Compo Beach fee increases approved

WESTPORT — Following months of discussion about potential changes to Compo Beach, the Board of Selectmen rubber stamped perhaps the most significant change — price hikes.

“Over the course of the 2017 season we got a great deal of resident input coming to us about various concerns happening at Compo Beach, a lot of it pertaining to overcrowding of the beach and the (parking) lots, the beach rules and regulations and their enforcement, as well as the cleanliness of the beach,” Parks and Recreation Director Jennifer Fava told the Board of Selectmen at Wednesday’s meeting.

An additional $200,000 in funding is needed to pay for cleaning, enforcement and staffing services at the beach next summer in order to address residents’ concerns, Fava said.

The Parks and Recreation Commission voted to acquire the $200,000 in additional funding by raising beach emblem, otherwise known as seasonal beach parking passes, prices from $40 to $50 for residents and $490 to $775 for nonresidents. Additionally, daily parking passes for residents and nonresidents will increase from $30 to $40 on weekdays and $50 to $65 on the weekends.

Regardless of resident concerns, Fava said the commission planned to increase prices because emblem fees have not increased since 2015 and daily fees have remained constant since 2012.

“I’m very glad the change for resident fees has been reduced. I think that’s appropriate,” Third Selectwoman Melissa Kane said of the parking emblem prices for residents that the Parks and Recreation Commission previously approved to increase from $40 to $60 before deciding to lower the price to $50.

Second Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker, a former member of the Board of Finance, said she’s happy with the new prices and, “the fact that we’re thinking of sharing the increased costs of using the beach in a way that everybody’s contributing.”

In comparison, Fairfield charges $20 and $50 for weekday and weekend beach passes, respectively, for access to all beaches. The town charges $175 for a season parking pass to Jennings and Penfield beaches for any vehicle that does not pay taxes in the town of Fairfield. Norwalk charges $225 for nonresident beach season parking passes. Sherwood Island charges $22 for nonresidents on weekdays and $15 for nonresidents on weekdays.

Seemingly to assuage fears that Westport may run into legal trouble for increasing the nonresident emblem prices by $285, Assistant Town Attorney Eileen Flug said, “I think it’s important to remember there’s free access to the beach. Anyone can go to the beach, this is all about parking, the right to park at the beach and allocating the costs fairly between the different groups of people who use the beach.”

More Information

Nonresident beach pass costs

Norwalk........................ $225

Fairfield........................ $175

Westport...................... $750

Weston residents, who are not considered nonresidents, will pay $375, up from $250 for a season pass to the beach. Weston seniors’ stickers are $200, a $65 increase.

Unlike nearby Greenwich, First Selectman Jim Marpe said Westport has “miles’ worth of entrances to the beach,” and therefore can’t limit access to the beach via its entrances. By default, Marpe suggested the town can only do so by raising parking fees and limiting nonresident parking passes and daily passes, which the Board of Selectman agreed to do at its last meeting.

This year parking emblems for out-of-towners will be capped at 350, down from 600 emblems last year.

Leslie Gallant, a resident of Crooked Mile Road, and representative of the advocacy group Friends of Compo Beach, which formed late last summer to address conditions at Compo, was the only resident who spoke during the meeting’s public comment period.