Selectmen to Consider Compromise for Public Access to Tantummaheag Landing

OLD LYME — Vehicular access and parking  — with new regulations and signage ––  will continue to be available at the historic town-owned Tantummaheag Landing if the Board of Selectmen approves recommendations from the Harbor Management Commission. 

“There is really no solution that I can see that will make everyone 100 percent happy, but I think this is as close to that as I can see us developing,” said Steven Ross, vice chair of the Harbor Management Commission, at Tuesday night’s meeting. 

In December, the adjacent property owners of 12 and 19 Tantummaheag Road, George Frampton and Carla D’Arista, blocked the parking area of the landing and its right of way with boulders because, the owners said, visitors were driving in a dangerous manner and trespassing onto private property. 

The recommendations of the commission, which will be sent to the Board of Selectmen for final approval, were the result of multiple discussions and meetings at the site among Frampton, commission chair John McDonald, First Selectman Timothy Griswold, and “were fashioned to serve the rights of the public and to respect rights of private property owners,” said Ross.

The goals of the commission, as set out on the meeting agenda, were to “preserve public access to Tantummaheag Landing, prescribe orderly use of the site, respect abutting neighbor private property, and to maintain rustic quality, natural appearance and vegetation on the site.”

The recommendations include retaining public and vehicular access along the town driveway to the landing, with a clearly defined parking area with two parking spots at the grassy area adjacent to the ice house located on Frampton’s property. 

At the driveway split inside the entrance the commission recommended signage with arrows indicating the landing to the right and “Private Drive, No Entry” to the left. Additional signage will be posted near the parking area between the town land and private property. 

The commission recommended re-installation of a “Tantummaheag Landing” sign that will include “Closed at Sunset,” at the right pillar of the entrance.

“I think one of the most important things that came out of the discussions was that there were people visiting the site at night, after sunset — sunset is defined as when the sun goes down, and it’s consistent with most facilities in Old Lyme that they are closed at sunset,” said McDonald. “I think this is an important point to make that we need to have this area shut down at sunset so that there is not nighttime use and unknown vehicles down there after dark.”

Further recommendations include placing a large boulder in the center of the access path to the water to prevent vehicles from traveling down to the water and to inhibit erosion and degradation to wetlands.

The commission recommended against clearing or planting vegetation and specified that the site remain “natural and of rustic character.” 

McDonald said that Tom Magee of the commission’s kayak committee did not rate the landing as a high usability site. 

The commission said the water access is “to remain in its natural state” and did not recommend “any modifications or changes to the waterfront area, such as dredging or improvements such as dock or ramps.”

Frampton, who attended the meeting, said he considered the problem one of vehicular access rather than public access. He had previously requested that the town right-of-way become pedestrian-only. 

“At least 99 out of 100 the people who visit this property are people who walk — the couples who come down, people come with their dogs and children. When it’s warmer they use the pond, which is on our property,” Frampton said. “This is still a pretty natural, peaceful, pristine piece of property.”

Frampton said that cars, trucks and trailers that are parking, turning around and backing bring a negative element to the public access issues of the site. He urged the commission to recommend the restriction of parking to outside the stone gates on Tantummaheag Road, where he said there was space for at least three cars. 

Commission member Teri Lewis said she had been visiting the site for about 37 years and that during the last 3 or 4 years the property, which Frampton and D’Arista purchased in September, had been empty and “overrun with visitors.” 

She said the configuration of the driveway may result in drivers needing to back out from the landing’s parking area to Tantummaheag Road, creating a hazardous situation. 

“My concern with backing up is when I back up the driveway and I see people walking down the driveway, there is a danger of hitting pedestrians,” she said. 

She also questioned how the site will be policed and encouraged the commission to help the property owner. 

Gary Gregory of the Conservation Commission suggested the town place boulders to demarcate the line between town property and Frampton’s. 

“Whenever you survey, find out where that property line crosses that access driveway and block it so no vehicle can get through to Mr. Frampton’s property,” he said.

The recommendations of the commission are expected to appear on the Jan. 18 agenda of the Board of Selectmen. 

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