Tag Archives: Westport Parks & Recreation Commission

Compo Beach: 2018 Style

Compo Beach sure looks and feels a lot different this year than last.

If you haven’t noticed, you’re not paying attention.

Or maybe you can’t get in.

A quick recap: This past winter — in response to Westporters’ rising complaints about overcrowded parking, picnic tables and sand — the Parks and Recreation Commission did some rising itself.

They raised the price of season beach stickers for Weston residents, from $250 to $375. They raised it for all other non-residents even more: from $490 to $775.

Daily passes rose too. They’re now $50 on weekdays, $65 on weekends.

Westporters’ prices rose slightly. A season sticker is now $50 ($25 for seniors).

Parks & Rec also instituted caps on sales. They limited non-resident sticker sales to 350 (from the previous 600). And — perhaps most significantly — there is now a daily cap: No more than 100 non-residents are allowed in each day. Signs on nearby roads indicate when the limit has been reached (sometimes as early as noon).

South Compo Road, just before the Minute Man.

Add in newly remodeled bathrooms on both sides of the bathhouses, and extra grills at South Beach; a new entrance pattern and special parking area for non-residents — leaving prime beachfront spots for Westporters — and the difference is palpable.

Many beachgoers love the “new” Compo. They applaud the space they’ve got, the availability of picnic tables and grills, even the lower decibel level.

Compo Beach isn’t always this empty. But it’s a lot less crowded than it used to be.

Others are less pleased.

They wonder about lost revenue. Though Parks & Rec said that increased fees would pay for better maintenance and the full-time cop, it seems from anecdotal evidence and those daily cap signs that the beach is bringing in a lot less money than it used to.

That probably also affects Joey’s by the Shore. It may have contributed to PAL sitting on a few hundred unsold fireworks tickets this year — thousands of dollars that won’t go to programs and kids.

And smaller crowds means less “life” at the beach. There are fewer languages spoken, fewer games played on the grass, fewer opportunities to share our shore with others.

Plenty of people think that’s great. It’s our beach — paid for by our tax dollars.

Others miss the out-of-town regulars they used to see, and worry we’ve only added to our “elitist” image.

What do you think? Do you love the changes, and think they’re long overdue? Do you think they’re too draconian? Are you conflicted?

Click “Comments” below. And — as always — please keep things civil. Play nice in the sand.

As part of its changes, Parks & Rec posted several signs outlining rules at Compo Beach.

On The Meeting Docket — And Off

In November, Westport’s Parks & Recreation Commission unanimously approved construction of a new walkway and bathrooms at South Beach — the no-lifeguard, cookout grill, alcohol-permitted section beloved by picnickers and sunset-watchers.

The walkway will be similar to the one installed 2 years ago, from the pavilion near Joey’s to the cannons. Made of cement, it features wooden railings open to access every 2 cars.

It will connect to the current walkway at the cannons. It continues to the cut-through road near the kayak launch, then joins the gravel marina walkway via a crosswalk.

The current roadway would shift slightly north, to accommodate the new walkway. Several parking spots would be lost.

Plans for the new walkway and bathrooms at South Beach. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

The bathroom — to be built on an unpaved area just south of the pickleball courts — will include an outdoor shower and water fountain. The exterior is white with blue trim, and brick accents.

The projected cost for the walkway is $429,643. The bathroom cost is $257,473.

This Thursday (February 15, 7 p.m., Town Hall), the Planning & Zoning Commission will discuss the proposal. The meeting is open to the public.

One meeting that will not be held is the Saugatuck Transit Oriented Design Master Plan Steering Committee. Their study — funded by a $450,000 state grant — was to be presented at a public session this Monday.

According to RTM member Matthew Mandell, “changes requested from the last meeting were so broad that there was no way to get a new draft in time.”

It’s unclear, Mandell adds, whether the public meeting will be rescheduled — or if there will be public comment at all.

He does not even know if the committee will vote to accept the report — which includes parking decks, new housing units, new retail and office play, but did not include a traffic study.

The state has extended the deadline for the TOD report to be filed. It’s now due in late March.

Parks & Rec Approves Walkway, Bathrooms For South Beach

Last summer’s vexing Compo Beach problems — backups at the main gate, an influx of out-of-towners, packed parking lots — have not yet been solved.

But whether they are or not, visitors next summer may see some important changes on South Beach.

Last night, the Parks & Recreation Commission unanimously approved construction of a new walkway and bathrooms at South Beach — the no-lifeguard, cookout grill, alcohol-permitted section beloved by picnickers and sunset-watchers.

A safe walking path and restrooms have been identified as key needs in surveys and a town charrette, dating back to 2013.

The walkway concept approved last night will be similar to the one installed 2 years ago, from the pavilion near Joey’s to the cannons. Made of cement, it features wooden railings open to access every 2 cars.

It will connect to the current walkway at the cannons. It continues to the cut-through road near the kayak launch, then connects with the gravel marina walkway via a crosswalk.

The current roadway would shift slightly north, to accommodate the new walkway. No parking would be lost. Several parking spots would be lost.

Plans for the new walkway and bathrooms at South Beach. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

The bathroom — to be built on an unpaved area just south of the pickleball courts — will include an outdoor shower and water fountain. The exterior is white with blue trim, and brick accents.

The projected cost for the walkway is $429,643. The bathroom cost is $257,473.

Plans now go to the Conservation Commission, Flood Board, Architectural Review Board and Planning & Zoning Commission. If the Board of Finance and RTM approve funding, the project will be put out to bid.

“Friends Of Compo Beach” Seek Fair Solutions — And Swift Action

It started one Saturday this summer.

Traffic backed up near Compo Beach. Ed and Leslie Gallant waited a while to enter. Once past the gate, they had to hunt for a parking spot.

On the boardwalk, the couple — who moved to Westport in 1978, and enjoyed the beach all those years — noticed a non-stop stream of people. They wondered if a special event they had not heard of was going on.

The next day, Compo was even more crowded. Cars, people — it was crazy.

The line of cars waiting to get into Compo Beach was long this past summer.

They mentioned the situation to their neighbor, Geralyn Breig. She’s been here 20 years — and she too noticed a change.

Breig and her husband own a Hobie Cat. But so many cars parked on the gravel lot where it was stored — while other vehicles blocked the boat ramp — that they could not get their boat in the water.

One of Breig’s sons works at Joey’s. He said the concession stand was packed too.

Nick Sadler is a more recent arrival in town. But he also thought Compo changed this summer. The friends all talked, and wondered what to do.

The Gallants and Breig attended a Parks and Recreation Commission open meeting at Town Hall. Breig read a statement, noting the interrelationship between increased crowds and more trash, messy bathrooms, drunkenness and more.

“All of those things impact the quality of the beach experience, including peace and courtesy,” Breig said. She urged the commission to look at Compo “holistically.”

This was the fireworks crowd. Some weekend days seemed almost as crowded. (Photo/Andrew Colabella)

The meeting grew divisive. The Gallants and Greig were discouraged.

As they talked, they and Sadler devised a plan. “We thought, ‘Let’s focus on goals,'” Breig says. “Let’s find a way to send feedback to the town leaders. They’ve got experts and lawyers. If we communicate our expectations in a friendly but strong way, they should be able to fix the problems.”

The ad hoc group went to work.

On Sunday, September 25, their website — Friends of Compo Beach — went live. Within days, it had thousands of views.

And hundreds of subscribers.

The site has 6 goals:

  • Reduce crowds
  • Fix the traffic problem
  • Ensure parking for residents
  • Enforce rules for public behavior and courtesy
  • Ensure that services like boat ramps are accessible
  • Restore a safe, clean, environmentally sound beach.

There are 3 steps to an “action plan”:

  • Meet with town leaders to raise concerns
  • Provide them with feedback on any of their solutions
  • Organize residents to keep up activity until the situation is fixed.

“People care,” Leslie Gallant says of the near-instant positive reaction to the website.

The goal is for everyone to enjoy Compo –and obey the rules. (Photo/Tom Cook)

While the internet can be a place of tangents, invective and ad hominem attacks, Gallant is pleased that “the vast majority of comments are on point about what we listed.”

Some of those comments came from Weston residents. They pay more for their beach sticker than Westporters, but less than other out-of-towners.

“Weston residents have long been welcome at Compo,” Breig notes. “We’ve never had a crowd problem before, so they’re probably not the issue.” Besides, she adds, “it’s not for us to answer how much they should pay. That’s for Parks & Rec to decide.”

“I feel so sorry for the Parks & Rec people at the front gate,” Gallant says. “There’s such a bottleneck there. They take all the heat. It just shows the strain on all our resources, when the numbers exploded this year.”

“We don’t want to be divisive,” Breig emphasizes. “We want to be constructive. We hope our voices are heard by the powers that be — town officials, Parks & Rec.”

It’s October. The beach opens officially — with Parks & Rec employees checking stickers and collecting fees — 7 months from now.

“We’re looking for fair solutions — and swift action,” Gallant says.

(Click here for the Friends of Compo Beach website.)

Everyone’s favorite beach. (Photo/Dave Dellinger)

Sound Off On Compo Crowding

From South Beach grills to the Schlaet’s Point jetty, Westporters chattered all summer long about the ever-increasing crowds at — and lines of cars waiting to  get into — Compo Beach.

(They also commented on the sudden invasion of circus-size tents. But that’s another story.)

Welcome to Compo!

Now you can do more than talk (or post on Facebook and “06880”).

Item #4 on the Parks and Recreation Commission’s Wednesday, September 13 meeting (8 p.m., Town Hall auditorium) is to “take such action as the meeting may determine relative to resident concerns regarding parking at Compo Beach (discussion only).”

Commissioners know there were several days this summer when the parking lots were temporarily closed. They recognize that Uber does a booming business dropping off large numbers of beach-goers.

They’re ready for feedback from residents, to review statistics and share preliminary thoughts.

Parks & Rec chair Charlie Haberstroh promises his commission will review “all aspects of the Compo Beach experience.” That includes:

  • Operations in general, including maintenance
  • Procedures for entering the beach, including processing time for daily permit buyers
  • The number and cost of permits issued to all constituencies, including town residents and purchasers of out-of-town daily and seasonal passes, and Westonites
  • Other issues which have been and will be raised by residents.

On October 18, Parks & Rec will listen to recommendations of the Parks & Rec Department for addressing issues raised. That meeting will also serve as a forum for additional comments from residents.

Haberstroh knows that next Wednesday is Back to School Night for all elementary schools. He encourages anyone who cannot attend Wednesday to email him (haberstroh.prc@gmail.com). Comments will be read into the public record, and entered into the minutes.

This is a great chance for Westporters — on all sides of the issue — to make their voices heard.

But if you go Wednesday, be ready to sit through brief reports from the boating, golf, parks and racquets advisory committees first.

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.

Renovate Or Replace Compo Bathhouse And Pavilion? Public Meeting Next Week

The press release is simple:

The Parks and Recreation Commission will hold a Special Public Meeting on Thursday, May 25 at 7:30 p.m. in the Town Hall auditorium.  The purpose of the meeting is to determine whether to repair and renovate the current Compo Beach bathhouse and pavilion structure or replace the structure with a new facility.

Knowing Westport — and the history of the beach — the debate is certain to be lively.

The Compo Beach bathhouse … (Photo/Pat Gold)

… and pavilion. (Painting by Matthew Levine)

 

Compo Skate Park: The Sequel

While discussion about the Compo Beach renovation plan has died down recently — the calm before another storm, perhaps — a subset of users has been quietly at work, hoping to save their beloved section of sand.

Well, asphalt.

It’s not a group known for their political activism: skateboarders.

But there’s a grassroots effort in town to save the Compo skate park. On Saturday afternoon — the final weekend of the beach’s skateboard season — they sponsored a skating party, with pizza and a DJ. The weather was fantastic, drawing luminaries like 1st Selectman Jim Marpe and Compo Beach Improvement Committee member George Franciscovich.

A small part of the big crowd of Saturday's skaters.

A small part of the big crowd of Saturday’s skaters.

The skaters will be out in force this Thursday (October 30, 7:30 p.m., Town Hall) for the next Parks and Rec Commission/Compo Beach Site Improvement Committee meeting. It’s listen-only for the audience, but they want to hear what’s in the works.

Some teenage skaters have formed their own committee. They want to present their side to town groups like Parks & Rec, the Compo Beach committee and the Westport Youth Commission. (The skate park itself was an outgrowth of a Youth Commission objective, back in the day.)

They’re figuring out how Compo’s skate park can be brought up to date to enhance its appeal and safety, and lower maintenance costs.

They’re marshaling plenty of good arguments. They’re learning how to participate in town democracy.

They may wipe out once or twice. That’s part of the process.

If so, they’ll get right back up. They hope to be standing — and skating — at the end.

The scene last Saturday.

The scene last Saturday.

 

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Nothing is easy in Westport.

Dogs on the beach:  Controversy!

Lights on athletic fields:  Brouhaha!

And introducing now:  The Community Gardens War!

Tomorrow night (Monday), Garden members present a proposal to the Parks & Recreation Commission.  The plan:  expand the site, adjacent to Long Lots School.

Opposition is expected.  Some Long Lots parents worry about safety.  (Not from an errant hoe; more like garden-variety sex offenders.  Ho ho.)

Watch out for unwelcome guests!

Watch out for unwelcome guests!

Though unauthorized people are not allowed on school property when school is in session, the rule is somewhat relaxed for Community Gardeners:  If they want to till their plots during school hours, they must get a special Parks & Rec pass.  (After, of course, passing a background check.)

Most gardeners wait until school is out — and prime gardening season is summer, anyway — but what the hay hey.

Other concerns involve competition for parking spots at the site (gardeners vs. teachers and parents).   There are very few gardeners during the day (see above), so even with the expansion that might not be a major issue.

It could be worse:  Can you imagine the battles between spade-wielding Subaru drivers and iPhone-texting seniors and juniors if the Community Gardens were at Staples?

It's amazing how ugly a garden can be.

It's amazing how ugly a garden can be.

Some people object to the aesthetics of the garden itself.  It was built by the gardeners themselves.  It is not a designer-garden, as in many Westport backyards.

But again, things could be worse.  This is a garden, people — not the Quonset hut  squatting a quarter mile away off North Maple.

The action begins at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall.  Let’s hope it stays civil.  The last thing we need is one side throwing tomatoes at the other.