Lots of Black Rockers are angry about the way the city is messing with the beach at Saints. This goes back a few weeks when the city did a beach “clean up” that led to a city vehicle stuck in the muck. Oh well. Some neighbors also say the criticism of city officials is much ado about nothing, the work being done is fine. Here’s the latest from Gail Robinson, one of several Black Rock neighbors keeping on top of city bureaucrats. The letter to the editor is signed by dozens of neighbors.
This may seem like a fundamental question, but it’s one that needs to be asked. What should we expect of elected officials and department heads in the City of Bridgeport?
Should we expect them to obey the laws of the State? Or should we look the other way when their actions result in fines and penalties? Should we expect them to honor their word with neighboring municipalities? Or are we willing to bear the consequences when unilateral actions result in financial harm and broken trust? Should we expect the City to protect the safety of its citizens? Or should we look the other way when young lives are at stake? Should we expect the City to act upon the principles of democracy that our country was founded upon? Or do we accept leadership by a few from behind closed doors?
The sandspit at St. Mary’s seems like a small thing, a “tempest in a teapot” as noted by one observer, however, it speaks volumes about the kind of government we have come to expect and what we fail to demand of our City.
Let’s take a closer look at the facts and decide whether these issues are insignificant or of importance:
OBEYING STATE LAWS
Our State environmental laws are very clear. You must have permits to do any work below the Mean High Tide water mark. The City did work below the MHT water mark on Friday, June 24, when they conducted their “beach clean-up” and on Tuesday, June 28, when their tractor became stuck in the muck on the creek side of the sand spit. An enforcer from the DEP was present and wrote up several violations along with a “stop work” order. Channel 8 was on hand to capture the City’s debacle for their television audience. Are we willing to pay higher taxes for the City to pay fines or should we expect them to know the laws and work within them?
HONORING THEIR WORD
The Town of Fairfield obtained a DEP permit to conduct dredging operations in the channel over the winter of 2007-2008 and permission from the City of Bridgeport to conduct those operations from the sandspit. The DEP permit called for the sand dune habitat on the sandspit to be restored after the dredging was completed. This required a foot of sand and tens of thousands of beach grass plugs paid for and brought to the site by the Town of Fairfield. The Ash Creek Conservation Association along with other environmental groups organized volunteers who planted the beach grass over a two year period. The habitat restoration would require five years of light use of the sand spit for the beach grass to take hold, but pathways were created for the public and there was plenty of room near the water for the public to put beach blankets down and enjoy the sandspit. A plaque was installed to explain the habitat restoration and the City of Bridgeport supported this effort by removing the picnic tables for the plantings.
Without the beach grass to hold the sand, erosion would occur, and the sandspit could disappear in one bad winter storm, according to habitat restoration expert, Richard Orson, who examined the site and made recommendations. The City failed to inform the Town of Fairfield, the State DEP, or the environmental groups of their intent to destroy the plantings. On June 28 the City’s “beach clean up” resulted in the destruction of nearly all the beach grass and the habitat restoration plaque was removed, although the plaque was not near the beach area. The intent was clear–to get rid of the beach grass and destroy the habitat restoration project. Do we want our City to make unilateral decisions without informing the parties of interest, such as the Town of Fairfield, the State of Connecticut, and civic groups and citizen volunteers? Many school children participated in the plantings. Can we explain why their City destroyed something that was good for the environment?
PROTECTING THE SAFETY OF CHILDREN
The sand spit at St. Mary’s is not safe for swimming due to swift undercurrents near the channel. There is no lifeguard and several “no swimming” signs and yet there is now a sandy beach and inviting water on a hot summer’s day making this an “attractive nuisance” ripe for a lawsuit by grieving parents after a drowning. An article in the Connecticut Post on June 30 detailed the experience of two young swimmers who almost drowned at St. Mary’s due to being pulled under by the current. As a taxpayer, are you willing to pay for the liability of drownings?
TRUSTING IN THE DEMOCRATIC PROCESS
Knowing that school children use the site for field trips, that citizens put hundreds of hours into the plantings, and that both the Ash Creek Conservation Association and the Black Rock NRZ were in communication with the City about the habitat restoration project over the past several years, wouldn’t it have made sense to hold a public forum to discuss potential changes to the sandspit?
Can we say this is a small issue when so many people may be affected by the ramifications of these actions? Perhaps you don’t care about St. Mary’s or the environment and think this doesn’t concern you. Think again. Next time it could be something you care about that is destroyed without warning. The principles of democracy are either fought for and protected at every turn or they slip away. Will we allow a few people behind closed doors to govern us or will we demand accountability and participation?
Just like the grains of sand at St. Mary’s sand spit that will be washed away without the anchoring effect of beach grass, so is our democracy is destroyed a little at a time by our silence and our inaction. We are calling for the City to be accountable for its actions and make a commitment to repair the damage that has been done now. We are asking our City officials to look at the number of supporters of this letter below–67 of them plus myself (all residents or property owners in Bridgeport) and then decide whether to continue to treat us as if our voices don’t matter.
Gail S. Robinson
247 Harborview Avenue
John Marshall Lee
Margery S. Morrow
Lynn H. Norris
Joanna Tripp Ortiz
L. Kraig Steffen
Cynthia Vice Acosta