Published September 26. 2012 4:00AM
It is fun to think that visitors to Ocean Beach Park could once again be telling one another, "I'll meet you at the clock tower."
The non-profit group Save Our Beach, which has done so much for New London's biggest attraction, is now setting as a goal returning the centrally located tower that long stretched high above the boardwalk. The 100-foot steel-frame tower, with its four clock faces, was erected as part of reconstruction that followed the 1938 Hurricane. It stood until 1989, when it came crashing down during a botched attempt to lower it by crane for some maintenance work.
The iconic tower has been missed. It was something different, a landmark that set Ocean Beach Park apart. It is like Paris without the Eiffel Tower, London minus Big Ben, Pisa in Italy without its leaning tower. (OK, those are exaggerations, but you get our point).
SOB (the group seems to love the tongue-in-check acronym) has raised the possibility of moving the large light tower in the middle of the parking lot (also part of the original park decision) and refitting it as a new clock tower. While the effort at frugality is appreciated, we have to wonder about the practicality of reusing the nearly 75-year-old steel tower. The base is eroding, according to Beach Manager Dave Sugrue. The lights are no longer in use, shut down for fear of starting a fire in the osprey nest that sits atop the tower.
A new tower might makes more sense. Perhaps SOB could sponsor a design contest, challenging architects to come up with a design that is true to the spirit of the original tower but with touches that give the tower its own, new identity. Judges could award bonus points for inexpensive design.
The winner would earn some publicity.
Perhaps moving the existing tower will be the best and most cost-effective option, but it can't hurt to consider alternatives. In any event we endorse the goal to again have a tower serving as the signpost signaling that this is Ocean Beach Park.