[CT Birds] Silver Sands State Park

Parrot sisserou at charter.net
Wed Aug 12 11:13:19 EDT 2015

I get the sense that the reaction to improvements at Silver Sands are by folk that have not followed the planning process for the 3 phases of park development - phase 2 stalled due to concerns by the City of Milford (missed their opportunity to purchase the land after hurricane carol in 1954).  Folk might want to review these plans and progress to date before commenting on the next phase of development.

Hurricane Carol destroyed the beach cottages in 1954, these were dozed into Fletchers Creek adding more fill to municipal dumping occur there and the main landfill to the north.  State acquires the land and in the 1960’s created the first 1960’s style beach development - you might consider that plan grotesque.  There is a published management plan from this era!

Scroll ahead to the 80’s and 90’s - various park iterations considered.  The Coastal Management Program of DEP proposed the introduction of tidal flow to Great Creek - knowing that there was just so much water that could be returned and not cause flooding of low-lying structures.  Yet with these minimal flows there has been major tidal marsh restoration in Great Creek.

I suggested restoration of tidal flow of Fletchers Creek in the 1980’s but Parks rejected that but as time went on Parks realized that they would not receive state and federal permits for the filling of Fletchers Creek and so a new plan emerged for the Silver Sands which included the restoration of beach/dunes (destroyed by the construction of state route 646?) and the restoration of Fletchers Creek.  To the north, the capped landfill would be the location of recreation activities.  The parking to the north of Fletcher Creek was designed to not be paved and between the rows of parking there are swales - these are stormwater swales that capture runoff and allow for infiltration into the soil.  Unfortunately, since the landfill is capped, one cannot create subsurface leaching fields for stormwater and so the current design is the most optimal stormwater treatment.  To recreate beach and dune required removal of macadam for the old state road and removal of bulkhead.  This is a remarkable contrast to Sherwood Island State Park - much of the parking there was created from the filling of tidal marshes with dredged sediment in the 1960’s.

The plan was adopted and Phase 1 was implemented.  Coastal Management had access to restoration funds and were able to accelerated the marsh restoration in two phases - tidal flow restoration with the installations/restoration of tidal creeks to distribute the flow (fortunately the marsh had been drained by a tide gate and this help to lower the marsh elevation - marsh and municipal garbage!).  The second phase required excavation of fill on the north side of the marsh - adjacent to the boardwalk.  This exposed the remnants of municipal waste that does not decompose - glass bottles, plastic dolls heads - a metal cabinet.  I enjoyed watching the killifish use the pools created in the metal cabinet as refuge!  Parks constantly called me asking about when will the grass return - I said be patient and voila - the cordgrass has colonized this 5 acre piece of marsh and is building new organic soil atop the old fill - Even Dr. Niering could not have envisioned that a landfill could be returned to a functioning tidal marsh.  Trash to energy (functioning wetland).

Folk probably forget that in the 1990’s the dominant vegetation was Phragmites - nearly 15 feet tall!

So the dunes are installed, the marsh has been restored, phase 1 is completed and it is time for phase 2.  

The coastal management program also required a small designated parking area for nighttime fishing access but permit.

If you take the time to review the plans for Silver Sands, you will not find ferris wheels as a listed construction activity.  To think that one could convert a landfill to the amazing landscape we see today at Silver Sands.  Kudos to State Parks for this vision.

Ron, Ashford

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