A sure sign that summer is here — or at least just around the corner — takes place Friday when Horseneck Beach opens for the season.

A sure sign that summer is here — or at least just around the corner — takes place Friday when Horseneck Beach opens for the season.

This year brings a few significant changes to the beach, typically one of the state’s busiest. The east and west parking lots have new bath houses, connected to the beach by boardwalks raised over the dunes. The additions are nearly complete but aren’t ready for the opening weekend, said beach lead supervisor Dewey Mete.

With temperatures expected to be in the mid to upper 60s, Mete said he wasn’t expecting big crowds during Memorial Day weekend. “The 60s isn’t really beach weather,” he said.

The long-awaited groundbreaking for the bath houses was held last July, a few months after work began on the boardwalks, which feature shaded pavilions and benches. The $8.5 million state-funded project was to have started in 2006, but was delayed by a complex permitting process, according to Michael Rodrigues, the Democratic state representative from Westport, who pushed for the new buildings.

The bath houses and boardwalks were designed by minimize their impact on the environment. The buildings have composting toilets to conserve water and reduce waste, skylights to lessen the need for artificial light and outdoor “rinsing stations” that use less water than showers. The boardwalks are raised to allow for natural sand migration and to help protect beach species.

Using composting, or waterless, toilets cuts the amount of water used in half, according to Ruth Teixeira, the Department of Conservation and Recreation director of parks improvement.

Even the material used in the boardwalks was considered for environmental impact, like the type of wood and treatment, nails and bolts, and vinyl-coated mesh sides.

Rodrigues, who two years ago helped form the group Friends of Horseneck Beach, said the bath houses have been nominated for a national design award for green construction and design.

“I’m so proud of it. They’re absolutely gorgeous,” he said. “It’s something we should all be proud of.”

A ribbon-cutting event will be held soon, but no date has been scheduled. Construction of the new bath houses will take up about 400 parking spaces of about 2,400 at the beach. Additional spaces are not planned.

A new building for administration and lifeguards was first planned to be built at the same time as the bath houses, but has been delayed.

Rodrigues said that addition could begin later this year. That phase will be environmentally friendly, too, he said. The building would be closer to the beach, restoring the dunes to what is now asphalt. Renovating the campground could be next.

The bath houses and boardwalks are the first renovation in the 51-year history of the state beach. Unlike the “concrete behemoths,” as Rodrigues called the old beach buildings, the new bath houses fit into a rural New England beach atmosphere.

Beach passes will cost the same as last year: $35 per car for a season pass for state residents; $45 for out-of-state, $15 for a season pass for a second car, and $7 per car for a day pass.

E-mail Grant Welker at gwelker@heraldnews.com.