The Fourth of July was a beautiful summer day, and historically, when we have a great beach day on the Fourth, visitors flock to Squantz Pond to enjoy all it has to offer. This year was no exception, and traffic issues frustrated many of our residents who travel on Route 39 near the Park. The Park Supervisor did open the park an hour early, at 7:00 AM, but over 200 cars were already waiting to enter. The CT State Police sent four Troopers to assist the four ENCON police already in place, and by about 9:30, the congestion had cleared. I was in contact with the DEEP Bureau Chief of Outdoor Recreation throughout the day to ensure that everything that could be done to mitigate traffic was being done, and that we have a plan going forward to open the park as soon as traffic begins to back up on Route 39. The Bureau Chief also shared that many state parks experienced capacity crowds and traffic issues on the Fourth this year, including Hammonasset State Park, which has never before filled to capacity. The good news is that Friday, Saturday and Sunday presented no traffic issues, even though the park was at capacity by 1:00 on Sunday. Further, even on the busy Fourth, there was no illegal parking or litter observed on Town roads or private property in the area.
I share the frustration and concern for public safety when we experience unsafe conditions due to Squantz traffic. Over the course of the past 18 months, I have met and been in frequent contact with representatives of DEEP and the CT State Police, including the Squantz Pond Park Ranger, Director of State Parks, Bureau Chief of Outdoor Recreation and ENCON Police to address these issues. DEEP has been focused on improving traffic flow and enforcement surrounding the park, and has initiated changes to alleviate what are often dangerous conditions. We have clearly posted “No Parking” signs on Town roads, and Town Officers and Troopers have been ticketing and towing illegally parked cars. As a result, the number of cars parked illegally on Route 39 and Town roads, including Shortwoods Road, Knollcrest Road, Beaver Bog Road and Wanzer Hill, and on private property has decreased dramatically. We have also noted a dramatic decrease in littering along the roadside. In addition to increased enforcement, the following changes/improvements have been implemented:
Non-resident parking at the Town Beach has been restricted to 10% of available parking spaces, and the fee for non-residents to park is $60. Parking is monitored by parking attendants. On July 4, both the upper and lower lots had parking available for residents when I checked at noon.
Once the park is full, traffic is not permitted to stop in front of the park, either on Shortwoods Road or Route 39.
In cooperation with New York State DOT, DEEP has increased the number of signs at the southern end of Route 684 indicating that Squantz Pond has reached capacity, redirecting visitors to other parks.
DEEP is implementing an online pre-ticketing program which is expected to be in place this week. Once ticket sales reach capacity, park closures will be announced online and on bilingual radio stations throughout the NY metropolitan area. No vehicles will be admitted without a ticket.
Please continue to call or come to Town Hall with your concerns about the park. If you are unable to get to Town Hall, feel free to call my Office at 203-312-5600, or send me an e-mail at email@example.com. I am open to suggestions, and I will continue to provide updates on our progress. I will continue to monitor the park routinely every weekend and address my observations with State officials.
– Pat Del Monaco, First Selectman