Parking stays put as Park & Rec acts on Compo Beach plans
Updated 7:10 am, Wednesday, April 1, 2015
Seven recommendations for the future of Compo Beach -- including a hotly debated proposal to maintain parking along the waterfront instead of being relocated in favor of a walkway -- were unanimously approved Tuesday by the Parks and Recreation Commission.
The recommendations for the beachfront park were produced as part of a master plan prepared by the Compo Beach Site Improvement Committee, which has been working on them since May 2013.
"Don't fear," Charles Haberstroh, the parks and recreation chairman, told more than 100 people attending the Town Hall meeting. "If there is something you disagree with, this isn't the end." The recommendations will go to First Selectman Jim Marpe and then to several other boards and commissions before a final plan is approved.
The first recommendation concerned the controversial issue of parking along the beachfront, in particular one option the committee recommended that would push the parking area back and replace it with a pedestrian walkway directly next to the beach.
The second option, which won the commission's support, would keep parking beachside at both South and East Compo beaches as it now is. "There will be no changes at this time," Haberstroh said.
"This was the most controversial part of the entire plan," said commission member Edward Iannone. "At first I thought it was reasonable, but saw no support from the public."
"We heard loud and clear about keeping parking on East and South beaches," said Haberstroh. He said commission members went to the beach and moved their own cars back. "It wasn't the same view," he added.
The commission also recommended no change to the entrance to the beach, where traffic can back up at times.
"The main objective of the plan was to improve circulation at the entrance to the beach for safety and convenience," said Stuart McCarthy, the parks and recreation director. The master plan had suggested relocating the beach entrance, he said. McCarthy said if the commission "is not inclined" to do that, he suggested "at least leave it open" to make improvements to the existing entrance. That proviso was added to the recommendation before it was unanimously approved.
The upgrade of the skate park, which a number of young residents had lobbied to keep at Compo, was also approved with the recommendation that it be concrete. Another recommendation was that money for the project be partially raised from private sources.
"The kids made a great case for it," said Alec Stevens. The panel also recommended resurfacing the basketball court.
Gabi Dick, one of the skateboard lobbyists, thanked the commission, but wondered what the skate park supporters would have to do to raise money. Donna Chapman, who presented 1,500 signatures of support for the skate park, also asked "what percent" would they need to be raised privately. "I don't have a percentage," Haberstroh told her. "But it won't be unrealistic."
She said she was willing to volunteer to help raise the money needed.
Others spoke during the session, but far fewer than at earlier meetings on the Compo Beach master plan when many spoke in opposition to reconfiguring the parking.
Some applauded the commission's decision to maintain the parking status quo, although a few still thought pushing the parking back from the beachfront was the better option.
On other issues, Representative Town Meeting member Jimmy Izzo said one way to alleviate the back-up of cars at the beach entrance would be to offer online weekend tickets that people could print out. "Taking money at the gate creates problems," he said.
But Harrison Valante, who said he takes his boat to the beach several times a week, said he has never experienced a problem at the entrance.
Craig Davidson, who lives near the beach, said traffic on the roads leading there "have become a thoroughfare that's now used by many trucks, 18-wheeler trucks."
He said he would like "No Trucks" signs posted on nearby streets.
Resident Bill Thompson said he wanted a clarification on how the commission decided on the set of recommendations. "At the present this is what we're thinking of doing," Haberstroh said. "The next step is to get going on it."
"The Parks and Rec Commission did a great job listening to the community," said Marpe following the vote. "They listened to the community and came to a reasonable compromise with their proposal," he added. "I look forward to working with them to turn this proposal into a reality."