During the summer, Old Lyme’s beaches buzz with activity. Increasingly, they also roar.
Complaints about jet skis at Sound View Beach are growing louder as the summer progresses. At yesterday’s meeting of the , the list of problems detailed in a letter from the Sound View Beach Commission was long indeed.
Jet skis are zooming up onto shore, being tied to buoy lines, and cutting through rope lines that demark swimming areas because people are riding roughshod over them. People know that the lines are being cut by jet skis, Chairman Frank Pappalardo said, because the rope isn’t just cut, it’s burned.
Jet skiers are also riding in the boat lane that’s supposed to be reserved exclusively for water taxi. Meanwhile, the Fire Marshall is checking into complaints about fuel being spilled as people fill up their tanks.
In one particularly egregious case, someone set up shop renting jet skis from a floating dock that was brought in by a tractor, apparently without a permit for any of these activities. Police are in the process of trying to track down that person, who they believe to be from out of town.
“We all agree these are safety concerns,” said First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder. “It is like the wild west down there sometimes. Where we can take action, we need to.”
Although many of the beaches in Old Lyme are privately owned and governed by independent beach associations, Sound View Beach is public and on the weekends especially, it draws large crowds of people looking for fun in the sun. The list of beach rules and regulations is long and clearly posted but, Reemsnyder concedes, not everyone is going to follow them.
"I think the signs will be ignored," she said. "We still are faced with the enforcement of it."
To increase compliance, Old Lyme has added to the number of Town Rangers on beach patrol this year, Reemsnyder said, and has stepped up the number of police boat patrols.
“If there’s anything that’s going to set the tone on the water, it will be getting our police boat out there,” said Reemsnyder. “As soon as you have a police boat, people tend to obey the rules.”
Parking is another big issue. Local residents with beach stickers can park for free. The tricky part is finding a place to do it. On weekends, parking is pricey and in short supply unless you get there early. Even so, there have been fewer cars towed compared to previous years, Reemsnyder said, which suggests that more people are paying to park legally.
Buses are another problem. Even though large signs clearly state that buses are not allowed and will be fined $500 if they head toward the beach, a number of tour buses have tried to make their way through the madding crowd. Reemsnyder said she’s asking people to note the name of the bus companies in hopes that a letter from the town will get the word out to all drivers.
Not all the news is bad, however. There have been fewer complaints about loud music, Reemsnyder said, and she’s been getting very good feedback about the job the police and the Old Lyme Town Rangers are doing.
“It seems to be a real team effort,” Reemsnyder said. “We are doing all kinds of things to improve [the situation]. Our thanks go out to everyone who is working so hard to make this a good summer.”