The Public Can Now See The Compo Beach Plan

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:

Part of the plan. A link to the full plan -- in a much larger format -- is at the end of this story.

Part of the new design. A link to the full plan — in a much larger format — is at the end of this story.

It includes:

  • 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.




44 responses to “The Public Can Now See The Compo Beach Plan

  1. Sandy Soennichsen

    Oh now, here we go. It immediately brings to mind an old maxim: a camel is a horse designed by a committee.
    Please, an “arrival court?” That already sounds like an accident waiting to happen, and a backup that the beach has never seen before. I hope it includes valets to park ones cars, and of course, metal detectors supervised by armed guards to make sure terrorists are not infiltrating the beach (maybe the British trying to sneak in and take over the beach again).
    An “eastern pavilion” about 100 yards away from the main pavilion? An exercise equipment area so that Compo can have it’s own Muscle Beach like in California? Planted dunes and berms? Were dunes and berms ever indigenous at the beach? And who will guarantee their survival after another hurricane, and the committee now guarantees their survival?
    I’m sorry, I see a lot of razzle-dazzle and very little substance; and I see a lot of blowing smoke here with very little common sense. Is anybody listening, is anybody there?

  2. Bobbi Essagof

    Now just put the parking spaces next to the beach back and all will be great!

  3. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    Sandy, as usual, you “get it” and in this situation, as in so many others are extremely perceptive, not to mention articulate. All the people with common sense in Wetspot have gotten old/senile, passed on or like yours truly, moved away. If a foreign power tries to “sneak in” it won’t be the British, but I wouldn’t put it past the Japanese unless, like all the “Old Westporters” all the “Old Samurai” have gotten old/senile, passed on or like yours truly, moved away. The only thing that is still vaguely familiar from “the good old days” is the complaints about New Yorkers tubbernecki9ng in their cars and causing traffic jams.

  4. Looks lovely. But is there a demand for such a drastic redesign of the beach? It looks like there would be significant changes in the infrastructure surrounding South Beach and a lot of reconfiguring of the “Main” Beach and construction of several new Pavilions. Not too mention the rerouting of traffic in a new pattern. All of these long term changes in addition to the reconstruction that’s needed in the short term will be probably be pretty expensive so, I reiterate, why? Were there a rash of pedestrian accidents in the past year? Does this plan solve the problem of increased neighborhood traffic on a beautiful beach day? Is this lovely diagram a solution looking for a problem? Just wondering.

  5. Looks like less parking space. What’s the count, drawing vs. current?

  6. Bart Shuldman

    Now that I see the drawings I must say I am not impressed. One area is a parking lot and boat sanctuary. I don’t see how we are eliminating not seeing cars. Now we will have a lot and boats behind it. And that’s not pretty at all.

    When this committee was started were they directed to change where we park? Was it a concern that had to be addressed? Or just ‘committee creep’?

  7. Shame, Shame, Shame. A lot of our tax dollars for something no one wants or needs.

    • Bart Shuldman

      Marty. Who knows what this will cost. Surprised they didn’t try and do more?

      Where will the money come from? We need things to be fixed but now we see all this. Just tax is more?

  8. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    While I’m not supposed to be commenting on a place I haven’t lived in for decades, I do find this idea of sand dunes, on what I recall to be a rather rocky beach, strange. It’s not Oregon sand. Not sure about the proposed planting, for that matter. More details are required.

  9. Was the committee given any parameters in terms of a cap on the cost associated with any new design? Or is the budget completely open-ended? None are listed in the “Guiding Principles and Project Objectives” and I can’t seem to find this information anyplace else on

    Having sat through yet another budget season where we discussed pushing off necessary maintenance to our school facilities to keep the education budget down, I’d be interested to see both the estimated cost of this master plan and the committee’s thoughts as to how the town will pay for all of this — both the initial construction and ongoing maintenance of all of the new structures.

  10. Ching, ching! Looks very expensive and unnecessary. This committee has gone way overboard. Time to rein it in, folks. Our taxes are going to go up enough as it is without a total redo of Compo Beach.

  11. David J Loffredo

    I like it

  12. Sharon Paulsen

    Lots of good points here. Guess I’m on the fence, but leaning towards keeping the current parking arrangement. Heck, it’s been that way since I was a kid growing up on Compo in the 70’s. And I have fond memories of snagging that coveted parking spot “right on the beach”, both as a child (knowing my Mom and I had to lug all our “stuff” to that “perfect spot in the sand”), and as a newly licensed teen driver, heading to the beach with friends, lugging only towels and Dairy Queen take-out.
    One thing I can say for certain – those bath houses and storage lockers always seemed grungy to me. Some of us kids would joke that the locker areas were haunted by ancient Roman’s (not sure how we came to THAT consensus – might have been a beach school rumor, ha). Nevertheless, I did get a creepy vibe in there. Not sure what they’ve been like in the last decade or so.
    I can also say that in my opinion, the traffic flow was always perfectly acceptable, and “back then”, the beach would be literally packed in the summer. So, not sure what “needs fixing” now, except to say that I haven’t been to Compo during summer peak in over 10 years.
    Last note: how much did it cost tax payers to overhaul the Staples campus?? I hear it’s lovely. There must have been a hefty budget to spend education dollars on that major project. But that was some years ago, yes?

  13. Was it broken? Nothing is perfect.

  14. Nice…but not in my backyard! Compo Beach does not need to look like the above rendering! We need to tone it down and realize that a lot of money is being spent and the people are not being heard! Keep the parking as is. Modify as little as possible and rebuild the structures. Extend boardwalk. Set up small covered areas…but leave the parking as is! It works!

  15. Jennifer Rankine

    As so many others have already said, I would focus on fixing up what needs fixing (bathhouses) and stay away from a redesign which will change the simple charm and character of the beach that serves us so well as-is. A major concern I see, which has not been discussed much, is the marina and boat launch area. I find the simple structure at the marina perfectly adequate and charming as-is today, with a little fix-up. The new building proposed is an unneccessary expense and appears to take up a lot of much needed space for boaters. The parking spaces we have today near the existing boat ramp are critical to boaters (who lug a lot of equipment off/on their boats) but they are gone from this drawing, and the existing launch ramp is shown on the map, but not designated as such. If the intent is to move all boat launching to the ramp near the point (towards south beach,) it won’t work. That ramp drops right into an already extremely tight channel which carries a lot of (large) boat traffic. There is no room, nor any dock space, for larger “launched” boats to be temporarily tied-up. At best, it serves as a place where the Hobies and day-sailers can be launched and then immediately sailed away. To try to redirect any other launch-traffic over there is a mistake. It is critical to retain the parking spaces that exist today over by the current marina launch ramp. People towing boats need to be able to launch them from this ramp in the shelter of the harbor, and then quickly pull their car/trailer up to the lot so they can go back down and tend to getting their boat pulled up alongside a dock until ready to load passengers. Even though they might ultimately move the trailer, they need temporary space to be able to maneuver. Have the marine police and harbormaster been brought into this planning phase? Perhaps I am missing something, but as it is marked on the plans here it makes no sense to me. One other note, I see no reason to add another beach pavillion on South Beach. Some bathrooms, ok, but not another building on top of that. An yes, please keep the perimeter parking, and keep the pedestrian/runner/bike (?) loop on the inside of the existing beach loop lane. Imagine the mess on a Saturday/Sunday when people are trying to drag all their BBQ gear, and walk their children and/or elderly parents, from the inner parking lot across a road and a running path. It just seems like there is far more overdesign than is needed, or desired, in this master plan. Less is more.

  16. Joey Kaempfer

    Is it possible for the committee to give the wider public the exact parking count as Compo exists today, or the count it could hold if cleaned up and re-striped and the then car count for their proposed new plan? Thank you, Joey

  17. Where’s the skate park?

  18. Bart Shuldman

    I just have to think that other towns look toward Westport and wish they had our situation–existing parking situation. Sit in your car on a snowy day and look over the beach. During food and some fine wine and BBQ right at the beach with your truck opened next to the BBQ.

    Why do we have to be like others when we have what is best. Why ask our town to lower what we have when we have the best? Comparing Westport to any other place lowers what we have.

    By the way-I consider myself one of the new residents. Not one of the ‘remembering when’ crowd. Thought that comment by someone was not all that nice as we need everyone’s opinion to make this right.

  19. Werner Liepolt

    The plan seems to eliminate most of the trees presently growing at Compo.

  20. David Schaffer

    Not that it’s needed but I’ll add my voice to the “keep the parking alongside the beach” contingent. Seems like if that is the overwhelming sentiment in town in should prevail, and it has been an historic characteristic of Compo that I’ve enjoyed as well.

    I always preferred Burying Hill Beach to Compo. I can remember walking along the shoreline under the high-tide mark past Peter Straub’s house and the other mansions along the beach to the seawall.

  21. Jennifer Forrester

    Maybe I’ve missed it, but has anyone talked about how long all of these “improvements” aka construction would take, realistically? Surely this should be a major factor in the decision making process…
    During this time, what exactly would our access to the beach look like? Do they just plan on closing it entirely, or would orange construction netting replace the steel and chrome for months on end?

  22. Thank you Skip Lane and Michael Calise for presenting two well thought out, constructive, and respectful letters on the topic, despite being on opposite ends of the spectrum. The town would probably be better off putting the two of you in a room to come up with a reasonable compromise without all the outside noise, unfortunately that’s not realistic. It makes sense to me that the committee would start off with an aggressive plan then scale back instead of the opposite. I’m not sure everything in this plan is necessary or that it all has to be done at once (maybe the marina buildings could wait, for example), but certainly this plan addresses everything and through town meetings can be adjusted as makes sense. What confuses me about the dissent is the notion that you can not sit in your car and see the beach…based on the proposal above there certainly seems to still be many spots along South Beach that are still facing the water, the 20 yards they are moved off the beach certainly shouldn’t inhibit anyone from sitting in their car and enjoying the view. And with the exception of the South Beach Pavilion and Bathhouse (which most seem to agree are a good idea), it doesn’t seem like many South Beach spots are being eliminated. As for the notion of “having to walk an extra 30 yards”, maybe I’m just unlucky, but I never seem to get a parking spot in the current set up right where I am posting up anyways, so I’m already lugging my stuff a decent distance, so seems like a wash to me (I have two young kids who need to be carried through the parking lot, so I do appreciate people that have a lot to carry, but my family somehow still manages). Clearly altering Compo Beach is not something to take lightly, but when actually looking at the proposal the changes seem far less drastic then many of the commenters have made them out to be, in my opinion. I’m also confident that the above rendering will not be the final outcome, so hopefully a compromise that does involve some well thought out, forward thinking change can be reached.

  23. Sally Campbell Palmer

    Chopped up, overbuilt and very expensive!

  24. It would seem that almost everyone is in favor of a master plan that cleans up the bathhouses, increases the efficiency of the entrance area and access to the concession stand at a REASONABLE cost to the taxpayers of the town. Maybe even adding another bathhouse/toilet to the south beach.

    It is obvious from all the responses to this blog that it is most important to Westporters to keep the traffic pattern and beach parking as is!! And it is also important to know how many parking spaces are being sacrificed if the new plan were to be adopted.

    Can we avoid the classic confrontation that is potentially being setup right here in of all places- Westport. Do we, the folks who live here and pay the taxes, have representatives (who pick the committees who pick the planners) that can either encourage incorporating the public sentiment into the planning process or are willing to intervene if needed. Or will this be just another situation where an expert comes to town and tells us what’s good for us, just knows what we really want – even if we keep saying we don’t want that!!

    Seems like an opportunity for Dan to give all the folks posting here the opportunity to vote- even if it’s unofficial it gives a sense of the opinion in town- 1) keep the current close to the beach parking with probably more parking spots available or 2) centralize the parking to a parking lot further away from the beach with probably less parking spots.

  25. Number 1!

  26. denise torve

    For all of us who love and use Compo Beach, pay attention to the plans that are being suggested and if you don’t like what you see, make your voices heard, loudly and often. Compo is not a State Park and repeated references to state parks are troubling. Compo is a neighborhood beach and that neighborhood is Westport. Fix and enhance what became necessary after Sandy, and the march of time,, but do not ruin the essence of our Compo Beach.

  27. Jennifer Rankine

    “Moss said other issues the committee is considering include the addition of lighting, also for safety, updating the bathhouse and providing a year-round bathroom. In fact, he said, the estimated the cost for any updates to the beach would run about $7 million with $4 million alone going for the new bathhouse.” – Westport News, April 10th, 2014

    $50,000 for the current study in progress

  28. Bart Shuldman

    Costs=$7 million minimum based on what they are proposing. $4 million for the bathhouse alone. Knowing these type of projects except those numbers to climb to do everything this committee is proposing.

    Given the strides this town has made to hold taxes down and how much they work the education budget down, does anyone think this will get approved? RTM? finance board? 1st/2nd Selectman?

  29. An unofficial unscientific poll about the compo plan might be very interesting and at the very least it might instigate an official scientific poll. Dan, have you ever used wordpress’s embedded polling features?

    • Yes, I have — but not for anything serious. I don’t want an unscientific poll (like this would be) to be misused or miscontrued/

  30. Don Bergmann

    Some quick comments:
    1. While cost is always relevant, indeed crucial, it is often best to start with what you are trying to achieve and then determine if we want to spend the money.
    .2. Many voices are now being heard, some like me, want to favor people out of cars rather than in cars and think walking, if not disabled, is a good thing.
    3. The beach and water between the canons and the bath houses are easily visible from one’s car, though the view is from the parking area over a one way roadway. Water watching from the car is also provided for at the end of South Beach.
    4. If it is warm, most should try to get out of their cars.
    5. The low sand berms at South Beach will block the view of cars from that beach, except through the several drop off areas, a result I like.
    6. Total parking spaces remain the same, about 700 I think.
    7. Opposition to change is always more vocal then support for change.
    Don Bergmann,

  31. Not to diminish what Compo is, but if we want grassy dunes to block the parking lot view…well just hop on 95 North or South … to Rhode Island or Cape Cod…perhaps The “fashionable” Hampton’s or maybe the Jersey Shore…. We are not a beach on the Atlantic but a local town beach,albeit a great one, on the Long Island Sound. Also, think of the regular replacement and ongoing maintenance costs of the dune and dune grass when a big nor’easter comes tearing across the beach…or erodes back into the sound. Great for Kowalsky….bad for Westport taxpayers.

  32. Jeff Northrop

    When I built the marina, Northrop’s Landing, (which occupied the now Sagatuck Rowing Club property) we were mandated by the EPA and DEP to have “any and all” parking areas covered with crushed clam shells to prevent runoff from cars leeching into the river. This same problem will exist if we pave over the existing parking areas as shown in the new plan. As a “local”, or “native”, I question the need for many of these improvements. As a boater and slip holder at Compo I question the destruction of the existing “club house” that originally housed what became the “Cedar Point” club. I have watched various administrations destroy many historically significant structures in our town, and now they turn their eyes to the beach area. Please replace the rundown bath houses, extend the boardwalk if you must, but don’t destroy the flavor of our beach.

    • Yea Jeff !

      • Bart Shuldman

        So how much are we paying consultants that are making decision on design that have these kind of design issues? Our hard earned tax dollars at work?