Rule changes aim to clean, limit Compo Beach use

WESTPORT — Residents are angry about summer conditions at Compo Beach and the Parks and Recreation Department is beginning to address their concerns.

“Bring the beach back to what it used to be,” said RTM District 2 Rep. Catherine Calise during Wednesday night’s Parks and Recreation meeting, echoing the cry of many of the 30 residents in attendance. “What it used to be was the beach was for the residents.

“The biggest difference between the way the beach is being used now and the way it used to be is with events,” Calice said. “We’re talking about private events, weddings, picnics from people from out of town.”

Parks and Recreation Director Jennifer Fava presented five recommendations, later approved by the commission, for changes at the beach. Fava’s recommendations include designated parking areas for town emblem holders, single-entry for daily passes, more trash cans and increased sanitation staff for the beach and restroom grounds.

“We want to make sure the recommendations we make are feasible and realistic,” Fava said, “and for this reason we’ll be presenting recommendations at various times when we’re confident they can be implemented.

Topics under investigation at the parks department include where and how daily pass purchases will occur, daily lot parking capacity and limitation on the size of events.

Also under consideration are fee increases for emblem and daily parking passes, decreases to the number of nonresident emblems sold, a reconfigured traffic flow, changes in beach rules and enforcement, and signage improvements. Some recommendations may require increased funding for the parks department, Fava said.

Westport resident Sal Liccione said, “My suggestion is that we hire more full-time and part-time employees to work with Parks and Rec directly.”

“I’m a mom in Westport,” Mary Demaris said during the meeting’s public comments section. “I was extremely concerned for the safety of kids on the beach this past summer.”

Demaris questioned whether staffing at the beach was adequate to address crowds, alcohol-related activities on the sand, and water safety.

“Could my daughter go to the beach with her friends and be safe?” Demaris asked. She called for better leadership, “someone who immediately sees a situation and says we need to respond to this now.”

The Parks and Recreation Commission voted to approve Fava’s five proposed recommendations. More Compo recommendations will be revealed at the next commission meeting in November.