Compo Beach Plan Gets Rocky Reception

A member of the Compo Beach Master Plan Committee called last April’s public meeting — where opposition to new proposals, particularly perimeter parking, surfaced strongly — a “flash mob.”

Last night’s meeting at Town Hall — the 1st time the Parks and Recreation Commission reviewed the plan — was far less contentious. Citizens waited patiently through the consultants’ presentation of conceptual — not final — ideas, and a few commissioners’ questions, before speaking.

But when they spoke, they voiced a number of concerns.

As First Selectman Jim Marpe noted, Compo is used in “an amazing number of ways, and in common.” He spoke of the importance of investing in, upgrading and improving areas of the beach “where it makes sense.”

Compo Beach: a town jewel, beloved by all.

Compo Beach: a town jewel, beloved by all.

Introducing 2 plans — Options A and B — Consultants AKRF and Lothrop Associates expressed the hope that “everyone will like everything,” but cautioned, “no one will like everything.”

They sure didn’t.

Both plans show:

  • a new entrance across from Bradley Street, with permit pass-checking deeper into the beach than now exists
  • a driving loop around the beach, with perimeter pathways for walkers, joggers and bikers
  • an extended boardwalk, toward the cannons
  • exercise stations
  • upgraded bathrooms, lockers and Joey’s
  • redesigned marina promenade
  • unobstructed parking spaces
  • new trees
  • improved facilities (including a bathroom) on South Beach
  • a central lawn for picnics and special events, like Lobsterfest
  • new walkways along Soundview Drive and Compo Beach Road.

Option A pushes all parking back from the beach. Option B removes some of that, but allows some parking similar to what now exists on South Beach.

Both plans remove 200 to 300 parking spaces from the current number, which is around 1900.

Parking is one of the most contentious parts of the 2 beach proposals.

Parking is one of the most contentious parts of the 2 beach proposals.

Parks & Rec chair Charlie Haberstroh allowed youngsters to speak first. Several spoke eloquently and passionately of the need to retain the skate park. It does not appear in the current plans, but Parks & Rec director Stuart McCarthy said room could be made for it.

Then came comments from older folks. An early question covered costs. New buildings would run approximately $4 million; site work would be another $4 million. (Paving alone — included in site work — is about $2 million.)

Speakers zeroed in on specific concerns: Bradley Street will become more congested. The amount of asphalt and concrete that would be added to what are now “pervious” parking lots. The number of kayak racks that would be lost (none, McCarthy said).

Among the comments:

“You’re sacrificing 200 to 400 parking spaces for lawn and shrubs.”

“Parking and views are there 365 days a year. Traffic problems, they’re only 40 days or so.”

“I don’t understand all the talk about safety. The Sound is more dangerous than the beach.”

John Brandt referred back to an earlier speech. “You don’t fracture a gem,” the longtime Westporter said. “You polish it. We need to find a way to polish this gem.”

Compo Beach: a true town gem.

Compo Beach is a true town gem.

As Compo Beach Master Plan committee chair Andy Moss noted, plenty of dialogue and debate lie ahead. The Compo Beach proposals — which are still only design concepts — must still make their way through the Recreation Commission. Then comes the Planning and Zoning Commission, the selectmen, back to Parks & Rec, back to P&Z, and finally to the town’s funding bodies (Board of Finance and RTM).

Meanwhile, Westporters will continue to debate what they want — and don’t — for the town’s crown jewel.

The dialogue began last night. It can continue here. Click “Comments” — but please, be civil. Debate ideas; don’t castigate people. And use your full, real name.

56 responses to “Compo Beach Plan Gets Rocky Reception

  1. How can you improve on perfection? It’s such raw beauty that is becoming more rare everywhere. Everything is so manicured these days and “pristine” with added stuff. I can’t help but notice when glancing through the plans, they still call it “Compo Park?” Is that still on the table? God no — it’s the beach. Don’t live in Westport anymore but we visit once a year at least for a coffee or a dinner and sometimes a stroll through old memories including the beach — I can’t imagine Compo Beach not remaining largely as it is. That would be worse than 100 more tear downs. :/

    • Totally agree.

    • Roland Lochoff

      I am sorry but I don’t find cars powered by internal explosions and emitting poison from their tailpipes “pristine”. So I am all in agreement with subtracting “stuff”. Get the cars away from nature.

    • E. van Dorsten

      see above article , last paragraph, which states as the last step..: “and finally to the town’s funding bodies” . It appears this process is backwards…First, one should go to the Board of Finance and ask how much money the town has to spend on the project? Second, ask how much our taxes will go up to fund the expenditure. With that answer in hand one can then start a planning session. Having an approved budget amount allows the electorate to know ahead of time how much their taxes will increase. The current process of planning first and getting funding approval last is equivalent to an open checkbook using taxpayer dollars and puts the wrong kind of pressure on the Board of Finance and RTM. As it stands, the wish list has come first and the method and ability for funding comes last. Will Westport still have a 17.94 mill rate when this is all said and done??!! If so, what other town spending must be cut to pay for these “improvements” so as not to increase the town’s indebtedness? And lastly, are the proposed, future, Downtown expenditures being considered when looking at the cost of these Compo improvements?

  2. Beth Berkowitz

    I agree, I think they should improve the bathrooms and the walking and jogging areas and leave the overall parking alone. It’s important not to loose many parking spaces even if people have to walk slightly farther from their cars to the beach, it’s good exercise. One of the main reasons for going to compo is to be outside and to possibly get a little exercise. Adding more boardwalk and paths for jogging and walking would be beneficial to most people. Improving and adding bathrooms would also be beneficial to most people. We need to think what improvements will be beneficial in the long run to most people in town and how do we keep the costs down at the same time.

    What do most people use the most and focus on that the most then what needs the most updating for the better of the town and how can we improve it in a cost effective way? I think most people want to keep it simple and keep the current user friendly way compo is right now. Can we just clean up the facilities and repave the existing parking lot? Can we keep the grassy areas where they are? Maybe add a few extra trees for extra shade and keep the parking spaces? Do we really need more grassy picnic areas?

    Can we keep the skate park, but maybe move it off to the side and use that area for possible lost parking spaces?

    If we move the entrance to the park where they check for parking stickers can we increase parking spaces where they currently check the cars as they enter? How often do the lines getting into the parking lot back up and take more than 5 minutes to enter the parking lots other than for July 4th? Not often it’s usually just a steady flow.

  3. Regarding the reduction of parking space I would be interested in knowing the number of cars paying for one day parking during one beach season. Who has that number? Perhaps it has been mentioned but if so please tell us again. I agree with Mr Brandt. Let’s polish the gem. Oh, that would include the less than pleasant rest rooms.

  4. What a shame !
    Taxpayers speak out, elected and appointed committee members don’t listen and react ?
    Starting to look like bad leadership all over again.
    What a shame 🙁

    • What an awful comment.

      • @Avi:
        you got a better explanation ? Speak up or….
        Pretty obvious the “leadership” has neither listened or intervened.

    • Tom, you’re right, not a lot of listening going on. The consulting companies are doing the old two step again to keep their jobs, but all they are showing us is their ineffectiveness. It’s not so much the other town leadership, it’s those two consultants and the committee that started screwing everything up.

      • Sandy, if you spend taxpayer money for consultants who don’t listen to the tax payers., Somebody’s got to step up and put their foot down. That’s leadership.

  5. Why is there a constant need to want to modernize everything, as if the act itself automatically makes things better? The beauty of Compo Beach is in the fact that it IS a little olde worlde. It’s where we go to slow down, to take a breath. Let’s not allow anyone to McBeach our little slice of a bygone era. We love it because of its quirks, not despite them.

  6. I have never attended a TownHall meeting, and I have attended a few, where so many people felt so passionate about a particular issue. So many people said essentially the same thing…and as Mr. Brandt so elequantly stated.. polish the Gem! Also, several others, such as Jimmy Izzo and Michael Calise had great points and an accurate and intimate understanding of Compos usage. After all, are you really going to argue usage intelligently with a guy whose license plate reads…COMPO. That kind of says it all!

  7. Re–Bradley entrance:
    We live on Danbury and have grown children– however, MANY little kids (are growing up) full time down here.. ( like 40??) They are learning to ride their bikes and play on these beach neighborhood, mostly quiet roads which have NO SIDEWALKS.

    A Bradley entrance scares me– the people cutting thru now–Already Blow Right Through the 4way stop of bradley/danbury.. In a big hurry, noone’s looking out for kids and/or the beach pedestrians who walk the streets here… Im afraid this new entrance will wreck Bradley and this quiet neighborhood.

    Anyone with a young family in this part of the neighorhood– should be
    (Freaking Out) and watching this, perhaps getting involved????

    Maybe if it has to happen, plan a Speed bump?

    Betsy p Kahn

  8. Michael Scherer

    Wow. What a disaster for the Park and Rec commission, the Compo2 Committee and their design firm last night. The solution seems simple: improve (I’d say rebuild) the bathrooms, beach lockers, etc. and leave all else largely alone. Seems universal that Westport wants to keep Compo Beach a beach, and not force it into a man-made park (I believe “McMansionize” was a verb used last night)….

    On the skate park, which I am a fan of the kids keeping, I understand that its staff took it upon themselves last summer to research what it would take to modernize (including improving appeal, safety and appearance, not unlike what Fairfield has recently done). It would actually shrink its footprint by 50+% (a significant portion of the site today is unused, and its current style of ramps is out of date).

  9. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    It appears that the CBMPC did little if any external needs analysis/discovery by speaking to ordinary residents which is job #1 for any consulting task force. That was their 1st mistake. Now they appear to be incapable of doing anything but “rope a dope” when they do meet with the public at large. Via current governance, deny the Recreation Department funding to do anything other than bring what is below standards (bathhouse/restroom maintenance, etc.) up to snuff. In other words: NO capital expenditures other than to maintain status quo and only operating funds as per department budget. That seems to be what the majority is saying they would want as a baseline and what the CBMPC isn’t hearing or denying. It would also be the least expensive route and would not pre-empt later proposals once Westport leadership figures out how to govern itself, listen to its residents and most importantly hear what they are saying. Find out who is responsible for the CBMPC idea and call them to task.

  10. Here’s what I sent to Charlie Haberstroh at 7:57 while sitting in the audience:
    To the commission:
    I am in the audience, but wanted to make sure my voice was heard.
    While Compo is in need of some rehabilitation, I do not feel the two master plans being offered fit into the character of what Compo has been and should be.
    Yes the entrance, lockers and structures should be repaired or restored.
    What should not change is the access to the sand (i.e. drive up on the west beach (faces Saugatuck Shores) or against the curb on the south beach, closest to the locker/beach house). It is space that many residents and visitors enjoy walking along.
    I also believe the skate park MUST be retained. To have our children play there rather than an un-monitored environment elsewhere in town would be a mistake.
    To budget $7 MM is tough swallow. To restructure Compo at this cost doesn’t make sense. How many teachers/police/EMS, ETC. could we hire for that money?
    Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.

    {I wanted to add that I was born and raised in Weston, and a 26 year resident of Westport. I have not had any children in the Westport schools. When the skate park was created I was not a fan for a variety of reasons, but know it was a place for kids to have fun. These days I strongly believe the skate park is needed. I just wish the kids using it would snug their helmet straps a little tighter, but that’s for another post.}

  11. Hats Off! to Charlie Haberstroh who brought much needed decorum to the process. The willingness of the commission to listen which brought thoughtful debate was a good new step. The message (which by the way has been ignored over the past year) was clearly and effectively put back on the table by many clear thinking and forceful speakers. Hopefully Charlie’s invitation for continuing input via e-mails and letters to the commission will be acted upon by all who have an interest in Compo’s future.

  12. Charlie Haberstroh

    I want to thank all the members of the public who attended the Parks and Rec. Commission meeting last night for their consideration and cordial behavior during the meeting. The Commission heard your comments and will continue to hear them as it works with the Committee in the coming work session(s). While the public will be invited to the work sessions, in order to permit us to work on specific recommendations efficiently, no public comment will be allowed in the work sessions. However, in the regular or special meeting of the Commissioners in which we vote on recommendations, public input will again be welcomed.

  13. Dan,

    I haven’t lived in Westport for many years now, but enjoy following your blog to see what is going on in Westport.

    I graduated from Staples in 2000 and was a member, and for a year President of the Westport Town Youth Commission.

    One of our initiatives on the WTYC was putting that skate park in at Compo. It came about because Westporters and retailers didn’t like Westport youth skateboarding around town, etc. That skatepark was an alternative for a place for kids to go to and skate in a “Westporter approved location” and where they could be themselves, get some exercise and express who they are. If they decide to get rid of the skate park at Compo I would be upset to hear about it as sounds like it has been a great success over the years.

    If they get rid of it, the same problem will arise as it did 15 years ago of youth wanting a space where they can go and skate and just be themselves.

    I’ll be interested to see what happens with this.


    Laura Olsen (nee Hayton)

    Sent from my iPhone


  14. Mark J. Marcus

    What more does the Commission need to hear? Hundreds of Westporters attended last night’s hearing. Not one person spoke in favor of the committee’s plan(s). The message should be clear. Deal with those things which are in obvious need of attention or repair and LEAVE THE PARKING ALONE.

  15. If the Coalition for Westport finds out that no one is for progress at Compo Beach they are going to get really, really mad. Hopefully no one will tell them.

    • Bet they will see lots of “progress” around putting the police station on the softball fields behind town hall…..yes, that has been floated by the consultants studying downtown….

  16. It does appear that CFW equates Progress with any Consultant-Led Special Interest Project

  17. Did anyone address the reason for wanting to getting rid of parking along the water in the first place? I don’t get it at all. Parking by the water at Compo beach is, hands down, the single best Westport amenity. It is the most wonderful peaceful thing to do any time of year, any time of day. If you simply widen the entrance by taking it further into the beach by 30 feet or so and create a better turn around, spruce up the bathrooms and maybe invest in a
    low profile, high tech bathroom by the south side. But please, please, please, please, please don’t take away that wonderful waterfront parking. Please!!

    • I will do a 60s sit in (or sit at) if this passes and they try taking those perimeter parking spaces away ….and I am sure others will follow.. (or take over)

      • Be glad that you’re not in Hong Kong tonight.
        i.e. Westport’s small potato problems are small potatoes.

        • I will still be passionate about my local beach that I have gone to my entire life and where I still find solace and relaxation throughout the year. They might be small potatoes but they’re my potatoes.

          • Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

            My 2nd date with my wife was lunch – Oscar’s sandwiches at Compo in the car in the dead of winter. 27 years later she still talks about how much fun it was.

            • I suppose you’re going to tell us you went there to watch the “submarine races?” 🙂

              That’s what we said when I was in high school. I’ll give you folks a minute to think about it. 🙂

  18. I have attended the Compo public meetings including Monday night until 11pm. CFW is aware of the proposals. I did not speak at Monday’s meeting because all the speakers so eloquently and passionately stated their views better than I could have done. And which I have stated previously on this blog in response to Jimmy Izzo’s earlier posting. Repair what needs to be repaired and maintain the character of Compo – a family oriented town beach – not a state park and not a resort – that is enjoyed year round. Snide remarks do not contribute anything positive to the conversation.

  19. Save 2 million in paving expense and try out grass on all three parking lots, just like YALE BOWL. Pave paradise put up a parking lot.

  20. It look to me like the people have spoken. By the way there is a concrete/cement skate park at Flushing Meadows park about 300 yards south of the Unisphere. Very cool and unobtrusive.

  21. Why are the two consulting companies still around? Are they on the clock for us? It’s time to say here’s your ill gotten gains, thank you not very much, and don’t let the door hit you on the way out. I think we have enough improvements and over-improvements to consider, and that should be the Parks and Rec job on how that is to be brought to the public. Oh, and it’s probably time to say adios to the committee also.
    Is it difficult to understand? Many residents have spoken. Fix what needs to be done, bath houses, Joeys, bathroom at South Beach, leave the parking alone. Oh, and you can repair the boardwalk, maybe expand it.
    I still don’t know why we allow day payers into the main parking lot. There is a parking lot right across for the entrance that they should use. There’s a booth there already, the cars can pull in, pay their money, and park. That way they are out of the traffic pattern. If the lot gets filled up, so sorry, try Sherwood Island down the road. Isn’t that why that lot was put there in the first place?

    • This is a valid question. Maybe it was already mentioned, but who is paying for this “consulting”. Its clear that this is a dead end and many, including myself would be very unhappy with either of these proposals going through. Since we all pay for the use of the facility, don’t we get a say in what happens to it? And everything you mentioned above, Sandy, is spot on. Spruce up everything, leave parking alone, and all day pass parking should be in the soundview lot.

      • Sheree Purcell

        I agree with you 100% Sam! “Since we all pay for the use of the facility, don’t we get a say in what happens to it?” I don’t understand why 20 people on the committee are getting to make these decisions for an entire town of tax payers? Why don’t we all get to vote on each bullet point item that they are requesting to change? Residents of this town should have the final say in what is or isn’t changed.

        • In some sense you do have a final say; you can fire the people who appointed the committees, and those who vote to spend your tax dollars in ways you do not approve. The numerous committees are unguided missiles funded with your money. They recommend changes you may or may not want, but which fit their narrow visions.

  22. Denise Torve

    Once my 3 kids were grown, I left the playground area, Joey’s, and the south end. The favorite spot for my friends and me (and my kids when they deign to sun with mom) is the area right opposite the Soundview lot. Just cross the road and we’re in paradise. I sure don’t want that lot filled to capacity with out of towners. If they’re residents, not a problem – share and share alike, Find a space in the main lot for non-residents not the convenience of Soundview which is prime parking to some. And consider limiting the number of day passes.

  23. Carolanne Curry

    The best said is that
    Compo Beach is a gem
    That gem needs polishing, not fracturing.
    Perimeter parking is unique and a wonderful part of this Westport gem.

  24. I agree totally that John Brandt’s gem analogy hits the spot and it is most obvious that such changes as removing parking facing the seashore, moving the entrance to opposite Bradley, displacing the skate park and massive projects like paving parking not currently paved while reducing the number of parking spaces are not things any of us want or can support spending our money on. The people have spoken and have spoken most articulately.

    What is also troubling is that at last year’s charrette the message was basically the same…..the gem needs polishing, not fracturing. I came away from that meeting energized. How great it seemed to be able to take part with a huge cross section of townspeople in helping shape the future of the single place in town I most frequent other than my home. The committee and consultants were present at that charrette, but it appears they ignored the message of the people and went forward with what they had already decided upon. This may explain the rather modest interest in the charrette for changes to Downtown.

  25. Bill, you are so right. I fear that these expensive study’s by consultants translate their vision and some recognition if they can get some community to buy into it. This is not Nantucket and Compo certainly is not a park! We are a sophisticated group of neighbors but the majority shared a common theme. Add to the options and take out roundabouts and do not touch beach front parking. Do not make both the young and the elderly cross back and forth across traffic! How much time did these consultants spend recreating at Compo? Inquiring minds want to know!

  26. Dear Dan, it’s a no brainer.
    Fix what’s broke and leave the rest, Especially the parking.
    Too many committees can spoil the broth as written and spoken by the townspeople. Every one of the ‘anti change’ comments above are VALID
    and should be the end of the arguments. A town ‘revolution ‘ might be in order if the plan B is used.

    Ann Chernow

  27. Jeanne Klinge

    Ann, I definitely agree wiith you if you mean Plan A, as everyone I talk to wants to keep parking ON the beach front which is Plan B

    Jeanne Klinge

  28. Michael Calise

    Plan B replaces only a few parking spaces. It is as arrogant as plan A

  29. My family attended the town hall meeting to voice our support of the skatepark. My 8 year old son was one of the kids who spoke. My 6 year old hovered nearby, too nervous, but lending moral support to his brother and his fellow skaters. My husband and I moved to Westport for the beautiful fixer-upper we stumbled upon, the schools, and, truly, the skatepark. Other coastal towns have beautiful beaches. True, Compo has its own unique charm. And other towns have skate parks. But, for a parent of two young skaters, we have seen that none of those towns have supervised skate parks that enforce the use of safety equipment, polite behavior, and a sense of community, camaraderie, and skill development like the Compo Beach Skatepark. My husband and I have seen how much care and concern the attendants and older skaters have for the littler ones and think THIS is exactly the type of environment that Westport should be encouraging for our kids. My sons have gained confidence, skills, friends, and valuable life lessons from skating, and I hope this will only grow as they get older and eventually join the ranks of the responsible older kids. While several of the kids said they’d be happy to have a skatepark anywhere in town, as a parent, I think having it at Compo is by far the best option. Between the other rec facilities, the camps, the playground, the beach, the concession, and the option to jump in the water to cool off, having the skatepark park of this comprehensive town recreational facility is far better for both kids and parents. I’d now like to see it improved and better maintained to ensure that it is safe and, ideally, more visually integrated into the surrounding environment. I hope others who read this post can lend their support.

  30. Bart Shuldman

    There should be no plan A or plan B or any plan. There should be options with price tags. A menu of any change this committee wants to make. It west porters want any of them, we should chose. Not a consultant or even a commission. Compo is a huge asset for all of us. Let’s see a list and we can decide if we want to do anything. And let us add to the list, like having out of towners pre pay on line.

    How we got to 2 consultants is an insult to all taxpayers in town. Can we get the full costs for both of them?

    • Great idea, Bart.

      One more time:
      WHERE ARE the LEADERS ????

      • Bart Shuldman

        Tom. I hope we get to meet one day.

        I truly believe we will hear from both Jim and Avi. Given how many are against this and how Jim and Avi are making good decisions reagrding our town, they will be heard. This project has stirred up many in Westport and we will hear from them.

        • Bart,
          Seth may have introduced us many years ago…

          My concern is that the “leaders” [add various names] have let this process head in the WRONG direction for FAR TOO LONG. As a result, the town has pissed off voters, distraught citizens, and an atmosphere of chaos. Faith in local government is non existent, and no one has the guts to step in and say anything. The citizenry has been SCREAMING to STOP THE INSANITY of both Plan A & B, but the committee keeps rolling along.
          I see it as an ABSENCE of LEADERSHIP. “Letting the process work” is no excuse when the voice of the people is so LOUD.
          It’s the equivalent of the Police not breaking up a fight and just standing there DOING NOTHING.

          Hope you are right, but still way too late and BAD. 🙁

          • Bart Shuldman

            Tom I agree there is a need to stop this project given the significant negative response by us Westporters. I will remain hopeful we will hear from Jim Marpe shortly as he knows how people feel and people are looking for his leadership. Since nothing has been approved he must know he has some time to respond even though the feedback in town is starting to grow. Jim and Avi have done a very good job at getting the town finances in better shape and this cannot be something they feel is right.

            I also must ask those in the know–how much are we spending on the consultants? Can they be stopped now and we avoid further costs or is this a project we agreed to fund all the way thru their proposals? It would for all of us to know.

            I also ask-how do we get in this position from the start? Who originally approved the need for consultants and what was their charter? Were they told to do such a project or did the committee allow project ‘creep’? Where did this all start? We are looking at plans that probably run from $6million to $10 million. Should we be concerned with the downtown committee too? Who will foot that bill? Does anyone know?

            Tom-you raise good questions and concerns. Our leaders need to learn from this so it does not happen again. Spending our money must be done with a critical eye. We all could have told this committee we need certain things upgraded at Compo. But taking it as far as they have is not right. And our leaders need to know we will not accept this. Taxes are too high, already.