Sunday, July 27, 2014
By James Lomuscio
The best things in life are free, the 1927 lyrics go, and for Raimundo DeSouza of Naugatuck that sentiment hit home literally and unexpectedly when he reached the entry booth to Sherwood Island State Park in Westport today.
“I was surprised,” he said about free admission to the park this weekend as part of the state parks’ centennial celebration. “The lady said it was for the 100th anniversary, and she gave me a brochure.”
It was the first time he and his family had been there.
DeSouza gazed out at the expansive sun soaked sands of West Beach, the Long Island Sound’s blue waters lined with spinnaker sails slightly veiled by a gauzy mist from burned-off morning rain.
“Everything is beautiful there, and the weather now is beautiful, and it has a lot of parking spaces, grills and picnic tables,” he said, the redolent scents of barbecue in the air.
A couple of thousand persons came to the park today, a fraction of what it would have been even with fees due to the morning rain. So said Mike DeBenedetto, a Good Humor push cart vendor.
“I’ve been in this business 20 years, and if people wake up and it’s cloudy, they make other plans,” he said.
The diehards did not, and their patience paid off. Latin beat music, every now and then punctuated by the thunk of a fiercely kicked soccer ball, underscored that the day was not to be dampened.
Steven Fernandez said he and his friends, even with morning showers, drove down from near Otis, Mass. in the Berkshires just for a taste of saltwater. They didn’t expect free admission.
“We tried to go there, but it was too expensive,” he said pointing toward Compo Beach, Westport’s town beach, “and then we came here, and it was free. It’s beautiful, beautiful, and they even gave us a brochure.”
“We don’t have these beaches where we live,” said Gabby Gustavis. “I love it here.”
Park fees from Memorial Day through September are $9 for state registered vehicles and $15 for out-of-state vehicles weekdays, $13 and $22 respectively weekends and holidays.
After 4 p.m, weekend fees are $6 for Connecticut vehicles and $7 for out-of-state. Off-season entry to the park is free. Connecticut seniors over 65 can get a season pass free for themselves and everyone in their vehicle.
News of today’s free entry was just the right bait for Victor Rodriguez and his family to make a day trip from Manhattan to Westport. As he cast his weighted line from a riprap of boulders by the water’s edge not far from Connecticut’s 9/11 Living Memorial, Rodriguez said he never expected to park to look so good.
“It’s nice, very nice and clean, not like Far Rockaway where there’s too much garbage on the beach,” he said.
Julio Rivera of Port Chester, N.Y. also noted that it was his and his wife Doris’ first time at the park, and that they had been encouraged to come by their daughter Venus, who had been there before with Connecticut friends.
“This is my first time here, and I wasn’t really prepared,” Julio Rivera said standing on the West Beach breakwater, a black rain umbrella now a makeshift parasol. “It’s really beautiful.”
Closer to home, Art and Mary Laroche of Fairfield decided to jump the border to enjoy a free day at Sherwood Island.
“I think it’s fantastic, and I think the fact that it’s a state park, it should be free all the time,” Art Laroche said.
Posted 07/27/14 at 07:11 PM Permalink