Welcome To Compo!

For the past couple of years, it was the elephant in the room.

Finally, people are talking about it.  Over the past week or so, at least a dozen people have mentioned it to me.  Some asked me to comment on “06880.”

The subject:  non-Westporters at the beach.

Okay.  To be perfectly honest:  the increase in New Yorkers and New Jerseyans at Compo.

Particularly those with foreign accents.

I first noticed the phenomenon 2 or 3 years ago.  Nearly every day, cars with out-of-state plates would park at South Beach — the part closest to the cannons.  What looked like several extended families stayed all day, playing and swimming and cooking out.

They seemed to be Russian — Ukrainian perhaps, or maybe Georgian — and they were there on weekdays as well as weekends.  They were there when the weather was gorgeous, and when it was not.

A group commandeered the grassy median between the South Beach parking lot and the sand.  They sat under the shade trees, enjoying themselves.  They too were there almost all the time, usually late in the day.

This summer, I — and many others — have seen more groups coming to Compo.  There are the soccer players — all men, of all ages — on the grass near the softball diamond, and closer to Compo Beach Road.

There’s a group that plays dominoes in the pavilion by the volleyball courts, and spreads out on the beach nearby.

Others find other spots.  Some set up tents or canopies.  The groups are big.  They speak a variety of languages.

I like it.

Whose beach is it, anyway?

Their presence — and activity — adds flavor and energy to the white, suburban scene I’ve grown accustomed to.  There’s enough room for everyone, and the out-of-towners certainly enjoy themselves.  Otherwise, they wouldn’t be back.

I’m sure they’re good for business at Joey’s.

And, at $20 a car — $40 on weekends  — the revenues certainly add to town coffers.  I can’t imagine the added cleanup costs aren’t covered by parking fees.

But I know I’m in (ahem) a minority.

I’ve heard complaints about “out-of-towners” taking over our beach.  (And no, this does not refer to folks from Wilton and Ridgefield.)

I’ve heard questions about why “they” don’t go to Sherwood Island.

I’ve heard criticism of “loud music,” large groups, big tents and garbage.  (You want garbage?  Take a stroll through the brick pavilion any weekend afternoon — or walk along Soundview after the fireworks.)

And yes, I’ve heard dismissive comments about “all the different languages” spoken at the beach these days.

I’m glad our beach is not exclusive.  I’m glad “out-of-towners” find Compo attractive enough to keep coming back.  I’m glad we’re collecting entrance fees at the gate.

As I said, I know my position is not shared by many Westporters.  I’ve heard enough tsk-tsking to realize the “Welcome” mats we place on our doorsteps don’t always extend to our shore.

Comments, as always, are welcome.

32 responses to “Welcome To Compo!

  1. my favourite line out of the whole entry:
    “I’ve heard enough tsk-tsking to realize the “Welcome” mats we place on our doorsteps don’t always extend to our shore.”

    i hope that recognition resonates in the right way with your readers & not just on this issue.

  2. Sorry, I don’t like it. We should raise the fees for out of towners at the very least. It is starting to remind me of Flushing Meadow Park, which frankly I didn’t like when I lived in Queens years ago. I don’t need to be around large crowds of strangers. That’s why I left NYC. Compo is getting to be more like a city beach. Crowded, loud, filled with strangers who camp out all day in “choice spots” around the beach. I don’t like it. At the very least they should raise the daily rate to $75 or $100 for these vans filled with out of towners.

  3. Dan, Good Compo piece. Your significant line is “There’s room for everyone…” And might we extend that welcome across the nation…

  4. Dan, not sure of the exact date but my understanding was this influx coincided with Sherwood Island becoming an alcohol free park (No alcohol allowed). What’s a picnic without a beer?

  5. Maggie Mudd

    Dan, I agree with you totally. I am at the beach nearly every day and what I see are groups of friends and groups of families enjoying their leisure together. I have not seen any of our visitors behaving badly. I also like hearing the different languages. It’s a big world out there-

  6. I have lived on Compo beach for almost 25 years. I never go to the beach on weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The crowds on those weekends tend to be rowdy and inconsiderate. Moreover, the beach has become a combination doggie toilet and garbage dump. The transformation begain well before the influx of “vistors.” I don’t see how these new beach goers can make things any worse.

    What I have noticed from time to time are buses pulling up and dropping off vistors and then returning late in the day to pick them up. Raising the parking fees will not prevent this sort of behavior, and I don’t see why it should.

  7. Longtime beach watcher

    Exactly the same comments (that Dan has heard in town, but not from most of these readers commenting) were heard in the 1950s, but then they were vaguely disguised anti-Semitic comments, with nasty comments about “the New Yorkers” who came to our beaches every summer. I remember hearing comments about how disruptive and obnoxious and loud they were on Compo Beach and how they left trash. Well, many of those summer people came back to be residents after school and have contributed so much to our town. I’m all for accepting these current groups with an attitude of “it makes our town more diverse and wonderful”.

  8. Holly Wheeler

    I’m with “Longtime Beach Watcher”. I also remember when it was all about “the New Yorkers”. Diversity is interesting and broadening; homogeny, not . I don’t live in Westport any more, but if Compo doesn’t have (and/or enforce) a ban on boomboxes … that’s something to complain about!

  9. I am behind ya 100% Dan, let Westport be more diverse. Welcome people from out of town, state and country visit our lovely beach. Let people feel the hot sand between their toes. That’s why there is a beach. Who said this beach is just OURS? don’t we teach our kids to be nice, share and not to discriminate just because someone looks or sounds different? To be honest, I like the diversity. This town needs a little color.

  10. Well Dan you have done it again. You have stimulated the cult of the PC to post all manner of meaningless blather about diversity etc. Well I dissent. I moved to Westport over 30 years ago because it was not diverse; rapists, murderers and all manner of violent criminals were under-represented in the population. (Before the cult of the PC rises as one, I am not in any way suggesting that our new visitors are criminals, I am pointing out the hypocrisy and illogic of the cult of the PC.)

    In fact ,the cult doesn’t want diversity. If Westport were perfectly diverse it would be….AVERAGE. I doubt that anyone wants to change the ambiance of the town to that degree. Once the cult admits that there are some elements of the broader society it would not want to admit to Westport in increasing numbers, their hypocrisy is evident. I would bet that there are some members of the cult who would like to exclude from a broader representation those who would build high stone walls, or very much larger homes. I would like to exclude skin heads and neo-Nazis who are now very under-represented. I would favor quieter less meddlesome people, but then I admit my preferences. Among the cult of the PC, sanctimony has no bounds.

    With respect to the new vistors to the beach; learn to live it. There is nothing to be done, and I don’t see how they can make conditions significantly worse than they are.

    BTW The ability to speak a foreign language is not in and of istself an indicator of diversity or desirability.

  11. Dan, until I read your commenters’ comments, I have never heard people complain about out-of-towners at Compo Beach. Are you sure this is a real issue and not just fuel for talk among the polemicists here at 06880?

  12. Richard Lawrence Stein

    I have not been to the beach in a very very very longtime to hangout. I have only been there to workout or play with my daughter. I have noticed all sorts of interesting people utilizing our beach What I have noticed to my dismay is the lack of consideration or laziness of tbose to cleanup after themselves. I rather have more people who look after the beach from not these parts then the locals who could give a crap.

  13. mary ruggiero

    My questions would be: what are the rules and regs for using the beach? are boom boxes/loud music allowed? are there enough trash containers? Are out of towners (according to license plates) given a little sheet listing same? Are the out of town fees enough to provide cleanup? Should there be beach-walkers patrolling to remind EVERYONE to clean up? My 3 cents.

  14. Fees at Burying Hill (see below) are different for in-state and out-0f-state plates (I think it has something to do with Federal money having been once used to pave the lot). But that distinction doesn’t exist at Compo. Perhaps next year, the Parks & Recreation Commission will create a two-tier system at Compo, too. An excellent revenue-enhancer.
    Compo Beach, Weekdays – Per Day (without emblem) $ 20
    Compo Beach, Weekends and Holidays – Per Day (without emblem) $ 40
    Daily Parking Passes – Book of 10 – Weekdays $170
    – Weekends $340
    Burying Hill Beach, Weekdays – Per Day (North Lot)
    Connecticut Registered Vehicle $ 20
    Out-of-State Registered Vehicle $ 25
    Burying Hill Beach, Weekends/Holidays – Per Day (North Lot)
    Connecticut Registered Vehicle $ 25
    Out-of-State Registered Vehicle $ 40

  15. Wow, what great flashbacks this post gave me, thanks Dan! As a little kid from a land-locked NY town, my parents would pile the kids (7) & their friends in the back of the wagon for a day at either Compo or Sherwood Island. We bought ice cream & soda’s, stocked up at the grocery store or ate at the Clam Box before heading home. Now I happily live here.

    Regarding trash left behind, what makes you think it isn’t our local population leaving their stuff? Ever see the Staples cafeteria after the lunch crowd is finished?

    The sense of entitlement has become pervasive in Westport and other upscale communities.

  16. nice to see that the more american of westport (inclusionary, welcoming, aware & appreciative of their own immigrant heritage, etc.) wins out in this discussion.

  17. I think we should raise the fees that it costs for people to come to the beach. I have heard that outsiders park in the side lot at the beach and risk getting a ticket since the cost of a temp sticker is only several dollars less than recieving a ticket for a violation. Just raise the fees and if the “outsiders” want to pay the extra fees then let them.

    Seriously though, Joey’s fries are the best!!! And the spongebob ice cream pop is over rated, the gumball is never soft.

  18. Westporter since 1970

    Boorish behavior knows no ethnic, geographic, religious, racial, or gender boundaries. But Compo Beach has certainly become the place where many indulge in it.

    I’ve been on Compo’s South Beach with friends when Westport residents felt entitled to crowd us out because they thought they “owned” one or two tables. I’ve been on Compo Beach when the reek of charcoal lighter fluid and sun tan lotion was so thick you’d become nauseous. I’ve tried to relax and read the Sunday paper at the beach the way I used to be able to not so many years ago, and it’s impossible.

    If non-residents are annoying, they’ve probably learned it from the residents.

  19. thank you for saying that i thought i was the only one who felt nausea from the smells of inconsideration..the ketchup people drop all over the boardwalk being the most prominent when it’s really hot there..eugh

  20. Yes, all other issues aside, it’s sort of silly to get into much of a lather over perfectly legal activity. On the other hand, if trash is being left, noise ordinances broken, then maybe a bit more light duty policing needs to take place, so the strangers understand and respect the community standards and learn to adhere to them. But of course the “not my tribe” reaction is a waste of time and energy.

  21. Gary Singer

    I’m with you 100% Dan. Full disclosure: my opinion is worth little. as I haven’t been to Compo in over 25 years. But I swam at Compo before I learned to walk
    ( circa 1933 ), when parking was free and there was no sand, only rocks. The only class distinction was who owned a changing room in the brick building, as opposed to the wooden building. But I sense that you are writing about a bigger problem. Perhaps Compo Beach has become a metaphor of whats happened in the entire country today. i.e. “I’m here, I’m comfortable, don’t ruin my Camelot by letting ‘those’ people in.”

  22. Reading between lines, I smell Nimby

  23. Well it seems that if there is the demand for it… raise the prices! There was an editorial some time ago in I think it was the Minuteman where a woman complained about this very subject. Alot of what she wrote was thinly veiled contempt. But I think she did suggest that a raise in prices was in order. Why not? Supply is a constant, there seems to be more demand, and with locals complaining that parking and space are becoming an issue, there may be a space issue. Lets recoup some of the cleanup costs and raise entry prices.
    That will fix whatever “problem”

  24. Holly Wheeler

    I’ve been thinking more about this … are there ample trash cans at Compo, and are they emptied on a DAILY basis?

    If the trash problem is truly limited to “out-of-towners” (which I sincerely doubt), perhaps a sign that says something like: A dirty beach means higher parking fees. Please use the trash cans.

    Cynic that I am, I hope this would not be an invitation for residents to “plant” garbage in the areas frequented by out-of-towners in order to raise the parking fees and keep them out.

  25. Pingback: Unwelcome At Compo « 06880

  26. It seems like none of those people who were complaining about out-of-towners are commenting on this blog, so maybe the feeling isn’t as widespread as feared. Dan, are you stirring the pot?

  27. Stirring the pot? Mmm, when there’s no news, create the news? See the the Times’ Media Equation today, where David Carr suggests that “the Web’s speed is less a tool of efficacy than instigation.”

  28. The Times holding forth on “efficacy,” now there’s a good joke

  29. As I said, a number of people mentioned the Compo beach scene. I figured it was worth passing along on “06880.” They may or may not even know about this blog.

    This is less a “news” blog than a blog about local trends, topics, ideas, issues (and people and random stuff). I don’t stir the pot — I just provide whatever goes in it. And everyone else is invited to do the same.

  30. My “stir-the-pot” comment was sarcastic. I know you are an upstanding journalist who reports on what you hear. You would not have been in business for so many decades if you were a muckracker.