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Long-delayed sand replenishment sought for Darien beaches

Published 3:26 pm, Wednesday, February 13, 2013
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It's been almost seven years since the sand at Pear Tree Point Beach has been replenished, leaving residents to walk across the course and naturally rocky New England beaches.

Historically, the town has replenished the sand on a staggered schedule every few years, according to Susan Swiatek, parks and recreation director.

"This method hasn't been approved in that fashion in a number of years with the economy," Swiatek said.

That regular schedule of adding sand to the beaches came to a halt during the financial crisis of 2008, according to Town Administrator Karl Kilduff.

"The town was prioritizing money for fiscal improvement and adding sand to the beaches was not a top priority," Kilduff said.

At the last Board of Selectmen meeting, members of the RTM Park and Recreation committee asked that the board consider replenishing the sand at the beaches.

Requesting money for sand in the future will be a "function of what the local economy will look like and where the community wants to go with is," according to Kilduf.

In the past, sand has been dredged from Long Island Sound and trucked up to Darien, but due to transport costs, the process can be quite expensive. The cost to replenish 2 to 3 inches of beach cover at Pear Tree Point Beach and Weed Beach is $40,000 per beach.

During storms, the sand appears to be washed up the beach and gets dumped into the parking lots, according to Swiatek. From there, maintenance crews have to push the sand back on the beach and rake the sand.

Unlike other coastal towns in Connecticut, the two beaches don't appear to be losing any sand during storms, Kilduff said.

"I've been to both beaches and with the one exception by the back end of Weed Beach near the picnic tables, the sand in main area where bathing takes place is still in place," Kilduff said.

However, when the sand is pushed back into the parking lots during storms, the natural rocky beaches are exposed. The more exposure that happens, the harder it is to keep the sand smooth.

"That's the nature of New England sand," Swiatek said. "If I dig down 2 feet, the sand would still be rocky down there."

Other methods of improving the sand quality are available, which Swiatek believes may be the reason why money to restore sand on the beaches may be left out of the budget year after year.

Beach rake sifters act like large conveyor belts with tines that pulls out the rocks and larger debris in that sand. The remaining debris-free smoother sand is then redistributed onto the beach.

The current sifter in town is 24 years old and Swiatek hopes to replace it.

"We had a demo of a new sifter at the beach a year ago and it went very well," Swiatek said. "Some of the thought was `Let's get the sifter.'"

A new beach rake for $60,000 has been included in the preliminary FY 2013-14 town budget, Kilduff said, adding that it made more sense to rake the debris as opposed to burying it under 2 to 3 inches of new sand.

mspicer@bcnnew.com;203-972-4407;@Meg_DarienNews