Opinion: Compo real estate in jeopardy
A tragic and indelible mistake is about to be foisted upon all those who love Compo Beach.
Although Westport taxpayers may remain divided as to whether or not it's a necessity to spend nearly $700,000 (plus perpetual maintenance, repairs and flood protection) to construct a 3rd permanent restroom at Compo Beach, it's unanimous that placing a 36ft x 20ft x13 foot high restroom/storage structure on a location that would forever destroy priceless real estate designated specifically for recreational use, is injudicious and lacks vision. The proposed location will permanently obliterate the stunning view of a vista that defines Compo Beach. It is both absurd and imprudent when alternative, less impact-full, and more appropriate locations can be found and modifications approved.
This is what happens when impact-full projects are proposed in a “piece-meal” fashion lacking comprehensive vision, decided in “preliminary” decision-making meetings, and omits substantive public guidance. It's astounding that having an overall plan for this recreational area (currently occupied by a skate park that is slated for an as of yet undetermined renovation project and two pickleball courts that have been quickly overcome by the exponential growth of new players and was recently described by a top USA tournament player who just played here as being amongst the top 3 courts in the entire nation) was not even considered prior to this enormous, significant and expensive project being proposed, finalized and approved by those in whom we entrust prudent stewardship of our precious jewel, Compo Beach.
In response to resident requests to relocate the restroom location by merely modifying the application, First Selectman James Marpe has steadfastly refused to inform town residents who he referred to when he wrote “If we begin to tamper with the approvals I can assure you that others will not be happy,” as his reason to remain wedded to this imprudent decision. Such failures of vision, lack of transparency, obstinance and lack of public guidance lead to imprudent decision-making, and then paternalistic governance engrains those decisions into indelible mistakes.
If it's ultimately determined that a permanent restroom structure serving those who utilize the South Beach section of Compo is a necessity, it should be strategically located to ensure walking distances are minimized, placed in the least obtrusive area where the obstruction of shoreline views is least affected, where existing recreational activities are not adversely impacted, and where future recreational expansion is not eliminated. It is regrettable that although our politicians have been made acutely aware that Westport residents do not want their tax dollars spent on this project location, they persist due to a misguided and irresponsible desire for expediency. Embarrassingly, the Parks & Recreation Commission has stated that in spite of the unanimous opposition from the public whom they are appointed serve, they will still pursue funding for this imprudent proposal simply because “they have board approvals in hand”. Instead of remaining entrenched in inflexibility, it's time for the Parks and Recreation Department, the Conservation Commission, and the members of Planning and Zoning to work collaboratively, with public guidance, to resolve this critical issue before it becomes a mistake that cannot be undone.
Thankfully it's not too late to prevent this mistake from occurring...however, time is running out, as the Board of Finance is scheduled to decide funding for this project on their September 5th. The P&R Commission has attempted to make this a parochial issue important only to the growing numbers of residents and visitors from ages 6 to over age 90, entire families playing together, and the Y's Men, who frequent the Pickleball courts to engage in the fastest growing sport in the country. However, in actuality this is an issue of importance to everyone who loves Compo Beach, and believes that a beach should remain an unspoiled respite from man-made structures, a place where recreation and relaxation are of paramount importance, where aesthetics should take a front seat to any manufactured intrusion, and where prudence and vision is established prior to any permanent decisions being made.
As proposed, this injudicious and imprudent proposal should not be granted funding until the most important and crucial approval of all is obtained - that of the public.
“Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got til its gone”
Jay Walshon is a Westport resident and pickle ball player.