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Wednesday, January 16 News

Beach parking revenue increases despite price hikes

WESTPORT — The elasticity of supply and demand is difficult to predict, but the Parks and Recreation Department did a pretty good job as data from this past summer at Compo Beach shows the revenue increased, despite price hikes.

“The town was able to improve conditions at Compo Beach and grow revenue at the same time,” the advocacy group Friends of Compo Beach wrote in an email to the organization’s supporters.

Overall revenue increased 3 percent from the 2017 beach season, growing from $1,465,262 in 2017 to $1,509,611 in 2018, according to data provided by the Parks and Recreation Department.

“Given we had no clue what would actually happen when we raised prices, the fact that we were really close is amazing,” said Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Charlie Haberstroh.

A year ago, the commission and town’s Board of Selectmen voted to increase the price of parking at Compo for out-of-town residents roughly 50 percent, after a slew of complaints from residents about beach conditions during the 2017 summer beach season.

Last fall, a group of residents led by Leslie Gallant, Geralyn Breig and Nick Sadler formed Friends of Compo Beach with the goal of lobbying the town to reduce crowd sizes at Compo, enforce rules for public behavior, and ensure parking for residents, among other goals.

The price of seasonal beach parking prices for nonresidents increased from $490 in 2017 to $775 in 2018, and the number of seasonal parking passes allowed for nonresidents was capped at 340, down from 600 passes in 2017. Additionally, daily parking passes for residents and nonresidents increased from $30 to $40 on weekdays and $50 to $65 on the weekends and were capped at 100 per day.

“We believe the residents were heard and Parks and Rec successfully executed a plan that restored the quality of life conditions at Compo Beach. ... A safer, cleaner environment was restored,” Friends of Compo Beach wrote in the email.

The increase in revenue occurred despite a revenue decrease in sales to out-of-towners. Last year the parks departments sold 537 parking passes, while that number decreased to 335 this year. Daily parking passes decreased significantly from 8,045 passes sold in 2017 to 4,942 passes this past summer, which translated to a decrease of $76,470 in revenue from daily passes from 2017 to 2018.

“It was a pretty significant drop. We think the drop was because the weather wasn’t great on weekends, which is when people come for the day, and also the higher fee may have caused people not to come on a daily basis,” Haberstroh said.

Seasonal parking passes for residents decreased slightly, from 16,830 passes sold to residents in 2017 to 16,188 passes sold to residents this past summer.

Whether the same prices will continue into the upcoming beach season is still to be determined, Haberstroh said, noting his commission will review the impact of last year’s changes and make a decision for the coming summer prices in February.

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svaughan@hearstmediact.com; 203-842-2638; @SophieCVaughan1

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