From city Communications Director Brett Broesder:
Today, as the state’s largest city celebrates Earth Day, Mayor Finch announced that Pleasure Beach–a 71-acre barrier island that was inaccessible for decades until it reopened to the public last year–will officially open to the public on May 23 at 10:00AM (i.e., Memorial Day Weekend). Through the month of May, the barrier island will be open only on weekends. Beginning in June, it will be open seven days a week.
“We’re here today to say that on Memorial Day Weekend, we’ll be opening up Pleasure Beach to the public for a second season,” said Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch. “It’s free of charge to the public to come here to Pleasure Beach and enjoy the beauties of nature, enjoy the swimming in Long Island Sound, and having a great time with your families. It’s like a little piece of Nantucket right here in Bridgeport.
“We’re excited that summer is coming,” said Bridgeport Parks Director Charles Carroll. “Many of the Bridgeport parks, including Pleasure Beach, have seen improvements. We have much to show the public when it comes to parks in the Park City.”
In 2014, after decades of neglect, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch reopened Pleasure Beach, which became accessible via free water taxi.
“Last year, thousands of people came out here to enjoy Mother Nature and the beautiful environment of Bridgeport,” said Mayor Finch. “This year we expect even more people to come because they’re going to see an historic walking tour that chronicles the exciting history of Pleasure Beach. From the 1800s, to the 1900s, through to today. It’s a history of presidential visits, of professional baseball teams, and more that will be chronicled on illustrated panels that the public can walk by and educate themselves about this treasure.”
More than 25,000 people visited Pleasure Beach last year in the less than 3 months it was open. This year, the city expects even more with improvements that include a historic walking tour and more.
“When you’re out on Pleasure Beach, what you’re going to be able to do is stand in the white sands of a beach that was long closed to the public and look out across the harbor. There, you’ll see the beautiful cranes going up building Bass Pro, Chipotle, Starbucks, and many more businesses that are going up at Steelpointe Harbor. It’s proof that Bridgeport is getting better every day,” said Mayor Finch.
Steelpointe Harbor, a 52-acre peninsula off of the Long Island Sound, is a waterfront development that was stagnant for decades. But because of the leadership of Mayor Bill Finch, things have changed. The Bass Pro Shops currently being constructed at Steelpointe Harbor will be the only Bass Pro in the entire state. And, the Starbucks and Chipotle represent firsts in the state’s largest city. Once complete, Steelpointe Harbor will serve as a 2 million square foot super regional waterfront, featuring more than 750,000 square feet of retail, restaurants and entertainment, a 12-screen premium theater, two hotels, 1,100 mid-and-high rise residential units, 30,000 square feet of office and a 200-slip full-service deep-water marina.
“As a young father, I was at Seaside Park when the bridge burned nearly two decades ago,” said Bridgeport’s Public Facilities Director Jorge Garcia. “Last year, to be part of the team that helped bring Pleasure Beach back was a great experience. I want to tip my hat to the team and all of the people out there who supported the cause by coming out to visit last year. We would love to see thousands of more visitors come out to Pleasure Beach this summer.”
Bridgeport, Conn. annexed Pleasure Beach, a barrier island off of the Long Island Sound, in 1892. In the early 1900s, it was home to a nationally recognized amusement park owned by George Tilyou, best known for Coney Island’s amusement park.
Throughout the first half of the 20th century, with its key attractions being an amusement park and world-class ballroom, Pleasure Beach hosted a wide variety of famous people, including President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1932), Duke Ellington (1940), and Frank Sinatra (1941). But the latter part of the 20th century saw a steep decline in visitors to the amusement park, and it officially closed in 1966.
From 1967-1996, it served as home to the Polka Dot Playhouse theatre and a city-owned park. But in 1996 when the bridge burned down, and public access to the barrier island ceased, the theatre closed up shop shortly thereafter. From 1996 until last year, the barrier island was closed to the public. The barrier island throughout history has been plagued by rampant fires. And, following the fire that made the bridge irreparable, rebuilding it is estimated to cost upwards of $30 million, which is unaffordable. Therefore, the public did not have access to the barrier island for 18 years. But due to a federal grant, Mayor Finch was able to purchase water taxis for getting people to and from Pleasure Beach.
Earlier this week, Mayor Bill Finch thanked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for their $2 million investment in repairing breakwaters off the shoreline of Pleasure Beach, a 71-acre barrier island on the Long Island Sound.
“With the federal improvements, and the historic walking tour, it’s going to another great summer. So come on out to Pleasure Beach.”