung out at Weed Beach with my transistor radio, my ‘67 Mustang and my friends. In the 70’s, I ran the two beach concessions and in the 80’s, I worked the Paddle Tennis Courts with Jack Whitehead under the direction of Mike Hayday. I love our beaches.
In the 1990’s, I and other volunteers from the Darien Nature Center spent many late evenings in May, during full moon and high tide, down at Pear Tree Point Beach tagging horseshoe crabs for the Limulus Project of Sacred Heart University, run by Professor Jennifer Mattei. We had been trained by her or her staff and knew just what to do. With the cooperation of the DPD who opened up the gates for us, we would dig a large “holding pit” in the sand and wait for the first of many horseshoe crabs to lumber out of the surf, the females to lay her eggs. One of us would carefully pick them up and place them in the pit. Once we had a fair number, we would start to tag the crabs, one by one, by carefully popping a little hole in the side of their shell with a small awl and attach a tag. Then we let the crabs go. Each tag has reporting information and a phone number to call should anyone see these crabs later, anywhere along the east coast. We must have tagged hundreds over the years I participated.
Horseshoe crabs, more closely related to spiders and scorpions, have been around some 300 million years, predating the dinosaurs. You will find them here and along the east coast but not on the west coast of the U.S. They dine at night feeding on worms and clams and algae. They come ashore to breed. On the beach, the female digs a small nest and deposits her eggs. The male then fertilizes the eggs. This process can be repeated multiple times with tens of thousands of eggs produced. Horseshoe crab eggs are a nutritious food source for many fish, reptiles and especially birds, helping to fuel their migration. Most horseshoe crabs will not even make it to the larval stage before being eaten.
The blue, copper based blood of the horseshoe crab is an important ingredient in our medical industry, particularly pertaining to blood clotting. To get their blood, people in boats, especially in the Delaware Bay area, go out and find them in the water, pick them up, put them in their vessel and when full of the struggling crabs, bring them ashore to a lab. There they are taken out of the boats, brought to the facility and are hooked up to machines where a good deal of their blood is extracted. After, the crabs are detached, brought back to the boats and returned to sea. Many crabs don’t survive the shock of the ordeal.
Other threats to horseshoe crabs include habitat loss and over harvesting as many are used for bait to catch conch and eel. Beach developments hinder horseshoe crab breeding. At the Darien Land Trust annual meeting recently, I talked with Keynote speaker Carrie Folson-O’Keefe, Director of Bird Conservation at Audubon Ct. I was concerned about the effect the building of the proposed two story structure with dining and entertaining facilities at this small beach would have on our horseshoe crabs and migrating bird population. The light pollution alone would be a significant deterrent for the crabs, never mind the extra foot and car traffic and litter Carrie said. As for the birds, light pollution confuses them during their travels north and south. The Red Knot, a bird that migrates from the Arctic to Tierra Del Fuego and back, stops at our beaches to rest and feast on horseshoe crab eggs. If the horseshoe crab population continues to decline, it puts dozens of other species at risk including sea turtles.
I am proposing delaying any further progress on the consideration of the two story dining and entertainment building and elevator at Pear Tree Point Beach until we have full understanding of the impact on wildlife. This is how we can help the struggling, ancient horseshoe crab who has helped us for many, many years.
It’s time for town leadership to listen to citizens on beach project
To the Editor:
Things that make you go Hmmmm? Town leadership and its Pear Tree Point Beach Building Committee have been working for a year, yet we are now told by Jayme Stevenson that the process is really “just getting started” and asked to “let the process play out.” During the last year, public sentiment against the proposed new, two-story structure has become crystal clear. Let’s consider some of the facts:
Approximately 830 residents/voters have signed a petition against a new, two- story structure. And despite a false narrative that only neighbors are in opposition, nearly 90% of the petitioners are not neighbors (defined as residents of Pear Tree, Crane, and Long Neck).
Approximately 188 residents responded to a Darien Times Facebook poll: an estimated 98% of respondents were against the proposed two-story building.
Dozens of letters to the editor have been penned, with an estimated 95% of them against the two-story structure.
The vice-chairman of the RTM Parks and Rec Committee stated that at a recent meeting, more than 67% of its members could not support the current PTPB building plans.
District 4 RTM (not in the neighborhood) has spoken out against the project.
It’s time for town leadership to listen to its citizens. Please advance the elements of the project that have a broad consensus: renovating the existing buildings, improving the picnic area, a new boat ramp, required dredging, preserving the wetlands, planting more shade trees, etc. But drop the new two-story building in a major flood zone. If town ZBA were to approve the significant variances required for the proposed building, it is likely the approvals will be challenged in court - at a minimum delaying improvements to Pear Tree Point beach for several years. It’s time to move forward.
Pear Tree critics are not “uncivil”
To the Editor:
I was shocked to watch our first selectman’s directive to the Parks & Rec Commission on Nov. 20. She began by slamming residents who do not support the proposed two-story structure at Pear Tree Point Beach. She referred to them as being “uncivil” and creating excessive “negativity” around the project.
For more than a year, hundreds of citizens have written letters, emailed, signed petitions with comments and spoke at public meetings against building a two-story structure at PTPB. Not only were their opinions and concerns not addressed, but town government created a narrative that “those opposed” were disgruntled neighbors spreading misinformation. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The residents against the two-story structure are from all districts in town, are all ages, call Pear Tree their beach of choice in town, are fiscally responsible, are environmentally responsible, and so much more. Just because someone repeatedly expresses an opposing opinion doesn’t make them “uncivil.”
In this same meeting she stated, “I’m here to help work with the concerned citizens and work with the commission to try and come to the idea of a common vision. What it is that we as a community want.” She then asked the P&R Commission to rewrite the PTPB building committee’s charge to specifically identify what should be built at PTPB.
Why do nine appointed (not elected) officials get to decide was is best for Darien and what should be built? Why did we toss out the original charge based on the Town Survey? Why aren’t resident desires being heard? Why isn’t there public input at the beginning of “the process” instead of always at the end? How is this directive helping to create a “common vision”? It’s not. Once again, the desires of a few elected, paid and appointed officials will determine what the taxpayers will spend for a construction project they don’t want. Residents can only watch “the town process play out” without having a role. It’s this “town process” that creates such intense mistrust and angst. Unfortunately, the same “negativity” will prevail with this next phase of the Pear Tree Point Beach Project until town officials really take a step back, listen to the residents that elected them and include them in “the process” at the beginning.
Commercialization of Pear Tree continues
To the Editor:
When Ms. Stevenson put a pause on the development of Pear Tree Point Beach, she said in her letter to this paper that the town would do the appropriate studies and involve the townspeople in focus groups before re-initiating the project. I took her at her word.
The commercialization of Pear Tree Point Beach is game on.
At the Dec. 4 meeting of the building committee, the chair referred to “the path we are on.” That is a $2.5 million two-story, rentable, commercial building with a marine-hardened elevator in a flood plain.
But now it’s even worse, as our police department has been goaded into adding additional “requirements” for a police facility in the new building.
There was no mention of Ms. Stevenson’s pre-election promises for community focus group meetings. No mention of road traffic studies or facility usage studies.
What’s wrong with renovating the structure that is there? It will cost us less than $100,000.
Over a dozen people commented in opposition to “the path we are on”; no one spoke in favor. The people don’t want to commercialize this park; to our first selectman, the will of the people as expressed in the town survey, the master plan, and two independent polls is irrelevant.
Please go to the Dec. 18 meeting to let her know how you feel.
Food trucks a better option for Pear Tree Point Beach
To the Editor:
Jayme Stevenson recently promised a usage study for the concession at Pear Tree Point to determine the need for a two story FEMA approved structure built in a high velocity flood zone that will require year round upkeep. If it’s done fairly the result will show a desultory return on investment. On the other hand the New York Times article, Savoring the Food Truck, declares them to be the up and coming attraction at resort hotels because of their fun factor and the possibility of great food in out-of-the-way spots. If Parks & Recreation would study what town ordinance would have to be changed to allow food trucks at Pear Tree and then develop a program allowing one at a time then I might be tempted to leave the office during lunch and come enjoy a meal with a view.
My question to Parks and Recreation is simple. Why the insistence on a multi-million dollar permanent facility? How does building, maintaining and securing one serve Darien? How much more attractive would it be for our new residents in Noroton Heights and Corbin Drive then what resort hotels have already figured out? Food trucks not only could extend the season of food service but conveniently roll the cooking and refrigeration gear away from the high velocity waters that occasionally and inevitably come.