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Connecticut bill could limit how much coastal towns charge non-residents for beach access

A woman walks on Penfield Beach in Fairfield, Connecticut.
Mary Altaffer
A woman walks on Penfield Beach in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Connecticut lawmakers on Friday debated a bill that would cap the beach use fees towns can charge non-residents. The bill would allow beach towns to sell passes to out-of-towners only as high as twice the cost to a resident.

Towns like Westport have historically charged non-residents as much as 15 times what they charge their residents. Residents paid $50 for a season pass while non-residents paid $750.

State Rep. Roland Lemar of New Haven said there need to be restrictions in place to expand access to the coastline.

“We can't just allow local communities to do whatever they want,” Lemar said. “There has to be some state regulations in place. We can't just allow communities to discriminate any manner that they choose.”

Greenwich First Selectman Fred Camillo said he supports state-wide access to beaches — but not for free.

“The fees we charge to non-residents are fair, they're vetted, and they're necessary to maintain our parks and our beaches without state or federal assistance,” Camillo said. “To demand or mandate that we lower fees would amount to basically asking our town's residents to subsidize non-resident usage.”

Advocates for lower prices say the high fees are used to deter poor and non-white residents from visiting affluent towns.

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.