Leg­is­la­tor calls for changes at Sil­ver Sands

The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT) - - OBITUARIES - By Pamela McLough­lin pm­clough­lin@nhreg­is­ter.com @mc­pam­skids on Twit­ter

MIL­FORD » There are five strong warn­ing signs at Sil­ver Sands State Park where the tombolo, or sand­bar, to Charles Is­land be­gins at the shore.

“Dan­ger” a sign says in big let­ters. “Sand­bar floods twice daily with strong cur­rents and un­der­tow.”

The sign posted by the state Depart­ment of En­ergy and En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion stops short of say­ing not to take the trip to the Is­land filled with lore, in­clud­ing that Cap­tain Kidd’s buried his trea­sure there, but goes on to warn: “Do not hike on wa­ter cov­ered sand­bar.”

Yet, ev­ery year around or at low tide, hun­dreds take the walk on foot to the is­land over the sand­bar cov­ered by rocks and shells freshly tossed by the tide. While the stretch is a sand­bar, it is for­mally a tombolo be­cause it is a bar of sand that at­taches the main­land to an is­land.

Ev­ery year there are res­cues for peo­ple who can’t make it back in time as the tide comes in or can’t make it out to the is­land as the tide goes out, the lat­ter of which was the cir­cum­stance that led to the July 21 drown­ing death of Bridge­port res­i­dent Ge­orge Swaby, 28, who was hit by a wave and sucked into a cur­rent. Swaby was a novice swim­mer, but the ex­perts say that strong cur­rent can be a chal­lenge for the best swim­mers.

Prior to the drown­ing July 21, the last fa­tal­ity as a re­sult of the walk was in 2011.

Seek­ing change

But there are many res­cue and dis­tress calls from Sil­ver Sands State Park each year and since June 15, there have been seven 911 dis­patch calls for open wa­ter res­cues, ac­cord­ing to data ob­tained by state Rep. Kim Rose, D-Mil­ford, whose dis­trict in­cludes Sil­ver Sands State Park.

Swaby’s drown­ing has reignited the dis­cus­sion as to what can be done fur­ther to pre­vent tragedy and close calls.

Rose, has sent a letter to DEEP Com­mis­sioner Rob Klee call­ing for a meet­ing with Mil­ford lead­ers soon to dis­cuss safety at the pop­u­lar spot, and said she’ll con­sider any­thing up to ban­ning walk­ers from the sand­bar.

“Un­for­tu­nately, this seems to be a tragic or near-tragic story we hear of all way too of­ten. The 2,500-foot-long tombolo has been no­to­ri­ous for putting lives at risk, and it’s un­usual for a sum­mer to go by with­out at least sev­eral emer­gen­cies,” Rose wrote to Klee.

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