Tag Archives: Jen Fava

[OPINION] “Tone Deaf Missteps” Lead To Westport’s 3rd Rail

Dr. Jay Walshon is a 38-year resident of Westport. He spends plenty of time at Compo Beach — and, recently, has watched hours of coverage of debates over parking fees. He writes:

Last month, Westport’s Parks & Recreation Commission reduced the non-resident beach emblem price from $775 to $545.

Member Chris O’Keeffe said, “It’s really important we share the history of this.”  I agree.

In the summer of 2017, residents complained about deplorable Compo Beach neglect — uncleanliness, disrepair, litter — plus overcrowding, parking, disorderly conduct and disregard of rules. They ascribed these problems to the increasing number of non-residents at Compo.


Lines of cars waiting to enter Compo. Sure, this was taken the day of the fireworks — but a few years ago, lines like this could be seen on weekends too.

In addition to logistical and operational recommendations, these residents wanted daily and non-resident emblem fees increased, the number issued decreased, visitor revenue captured, and the number of non-paying “drop-offs” addressed.

The Parks & Rec Commission designated a daily parking area, and increased staff, trash collections and weekend and holiday restroom cleaning.

They also considered “relocating the entry booth, daily pass sales, signage, events, traffic, rules and regulations, and police presence and enforcement.”

Lowering the number of beachgoers by decreasing non-resident emblems and daily passes, and increasing fees to offset revenue, became a primary consideration.

To avoid anecdotally based decisions, Parks & Recreation director Jen Fava was tasked to recruit college students to gather objective data. This never occurred.

Representative Town Meeting member Carla Rea asked how much of Compo Beach’s $2 million revenue was budgeted for maintenance. Ms. Fava did not have an answer.

RTMer Sal Liccione asked how many personnel were dedicated to maintaining Compo during summer. She did not have that information available.

Trash pickup was a concern several years ago.

Ms. Fava estimated that grievance rectification would cost $200,000. To recoup revenue, the Parks & Rec Commission raised resident parking emblems by $10 to $50, and Weston by $125 to $375. The number of non-resident emblems was lowered from 600 to 350; daily passes were capped at 100.

Equating it to a “seasonal Vermont ski lift ticket,” Ms. Fava increased non-resident emblems from $490 to $775.

John Suggs warned: “raising prices that could exclude non-Westporters is bad policy.”

Michael Calise declared that $775 “unreasonably punishes non-residents.” Because Compo revenue exceeded $1.5 million, he requested a justifying accounting of revenues and expenses. Ms. Fava could not provide this.

Residents said:

  • “Hopefully the increased fees and decreased non-residents will result in fewer people at the beach.”
  • “$775 is steep but the right direction, because it’s still a great deal.”
  • “This is a town beach; you need to think about the residents before you think about people from out of town.”

Among the Parks & Rec comments:

  • “Reasonable step to decrease overcrowding; right approach.”
  • “We need to focus on the property taxpayers here that are paying for the beach.”
  • “This shouldn’t offend anyone.”
  • “This is the fairest way to assess them.”
  • “Non-residents should pay their ‘fair share.'”
  •  “This is going to work out very well.”

It didn’t.

(Photo/Matt Murray)

Ms. Fava’s outrageously insensitive $775 ski-lift equivalency, and targeting non-resident utilization via parking price and quotas, reverberated into the state legislature.

House Bill 6650 — introduced recently — says:

No municipality shall: (1) prohibit nonresidents…from entering or using a…municipal beach…or a municipal facility associated with such beach, unless such prohibition applies to residents of such municipality; or (2) impose on non-residents a fee for such entrance or use, or parking associated with such entrance or use, that is greater than twice the amount of any fee charged to residents for the same purpose.

In other words: If residents pay $60, a town can’t charge non-residents more than $120. Prohibiting non-resident drop-offs would mean prohibiting residents too).

Describing $775 as “unacceptable,” the Parks & Rec Commission reduced it to $545, increased the number to 450, and raised the number of daily passes to 120. Even $545 is still far higher than any other area town.

Ms. Fava explained she was “now looking at things through a little bit of a new lens in terms of where the current climate is … because we went from $490 and skyrocketed to $775, way out of alignment with other waterfront communities … really doesn’t reflect our accessibility goals we want to have to let people come in and use our facilities.”

She defended the 2018-2022 $775 price, declaring “it was a very different climate.”

For decades, beach fees and accessibility barriers have been under the discrimination microscope. The only “climate difference” is HB6650, and the state’s perception of our exclusionary attitude and treatment of non-residents – our third rail.

Compo Beach (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)

We shouldn’t wait for legislative imposition before re-addressing beach access structures. “Over-crowding” and “equitability” warrant clarification.  Metrics providing data on cost and problem intensity/frequency should replace anecdotes.

Compo’s revenue and expenses must become transparent.

The Parks & Recreation Department’s “Beach/Pool Operating Analysis 2019-2020” showed revenues of $1,820,995 (pool $15,429), and expenses of $498,720. The result: a $1,322,275 surplus.

Non-resident 2018 revenue was $519,800 (including Weston, it’s over $750,000.

RTM member Chris Tait said, “What we did wasn’t well received in the state. A lot of articles were written about us being outdated and alienating people to not go to our beaches.

“It didn’t look good, and gave fuel to the fire of people in Hartford who may not like what we do in Westport. What we did didn’t help us as a community.  Bringing this back down is a way of acknowledging that, saying we are open to people from out of town.  We are not exclusive.”

The manner in which issues were framed in 2017/18 exposed subliminal entanglements of entitlement, elitism and privilege, leading in part to HB6650.

Ms. Fava’s focus remains the false narrative that “things are different now,” the “optics” of being perceived as an elitist, privileged, exclusionary community – and above all, the fear of Hartford.

Instead of targeting non-residents, effective management and rules enforcement are the key objectives. But this requires leadership that doesn’t equate Compo to a Vermont ski resort.

These tone-deaf missteps needlessly blemished our community. It was avoidable.

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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.”

New Beach Concessionaire Moves Forward

No one knows when — or even if 🙁 — Compo Beach will open this year.

But a key piece of summer fun edged closer to reality last night. The Planning & Zoning Commission — acting in its capacity to consider land use issues — voted unanimously in favor of a new concessionaire.

Upsilon Entertainment Group — the applicant chosen by the Parks & Recreation Department — would run the Compo food service that for over 30 years was operated by Joey Romeo. The Larchmont, New York-based company would also take over Romeo’s 2 other concessions: the Longshore golf course halfway house, and the concession by the pool.

Parks & Rec director Jen Fava describd the formal bid process. There were 36 downloads of the RFP. Eight businesses made site visits. Five submitted proposals. In addition to Upsilon’s, they came from Norwalk, Stratford, Woodbridge and Ryebrook, New York.

Fees to be paid to the town ranged from a low of $55,000 a year to a high of $100,000 or 10% of the gross revenue the first year, whichever is higher. The latter bid came from Upsilon.

The new concessionaire will take over from Joey Romeo. For over 30 years, he ran Joey’s by the Shore. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Fava said that 3 groups were interviewed by a committee of representatives from the RTM, Parks & Rec Department, Parks & Rec Commission, and Department of Public Works.

They selected Upsilon for a variety of reasons. One was those highest fees (which top out at $120,000 a year or 12% of gross revenues, whichever is higher, in the final year of the 5-year contract). An opt-in clause covers 2 additional 5-year terms.

Fava said the committee was enthusiastic about Upsilon’s previous experience, which included operations at New York’s Bryant Park, Prospect Park and Hudson River Park.

The menu would include “typical beach food,” plus “healthier options like smoothies and salads.” They would offer special food nights, like Italian cuisine, and events like cheese tastings.

The company will use biodegradable packaging, and will compost materials. They committed to hire local staffs, and sell Connecticut-based products.

“They’re very professional,” the Parks & Rec director said. “They want to be partners with us, and involved in the community.”

Joey Romeo owned much of the interior equipment. The new concessionaire will have to bring in its own. (Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)

Fava said that while many terms in the original contract were similar to those in the past, the coronavirus pandemic necessitated a rider. It covers uncertainty over starting dates for the beach, and addresses issues like partial openings.

The P&Z vote marked the first step toward town approval for Upsilon. Still ahead: the Board of Finance and Board of Selectmen.

All Abilities Welcome At ADA Compo Celebration

At first, the long blue mat drew puzzled stares.

Very quickly last year however, the Mobi-Mat — running from the Compo Beach boardwalk to the water, near the brick pavilion — proved spectacularly popular.

People using wheelchairs and walkers — plus parents pushing  strollers — loved the non-stick surface. Soon it was used by others who, for whatever reason, had trouble navigating the sand.

One of the Compo Beach Mobi-Mat’s many users. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

It was a smart, simple solution to an age-old problem: providing access to amenities for the many folks with mobility or related issues.

That’s not all that our Parks & Recreation Department has done to make Compo more accessible to all.

The boardwalk was extended 2 years ago, from the pavilion to the cannons. This year another section was added, from the cannons to the end of South Beach.

It’s a safety measure for all. And a godsend for everyone with a mobility issue, who just could not walk on the sand — or in the road — to enjoy the very popular barbecue-and-sunset-watching end of Compo.

The new South Beach boardwalk increases accessibility, adds safety — and does not take away those beloved close-in parking spots.

The addition of picnic tables with cutouts for wheelchairs — in the pavilion next to Joey’s by the Shore — was one more small but important recognition that Westport is a place that tries to welcome everyone, of all physical abilities.

So it’s fitting that next Wednesday (June 26, 5:30 p.m., near the new South Beach bathrooms), the town celebrates Westport’s efforts to improve accessibility everywhere.

Parks and Rec director Jen Fava, Human Services director Elaine Daignault and Westport’s Commission on People with Disabilities will host the event. First Selectman Jim Marpe — an ADA champion — will be there too.

The location is significant. Not only are the new bathrooms handicap accessible — of course! — but they’re located across from 2 barbecue stations with ADA-compliant surfaces. They’re specially marked, for folks with wheelchairs and vehicles that transport them.

Jr’s Deli will provide free hot dogs.

Crumb Together — the bakery that trains and employs adults with disabilities — will be there too.

Everyone — of all abilities — is invited!

“New” Beach : A Lot To Love. And The Back Story On Ball-Playing.

Westporters got their first look at the “new” Compo Beach last Saturday — the most beautiful day of the holiday weekend.

It passed with flying colors.

Residents raved about the new entrance pattern, easing traffic into the beach; the sign by the Minute Man noting that the limit of daily parking permits had been reached; the new lot for daily parkers; the updated pavilion, and enormous new seating area next to Joey’s; the spiffy new bathrooms, and the Mobi-Mat allowing easy access to the water for people with walkers, in wheelchairs or pushing strollers.

There were smiles all around, and grateful praise for the Parks and Recreation Commission.

The new pavilion, near Joey’s by the Shore. (Photo/Carmine Picarello)

The only frowns were on the faces of folks told they could not toss a football or frisbee on the beach.

For decades, rules prohibited those kinds of activities on the sand. In recent years, lifeguards have turned a blind eye.

This weekend however, they were enforced strongly.

(Photo/Anne Bernier)

I asked Parks & Rec chair Charlie Haberstroh for a comment. He said:

These rules are not new. At Parks & Rec Commission meetings during the winter and spring we updated and clarified some of the rules.

It is clear from the fact that it is the Parks and Recreation Commission that all commissioners are in favor of recreation and increased physical activity.  At the same time, we held many meetings on how to improve Compo Beach and deal with the perceived overcrowding evident in 2017.

I hope all residents and non-residents appreciate all the positive changes we made. One change was better enforcement of existing rules and regulations.  We also knew we would have pushback from folks at the beach who were not aware of the rules.

Specifically about throwing a football/frisbee etc. at the beach: After discussion with Parks & Rec director Jen Fava, together we have decided to designate at least 2 areas at Compo — tentatively one in front of the volleyball area, and one on the north end of East Beach for throwing footballs, frisbees and the like.

The department will make the final determination of locations. They will have movable boundaries, depending on how crowded the beach is.  Parks & Rec personnel and the police department officers on duty will continue to educate folks on the rules.

The Commission will review the rules, and the 2018 summer experience, at a fall meeting, and make permanent changes then.  We will continue to tweak things as appropriate and within the rules.

We are committed to making Compo enjoyable to all, within existing rules. If anyone has issues with any aspect of the Compo Beach, please contact me at haberstroh.prc@gmail.com, or text or call me at 203-515-2064.


Compo Pavilion Roof: The Sequel

According to initial reports from Westport Parks and Recreation, the Compo Beach pavilion roof is being removed and replaced.

Like Republican promises about Obamacare however, that might not be exactly what’s happening — at least, right now.

In fact, this week the roof is only being removed.

For a while now, Parks and Recreation director Jen Fava has been on the Board of Finance July 5 agenda, to ask for funds for removing and replacing that roof.

However, when a consultant reported that the roof was structurally unsound, Parks and Rec decided to remove it ASAP.

That project began yesterday.

The Compo Beach pavilion — including the soon-to-be-removed roof.

Fava will still go before the moneymen next month. If approved, a new roof will be installed before next summer.

But for the rest of this season, the pavilion will be open to the sky. Unless, Fava says, another type of roof solution is found.

The rest of the structure — brick walls and cement floor — is not being worked on at all.

The roof removal is expected to be completed before the July 4th weekend crush.

Parks & Rec Names New Golf Pro, Course Superintendent

With spring just a chip shot away, Westport Parks & Recreation Department has filled 2 big golf course holes.

Director Jen Fava announced today the appointment of Jon Janik as head professional, and Todd Salamone as Longshore golf course superintendent.

Janik played at Longshore as a member of the St. Joseph High School golf team.

Jon Janik

Born and raised in Bridgeport, he learned the game at Fairchild Wheeler. He won the 1997 junior club championship there, then 5 years later the men’s club title.

Janik began working in the golf industry while still at Fairfield University. He spent 3 summers at the Ivan Lendl Golf and Tennis Camp. After graduating, he became the assistant pro at Tashua Knolls in Trumbull. A year later, he was named head pro.

In 2007 Janik earned his professional golf management degree, and was elected to PGA membership.

He has won the Connecticut Section PGA Junior Golf Leader Award, and been recognized as a US Kids Golf Top 50 Kids Teacher.

Janik also served as Trumbull High’s boys golf team head coach. In 2014 he was named FCIAC Boys Golf Coach of the Year.

Todd Salamone

Salamone has been with BrightView Golf Maintenance for 4 years, as senior assistant superintendent at New York’s Village Club of Sands Point. In 2015, he oversaw a bunker renovation there.

The Queens native majored in turf science at Ohio State University. After graduation he worked at private clubs on Long Island, and volunteered at pro events including the US Open and US Amateur.

Fava said, “We are very excited to welcome our new team to Longshore. We look forward to a great season, and lots of good things to come.

“We hope all of our golfers welcome them when the golf season gets underway.”

Information on course openings will be announced soon.

Baron’s South Quietly Makes News

It hasn’t gotten much publicity.

Then again — except for when plans are announced for a project like elderly housing — most Westporters tend to overlook Baron’s South.

But advocates for keeping the 23-acre hilly and heavily wooded property just a few steps from downtown Westport in its natural state got a big boost last week.

Since her appointment last summer, Parks and Recreation director Jen Fava has been quietly analyzing and assessing land her department oversees.

Now, Parks and Rec hopes to upgrade the trails crisscrossing Baron’s South. They’re accessible from Imperial Avenue and South Compo Road, from dawn to dusk — though few Westporters know they’re there, let alone open.

A path in Baron's South. (Photo/Judy James)

A path in Baron’s South. (Photo/Judy James)

The Parks and Rec Commission unanimously approved $75,000, to pay for upgrades suggested by Fava. However, she noted, the cost could be as low as $25,000. Most of the work will involve trees.

A private group — Friends of Baron’s South — has played a key role in cleaning up the property.

It’s a true town gem. And — very quietly, and unobtrusively — it’s about to get even more attractive.