Longshore Improvement Plan: “Tweak It. Don’t Overdo It.”

Tweak it. Spruce it up.

But don’t make major changes.

That’s the strong sentiment from a town-wide survey about the future of Longshore, says the woman in charge of overseeing any changes to the 168-acre park.

Jen Fava — Westport’s Parks & Recreation Department director — has looked at the results and comments of the springtime survey. Administered by landscape architect, planning and engineering firm Stantec as an early step in the Longshore Capital Improvement Plan, it drew 2,658 responses.

Longshore includes a golf course, tennis courts, marina, pools, and much, much more.

“The surprise was that there were not a lot of surprises,” Fava says.

“People said ‘Longshore is great. We love it.’ They don’t want to change too much. They just want it tweaked, to fit their needs.”

Of course, not every resident has the same needs. One person’s priority for pickleball may conflict with another’s desire for a golf clubhouse.

Golfers weighed in strongly for an actual clubhouse, with a pro shop, locker room and grill. The golf course itself will not be redesigned.

Longshore golf course. (Photo/Dave Dellinger)

Platform tennis players want 2 more courts, and a warming hut.

As for pickleball: 1,512 respondents want courts. 962 said no.

As expected, Fava says, survey respondents expressed a strong desire for the pools — and for keeping the current location, near Long Island Sound.

However, many asked for more shade there; a patio and picnic area, and renovated locker rooms.

Longshore pool (Photo/Pamela Einarsen)

There was a clear desire too for trails, paths and walkways throughout Longshore. “That fits in with national trends,” Fava says.

Stantec’s job now is to provide options. Fava calls it “laying out the jigsaw pieces.” Where, for example, would a golf clubhouse be constructed: on the site of the current ramshackle pro shop, or elsewhere? Should the current maintenance shed — right in the heart of the facility, near golf, tennis, the Inn and the pool parking lot — be moved? If so, where?

The driving range now occupies prime real estate, at the confluence of the Saugatuck River and Long Island Sound. A number of respondents would like to see that space available to more users. If so, what happens to that practice facility?

The survey asked several questions about parking. Most respondents rated it low on their concerns. “Perhaps we’ll look at a realignment of spaces, or better accessways,” Fava says.

Longshore’s E.R. Strait Marina (Photo/Marcia Falk)

Parks & Rec officials will go to the public this fall for more input. Then comes a detailed capital plan, with requests for specific items before town finance and land use commissions.

“We can’t give everyone everything,” Fava notes.

Moving forward, she says that she and other officials will keep in mind the main takeaway: “People said, ‘don’t overdevelop Longshore.’ We’ll keep its character, while meeting as many needs as possible.

“Longshore has very good bones. We just need to sculpt around it.”

8 responses to “Longshore Improvement Plan: “Tweak It. Don’t Overdo It.”

  1. In addition to the many valid comments thru the survey, it would be very beneficial and safer to provide walking / biking paths thru the park. Right now many walkers / dog walkers and bicycles (who never even slow down at stop signs or near walkers have to contend with the many cars entering/ exiting the park.

  2. Michelle Fracasso

    First and foremost, let’s consider creating a healthy ecosystem to support biodiversity through native plantings and coastal meadow areas, where appropriate.

  3. Clark Thiemann

    I love walking in Westport and think there are probably limited places it makes sense at Longshore, but I think it’s a terrible idea to encourage walking/biking in the middle of a golf course where there are hard projectiles flying around at 100+ MPH. For instance, there are two holes that closely hug the entrance road and even good golfers are prone to hitting shots which could (and I think have) badly injure people walking up the road. Doubly crazy when I see people walking strollers up that road. In a town that has paths all over the place (beach, ALT properties), putting walking paths on a congested golf course looks like a lawsuit waiting to happen.

  4. Clark is right on point. Longshore needs substantial upgrading to the buildings. Clubhouse, pro shop, pub many of us have waited our entire lives for action on these issues. The facilities at Longshore basically suck. Walking or riding a bike through the golf course is an accident waiting to happen. It is like a kill zone on #1 tee, #6 tee, #7 tee. The back nine’s #11, #12, #13 are also so dangerous. You can easily be in the wrong place at the wrong time on an errant shot that can and has been catastrophic. Entering a golf course is an assumption of risk. In my opinion way to risky.

  5. Richard Johnson

    I would love to know if Longshore’s golf program is revenue positive or at least neutral before the town invests millions in a clubhouse and improved facilities. Nothing against golf, but it’s a niche sport that most residents don’t play, and most of whom that do play could do so at a private club (as is common in surrounding towns that lack municipal golf). Unlike putting in paddle tennis platforms or spending money on other niche activities, the expense of a clubhouse (not to mention maintenance of a golf course) are on a completely different order of magnitude and thus require closer scrutiny.

    I’d strongly disagree that there are walking paths all over the place in town as an argument against increasing trails in Longshore. A sidewalk ringing the parking lot at Compo is not exactly a walking path. Otherwise you are talking about busy roads with insufficient sidewalks and shoulders, a problem we have throughout Westport. There are a handful of small ALT properties that are actually in Westport, most short loops, many overgrown and tick-infested, none of which are comparable to Longshore. The only real walking paths we have are at Winslow Park which (contrary to the P&R dept) is, in fact, a dog park (tread carefully!).

  6. You know what the survey did not do? It did not seek to find out what the users of each of the individual venues / facilities within the park thought about each venue / facility, its shortcomings and its potential and how they may be improved to provide a more fulfilling experience at each venue / facility.

    Instead of thinking about what to add to Longshore, like more walking paths, bike lanes, picnic tables, that would fill the Park with pedestrians who don’t use any of the venues / facilities, think about making the existing Longshore Club Park current experience better for the people who actually use pay to use it, and ask them what they thought could be done to improve the existing venue / facilities. The goal should be to provide typical / standard expectations for those of us who use it now and those who will use it after it is improved, possibly generating more revenue thru more attendance.

    If the town could change things so they could keep the revenue earned at Longshore Club Park, to pay for the maintenance and upkeep of the venues / facilities at Longshore Club Park, as opposed to going into the general fund to be used at a later date, it would be a very different experience then it has been since 1960. That would be a change everyone would appreciate, and it would provide a better experience, more revenue, and potentially the ability to properly maintain the venue / facilities in a more professional manner. 

    At the very least, it would allow the town to properly maintain and improve each existing venue / facility as there would be monies to do that proactively and not fiscally.

    Improving the existing venues so they meet their potential, for use and revenue, would be a more holistic approach. As it stands now the current paradigm is dysfunctional and disingenuous to those of us that have used the multiple venues / facilities all year long since the town purchased the property.

  7. Clark Thiemann

    @Sean P Doyle I totally agree that the current buildings at Longshore range from ok (pool locker rooms), to horribly out of date (golf clubhouse). I worked at the golf pro shop 25 years ago in high school. The “clubhouse” was pretty decrepit and lacking then and has had basically nothing put into it since. It remains the only golf club I’ve ever been to where you can get no food or drink before or after your round and don’t ask about the restrooms…

    I also agree that while the survey spent a lot of time asking about parking and walking paths through a gold course, they asked nothing about improving what is already there except in the tiny “other comments” box at the end of the survey.

  8. Allow me to respond to the collective comments above. Mr. Johnson: golf is not a niche sport. Golf is quite popular here and around the world. Examples of ‘niche’ sports are bridge, fencing, and luge. You obviously have never tried to get a tee time at Longshore, they are hard to come by, especially Friday-Sunday. Your suggestion that residents who want to play, can always join a private club, is disingenuous at best. On the other hand, Mr.. Doyle and Elliot are both on topic. The neighboring towns in Fairfield County that do operate munis, do so with excellent capital facilities…club houses, lounges, WCs, etc.
    Am very surprised that no one noted that Parks & Rec found it necessary to hire a Canadian firm to implement and monitor this survey. They would be surprised to learn that quite a few public opinion firms operate in Fairfield County, and these firms are often hired by Fortune 500 companies. Apparently Ms. Fava is ‘hooked’ on NOT keeping her business local.

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