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!