Thursday, March 27, 2014
By James Lomuscio
Moving ahead to come up with a master plan, Westport’s Compo Beach Site Improvement Committee tonight pored over consultant maps aimed at improved pedestrian safety, more useable beach area, green space, better traffic flow and updated facilities.
“I feel like we’re getting closer and closer, preserving as much as possible of what people like, and making it more refreshed,” said Andy Moss, committee chairman.
While improving the dilapidated bathhouse remains a priority, tonight’s meeting focused on the town property’s layout.
Ashley Ley, senior planner for White Plains, N.Y.-based AKRF, Inc., environmental, planning and engineering consultants, presented maps showing a new plan for traffic flow into the beach and reworked parking lots for 700 cars, as well as a pedestrian walkway that loops the shoreline.
Among the changes presented were: having the guard station relocated farther into the beach; a roundabout directing drivers to the Compo Marina, South Beach, parking areas and athletic fields; and a 6-foot-wide pedestrian walkway that would become a boardwalk along a stretch of South Beach.
Ley’s designs appeared to have the greatest impact on South Beach. Vehicles would no longer be able to park vertically in front of the barbecue pits and picnic tables, but in the parking lot to the north. The result would mean more green space near the shoreline. Ley’s plans also call for a South Beach bathhouse and concession area.
“The orientation of South Beach and its usage is going to change,” said George Franciscovich, committee member.
One of the biggest debates focused on the stretch of beach near the cannons, a planned green island and existing trees in the area.
The AKRF design left some parking spaces in front of North Beach. Some agreed they should remain as drop off areas or places where beach goers could look at the Long Island Sound while staying in their cars during inclement weather.
Others said that vehicles should not be there and that green space should be expanded as the road becomes one way, and one lane is eliminated.
Ley also spoke about the need to preserve the trees in that area. Stuart McCarthy, committee member and director of the Parks and Recreation Department, noted that the designs, which should serve the beach “for the next 50 years,” should not hinge on existing trees.
“We should not be constrained by a few oddly shaped trees in the island,” said McCarthy. “If the trees can stay, great, but I would say design the beach properly.”
“I agree,” Chris Tait, a Representative Town Meeting (RTM) member who represents District 1. “You can always plant new trees.”
McCarthy said the committee would meet again in two weeks.
Posted 03/27/14 at 01:05 AM
It appears to me that the committee is headed towards reducing functionality of Compo in a poor trade for improved aesthetics. While I think some kind of a small pavilion at South Beach with rest rooms will be a great improvement over the current portable toilet, I think eliminating parking at South Beach will make it less usable.
South Beach is primarily a picnic area. People who want to have supper there bring their food and furniture in their vehicles and then lug them to the picnic tables. If the parking is moved further away, people, including many of us who are older than we used to be, will have have a bigger job getting their gear to the picnic area. Will they also have to cross roadways with their coolers and risk life and limb?
I predict that the picnic area will not be as well used as it is today and that would be counter to the goals of an improved Compo Beach, in my opinion.
An additional group of South Beach users appears to enjoy pulling up to the beach in their vehicles and enjoying the view while they eat their brown bag lunch, or just stopping for a few moments of rejuvenation. If that is no longer possible, another group of constituents will be excluded.
Let’s keep in mind that the whole idea of “improvements” is to make the park more useable for residents who actually use Compo.
The major thrust of this committee is to remove all perimeter parking as well as most of the parking at the boat launch area and the marina.
Stuart McCarthy has made the comment that people need to get out their cars and walk. In fact most people do - but many have lots of gear and young children in tow and some of the beachgoers are not always physically able to walk long distances. This is a committee that has opinions that do not embrace the way most residents use the beach.
Why increase pedestrian crossing of roadways if you don’t have too? Especial with young children or the elderly. sounds like an accident waiting to happen.
I would implore this ‘committee’ to really dig deep and find out what truly matters to the users of Compo Beach. Increasing safety is commendable but how many accidents have we had with pedestrians over the years? Why do we need to so radically change our beloved beach? Compo has so many memories and a legacy behind it for what it is….simple and beautiful. This ’ no stone unturned’ attitude regarding change in Westport is essentially ruining the character we are known for for the sake of a few who deem it necessary.
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