Jimmy Izzo is a native Westporter and Staples High School graduate; the longtime owner of Crossroads Ace Hardware; a District 3 RTM member, and — importantly for the purposes of this story — a longtime Compo beachgoer.
Many of us are passionate about our beach. This topic will continue to be debated.
There is no crime in adjusting this plan to meet the needs and wants of Westport taxpayers and beach users. The crime would be for the Compo Beach Committee, Parks & Recreation Commission and Board of Selectmen to not listen to the public.
I personally see no need to spend between $5 million and $7 million on a park venue that really doesn’t need much more than added bathrooms to the south beach; cleaner, more functioning bathrooms by the bathhouse, and a minor facelift — not a complete makeover.
First, the bathhouses. For a structure that is used only a few months out of the year, and brings in between $10,000 and $12,000 annually, I see no reason to blow it up. The history and historic meaning to our community, past and present, is reason enough to leave it alone. If the Masonic temple is good enough to be deemed historic, so should our Compo bathhouse.
The Compo Beach committee has brought up weekend traffic as being a problem, and proposed moving the entrance and creating another lane. Again, in my opinion, there is no need to blow up what already works 95% of the time the beach is being used.
Here are some options which I believe would be a better alternative than spending taxpayer money:
- No day beach passes purchased at the gate on weekends and holidays.
- Passes can be purchased at the Parks & Rec Department as late on Saturday at 12 p.m., or until the office closes.
- Allow passes to be purchased online, like other Parks & Rec purchases. They can be printed out like airline tickets.
- Create an “out of town parking area” in the middle of the beach for weekends and holidays. There is no reason prime parking spots should ever go to non-residents.
- Post a sign by Owenoke Road laying out our “day pass policy.”
These are just suggestions. By entertaining a few of these simple steps, we alleviate Parks & Rec employees from spending unnecessary time conducting “business transactions” that take them away from other important things at the beach, like making sure our restrooms are clean, garbage is picked up, and parking lots filled accordingly. Conducting business at the gate creates traffic jams.
I commend the Compo Beach Committee for their hard work in trying to help make our beach better. We have to realize that Compo is already a really good place. Improvements must be handled with care and sensitivity, with concern for the many residents who have for generations enjoyed Compo, and appreciate its natural beauty as is.
It is important that, in the end, everyone is on the same page when it comes to our beach. We as a town cannot afford — financially or emotionally — not to have complete public support when it comes to proposed changes at Compo, regardless of how large or small they may be.
We don’t need another contentious situation like the Y to Mahackeno, where the wounds ran deep and the healing process was long.
Let’s not complicate simplicity, and always remember that sometimes less is more.