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New London drops Ocean Beach rates for residents

New London — It’s likely to be a welcome surprise for residents when, and if, Ocean Beach Park opens as planned for the summer.

The City Council on Monday unveiled and approved sweeping rate reductions for residents and free access to the city-owned park for anyone under the age of 18 who walks into the park.

Councilor Alma Nartatez, who spearheaded the move, said the new discounts are the result of behind-the-scenes discussions and a broad consensus among her fellow councilors, along with input from park management.

“We believe as a council the residents should be able to access our beautiful coastline at a reduced rate,” Nartatez said.

The council has the lone authority to set rates and typically has done so based on the recommendation of park management.

The changes made Monday impact costs in nearly all categories for residents and most notably for pedestrians. Season passes for pedestrian families will drop from $80 to $50 and season passes for pedestrian individuals were lowered from $50 to $25, among other changes.

Parking rates will drop from $23 to $15 on weekends and from $17 to $10 on weekdays. Rates for all-day access to the pool were cut in half, from $8 to $4.

Rates for nonresidents will remain unchanged.

“Ocean Beach is a beautiful park and an amazing asset to our community. By reducing entry fees for New London residents, we are making great strides in combating income inequality,” Councilor James Burke said.

“We hear all too often that we need to do more to enrich the lives of the children and students in our community. We have one of the greatest beaches in Connecticut right at the tip of New London, and our children will soon know that this resource belongs to all of us,” he said.

Councilor Reona Dyess said there was an effort underway to link youth access to library cards, a way of verifying residency.

Resident Franca Parra, a social worker and one of the city’s many advocates for establishing a community center, said she was thrilled by the rate reductions and said the council’s move was a step in the right direction that will benefit the youth.

Parra has called the current rates discriminatory against the city’s many poor residents and said costs were an obstacle for some. The median family income in the city is below $40,000, and 65% of families live in rental properties.

Parra said access for youth was free and the bus was affordable when she was a child. She called on the city to do a better job addressing youth needs overall, especially with the city's focus on economic development.

Beach Manager Dave Sugrue said it was unclear how the new rates might impact revenues, but he hopes it will attract more residents. “It’s the city’s park,” he said. “It’s the city’s jewel. I support (the council) in their decision. The beach was important to my generation and it should be important for the next generation.”

Ocean Beach is open at no cost for passive recreation now and expected to open up its concessions, rides and entertainment on Memorial Day. What that might look like with the COVID-19 pandemic remains a question, but Sugrue said people coming into the park now are adhering to proper social distancing guidelines.

The city contracts with Centerplate to run the park, and the company receives a percentage of the profit — 10% of gross profits up to $125,000 and 25% of $125,001 or more, among other provisions. While the city has tackled some capital expenses, Centerplate has pledged more than $1 million in investments in the park as part of the agreement.

City financial records show park revenues were $2.3 million in 2019, which only slightly outpaced expenses. The city annually contributes funding, $60,000 in the current budget and a proposed $100,000 for the upcoming fiscal year to cover operating deficits. Excess revenue at the park is turned over to the city.

g.smith@theday.com

Mikayla Ellis, a lifeguard supervisor at Ocean Beach Park in New London, directs a few misbehaving swimmers to go read the list of rules for the pool June 14, 2017, at the popular New London beach. Pool rates are among the park fees that the City Council lowered Monday, April 20, 2020. (Tim Cook/The Day, file)
Mikayla Ellis, a lifeguard supervisor at Ocean Beach Park in New London, directs a few misbehaving swimmers to go read the list of rules for the pool June 14, 2017, at the popular New London beach. Pool rates are among the park fees that the City Council lowered Monday, April 20, 2020. (Tim Cook/The Day, file)

Park rates for 2020

Ocean Beach Park rates for the 2020 Season:

Parking

Weekend Parking: $23
Weekend Resident Parking: $15

Weekday Parking: $17
Weekday Resident Parking: $10

Evening Parking: $10
Evening Resident Parking: $5
Fireworks Evening Parking: $15
Fireworks Evenings Resident Parking: $10

(Holiday) July 4 Parking: $30
(Holiday) July 4 Resident Parking: $20
Monday Cruise Night: Free

Nonresident Season Pass Parking: $120
Resident Parking Season Pass: $65
Resident Senior Parking Season Pass: $25

Pedestrian and other rates

Pedestrian: $7
Pedestrian, Resident: $5, free to 18 and under

Pedestrian Nonresident Season Pass: $50
Pedestrian Resident Season Pass: $25
Pedestrian Nonresident Family Season Pass: $80
Pedestrian Resident Family Season Pass: $50
Pedestrian Child and Senior Season Pass: Free
Ocean Beach Flex Pass: $40

Locker: $3
All-day Pool: $8
All-day Pool, Resident: $4
All-day Mini Golf: $7

Source: New London City Council

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