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!
After decades of abandonment, the city of Bridgeport finally re-opened Pleasure Beach to the public.
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 stayed empty for decades. The buildings and amusement park were literally left to rot, and fell victim to vandals and the elements.
As mentioned, it’s a barrier beach, and for a long time, the only way you could reach it (other than boat) was to hike out there from Stratford.
During the years, Pleasure Beach/Long Beach West was 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, slowly collapsed or were demolished.
Eventually, the city got its act together and re-opened it in 2014 as a recreational park. During the summer months, two water taxis now shuttle eager beach-goers to the site, where they can hike nature trails, see various birds and other wildlife, and/or lay on the sand and soak up the sun.
It’s still not the summer playground of its halcyon days, but it’s not a complete abandoned eyesore of a wasteland any more either.