Westport price hike benefits Fairfield’s coffers
FAIRFIELD — Westport’s loss may be contributing to Fairfield’s gain as far beach parking goes.
So far this year, nonresident passes for Penfield and Jennings beaches increased by 158 over last year, and daily pass revenue jumped from $149,426 in 2017 to $171,791.
“The increase in nonresident season passes and daily parking is a direct impact of Westport raising their nonresident fees to $775,” Recreation Director Anthony Calabrese said. “We heard that a lot from first-time nonresidents purchasing passes.”
Nonresidents can purchase a season pass that allows parking at Jennings and Penfield beaches for $175, a figure that hasn’t increased much in recent years. In 2015, a nonresident pass cost $150.
Cars without stickers can go to those two beaches for $20 on weekdays and $50 on weekends and holidays. Entering a Westport beach without a parking pass costs $40 on weekdays, and $65 on weekends.
“At this time, the commission has not talked about raising the fees for next year,” Calabrese said. “They may look at their options in the fall as we put the budget together for the following year.”
While the Board of Finance has no control over the fees, Chairman Thomas Flynn said the board has expressed the belief there may be more revenue available.
“However, we have, on several occasions including this last budget cycle, requested that all boards and commissions that are responsible for setting rates perform a detailed review of the rates and benchmark them against other communities to make sure we are charging market rates,” Flynn said.
Westport’s nonresident fee had been $490, with daily fees of $30 and $65. In Bridgeport, an annual permit that allows use of Seaside Park is $15 for residents and $130 for nonresidents. Daily fees are $30 on weekdays and $40 on weekends for nonresidents who live in Connecticut. For those coming from out of state, the daily fees are $50 and $60.
Talk of increasing fees often revolves around two issues — revenue and beach overcrowding.
Several years ago, there were complaints from residents that the beaches were too crowded for the Fourth of July fireworks due to so many out-of-towners. As a result, the town began instituting limits on the number of cars without permits that would be allowed on the day of the fireworks.
This year, the fireworks were held before the holiday, and on a Monday night.
“As for the fireworks, we had a handful of residents that voiced their concern that the fireworks were held on a work night and that they weren’t able to barbecue with family during the day,” Calabrese said. “The crowds were smaller than in the past when the fireworks were held on a weekend night. Overall, we received more positive phone calls the following day from residents who enjoyed the smaller crowds.”