In Frank Capra's classic film It's a Wonderful Life, a despondent man takes a journey to see what life would have been like without him: the journey paints a bleak picture. In true Hollywood form, he is ultimately reassured of his impact even though his accomplishments were immeasurable.
The film's protagonist, George Bailey, is the perfect metaphor for Connecticut's Coastal Management Program. The Program can measure quantifiable elements: the number of site plans reviewed, number of permits issued, acres of tidal wetlands restored. But coastal managers often lose sight of
the accomplishments and ripple effects of management, possibly because accomplishments are taken for granted. Perhaps the true value of coastal management programs lies in that intangible, immeasurable idea of what coasts would be like without them. This article takes readers on a George
Bailey–esque journey by identifying the Connecticut Coastal Management Program's accomplishments since its adoption in 1980, reviewed in the context of several questions: What if the Program had never been adopted? What would public access look like? How many acres of tidal wetlands
would be lost to development or Phragmites invasion? Hopefully, the results of the exercise will put coastal management into better context and highlight the successes.