Top five suggestions among responses by more than 2,600 people to the Longshore Club Park Capital Improvement Plan.

By Gretchen Webster

WESTPORT — A community survey on comprehensive plans to upgrade Longshore Club Park was unveiled for the Parks and Recreation Commission and public Wednesday, one of the first steps before moving forward with any projects. 

Many, however, indicate they like the 168-acre park as it is, and said changes should be made with a light touch.

A plan outlining potential projects, and a schedule to do them, is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Interpreting 2,600-plus survey answers

Interpreting the survey results — answered by 2,658 respondents — is just the beginning of a long process, and the wish list of projects may not all be approved, Jennifer Fava, director of the Parks and Recreation Department said at the meeting.

“There will be things that conflict with each other — it’s impossible to have everything,” she said. “I want to make sure everybody realizes that everything can’t happen in the same space … We’ll try to meet as many needs as we possibly can.”

Most popular uses of Longshore Club Park among the more than 2,600 survey respondents.

Possible upgrades under consideration

Among 19 possible projects, listed in the preliminary summary of “The Longshore Club Park Capital Improvement Plan Community Input,” are:

  • Opening more areas with views from the park onto the water.
  • A new golf clubhouse.
  • Pickleball courts.
  • A warming hut and additional courts for tennis players.
  • Creating a network of pedestrian and bike paths.
  • Adding shade and picnic facilities to the pool area.
  • Enhancing the playground.

Results of the survey were presented at the meeting by Gary Sorge of Stantec, a Canadian design and consulting company that conducted the survey for the commission.

Many of the findings were not surprising, Sorge said, such as park users reporting that they make many more visits to Longshore Club Park from May to October than from November through April. 

Other answers to the survey, however, were not expected, he said, such as the majority response that parking spaces in the waterfront park are sufficient. Sixty percent of those responding consider Longshore’s parking now is  sufficient, with 40 percent saying more is needed, particularly at the restaurant and pool.

Top five survey findings

The top improvement to the park desired by survey respondents is for additional amenities for passive recreation, with more water views coming in second. 

More areas for active recreation, followed by easier access for water sports and more useful signs around the park, complete the top five improvements cited by people answering the survey.

Keep a pool, but with improvements

The vast majority want Longshore to keep a pool, with the understanding the 50-year-old swimming facility needs upgrading, Sorge reported. 

More shade at the pool, renovated locker rooms and a sloped area allowing people to walk into the pool were the top three improvements recommended for the pool area by those answering the survey.

One area of concern mentioned by several members of the public attending the commission’s virtual meeting was a desire to have the pool heated. More people, especially those with children, would come to Longshore to use the pool instead of joining private clubs, said Chris Tait, a Representative Town Meeting member from District 1. 

Survey: Keep a pool.
Survey: Parking is adequate.

New golf clubhouse?

Many answering the survey believe the golf pro shop needs a new clubhouse building with a grill room, teaching and practice facilities, an outdoor patio and possibly a new location.

More pickleball, please

Adding pickleball courts and keeping a golf driving range were also overwhelmingly favored by survey respondents.

Surprising? Longshore is pretty good as it is

Most surprising of all, Sorge said, is that many respondents like Longshore just the way it is, and even those suggesting improvements didn’t want major changes. 

“They said they’d appreciate a light-handed approach,” he said.

Tait said he hopes Westporters appreciate how fortunate the town is to own Longshore. “Realtors talk about the schools and then drive [their clients] to Longshore and Compo,” he said.

The steps ahead for Longshore plans

Sorge listed the next steps for the improvement project, starting with researching sizes and the square footage needed for each project under consideration. 

Then, after alternative design concepts are considered using the dimension and location factors, the town will hold a forum on proposals, expected to be in September.

After the public forum, the project concepts will be refined and presented again in October. 

The last step this year would be, guided by popular opinion on what should be done, putting together cost estimates for various projects and creating a priority schedule for completing the various projects.

Residents can keep track of the steps forward in the Longshore Capital Improvement Plan, and view the survey, including 63 pages of comments, at the project website.

Freelance writer Gretchen Webster, a Fairfield County journalist and journalism teacher for many years, was editor of the Fairfield Minuteman newspaper for 10 years and currently teaches journalism at Southern Connecticut State University.

A new golf clubhouse is favored by respondents to the Longshore Club Park survey.