Compo Beach Crowding: Parks & Rec Chair Responds

An “06880” story on Wednesday about a hot Westport topic — crowds at Compo Beach, and what appears to be an increase in out-of-town cars — drew dozens of comments.

Many readers wanted statistics on the number of passes sold, how many times the parking lot has been closed, and related issues.

This morning, they’ve got an official response.

Charlie Haberstroh just emailed this statement. He says:

Compo Beach is one of Westport’s most treasured assets, and has been a key priority for our Parks & Recreation Commission. There have recently been concerns and recommendations expressed in the media as well as political emails sent to Westport residents. We of course welcome all ideas to improve Compo Beach. As the chairman of the Parks & Recreation Commission, I would like to share some facts and my thoughts with the community.

Congestion

The 4th of July and Labor Day weekends have historically seen a surge in visits to Compo Beach. However, an unexpected surge occurred this past Sunday, July 30. We did limit the sale of daily parking passes on that day from 2:30 to 4 p.m., consistent with our policy when the available spaces at Compo Beach reach 75. No resident beach emblem holders were turned away – only those attempting to purchase a daily pass.

While these surges are rare occurrences, we will consider policy modifications to address those instances including limits to the number of daily passes sold, and pre-purchase options to reduce wait time at the beach entrance.

To avoid any misunderstandings on the Soundview lot, it is only available to emblem holders, not daily pass holders. It has been this way since the 1980s.

Compo Bech is many things, to many people. (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)

Daily Pricing

As we do every fall, the Parks & Recreation Department conducts a full review after the beach season concludes and presents policy and fee recommendations to the Commission and board of selectmen. Westport charges $30 per day on weekdays and $50 on weekends, consistent with neighboring communities. Norwalk’s Calf Pasture Beach charges $25 on weekdays and $30 on weekends. Fairfield’s Jennings Beach charges $20 on weekdays and $50 on weekends. Darien’s Weed Beach charges $40 every day. Doubling the daily parking fees, as some have proposed, could dramatically restrict access to our beach for lower income guests, and may not reflect Westport’s values as an inclusive, welcoming community.

Improvements

Our Commission’s efforts have made Compo Beach an even more attractive destination for Westporters and visitors alike. The popular new east beach walkway provides safe access for everyone including those with strollers, wheelchairs and mobility issues, enabling them to travel from the pavilion to the cannons. We resurfaced the basketball courts and created new pickleball courts. The east beach parking lot has been repaved and we are currently making improvements to the Soundview parking lot. The dredging of Compo Basin improves safety and the boating experience.

This fall, the Compo Beach pavilion gets a new roof.
(Photo/Katherine Bruan)

We are also pursuing a number of other Compo Beach initiatives. This fall we will commence renovations to the bathhouse and pavilion, including upgrading the bathrooms and roofs to make them more attractive and safe. We are examining options to extend the beach walkway and build permanent accessible bathrooms in the South Beach area, as well as upgrading the skateboard park. We are also evaluating moving the entrance hut further back to help reduce wait time on surge days and allow residents with emblems to bypass the lines. We continue to explore how technology can improve the beach entrance process for our resident beach emblem holders as well as visitors.

I encourage residents to share their ideas directly with me. I will share your thoughts with the Parks & Recreation Department and Commission. My email address is haberstroh.prc@gmail.com.

31 responses to “Compo Beach Crowding: Parks & Rec Chair Responds

  1. Thank you for responding so expeditiously to Dan’s column and for the information you provided.

  2. Please don’t forget Greens Farms Beach( Burying Hill).,It’s more forgotten that ever! Add sand and groom beach!

  3. I hope we all appreciate Charlie Haberstroh’s thoroughness and professionalism as the voice of the Westport Parks and Recreation Commission. We’re lucky to have him and I for one, want him to know how much we appreciate his 4.0 performance. It’s more than just having the facts. Charlie’s heart is in the right place when it comes to enhancing Westport’s lifestyle. Well done, CH.

  4. Michele Coppotelli

    I am going to say something that may raise hair on the back of some necks. However I would be surprised if this is not the true sentiment of the silent majority of Westporters.
    Westport residents pay a small annual fee to park in Compo Beach. However, we paid a huge real estate fee (many $1M or more) to live in Westport. On of the things that attracted us to Westport is Compo Beach.
    The objective was to have a close by well kept beach that we could easily drive into (without traffic jams) and find a spacious place on the beach to enjoy our day or evening.
    Whatever it takes to have that expensive piece of luxury back it is worth it.
    Westporters should have priority parking, grills, locations on the beach.

    • Michele, I agree and said something similar on the other post. I chose Westport in part because of it being a beach/coastal community. With that choice came a hefty price tag as it did for most everyone else in town. I’m all about kindness, but not at the expense of those westporters who are paying the lofty taxes to keep Compo the draw to this town that it is.

  5. Putting in my tuppence — I lived in Westport for 18 years, before moving to Fairfield because my husband and I couldn’t find anything to downsize to (I’ve told this story several times). While living in Westport, I paid my taxes, without complaining. I had no children in school, but paid towards the education of other people’s children. I would like to think that I might get a reduced rate to the beach based on the 18 years of taxes I cheerfully paid. Unfortunately, that will never happen.

    Yes, Fairfield has beaches, but I find Penfield and Jennings are over-crowded and noisy. Sasco Beach, a quiet little gem, often runs out of parking spaces.

    As far as the long lines to enter, I suggest two lines — one for season sticker holders, and the other for daily pass-buyers.

    • There are already 2 lines. The signage is not great. Employees try to help direct drivers (particularly on weekends), but it doesn’t always work as efficiently as it could.

    • David J. Loffredo

      So technically in Fairfield you pay more in taxes since the mill rate is 25.45 vs 18.09 in Westport. Some in the Wepo will argue their houses cost more, we all know that’s very dependent on a lot of factors since Ffld has some extremely desirable and pricey real estate as well.

      • David — actually we pay less, because our house cost so much less than we sold the Westport house for. I’m on the Fairfield Board of Assessment Appeals, and we’ve discussed this very often. But the same house would probably cost twice as much in Westport as it does in Fairfield, so the taxes would be that much higher.

  6. David J. Loffredo

    Thanks for the “official” statement – although again it’s only focused on daily permit holders.

    What Westport tax payers really want to know is how many of their coveted passes are distributed to Weston residents (for $250) and to anyone else ($490). How much money does it raise? And where does the money go.

    Focusing on the daily pass holders is I think avoiding the real issue but of course it’s easy to pick on them so let’s all pile on.

  7. Soundview parking for residents since the 1980s? Rethink this! Many things have changed since then and can be improved such as Using Soundview for out of state and limit the numbers access. And congestion is not limited to holidays Please consider a change before next season

    • Charlie Haberstroh

      We will, Ann. Many Westport residents prefer the Soundview lot because it is closer to the north end of East Beach which tends to be less crowded than the south end of East Beach.

  8. Bart Shuldman

    Thank you charlie for adding in details and facts. It is always better and gives all of us the right perspective of the issue. It also helps to temper the political jargon that started–it was almost funny to see how much money some wanted to spend before understanding the facts.

    Charlie-it would help to understand the issue of season passes purchased by weston residents and other outsiders and how many on a daily weekend basis come to Compo. Is it an issue or a great way for Parks and Rev to gain much needed revenue he.

    Maybe you can let us know?

    Again, thanks for stepping in and helping.

    Bart

  9. Michael Calise

    Charlie thanks very much for your information and attention to the issues

  10. Susan Schmidt

    Great follow-up from the Parks & Rec. My thought after reading Dan’s original post on the out-of-town parking was that it seems quite short-sighted for residents to complain about this NIMBY issue. I presume that most Westporters have, at some point, taken a vacation to a different town, city, state, or country. If you were welcomed graciously and treated fairly while on your trip, why would you not want to do the same in our own community for our visitors? After all, many of those NY plates could be past or future residents. Character is everything.

  11. “Doubling the daily parking fees, as some have proposed, could dramatically restrict access to our beach for lower income guests, and may not reflect Westport’s values as an inclusive, welcoming community.”

    Thank you sir!

  12. Please leave Soundview for residents only! It is easy access to the “quieter” section of the beach that many of us prefer.

  13. Charlie Haberstroh

    Here is some additional information on season beach emblems for the year to-date.

    1) Westport – 15,211 resident beach emblems at a cost of $40 each ($20 for seniors), generating over $500,000 a year.

    2) Weston – 1,164 beach emblems at a cost of $250 each ($135 for seniors), generating over $200,000 in revenue to Westport.

    3) Non-resident – 526 non-resident beach emblems (out of 600 limit) at $490 each, generating approximately $250,000 in revenue to Westport.

    4) Daily passes sold this year have so far totaled $320,000. For the month of July, we saw an average of 39 daily visitors per weekday and 60 visitors on weekends and holidays.

    • Bart Shuldman

      Charlie. How many parking spaces at Compo?

    • yo Charlie, this former Westporter would love to know
      just where do all these buckarooki ($s) go ?

    • Thank you for all the stats and public interest in improving situation. We all love our beaches; and the “Old Mill” gem of a quiet beach — little sister to Compo– needs maintenance, sidewalks and parking attention.

    • Loretta Santella Hallock

      Why don’t we let Weston residents buy golf hand passes ?

    • David J. Loffredo

      Charlie,

      Thank you, thank you, thank you for the actual facts.

      So Westporters – there are 1690 season passes issued to non Westport tax paying residents (the group you claim to be frustrated with for taking your parking spaces) and 60 daily passes on the weekend. 60. VS 1690.

      So stop with the out of state cars, the enemy is on the inside….

      Of course $450,000 is a lot of clams….

      • Bart Shuldman

        Approximately 17,000 beach emblems are sold each year. If more and more start using the beach, the parking issue will come down to how many parking spaces are at the beach and the percentage of the emblems going.

        With limited supply (parking spaces) and rising demand, it seems a price increase on the non Westport emblems would be appropriate. With the increase, Westport could also limit the amount of emblems to the non Weston buyers, since our relationship with Weston is very important.

        But as Charlie wrote, there was only one day where they turned away day pass purchasers.

        But Compo can get very crowded and maybe a pricing strategy is in order.

        Good luck Charlie. Nice to have a problem due to many liking a service, instead of the other way around.

  14. Thank you Charlie for that info…Wow!! I had no idea the beach generated that kind of money, and that is only thru July. P.S. Please keep the Soundview lot residents only….

  15. Nancy Hunter

    Time to confess. A source says that Westporters are unhappy with car-loaded Puerto Ricans. True?

  16. Alan Phillips

    Thanks for the info Charlie and your leadership. Love the idea of moving the huts back to mitigate the traffic queue. I would hope we will consider Increasing the entry pricing each year. Higher price may limit number of outside uses or at least help us defray the cost of operating/improving the beach.

  17. Virginia Tienken

    It seems that there is an easy solution to this. Westporters pay taxes and buy beach stickers for the privilege of using the beach. They should always be granted access to the beach. If the number of out of towners exceed the availability of the beach then direct them to Sherwood Island. There is a beautiful beach, plenty of parking and alot of space for activities. If the problem is with “no alcohol” they can deal with it for one day..