Imagine getting up early and taking a run along the beach before the sun comes up or walking along the beach underneath a moon-lit sky.
Such images are reality on many beaches but not at state beaches in Connecticut which open at 8 a.m. and close at sunset.
On a recent Thursday evening, I stopped by the Hammonassett State Beach Park, about 10 minutes after sunset, to find its entrance gate closed.
Upon entering the turnaround to exit, I saw the red and blue flashing lights of police near the exit lanes waiting for last-minute folks who stayed beyond sunset.
While state parks and beaches are only open from 8 a.m. to sunset, many state forest areas, like Nipumuk State Forest and Pachaug State Forest, are open 30 minutes before sunrise and stay open 30 minutes after sunset.
The large Hammonassett Campground is open 24/7 during its season from mid-May to late October. The gate is monitored and only campers and fishermen with passes are allowed to enter the park after sunset.
During the off season, the gate is locked after sunset despite large amounts of lighting in and around several Hammonassett buildings and parking lots.
Just as the EnCon Police Department protects campers, fishermen, and day visitors, they could work to protect those who would like to visit parks and beaches in the early morning or at night.
The peace and tranquility observed during these times should be promoted to help spread out traffic to parks and beaches especially during the busy summer season.
Those arriving before 8 a.m. during the summer should get the same discount as those arriving after 4 p.m. Those arriving after 6 p.m. should be greeted with free admission.
One blogger commented that he prefers beaches in Rhode Island citing the ability to go to the beach at night as one example.
In Wildwood Crest, N.J., people are allowed on the beach between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m.
Ray Davitt, who lives in Milford, CT, home of Silver Sands State Park, said, “I think in Connecticut. the hours should be 6 a.m. to midnight on weekends and during the week 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.”
A debate is brewing on the other side of the country where the California Coastal Act says the public should have 24-hour beach access while cities have established beach curfews.
A Change.org petition urges the California governor to restore 24-hour access arguing that crime has dropped significantly in the past decade and people have demanded more time on the beach.
Connecticut residents and visitors deserve parks and beaches that are open as long as possible.