A standing-room-only crowd turned out for Wednesday's meeting of the Compo Beach Site Improvement Committee, hoping to turn the tide against changes under review for the park.
"We're not used to such a large audience," said Andy Moss, chairman of the committee charged with devising a plan for the future use of the popular shorefront recreation property.
The crowd of more than 50 people came out to weigh in on a portion of the proposed master plan for the beach that could see reconfiguration of the parking area. The majority of those attending left no doubt that they oppose that portion of the proposal.
"Why not just ask right now how many here support this?" one resident yelled as the meeting began. "There is no plan up for decision," said Moss. "This is a working session."
Moss later said the committee doesn't even have a "first draft yet" for the park master plan.
Residents seemed most concerned about changes to the parking area that would restrict direct access to the beach. Moss said those changes were proposed for pedestrian safety. But some people said that concern is not relevant since there have been no major incidents involving pedestrians struck by vehicles over the years.
Moss reiterated that "traffic and safety" are a concern for the panel, and making the whole area walkable is a priority.
Moss said other issues the committee is considering include the addition of lighting, also for safety, updating the bathhouse and providing a year-round bathroom. In fact, he said, the estimated the cost for any updates to the beach would run about $7 million with $4 million alone going for the new bathhouse.
"The idea was to come up with a master plan for the whole area," he said, adding most of the beach area -- 97 percent -- would not change. The most significant change would be in the parking area along the beach, which possibly will be revised.
"The average age" of the men is 75 years, he said. "Access to the beach is currently easy for us," he added. "We can park right up to the beach." The proposal to move parking farther from the beachfront would mean that would prove challenging.
"I want to keep it the way we have been doing it for 50 years," Caldwell told the committee.
His comments were greeted with loud applause.
Some residents felt changing the parking configuration was being considered to "fix a problem that doesn't really exist," as one person put it.
"Compo Beach is spectacular the way it is," that person said. Again there was loud applause.
Moss at one point told the audience that, over the course of the committee meetings each week, the group has discussed and discarded some ideas. "We got over things you really would have objected to," he told them.
Doris Forest asked if "there is a point where the public can see" the final, proposed plan. "I would want to weigh in before the eleventh hour," she said.
Moss said there would definitely be meetings when a formal master plan has been drawn up, and that information on the planning process is regularly posted on the committee's website: www.CompoBeach2.0