Westporters battle over fate of Compo Beach

Compo Beach lovers young and old gathered in the Town Hall Auditorium on Monday night for the Parks and Recreation Commission’s presentation of the draft of renovation.

The presentation included reconfiguring shore-front parking, a new bathhouse and a new cabana-like structure where Joey’s would be.

Before the meeting began at promptly 7:30 p.m., the standing-room-only crowd buzzed with animated discussion among neighbors and friends while a petition to save the skatepark circulated.

“I feel very strongly about keeping Compo Beach as is,” Susan Pike, a Saugatuck resident, explained. “The beach is what I love most about our community and I don’t understand why they would want to change it.”

Parks and Recreation Chairman Charlie Haberstroh opened by noting that this was a time when the commision could listen to the public, and urged people to act respectfully. “We are all your neighbors,” he said motioning to the commissioners. “Everyone here in this room is your neighbor.”

First Selectman Jim Marpe stated that while Compo Beach has provided a safe environment for Westport families for years, changes are still necessary. “It is important that we do our best in upgrading and improving when it makes sense to assure that this wonderful space can be enjoyed by future generations.”

After Marpe’s statement, members of the crowd began whispering comments of disapproval to their neighbors. An elderly couple exchanged looks with one another and slowly shook their heads from side to side every time change was mentioned.

Among the familiar faces of regular Town Hall attendees was a group of nearly twenty kids, ranging in age from eight to eighteen, who, like the white haired couple, were opposed to any changes.

Dixon Scherer, 8, came with his skateboard tucked under his arm and a neon poster with the words “Save Our Skatepark” in thick, black Sharpie. “I’m here to save the skatepark,” he claimed, with the confidence of a long-time activist. Scherer and his skateboarder friends, and their mothers, huddled in the right corner of the auditorium, ready for a demonstration. Yet even after a full hour of the presentation, the skatepark had not yet been mentioned.

Finally, the commission welcomed public comments, starting with anyone under eighteen to speak and voice their opinions, which ranged from simple explanations to well-reasoned speeches by older kids.

Staples student Theo Koskoff ’18 gave a speech that earned him approving nods, including some from the white haired couple. “I’m gonna talk about a famous saying, which is ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’” Koskoff began, later adding,“There is nothing wrong with Compo. It’s a wonderful beach,” Referencing the Urban Dictionary definition for Westport, Koskoff concluded, “Westport has this reputation of being a stuck up and filthy rich town. The reason that this stereotype exists though, is that we fix unbroken things.”

However, as the commission had stated, this controversial meeting is just step one of the long process. Many more meetings will take place before the community comes to a consensus on what to do with what one resident called “Westport’s precious gem.”