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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.

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