Jimmy Izzo: “At Compo Beach, Sometimes Less Is More”

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. 

He notes the Parks & Recreation Commission‘s public meeting on Monday, September 29 (Town Hall auditorium, 7:30 p.m.) to hear public opinion on the proposed Compo Beach 2.0 master plan, and writes:

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.

Compo Beach: a town jewel, beloved by all.

Compo Beach: a town jewel, beloved by all.

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.

Compo Beach is timeless. This photo from the 1980s could have been taken any time. (Photo/Larry Silver, courtesy of Bruce Silverstein Gallery)

Compo Beach is timeless. This photo from the 1980s could have been taken any time. (Photo/Larry Silver, courtesy of Bruce Silverstein Gallery)

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.

Jared Frank captured this Compo rainbow.

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.




66 responses to “Jimmy Izzo: “At Compo Beach, Sometimes Less Is More”

  1. Jimmy brings up some good points, but the most important one of all is that we should have this debate as friends. Everyone loves Compo. Everyone wants it to be the best place in the world. Be passionate, but please be nice.

  2. I agree with the thoughtful perspective. Westport should be a community, not just another destination for those with no stake in the town. After all, Sherwood Island is just up the road and a wonderful destination facility. We need the town to have a local character where we actually see people we know and gather informally together

  3. Judy Michaelis

    YES!! I totally agree with Jimmy…only thing I would add is as many other towns do limit the number of out of town weekend passes sold to the first…

  4. Claudia Schattman

    I couldn’t agree more. I love Compo as it is. I spent the first 10 years of my life here. Then moved away only to ” accidentally” return 40 years later with my husband and 4 children. It was so nice to come back and have Compo look familiar, triggering memories of building sand castles with water run off from the showers!!

  5. Thanks Jimmy, and Dan for the posting? Well thought out and well expressed. I do however strongly object to your last bullet point. There is no natural beauty in a “a sign by Owenoke Road laying out our “day pass policy.” The town does not post policy signs on public roads regarding golf, boating or other parks activities. Please, if natural beauty is above all what we seek, then we all want the removal of as many signs as possible, not more, especially at the beach.

  6. Right on, Jimmy! Somehow those we have elected to oversee how our tax dollars are spent must learn to say no. Westport is a great community with what some see as unlimited resources to always have the biggest and brightest of everything. Really good can be better than the newest and most expensive.

  7. Take the 7-10mm and spend it on Sherwood island, the most under utilized property in Westport. Make a skating rink, or a pavilion …or both …to be used on the off season when there is no entry fee. The island is unused by most Wesporters and maybe with some changes, it can be a destination spot from October through April. There are 235 acres filled with beauty and history that’s just sitting there virtually empty 8 months of the year.

    • Mary….Sherwood Island is a State park, and let it stay like that. The last thing we need is to have the town spending money on state property and not even own it or control it. Talk about underutilized, take a look at the Baron’s property north, all that land for dogs and their walkers.

  8. Arlene Avellanet

    Spot on! Let’s not make this another Westport tear down. Jimmy’s procedural recommendations make sense. Compo is predictable and charming, keep it that way.

  9. Michelle Titlebaum

    Totally Agree!!!

  10. Jimmy’s less is more comment is right on target. Having attended a number of the Compo Beach Improvement Committee meetings I also believe that we are in danger of having an over engineered solution presented to the town. The public has made it clear that the beach needs small fixes and not a full renovation. Both the routing and parking suggestions have been vociferously decried by a vast majority of the public attendees at these meetings.

  11. Jimmy izzo has made some excellent points. It is not uncommon for committees to get carried away with their mandates. The Town is looking to maintain a jewel, not replicate the Taj Mahal.

    We need to fix what is broken ( a lot of that is pure maintenance) but we should also take the opportunity to improve some things in anticipation of the future. For example the bathhouse. It is underutilized and, if it is to be rebuilt, should be functional. Many people aren’t aware that you could rent locker space there annually. The problem was that there was a waiting list of several hundred people and turnover was low. Many would love to store their beach paraphernalia there if space were available and publicized.

    The Committee’s suggestions should zero in on fixing what is wrong, and low capital investment improvements that guarantee another 50-100 years of enjoyment.

  12. Totally agree, as well. Wonderful suggestions, insight and comments. Spot on!

  13. Michael Calise

    Right On Jimmy!

  14. Jimmy…YOU GOT IT !!
    Who hired the consultant and appointed the Committee that Doesn’t Listen ?
    The consultant should be terminated and the committee sent home with a “thank you” note.
    And the RTM and BoF should end all funding. Then have a “do-over.”

  15. Jimmy, you raise some interesting points, and I too hope there is careful consideration given to input from members of the public.

    The current situation/proposal reminds me in certain respects of the way the original plan for the new Staples High School was done. There was a detailed plan by the Board of Education that called for a completely new structure on the site of the Staples soccer and baseball fields. That plan generated some strong opposition (on a variety of grounds).

    But the Board of Education felt that its plan was the appropriate course of action and continued with it–until the plan was rejected by the Planning & Zoning Commission. The Board of Ed then went back to the drawing board, and came up with a very different proposal that addressed the concerns that had been previously raised.

  16. And the foot rinse corner. Must stay. It’s perfect and always has been and has served generations of kids and adults without fail. Please consider Jimmy’s practical suggestions that would keep the history of the showers/and foot rinse corner- intact.

  17. I Agree with Jimmy. Fix what is broken and leave the rest alone. There is no real need to make our beloved Compo into a “park” . All summer the beach has been packed with families enjoying it as it is. Yes we do need new tables on the south beach, and bathroom up dates which should be part of general maintenance.
    Let’s not forget it is a beach and with added dunes, boardwalks,etc we still are subjected to storms like Sandy that could destroy all of that.

  18. Compo beach is charming for its simplicity and slight dysfunction. So is downtown. So was the old Levitt. Maintaining the charm of Westport is important, but sometimes I wonder if it’s on the agenda.

  19. Sharon Paulsen

    YES Jimmy!!

  20. As someone that grew up in Westport and dreads returning to see what else has been ruined since my last visit, I would truly appreciate the powers that be heeding Mr. Izzo’s free advice. Please don’t make this one more beautiful Westport spot that is changed for the sake of change. I love the idea shared by another reader about taking the money and putting it toward making Sherwood Island more worthwhile. Really, decades later and its still not worth a visit? Thanks, as always Dan, for letting the voice of Westport be heard.

  21. Thanks Jimmy.

  22. Catherine Calise

    Fantstic posting Jimmy, I totally agree with you!! We are very fortunate to live in such a special town that is rich with charm & character and we need to protect that! Compo is one our town jewel’s and just needs a little polishing at most! We need the public to come and be heard at the Parks & Rec Commission meeting on September 29th at 7:30 in the Town Hall Auditorium. Compo is a beach, let’s keep it that way!
    Catherine Calise
    RTM D2

  23. As always, Jimmy Izzo continues to be a smart, level headed individual with great perspective! His suggestions are always practical and balanced! I wish we had a lot more Jimmy Izzo’s in Westport! Compo is unique and when I hear people talk about “Nantucket …ing” Compo…I want to throw up! If you want Nantucket…then buy or rent a house there…maybe spend a romantic weekend or whatever’…but Compo is Compo! It works. Facelift on the bathhouses…better rest area facilities…got it… Changing traffic patterns…really? I recognize and applaud the committees desire to change and update the current facilities, but these changes should be beneficial to all and not just a few.
    Great suggestion Jimmy!

  24. One issue I’d like to see answered: is there not an out-of-town day parking lot across from the entrance to Compo? If there is, why should we make one inside the park for those itinerants? Make them park there, and if it gets filled up, too bad, no more non pass holders will be allowed. And if they have to schlep their stuff from there to the beach, too bad; don’t like it, go to Sherwood Island instead.

    • Hasn’t the “out of towners” lot been there for many years? Does Compo need to look like Coney Island or some of LA’s beaches (packed with bodies)??? It’s one of the reasons for living in a coastal town, away from LA.

  25. As an avid beachgoer I agree completely with Jimmy. I heard too many references at meetings to Compo in the context of Sherwood Island – a state park – which Compo is not. Compo needs upgrading and improvements but not a costly, major overhaul. Let’s not lose the essence of what is one of our jewels – a town beach – loved by residents and out of towners alike.

  26. I agree as well. Compo is little changed from the ’70s when I was a teenager and it should stay that way. Fix the bathrooms, spruce up the south beach with new tables, fire pits & bathrooms, do something about Joey’s noisy exhaust fan and the squeaky playground swings, limit the number of day passes, improve the regular cleanup of the bathrooms and the sand, put some picnic tables on the patio outside Joey’s and leave it at that!

  27. Well said and thank you for saying it! If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

  28. Rebecca Ellsley

    AGREE! But can I add if we can clean the bathrooms that we have more often would help, Hose off floor in morning / afternoon/ and add fans so its not so crazy hot would help a lot. If we had one part time summer person that just dealt with bathrooms / garbage/ small general cleaning we would be a great place. Thanks

  29. Thank you, Jimmy, for the excellent commentary and alternate ideas! I wholeheartedly agree with everything you’ve said. Compo is full of memories for all who either grew up here or have lived here many years, but I’ve also observed that my guests, who live in other areas, are smitten with the charm and community feel of it. With some small but practical improvements like the ones you suggested, but no major facelift, the beach will retain it’s character and still be an asset to the loveliness of Westport.
    Pam Barkentin Blackburn

    • Agree with you Pam and Jimmy. I’ve loved Compo for 42 years, and other thank a couple of tweaks I agree that less is more!

  30. Makes a lot of sense. Let’s hope someone’s listening

  31. Terry Santella Anzalone

    Thank-you Jimmy
    Let’s not totally erase all of the charm of living in Westport!

    Why spend all of this money on things that are not needed!
    The points you made seem to be what so many of us really want.

  32. Well said. I too am in agreement that in this case, less is more.

  33. Compo is a historical site that contributes to the aesthetics and beauty that we love Westport for.
    With these new changes, people could no longer drive on to the beach for dinner and a sunset — or the elderly that cannot physically walk all the way out to the beach but can drive on.

    This is not the change we need in Westport, how about the mold in the elementary schools still? There is a fine line between want and need, and the beach renovations would be a “want.”

  34. Right On Jimmy! You covered it all. I have lived here since ’83 and Compo is one of the reasons. My kids played and worked there, picnics, watching the sunset, a place to put our boat in the water. Why spend money on what works. Put in new toilets. Leave the parking and the view as is.

  35. Mark J. Marcus

    Thank you Jimmy for your thoughtful and succinct comments. Leave the parking alone and fix the obvious things which really need attention. I hope the powers that be are listening, and that this will not be a case of “the public be damned.”

  36. I agree with Jimmy Izzo and his suggestions. He has some easy and simple fixes. I use the beach daily with my elderly Mom. There are a lot of taxpayers who can’t walk like they used to, but enjoy the drive around the entire beach, pulling up to the sand, and sitting at the beach.

  37. Please, leave well enough alone.
    Compo Beach is really the only common theme for Westporters, past and present.

  38. Nick Castellano


    Having lived in Westport for 30 years I can only say those facilities have withstood the
    test of time. They are architecturally unique and culturally timeless. All they need is a modernization internally. Maybe some solar
    heated hot water. Hand dryers that work etc.
    As for the no passes sold at the gate just brilliant. Would eliminate traffic backup significantly. Widen the entrance approach enough so as to allow traffic to flow past easier. The other points you propose are spot
    on. Stay the course.

  39. Jimmy has hit the nail on the head. As always, his suggestions are smart, thoughtful and balanced! Great suggestions and thanks for all you do to make Westport a better place!

  40. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    If the response from the powers that be is: “Let the public be damned” then y’all should quickly organize a recall election and send them packing.

  41. Let me join in the praise from Mr Izzo. What a great post.

    Imagine using technology to solve the traffic issue. Funny how this has not been discussed by our ‘paid’ consultants. Use online registration. Amazing.

    It is also great to see how many are writing in favor of this post. Shows the committee what the residents want. I would think the committee represents us. Right?

    Maybe time to reduce the amount Mr MARPE put in the long range plan. Might send the right message to all of us, including the committee.

    Thanks Dan for posting this. It is a subject that has received attention on your blog but clearly needs to stay current.

  42. Jimmy is a great guy and a good advocate for making changes that make sense and leaving alone things that are special as is. Sane for Mike Calise! Dan, I think your recommendations for improvements are spot on but the basic configuration of the beach is so natural and wonderful there’s nothing we should do to change that– you feel like you drive up to the beach, park, and grill on a town grill or your own. On the subject of grilling, can we agree that using chimneys with newspaper is the best thing you can do in your backyard to light your charcoal naturally, but at the beach drowning your fellow beachgoers down wind in smoke is a bad idea, maybe Match light is the thing for the beach?

  43. The reality of out of town parking at the beach even on a weekday after Labor Day is that one out of two cars is from out of town 40 New York plates between the pavilion and the canons last Tuesday. Mr Izzo correctly focuses on out of town beach users.

    The plan’s boardwalk which circumnavagates the area is definitely needed and would be much appreciated by the walkers who currently have to walk in the roadway and dodge backing up cars.

    • There might be that many NY or NJ plates but a lot of them might be leased cars belonging to actual residents. So they are fine. It’s the ones with whatever plate they might have that don’t live in town and pay for a day pass; they are the ones that should be restricted to that parking lot across from the entrance.

      • So a Westport resident might lease a car in NY or NJ? And that would be so he or she can avoid local property taxes? Taxes that go in part to pay for the beach…

        • Nope, has little to do with property taxes, those still have to be paid at the same right as townies, it’s just a matter of who their leasing company is and where they register their cars. Since their main home is still Westport, it’s Westport taxes that are paid by their leasing companies. Not as bad as people with Vermont plates on their car just to reduce their car tax, cheaper in Vermont than CT. And if your car is leased and you live in town, you pay the town fee for the beach pass, you’re not getting a free ride anywhere.

  44. Lisa Marie Alter

    Amen, Jimmy !!!

    Love the suggestions about buying passes on line —
    there is so much technology now that would streamline the process.

    Why not just CLEAN THE BEACH (and bathrooms) — REGULARLY – add maybe a few MINOR improvements (yeah, bathrooms at South Beach would be nice — more garbage cans along the Marina and Hillspoint, so maybe folks would be inclined to clean up their trash and dog poop — or at least Don Bergmann would have a place to dispose of it — luv ya, Don 😉 — fix the busted boardwalk — and extend it to the cannons, maybe — and shovel/salt it in the winter for those who enjoy walking, all seasons — ???

    Make a few adjustments, and then let’s try living with it — before we go spending MILLIONS of OUR TAX DOLLARS… on stuff WE DON’T WANT.

  45. Right on the money Jimmy! Spiff up the restrooms, perhaps add restrooms on the south beach, repave and be done with it. That beach is quaint and works quite well as is. Please let’s not screw this up.

  46. September 29th, 7:30pm. Will you show up?

  47. Well said. I’m with you, Jimmy.

  48. Jocelyn Barandiaran

    Agreed. Well said, Jimmy! I hope Parks & Rec and the Compo Beach Committee are reading this.

  49. Jimmy, sorry I am a bit late to this party…and I share your sentiments completely. As your partner on the Parks & Rec RTM Committee, I look forward to working with you and the commission to “get this right” for all our constituents and town guests.

  50. I agree wholeheartedly with Tom Feeley that now is the time to tell that committee thank you very much you guys are done, you’re history, you’re passe, and terminate those two consultant firms and ask them to go bother some other town, and put the matter into the hands of our local government. I’m sure that the RTM Parks and Rec Committee and the other RTM members are astute enough to follow this through, and they have to listen to the populous.

  51. Does anyone know how much we are paying the consultants? Is it a fixed price contract or if we stop it now can we save some of ‘our’ tax dollars to end this mess?

  52. I agree with Jimmy Izzo 100%, I also think we could re-point up the masonry at the bath-house for less than 800,000.00 as had been suggested. 20- 30 bags of cement, some talent and a stryker tool. I went look into the old bath house a few weeks ago, thinking it was all destroyed from what I had been reading, but no all the lockers were there in full use, went into Joeys, never seen it so good in there, in the old days it was much more of a shack. But Yes, Jimmy;s ideas about not having out of town transactions hold up the line at the entrance solves the whole problem, with the traffic. Why in God’s name would anybody want to change a thing?

  53. I have been on “Team Izzo” for 26 years. But never more than RiGHT NOW….thanks Jimmy !

  54. I agree with Jimmy Izzo. Compo Beach is the perfect town beach in so many ways. Let’s not fix it if it ain’t broke, and spend a fortune doing it. There is a reason it’s used so enthusiastically by so many. If some folks think it’s a mess, they should go elsewhere.

  55. Jill Sherter

    Well said Jimmy!