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Category Archives: Beach
Many of us are talking about it. But — unless we crowded around an easel before the start of Wednesday’s contentious Compo Beach Site Improvement Committee meeting — we have not yet seen the plan.
Here it is:
- New gatehouse, with a longer entrance now opposite Bradley Street
- Arrival court, main building, bathing beach plaza area and extended boardwalk
- Long pedestrian pathway beginning at Owenoke
- New marina buildings, and marina promenade
- Fenced camp area, with new camp building
- New South Beach pavilion, bathhouse and central activity lawn
- Planted dunes and berms
- Curb separation and pedestrian walkway on Soudview Drive.
Click here to view the PDF. Warning: It takes a while to load.
The wait — to see what all the discussion is about — is worth it.
Skip Lane is a native Westporter, former professional football player and current realtor who grew up on Soundview Drive. He’s also a member of the Compo Beach Site Improvement Committee.
Yesterday he emailed “06880.” Emphasizing that he is speaking only for himself, he offers these insights into the current — and, he hopes, future — state of the beach:
Our volunteer committee was organized to improve the overall beach experience. Collectively the committee has hundreds of years of experience at the beach, but we all acknowledge that beach life has changed.
The number of people using it all year round, and the number of walkers and runners, has increased dramatically.
Our 1st goal is to address these people, and make the beach more accessible for these activities. We think we have done so, by adding a pedestrian path from one end of the beach to the other.
Our 2nd concern is the queuing of cars trying to get into the beach. I think the proposed plan addresses this as well.
The bathhouse is a disgrace. It needs to be updated and storm-proofed.
The big issue of public concern seems to be the proposal to move cars away from our beautiful beach.
If you go to any beautiful beach on the East Coast, you do not see any cars parked along the actual shore. From Cape Cod to Nantucket, the natural beauty of the shore is protected. The beaches are differentiated from parking lots. Why should we park on ours?
Our committee examined other beaches along the coast. We decided our beach would be much more natural and beautiful if we moved the cars back, and made the beach a beach. God forbid Westporters have to walk an extra 30 yards.
I recommend everyone go and walk Fairfield beach, Sherwood Island, Hammonaset and most beaches north of that. Compo will never be a state park, but do know that those parks were designed by professionals who had the natural beauty of the beach in mind.
I understand the issue of senior citizens, and I think we need to address them.
But imagine you are in your beach chair. You turn around and see sand and sea grass, instead of steel and chrome. It’s a tad less convenient, but imagine the difference. That is all I ask.
(The committee’s next meeting is Wednesday, April 23, at 5:30 p.m. in Town Hall Room 201. To follow the progress of the committee, and make comments, click here.)
Town Hall’s Room 201 was jammed like the fireworks today, as the Compo Beach Site Improvement Committee met for the 1st time since Mike Calise’s public letter lamenting the proposed elimination of perimeter parking.
Chairman Andy Moss opened the meeting by acknowledging the SRO crowd. He said that the committee — whose charge is to “refresh our much-loved town asset” — would define its success by achieving compromise.
“We have no illusions we will please everyone,” the former Parks and Recreation Commission chair added.
Moss noted that the committee was examining issues relating to safety, traffic flow, improving South Beach, pedestrian and bike access and more.
An unidentified consultant to the committee described the new beach plan. It includes a new entrance area opposite Bradley Street; a roundabout; an “activity area,” and 700 paved (“or gravel,” she quickly added) parking spaces.
A self-described 52-year resident of the town shouted, “Have there been many pedestrian accidents?”
Parks and Rec director Stuart McCarthy described the desire to keep cars and pedestrians separate. He emphasized that the plan was “conceptual,” and that the town and various boards would make the final decision.
Several speakers noted the importance of easy access to the beach for elderly users, and families with small children. A comment about New Yorkers taking “all the early spots” drew applause.
Committee member Skip Lane compared the new plan to a state park like Hammonasset or Sherwood Island, with centralized parking. In response, several speakers said that what is right for a state park does not work well for a town beach.
That caused an audience member to yell, “We’re fixing a problem that doesn’t exist. Please tell me the problem. I’ve been here since 1970, and I came because of Compo. It’s spectacular!”
Moss pointed out various areas that need improvement: the brick wall near Joey’s destroyed by Hurricane Sandy; traffic that backs up to Owenoke; port-a-potties on South Beach.
“Rather than fixing things piecemeal, we’re looking at the big picture,” he said.
When RTM member Jack Klinge said that he was very pleased with the proposed new entrance and bathhouse, but had been asked by “hundreds” of seniors to protect convenient access to the bathhouse, Moss reiterated: “That’s coming through loud and clear.”
The back-and-forth continued. Bob Driscoll said, “I’ve been coming to the beach for 80 years, and it’s worked out pretty damn well.”
A self-described “traffic and logistics guy” claimed the committee was taking a traffic and safety problem, and turning it into “a major reconstruction.”
Moss repeated, “I hear the concerns about parking along the beach. That’s very important to hear.”
Recent Staples graduate Hannah Dickison had the last word. “I’ve seen a lot of changes here in 10 years,” she said. “Please don’t chip away at the beach too.”
After most of the crowd left, the committee turned its attention to policy issues. Among other things, they discussed the removal of the skate park, and the importance of parking revenue from out-of-towners.
(The committee’s next meeting is Wednesday, April 23, at 5:30 p.m. in Town Hall Room 201. To follow the progress of the committee, and make comments, click here.)
Whatever your passion — the beach, historic preservation or downtown — Westport’s got a meeting for you.
Today at 5:30 p.m., the Compo Beach Site Improvement Committee meets at Town Hall (Room 201). Based on the 79 comments (and counting) to Mike Calise’s plea to retain perimeter parking near the sand — and 0 in favor — it should be interesting.
Tomorrow (7 p.m., Town Hall auditorium), the Planning and Zoning Commission will hear presentations from 2 committees: Village District and Downtown Steering.
It’s a work session, meaning the public can observe but not participate. Here’s what observers will see:
The Village District Committee, chaired by Historic District Commission chair Randy Henkels, will present information from their consulting group, headed by Steven Cecil from Boston.
The presentation will describe exactly what a Village District offers Westport, in terms of preservation of buildings and historic character. It’s part of a state-funded project to promote preservation in Connecticut; reports can be utilized by a town and its land-use agencies.
Tomorrow’s report may describe regulations and restrictions that have been successfully implemented in other Connecticut towns (including being upheld against court challenges.)
The Downtown Steering Committee — chaired by Dewey Loselle — has asked its consulting group, RBA, to to present Phase 1 of its project. It’s a baseline traffic study of the extended downtown area.
The study will include a computer-animated vision of traffic patterns, which can serve as a tool to evaluate the impact of traffic on forthcoming land-use proposals.
Some of the most infamous Post Road intersections have been studied, including Wilton Road and Riverside Avenue, and Compo Roads North and South.
Phase 2 — the vision of downtown, regarding traffic flow, parking, greening of the riverfront, the size and mix of commercial buildings, and residences — will be touched upon tomorrow too.
The train has not yet left the station, regarding Compo, historic preservation or downtown.
But it has pulled in. If you’re a Westporter who cares about this town, get on board.
Just over 3 years ago, Bob Rosenkranz retired after a long career as an endodontist on Boston’s North Shore. Married half a century, he and his wife Judy — a former phys ed. teacher — had to decide, “What do we do after we grow up?”
They figured they’d split time between their 2nd house in Vermont, and a gated community in Florida.
Their daughter Robin, son-in-law Matt Leon and 3 grandchildren — Jake, Josh and Jessica — had lived in Westport for nearly a decade. Whenever Bob and Judy visited, they stayed in Norwalk hotels. They’d take the grandkids to the usual dining spots — McDonald’s, Swanky Frank’s — and the tried-and-true recreational areas, like the beach.
Bob and Judy didn’t know much about Westport. But one day, they had dinner — by themselves — at Positano’s. They saw a Richard Dreyfuss performance at the Westport Country Playhouse. The next day, they took the train to New York, and stayed overnight. Both had grown up in Brooklyn. They remembered the city from the 1960s. It had changed dramatically, for the better.
Judy — who played tennis with women 20 years younger at home — and Bob visited the Westport Tennis Club. They saw a bunch of older guys playing — quite well — and heard talk about the “Wise Men.” A man named Otis spent an hour chatting with them. “In Massachusetts, no men play tennis in the morning,” Bob says.
Judy broached the subject with Robin and Matt: How would they feel if she and Bob moved to Westport? The “kids” were all for it.
Judy and Bob talked to a realtor, but weren’t sure what they wanted. A rental? Condo? Nothing felt right.
Through a series of coincidences — including friend-of-a-friend stories — they bought the perfect house, off Partrick Road.
Then things really started to happen.
Bob and Judy found great new friends with older couples. They joined 2 film groups. The Fairfield University extended education program. A book club. A bridge group.
Bob joined the Y’s Men (he now knew how it was spelled). He joined 2 regular tennis games, plus 1 of platform tennis. He plays bocce. He hikes.
“I don’t know if these guys are former Fortune 500 CEOs or cobblers,” he says. “It doesn’t matter. They’re great!”
He is inspired by Y’s Men like Kurt Rosenfeld and Gun Moen, who is 87 and still skis, plays bridge and poker, and hits the speed bag.
Judy hooked up with a Manhattan art tour group, led by Westporter Joyce Zimmerman. She got involved with the Y’s Women.
She too plays platform tennis — outdoors, in January. She’s also in 4 other tennis games.
The couple dines out often. They love Westport’s restaurants, including Jewish-style delis Gold’s and Oscar’s. (In their previous life, the nearest deli was 35 miles away, in Newton.) They call the choices in supermarkets “phenomenal.”
As for shopping, it’s “fantastic — accessible and easy.”
They show off the library, beach — and many other parts of Westport — to out-of-town friends. They are awed by Staples Players performances, and love the Playhouse (especially the recent Harlem Dancers show).
I should note here that Judy and Bob are 2 of the warmest, most outgoing and funniest people that I have ever met. They also seem to have found a fantastic balance between doing things as a couple, and on their own. Still, their excitement about their new home town is astonishing.
“I’m like a kid in a candy store,” Judy says.
“I don’t have enough hours in the day,” Bob adds. And then he starts describing all the great hiking spots he’s found, like Sherwood Island in the off-season.
What’s nice to hear — beyond so many great words about Westport – is that, as Judy says, “people who have been here 30 or 40 years are opening up their lives to new people like us.”
But don’t think the Rosenkranzes spend all their time playing tennis, dining out and going to shows. They’ve cooked dinners for the Gillespie Center, done other volunteer work, and are always on the lookout for ways to give back.
Plus, of course, there are the grandkids. Judy and Bob were “mesmerized” by a recent Long Lots music concert (“there was no dissonance at all — and they had a whole ensemble with steel drums!”), and they are faithful attendees at endless soccer, baseball and lacrosse games.
Nor do they just travel between Westport and New York. They recently returned from a trip to Patagonia. (The region, not the store.)
But Bob and Judy always come back — physically, and during our conversation — to the wonders of their new home town.
“We love it here,” they keep saying.
Almost as much as we love having them here.
Mike Calise is a familiar figure in Westport. Whether selling real estate, riding in his Jeep with the top down and doors off, or — most typically — walking on Compo Beach in every season, the 1958 Staples graduate and Marine Corps veteran has a native’s feel for the rhythms of our town.
Mike is following the news of the Compo re-imagining closely. The other day, he wrote to “06880.” Mike said:
I have become increasingly concerned with the direction the Compo Beach Site Improvement Committee is taking. My read on the citizens forum I attended last fall was that most residents were comfortable with Compo as it is. They did call for improvements in the concession and bathhouse area, and an additional bathroom area at South Beach.
Although people talked about other wish list items, such as mini-golf, most everyone stated that they preferred the current beach configuration. A reconfiguration of the entrances was high on the Recreation Commission’s agenda, and most found that acceptable. Beyond that it was: It’s not broke. Don’t fix it.
The committee, however — along with the consultants — has pursued a completely different path. They are moving toward an internal parking lot, with minimal parking opportunities beyond that.
They have developed a plan that eliminates all perimeter parking. No parking along the beach edge, from the bathhouses to the cannons. No parking in front of the grills at South Beach. No parking in the boat launch area. And greatly reduced parking at the marinas. They favor an internal parking area with its own traffic loop in and out of the beach (the “half loop”). Although the full drive through the beach roadway is currently in the plan, there is strong sentiment to eliminate it, along with the perimeter parking.
Their theory is that people need to get out of their cars and walk. In taking this position they have completely ignored young families with lots of gear and children, older adults who may not have the ability or desire to walk long distances toting gear, and boaters with fishing gear and supplies.
As you know, the beach is used in many different ways, on a year-round basis.
During the winter people spend time in their cars just enjoying the views. In summer the grills are heavily used. Having easy access to vehicles — especially for families with young children — is a great asset, and far safer than having to walk across a roadway to access cars for unexpected needs.
Being able to park at the edge of the beach between the bathhouse and the cannons to tailgate or just put a chair on the sand is important to many. I have seen this done regularly. In short, the ease of access which is enjoyed and cherished by all is under threat of elimination.
As part of this substantive change, the committee is planning walkways and drop off points. All are in the design stage.
The committee meets every other Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in Room 201 of Town Hall. The next meeting is this Wednesday (April 9). These meetings are informal, and all who wish to speak are given an opportunity.
This is truly a time where resident opinions are important!
What’s new at Compo? A number of new tables, in the pavilions by Joey’s and the volleyball courts.
These look a lot more user-friendly than the heavy, mess hall-style ones that have seen (many) better years.
So why were they empty?
It was the 1st beautiful Sunday of spring. After the winter we’ve had, no one wanted to be indoors — even at an open-air pavilion.
The beach was packed. I know these tables will get plenty of work, very soon.
Allen Raymond has lived on Compo Cove since 1922.
The unique, beautiful spit of land drew his parents to Westport nearly a century ago, and kept Allen here ever since. (He added a house on King’s Highway, which is perfectly fitting. It’s the most historic part of town, and no one knows Westport’s history better than Allen Raymond.)
Allen is 91 years old now, and his heart is failing. This afternoon – the 1st sparkling day of spring — he visited his beloved Old Mill home. It’s rented out, but he sat on the porch, gazed at the rippling high tide and spectacular views of Compo Hill, and reminisced.
Allen spoke about his childhood days on the water, his summers growing up, and the life he’s lived here — and loved — ever since.
What a remarkable 9 decades Allen has spent in town.
He’s served on more boards, brokered more good and smart deals, and contributed more to every facet of life — educational, recreational, spiritual — than anyone since the Bedfords. (And there were a lot more of them than him.)
Allen has contributed unfathomable amounts of time, energy (and money) to the Green’s Farms Congregational Church, and the Y. He led the Westport Historical Society into (paradoxically) the modern era, and Earthplace to sustainability.
He has advised nearly every elected official in town, at one time or other. He’s saved many of them from political disasters, and us from the financial fallout.
It is safe to say Westport would not be the town it is — nor would we be the people we are — without the love (sometimes gentle, sometimes tough) that Allen Raymond has lavished on us for longer than nearly any of us have been alive.
Perhaps his greatest gift to the town, though, is the 169 acres on South Compo Road known as Longshore.
Few Westporters realize that our town jewel camethisclose to being something else entirely. In early 1960, the privately owned Longshore Beach and Country Club — with a golf course, tennis courts, pools, marina, inn/restaurant and play areas — came up for sale.
The typical Westport response — build houses! — was strongly considered. But First Selectman Herb Baldwin and his kitchen cabinet decided to make a bid, on behalf of the town. Baldwin put his best adviser in charge of the project: Allen Raymond.
The group had to act quickly. In just 18 days they put together a $1.9 million package — then earned approval from the Board of Finance and RTM. The latter vote was 38-0. (The RTM doesn’t even name bridges or approve jUNe Day unanimously.)
A month and a half later — on May 28, 1960 — Longshore Club Park opened to the public. It’s been one of the town jewels ever since.
As has Allen Raymond.
He is a remarkable, inspiring, truly wonderful man.
The weather wasn’t fantastic. But we’re tired of the long winter. And worried about more snow this Tuesday night.
So Westporters did whatever we do in the faintest glimmer of sunshine. We headed to Compo Beach, in droves.
My sister was there too. Susan Woog Wagner is a Staples grad — and a professional photographer.
Her shots are sure to put a “spring” in your step.
No matter what the weatherman says.