Tag Archives: Westport Parks & Recreation Department

Peeved Players In A Parking Pickle

An alert — and unhappy — “06880” reader writes:

For a long time, a number of pickleball players have used the parking lot behind 25 Sylvan Road South to access the public courts behind Saugatuck Elementary  School.

In fact, the Parks & Rec Department told those of us taking their clinics to park there. We park all the way in back. We rarely stay more than 2 hours — mainly on evenings and weekends

None of us have ever seen the back lot remotely filled, even during the busiest weekday times.  Yet here’s the sign we found today.

Sure, it’s private property. But is this really necessary when no real problem exists? A little heavy handed? On weekends, when the offices are basically empty?

I walked in with the Staples tennis coach, who was even more surprised than I was.

Okay, I won’t park there. But I certainly won’t rent space there either. Karma!

The reader emailed later, with a PS:

School starts soon, so the courts can only be used after school or on weekends. Most folks will just use the school lots.

And most of my pickleball crowd prefers to play at Compo, the new bathroom notwithstanding.

It was the mean-spiritedness of the sign that bothered me most.

Recycling The Beach

Alert “06880” reader/concerned environmentalist Amy Berkin — a Weston resident who loves Compo Beach, and often picks up straws, bottle caps, candy wrappers and other trash on her early morning visits — writes:

I’ve always wondered why there are so few recycling receptacles at Compo — especially given how many people I see throwing plastic into the trash.

I usually try to bring my plastic home with me to recycle. It seems wrong sitting looking out at the water, knowing that’s where so much plastic winds up.

The other night, I asked someone who was collecting the black trash bags from the receptacles why we don’t recycle at the beach. He explained that the town has never provided clear plastic bags, which are required for recycle collection.

Compo Beach receptacle (Photo/Amy Berkin)

Even though there are a few recycle bins at the beach, it all goes into the same fill because the collection bags are not clear. The town collectors don’t have the manpower to separate the trash (nor should they have to, in my opinion).

I think the general population is conscious enough about the need to recycle. Can’t the town supply clear bags?!

I asked Parks & Recreation Department director Jennifer Fava about this. She replied:

The issue is not about whether or not there are clear bags. The issue is that in public places it is very difficult to actually have separate recycling, as once the bin is contaminated the contents can no longer be recycled. This can occur with just one ice cream wrapper, one used food wrapper, plate, etc.

Failure To Launch

Alert “06880” reader Scott Smith loves many things about Westport. Kayaking is near the top of his list.

However, all is not ducky on the water. Read on…

Why is there a 3-year wait for a permit to store a kayak for the summer near a launch ramp in Westport?

That question came to mind when I stopped by the Parks & Rec office at Longshore to renew my annual handpass and beach sticker. They’re the tickets to many summer pleasures, and a big reason why Westport is such a great place to live.

I love getting out onto, and into, the water along our beaches, tidal creeks and river banks. For years I kept a small motor boat at Longshore.

Then I downshifted to a kayak, schlepping the big yellow sit-on atop my SUV to various ramps around town: Compo Beach, Longshore, the state launch on the Saugatuck under the I-95 bridge, and the Mill Pond, where I took the scenic route past the oyster shack, through the tunnel under the Sherwood Island Connector, and along the tidal creek to Burying Hill Beach.

The tidal creek at Burying Hill Beach. Scott Smith launched kayaks from here.

The past few seasons, following a car change and increasing age and laziness, I’ve been fortunate to keep my kayak for the summer at Longshore’s E.B. Strait Marina, courtesy of a neighbor’s slot, who liked taking his young daughter out on my old 2-seater.

It’s an easy put-in for a saunter up Gray’s Creek, a jaunt out to Cockenoe, or a venture around Longshore Sailing School to the Saugatuck River. For years I’ve harvested golf balls shanked from the practice range, free for the picking at slack tide.

Fun fact: There are nearly as many enthusiasts of paddle sports – kayaks, canoes, paddleboards – as golfers (around 25 million in the US, depending on which trade group does the counting). Tennis trails both pursuits by quite a bit.

There’s no lack of supply for Westport’s golfers or tennis players. That’s great, and I’m among them. But 3 years to wait for a spot to stash your kayak for the summer?

A kayaker at sunset, between Compo Beach and Owenoke. (Photo/Nico Eisenberger)

I’d like to know why the town has not figured out how to accommodate such an expressed demand for an increasingly popular, and very low impact, recreational pastime. Believe me, I’m still kicking myself for telling my neighbor I’d try to get the permit in my name this year.

I can see how adding parking spots for the train station lots, or boat slips at the marina piers, could come up against hard logistical limits. But how difficult would it be to add a few more wooden trestles to the existing lots at Compo Beach or Longshore?

Better yet, I suggest the town consider adding storage spaces and launch sites around town, for residents to use and help fund. I can think of several spots, including Compo Beach marina near the boat ramp and facilities, and Burying Hill Beach, which also has facilities and ample parking along New Creek (and which is chronically overlooked as a town asset).

Compo Beach has kayak racks near South Beach. Scott Smith would like more. (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

A great new place to launch from would be the lower parking lot at Longshore, which occupies precious frontage on the Saugatuck River and is now mostly used to accommodate wedding-goers at the Inn. Pilings from an old pier remain along the shore; it wouldn’t take much to repurpose a part of the lot as a put-in for paddleboards, canoes, and kayaks, with some seasonal storage.

It may require coordination with the state, but as the striving crews of the Saugatuck Rowing Club and the enterprising folks at Downunder can attest, the river is prime territory for today’s waterborne pursuits (at least when the tide’s right).

The town should bolster access to the Saugatuck for recreational fun. I’m pleased to see that the small park on Riverside Avenue near the VFW has been spruced up, though parking remains an issue. That pocket park could, with the Town’s support, be another fun new spot from which to explore a pretty stretch of the river.

Scott Smith suggests the small park on Riverside Avenue as another kayak launch site.

Excuse the rant. But once you’ve enjoyed the views and sport of Westport from the water’s edge, you want more.

And I don’t see why taxpaying town residents should have to wait 3 years to have reasonable access to it.

I asked Westport’s Parks and Recreation Department for a comment. They replied:

As the kayak facility is a popular and relatively inexpensive activity, demand exceeds supply. Therefore, there’s a wait list. It ranges between 1 and 3 years, depending on activity and turnover rate. Last year, 57 kayak positions turned over.

Short of building more racks (which we did about 8 years ago), the trend will continue with a 1 to 3-year wait. We currently have 58 on the wait list for the 192 kayak positions at Compo and 30 at Longshore.

Parks and Recreation Commission chair Charlie Haberstroh added:

We are putting together a site plan for Longshore, and will look to add kayak spaces there. We can also see if there is a more efficient way to design and stack kayaks at Compo.

I believe that we understand the problem. Unfortunately there is not a solution for this summer. In a way it is a good problem: more demand than supply. We will get on it.

(Has Scott Smith’s story got you intrigued about kayaks? You can rent them at Longshore Sailing School, and Downunder on Riverside Avenue.)

Photo Challenge #221

This past Monday, beach stickers went on sale.

For decades, that meant standing in line at the Parks & Rec office. Same for registration for tennis and golf handpasses, program registration — basically, if you wanted to do anything fun in Westport, you had to head down to Longshore, then stand in a long line in a tired old Mediterranean-style building opposite the much more handsome Inn.

These days, it’s all online. As a result, many new residents have no idea where Parks & Rec headquarters is.

The building was spruced up a few years ago. It’s much more user-friendly — and now it shows its age well, not poorly.

The roof of the Parks & Rec office was barely visible in last week’s Photo Challenge. Mostly, Chip Stephens’ shot showed trees and brush. (Click here to see.)

But Andrew Colabella, Fred Cantor, Clark Thiemann and John D. McCarthy have been to Longshore enough to pick that building out of the thicket.

Can you pick out where in Westport you’d see this week’s Photo Challenge? If you know, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Bob Mitchell)

Photo Challenge #200

Security cameras have become so ubiquitous, we don’t even notice them.

So it’s not surprising that last week’s Photo Challenge — showing more than half a dozen cameras on top of a building — drew guesses of spots all around town.

The train station? Levitt Pavilion? Police station? Town Hall? No, no, no and no.

The cameras in question (click here to see) are located atop Joey’s by the Shore — the Compo beach concession stand. Andrew Colabella and Michael Calise — longtime and constant beachgoers — were the first 2 readers with the right answer.

But why would a beach restaurant need security cameras?

Andrew explained:

In the summer of 2016 there was a serious spike in vandalism, break-ins, driving on the beach, and illicit and suspicious activity. Lifeguard chairs were dragged into the water, Joey’s was broken into, and money was removed/stolen/missing from the gate.

In the past before that, boats had been burglarized and the lifeguard shack was broken into.

These cameras — along with many others strategically placed in and around the beach — record and are viewed by town employees in the Parks & Rec and Police Departments. The technological ability of these cameras is astonishing.

Since then, illegal activities have dropped dramatically.

So be cool out there. Big Brother — or at least the town — is watching.

Here is this week’s Photo Challenge:

(Photo/Mark Mathias)

If you know where in Westport you’d see this hand-sprayed “No Parking” sign, click “Comments” below.

And if you know why someone painted it there — in a seemingly legit parking spot — we’d like to know too!

Unsung Heroes #61

I’m not sure why summer lasts only 3 days, while winter drags on for 27 months, but once again one of our favorite seasons races to a close.

And once again we’ve been served wonderfully well by our Compo Beach, Longshore and Burying Hill lifeguards.

Despite their red outfits, high perches and occasional whistles, they tend to blend in with the sand and sea scenery.

Yet without them, we would not have the wonderful summer(s) we do.

(Photo/Amy Schneider)

Thankfully, their real emergencies are very few. But — in addition to training incessantly for them — our lifeguards also

  • Keep overzealous swimmers from straying into danger, and over-aggressive boats at bay
  • Handle routine scrapes, bruises and stings with care and kindness
  • Quickly summon the pros for more dangerous medical issues
  • Reunite lost kids with parents (and, during the fireworks, lost spouses with each other)
  • Answer tons of questions, from difficult to ridiculous (“yes, Joey’s is open now”)
  • Educate beach-goers about jellyfish and horseshoe crabs
  • Post thought-provoking Quotes of the Day
  • Pick up more garbage than you realize.

I’m sure I’ve missed many of other things our lifeguards do. Because — like the list above — they do them quietly, efficiently and (way too often) thanklessly.

Plus they’re out there, rain or shine.

So, to head guard Heidi List Murphy and her fantastic Parks & Recreation crew: thank you! You are always — but especially this week — our Unsung Heroes.

(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net)

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.

Unsung Heroes #54

Another summer has begun.

That means another year of fun at Compo Beach. And another season of Parks and Recreation Department employees picking up all our garbage, making sure we’ll have the best possible time at one of the most beautiful spots in town.

It’s a tough job most days. They do it cheerfully, morning, afternoon and into the evening.

But nothing compares to the fireworks.

That’s crunch time. They prepare ahead. They work hard all day and night, even as the pyrotechnics explode overhead.

Then their real work begins.

The moment the last firework fades, 15,000 folks head for their cars. They leave behind a phenomenal amount of stuff.

Coolers. Folding chairs. Tables. Umbrellas.

Plus tons — literally — of uneaten food, along with the usual cans, bottles, suntan lotion, bug spray, beach balls, footballs, pails, shovels, flip flops, magazines, newspapers, and whatever else someone needs for a day at the beach.

The scene at 11 p.m. is like a war zone, or natural disaster.

Yet by dawn the next morning, Compo is completely normal.

Garbage cans are empty. The seawall is clean. The sand has been groomed.

It happens overnight. But it doesn’t just happen.

Parks & Rec crews work incredibly hard — in the dark — to get the beach ready for another day of enjoyment.

No one sees them. No one thanks them. It’s their job, after all.

But they do it incredibly well.

For that reason, they’re our Unsung Heroes of this almost-fireworks week.

And if you really want to give them a hand, take all your crap home with you Monday night.

“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 Ready For All Comers

The temperature is near 90. A 3-day weekend beckons.

Let’s head to the beach!

Compo is certainly ready.

The new pavilion next to Joey’s is finished. A handsome new roof is up. Picnic tables — including some with cutouts for wheelchairs — are back.

(Photo/Carmine Picarello)

An eco-friendly “Mobi-Mat” has been installed. It’s perfect for people with walkers or canes, in wheelchairs, and parents with strollers.

(Photo/Carmine Picarello)

New signs direct daily parkers to a special area. Season sticker owners now get first dibs on the best spots.

(Photo/Chip Stephens)

Parks & Rec has made sure Compo is all set for summer.

Are you?