Just got an e-mail from Jackson Kuhl, with whom I've worked on a few occasions in regard to abandoned properties and decaying historical sites. In response to a recent story in the Connecticut Post about artists making over the abandoned buildings on the stretch of Connecticut barrier beach that is called Long Beach West in Stratford and Pleasure Beach in Bridgeport, he went out and investigated.
From Jackson's blog:
Anyway, I hustled out there to take some photos of the art before it was gone. I wasn’t surprised to find the po-po stationed at the beginning of the construction road going through the dunes. I asked an officer about the artists. He said they didn’t know how long the artists had been camping on Long Beach West but the place was deserted now. He also said a lot of people had recently been ticketed for trespassing out there. He added that while it was acceptable for me to take pictures of the cottages from below the high-tide mark (which in Connecticut is open land), if I or anybody else went above it, we would be “jackpotted.” Does anybody really believe a main function of the police isn’t revenue collection?
I thanked him, then drove to a paddleboard launch far from his prying eyes. I paddled up Lewis Gut and used one of the still-existent docks to access the cottages. There was no one about; the workers were only doing preparation work on the road, with the actual demolition days away. I surreptitiously took my photos (exteriors only, since this cat has an aversion to treeing himself) and then paddled away. Mischief managed.
You can see some images he captured of the art on his blog -- cool stuff!
Jackson is well acquainted with Long Beach West -- here's a great photo essay he's done, while here's a piece he recently penned for Connecticut Magazine about how Pleasure Beach (60 acres of prime Connecticut waterfront) has been allowed to waste away like a ghost town for 14 years! Just mindboggling.
If you don't know the ("abridged") story -- starting in the late 19th century and going on for decades, Pleasure Beach was a popular Connecticut destination, with seasonal cottages and an amusement park that thousands would visit each summer. It was connected to the main land in Bridgeport by a swing bridge, which unfortunately burned in a 1996 fire. Rather than fix the bridge, the decision was made to vacate the island, and it has stayed empty ever since. The buildings and amusement park were literally left to rot, and have fallen victim to vandals and the elements.
As mentioned, it's a barrier beach, and you can hike out there from Stratford -- technically, there is no trespassing, but if you stay below the high-tide line, you can visit since that is outside of town's jurisdiction.
Since being abandoned, Pleasure Beach/Long Beach West has been a political football, batted about by politicians, developers and special interest groups. The Stratford end of the beach is now home to all sorts of wildlife, including endangered sea birds like the piping plover, which nest there in the summer; there was talk of selling the property to the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection, but that deal fell through. The structures on the Bridgeport end, including old cottages and some remnants of the old amusement park, are slowly collapsing or being demolished, but still, there are no specific plans for the site -- some want to have a natural recreation area for all to enjoy, others want to sell it for development. Recently, the town of Stratford has begun to demolish some of the cottages on the Long Beach West end.
Meanwhile, another summer has passed and this potentially wonderful resource continues to go unused -- you know, aside from the artists who have tried to make something out what was formerly a great place to visit.