After changes, rate increase, Westport beach pass sales up
WESTPORT — With beach season underway, sales of beach season pass parking emblems are up 2,000 this year following a series of improvements to beach infrastructure since the close of last season.
“It’s a significant increase,” Parks and Recreation Department Director Jennifer Fava said.
As of May 14, town’s Parks and Recreation Department had sold 12,183 beach parking emblems compared to 10,510 emblems sold by the same date last year. Westporters have largely driven the increase in sales with 11,335 emblems bought by town residents as of May 14 compared to 10,510 sold to Westporters at the same time last year.
“Part of our thought may be that because it’s been so talked about, people are buying them earlier,” Fava said, referring to the public outcry about beach conditions that erupted after last year’s beach season, prompting the department to make several modifications to the beach in preparation for this season, including a new pavilion roof, new bathrooms, and a new entrance. A community activist group entitled Friends of Compo Beach formed following the 2017 beach season to lobby the town to improve beach conditions and address issues they identified the beach, such as overcrowding and bad behavior.
The Parks and Recreation Commission has sought to address residents concerns about beach overcrowding with price-hikes for beach emblems and a cap on the number of non-residents who can buy a seasonal parking pass and enter the beach each day. Residents now pay $50 for a beach emblem, compared to $40 last year, while non-resident emblem price went from $490 to $775. Weston residents now pay $375 for an emblem compared to $250 last year.
While the parks department allowed for a capacity of 600 emblems sold to non-residents last year, it put a cap of 350 on the number of emblems that can be sold to out of towners this year. As of May 21, 312 non-residents bought beach emblems compared to about 400 who bought emblems by the same time last year, Fava said. Although Fava said she got much feedback from Weston residents complaining about the price increase of beach emblems for Westonites, she’s said the department had sold 537 emblems to Weston residents as of May 14, which is about the same number the department had sold to Westonites at the same point last year.
Despite her group’s concern for beach overcrowding, resident Leslie Gallant, a founder of Friends of Compo Beach, said she’s not concerned about the increase in beach emblem sales.
“Maybe people became more inspired to go down to the beach now that the pavilion’s been renovated. I hope the community will continue to support the beach,” Gallant said.
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