Board to consider loosening 'no fun' rules at beaches
The "no fun zone" at Fairfield's beaches will remain in effect at least until winter, when Parks and Recreation Commission members consider rule changes that might make for a livelier, less restrictive waterfront.
The commission's review of the regulations forbidding boogie boards, skim boards, sports balls and flotation devices in the water was prompted by a request a trio of fifth graders. They were tired of having to play in the private sections of the beach, so they launched a petition drive asking for changes.
After the commission's decision Wednesday night, the youngsters remain optimistic that their efforts will be successful.
"I'm feeling pretty good about it, said 10-year old Luke Sohigan.
His friend, John McMillian, added, "I'm pretty excited."
But before any changes are enacted, the commission members will consider waterfront safety issues, which is the main reason for the regulations in the first place.
Steve Berecz, waterfront director for Fairfield, told the commission Wednesday that he's had to rescue children who have ventured too far off shore chasing a ball. Also, one woman was injured when a skim board surged into her.
By permitting such recreational equipment on Fairfield beaches, he said the town would be virtually alone among other coastal municipalities in the county.
"Every single one them, except for Westport, said they don't permit [such equipment]," he said.
Regulations permit such the equipment in beach areas in front of private homes, dubbed the "fun zones" by the petitioners.
During the meeting, parents told tales of over-zealous lifeguards who blow their whistles at children making the slightest infraction.
The problem with local beaches, according to Nicholas Mirabile, a member of the Representative Town Meeting, is that they're a "borefest."
"Kids don't come down to the beach to relax and tan and read a book," he said. "They come down here to have fun."
Erring on the side of safety, Gerald Lombardo, the director of parks and recreation, said protecting beach goers' safety is important. But, he added, some concessions should be made.
"We probably should come up with a type of compromise to make it more enjoyable," he said.
After the meeting, which took place beachside in the Jacky Durrell Pavilion, fifth-grader Gus Bochanis was looking ahead to what might be in store next summer.
He said he will "probably boogie board, skim board and have fun."