Over the years, both time and tide have changed the face of Compo Beach. That's why the Parks and Recreation Department wants to develop a master plan to channel resources into preserving the town's largest shoreline asset.
Sometime in the next month or so, according to said Stuart McCarthy, the town's parks and recreation director, a formal "request for proposals" is expected to be issued for engineering and design firms to bid on the job of preparing a Compo master plan.
"The focus on that master plan is going to be on vehicle and pedestrian movement in and around the beach," McCarthy said.
He said the days of people "going to the beach, lathering themselves in suntan oil, and sitting in a chair" have been eclipsed by active visitors -- walking, jogging and pushing strollers.
"There is no good safe way for pedestrians to move safely throughout the facility," he said.
Christopher Urist, a District 6 member of the Representative Town Meeting, is among those said to be under consideration for appointment to a new town committee that would work with the outside professionals on a master plan.
"Of course I'm interested," Urist said of the committee. "I go to the beach all the time. I'm always down there."
"Basically, the whole beach area, there's no bike path or running path, particularly the area along the beach where people park," he said. "People walk and run behind parked cars, so when people are backing up, they always have to watch out for pedestrians."
"It seems like it should be the opposite," he said.
Traffic is another issue that will be studied, particularly at the beach entrance, where cars are sometimes forced to back up or turn around.
"Right now, on a busy day, cars back up waiting to get into the beach," said McCarthy, who mentioned possibly introducing a kind of EZ-Pass for the gate operation "so that a resident with a sticker on their car can drive through and get the green light and not have to wait."
"It hasn't been improved or really looked at in 100 years," said Skip Lane, another likely committee member, who currently serves as president of the Compo Beach Association. "The bathhouses have run down, the bathroom facilities are in terrible shape ... and the access -- ingress and regress --is going to be looked at by people who do this type of recreational planning for a living."
"I think there's a lot of improvement to be made there," he said.
"It's such an important part of this community and why we pay the taxes we pay," Lane said.
The Board of Finance, according to McCarthy, has "clearly signaled that they were ready to make some investment into these recreation facilities ... We need to get the RFP on the street (and) get the responses back.
"When we're ready to go forward with the design phase, we'll have a lot more information," he said, "to share with the community."
McCarthy added that "Right now, it is open-ended ... We need to do this preliminary work in order to develop the scope of the project and the scope of the budget."
"The hope is that we'll have some professionals come in and sort of give them a blank sheet of paper to find out if there are any good ideas that we're missing," he said.
"Compo is one of the jewels of Westport and deserves to be treated as such," said First Selectman Gordon Joseloff. "We've long had Compo improvements in the five-year capital forecast and it's time to bring it forward."