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Members of Revitalization Corps marching in Old Saybrook. 1971, Bob Adelman, Smithsonian Magazine.

Along the Cities’ Shorelines

The Connecticut Coastline


Wealthy municipalities and private homeowners had rendered nearly all of Connecticut’s shoreline off-limits to members of the general public by the 1960’s.


Coming out of the civil rights movement and a duty for public service emblematic of JFK, Ned Coll of Hartford created the Revitalization Corps, a ‘citizen-sponsored Peace Corps’ with the purpose of fighting for social welfare programs, better schooling and tutoring, and heating fuel for those without. `After recognizing that many African American children had never been to the beach or even seen the ocean, Coll staged interventions where he bussed children to the beachfront in contravention of private property and hostility from local homeowners.

These interventions were not just calling out the physical exclusion of certain people but the mindsets and legal apparatuses that justified and perpetuated that exclusion. Beaches had become filled with jetties, fortifications, and walls to accentuate the separation between coastal towns and the industrial cities in decline.


While the direct action began to move minds, it also experienced a blowback that came in tandem with Richard Nixon’s re-election and a growing atmosphere of negative sentiment to the welfare state. The National Open Beaches Act failed to pass in Congress, and into the 80s, growing profits on Wall Street accelerated income inequality and made beachside property even more valuable.

In the effort to change minds, Coll made an effort and succeeded in some regards; but, the pride of private property continues to contest accessibility.


Questions to Consider

What are spaces that the public should have access to?

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