Weed Beach’s $2.7 million renovation project will soon be complete, and just in time for the summer season.
New amenities will include an entirely-rebuilt bathhouse, a brand new paddle tennis clubhouse, a mini-boardwalk along the west half of the beach, and a redesigned parking lot featuring natural landscaping.
A grand opening ceremony for the revitalized Weed Beach is scheduled for June 2nd. This will finally bring closure to an improvement project whose story stretches back to the mid-2000s.
Project Chairwoman Debra Parnon says the recent renovations will make the beach “a little more civilized all the way around.” Certainly, longtime residents will remember the “old” Weed Beach as a little rough around the edges.
Mrs. Parnon elaborated, it’s kind of what the beach needed. Realtors sell the town for its schools, but also for its beaches. With that old cinderblock building, it didn’t show we cared about it. The beach deserved this upgrade.”
Not only is the new bathhouse substantially larger than “that old cinderblock building” Mrs. Parnon referenced, but it is much more user friendly all the way around. Cleaner, brand-new locker rooms are just the beginning.
The new bathhouse will have a handicap-accessible, wrap-around porch with benches, providing beach-goers with more places to sit in the shade. The new Uncle’s-By-The-Sea snack bar is completely indoors, eliminating old inconveniences like waiting for your food outside under the hot sun and fighting flies for your french fries. There will also be a gazebo with picnic tables for those who prefer to pack their lunch.
The new paddle tennis clubhouse adds a completely new amenity to the Weed Beach property. The building will come with a fire-pit, enabling paddle tennis enthusiasts to play into the wee hours of the evening, and even into the colder seasons of the year.
Longtime neighbor Doug Bora, who says he has been playing paddle tennis at Weed Beach longer than most of us have been alive, voiced his excitement over the addition, saying he hopes it will be a genuine community gathering spot.”
The rest of the project’s renovations are geared towards improving the beach’s aesthetics. Gone is the expansive black-asphalt parking lot that stretched all the way to the sand. In its place is a more compact lot, dotted landscaped islands with plantings contributed by the Darien Garden Club. A new “dune” fixture separates the beach from the cars. As Mrs. Parnon said, “it’s a park, not a parking lot.”
Changes at Weed Beach were first seriously discussed around 2005. A number of rival proposals were presented, including building a skate park on the property. Lori Bora, the Board of Finance representative on the Building Committee and a longtime Noroton Bay resident, recalls some of the flack that proposal received from neighbors and beach users alike.
“First of all, there was the noise element. Also, people were afraid that the skate park would ruin the natural beauty of the beach.” Mrs. Bora also described a proposal to build a private waterfront restaurant there, but said that the plan was shot down for fears that it wouldn’t be profitable in the cold winter months.
In the end, the current renovation plan was passed in 2008. However, renovations were stalled when the economy crashed. Mrs. Parnon explained that “we got the green light to go ahead in 2010, and we started work in September 2011... Since we’ve been given the go ahead, it’s been a rather beautiful project and it has run very smoothly. The weather has been beautiful so we’ve been able to stay on schedule and within budget.”
Mrs. Bora confirmed this assessment, saying, We should be substantially complete by mid-May and open for public use by Memorial Day.”
This means that most work should be finished by the grand re-opening ceremony on June 2nd. The event will be an all-day affair, with activities for all ages. There will be musical performances throughout the day, including a performance by our very own Jazz Ensemble in the new bathhouse’s breezeway, which overlooks the ocean. Down Under Kayaking will even be bringing down some kayaks and paddle boards down for demos in the afternoon.
Mrs. Bora, talking about the renovations in general, summed it up pretty well. “I really hope they will get people in town out to the beach. It’s a wonderful town amenity. So many people from Darien belong to country clubs that we don’t realize we have such a great facility.”
Hopefully, these improvements will elevate the student body’s opinion of Weed Beach, and help it become the popular hangout spot it deserves to be.