Category Archives: Beach

The Future Of Westport: Don’t Say You Weren’t Asked

With 2 major planning projects underway — for downtown and the beach — town officials are urging Westporters to make their wishes known.

Sure, you can click on the “Comments” section of “06880.” But nothing beats showing up in public, and opening your mouth.

The Downtown Steering Committee holds a “charrette” this weekend (September 20-21) at Town Hall. Satellite events are set for other downtown locations too.

your-downtown-logoCharrettes are collaborative work sessions in which design professionals, residents, merchants, municipal experts and others discuss and draft solutions to address specific opportunities and challenges.

This weekend’s charrettes follow a kickoff event on Monday. A couple dozen people heard about, and saw visuals of:

  • A park-like walkway along Parker Harding Plaza, with a footbridge leading to the former Save the Children property on Wilton Road.
  • A new 2-story retail shopping center between the relocated Kemper-Gunn House on Elm Street, and Brooks Corner — effectively hiding the Baldwin parking lot.
  • A redesign that cuts Jesup Green in half. All parking would face Matsu Sushi; half of the current lot becomes an expanded green from the river to the police lot (with gazebo and paths). At the top of the green is a new “community arts space.”
  • An area in front of the current Y will force Church Lane traffic heading to Main Street to turn onto the Post Road first.
  • New buildings on the Imperial Avenue upper parking lot.
  • Possible relocation of the police department, and construction of — yes — a new retail shopping complex.
The west side of the Saugatuck River is also part of the new downtown plan. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer for DowntownWestportCT.com)

The west side of the Saugatuck River is also part of the new downtown plan. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer for DowntownWestportCT.com)

The charrette begins this Saturday at 8:30 a.m., at Town Hall. A “walking tour” of downtown follows at 9 a.m. From 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m.  back at Town Hall, there are work sessions, panels and discussions. From 3:30-6 p.m., “open studio workstations” allow discussions with experts about specific ideas and plans.

Sunday features more open studio exhibits and workstations (9:30 a.m.-1 p.m.), followed by a closing presentation (1:30-3 p.m.).

JP Vellotti — a longtime Westporter who attended Monday’s kickoff — says, “This is our chance to define how we want our downtown to look, and how we interact with that space.”

The charrette will also include a special aerial video of downtown, produced by Staples freshman Rick Eason. For more information on the charrette, click on www.downtownwestportct.com.

Rick Eason's video shows downtown from an angle never before seen.

Rick Eason’s video shows downtown from an angle never before seen.

Then, on Monday, September 29 (7:30 p.m., Town Hall auditorium), the Compo Beach Site Improvement Committee presents its recommended draft master plan to the Parks and Recreation Commission. Public comment is invited.

The Commission will make formal recommendations to the committee at a future public meeting. “It is important that the commissioners have sufficient time to digest the recommendations of the committee and the public input,” says Parks & Rec Commission chair Charlie Haberstroh.

The full draft of the master plan is available at www.compobeach2.com.

Both downtown and the beach are important, and vital, parts of Westport. The changes to one (or both) may be large (or small).

How close they come to what you want may depend on how clearly (and strongly) you (and your neighbors) express yourselves.

Last Ollie For The Skate Park

Everyone’s talking about the big changes proposed by the Compo Beach Site Improvement Committee: a new entrance, renovation of the bathhouses, elimination of perimeter parking.

Hardly anyone has mentioned a smaller plan: the end of the skate park.

Eddie Kim knows the stereotypes of skateboarders: “hooligans, drug dealers and delinquents.” He also knows the Compo park attracts a wide variety of people, like a fearless 8-year-old girl who loves riding down ramps.

She loves the park, and would be devastated to see it close.

The Compo Beach skatepark

The Compo Beach skate park.

Kim works at the park. But during the school year he’s a teacher. He practices Bikram yoga daily, and founded his own theater company. He’s a skater too. For him, skating is a creative way to relieve stress.

Kim wants Westporters to see the value of the skate park, and the community that has grown around it. He asked several regulars to offer insights. One of the most eloquent is James Bowles, a Staples freshman.

James knows that many people can’t understand why he’s spent “every free minute” of the past 6 years on a skateboard.

He says that when he was 6, at Long Lots Elementary School, he was diagnosed with OCD. For the next couple of years he hated his life. But the moment he set foot in the Compo skate park — “heading into the great unknown” — he was hooked.

His fears and stresses vanished. He was hooked.

He visited the park every day. He dreamed of skateboarding at night. He met his best friends there. They’re different ages, but they gave him a sense of self-worth, of potential, of community. That’s something every kid needs.

The Compo Beach skate park draws quite a mixed crowd.

The Compo Beach skate park draws quite a mixed crowd.

This summer, James worked as a counselor-in-training at the Compo Beach Skate Camp. “Seeing the joy on kids’ faces when they finally roll away from a trick they worked extremely hard to land is mesmerizing,” he says. Some of them may have been going through their own troubles, as he had.

He adds:

Even though I’m still young, I’ve seen bad things happen to good people. Kids my age are swept up into partying, drinking and general idiocy. Most people assume that because I skateboard, I get caught up in that sort of stuff.

I believe that if it weren’t for skateboarding, I would have been more likely to do that. The amount of times I’ve turned down plans to do ludicrous things, because I wanted to go skate, is enough to know I’m doing something right. Skateboarding has been one of the best investments of my time.

James says that the freedom of skateboarding has allowed him to work through his OCD. It has also helped him learn to be polite, pick up after himself, and look after others.

“Compo has always been a safe haven for people to skate legally,” he notes. “It’s a space where parents feel safe leaving their children. Compo has been my favorite place for 6 years, and I can’t imagine what losing the park would be like.”

Plenty of skaters gained confidence and a sense of independence at the park.

Plenty of skaters gain confidence and a sense of independence at the park.

Others agree. University of Colorado sophomore Casey Hausman made lifelong friends at the Compo park. “It’s a great community,” he says. “Everyone is supportive. Kids don’t need to worry about disappointing teammates or parents. Any progress is encouraged and applauded by everyone, no matter what the skill level.”

Kim Celotto’s 13- and 8-year-old boys have been skateboarding at Compo for years. She calls the instructors “patient, wonderful teachers who all the boarders look up to and admire. They learn skills and confidence, while having fun with friends.”

And, she says, skateboarding’s emphasis on fun and individual growth — not “fierce competition” — appeals to youngsters who may not be interested in team sports.

Parent Debra Newman has seen many kids flocking to the park in 90-degree weather, with no shade. “Would we rather have them sitting in front of the TV, exercising their thumbs?” she wonders.

But the final word belongs to James Bowles, the OCD sufferer who found a haven and a home at the Compo Beach skate park:

“I know that the argument of a 14-year-old high school freshman hardly compares to that of a town representative. But I hope anyone reading this will see my point of view.”

Positano’s: The Prequel

Peter Jones posted a fascinating photo on Facebook today (and David Pogue provided some touch-up magic to it):

Cafe de la plage - Pogue touchup

It shows the corner of Compo Hill Road and Hillspoint, during Hurricane Carol in 1954.

What is today Positano’s was then called Joe’s Store.

Peter wrote: “Notice the waves hitting Old Mill Beach. After Hillspoint Road was washed out, the town rebuilt and enlarged the jetty at Schlaet’s Point and reinforced the embankment at Hillspoint Road with HUGE boulders, creating sort of a Stonehenge effect.”

Darlene Bora added: “My mom always told me the pillars had been cut down at the bottom of Compo Hill Road (she grew up on Sterling Drive). I never saw them before today.”

Joe’s Store was there in 1954. Cafe de la Plage was there in 1984. Positano’s is there in 2014.

Now though, there’s no telling what that corner will look like — in good weather, and bad — in 2015.

Marine Police Make A “Swell” Save

Today’s Westport Historical Society kayak trip to Cockenoe Island was not exactly a day at the beach. WHS executive director Sue Gold writes:

Our 5th annual trip was hardly smooth rowing, as we quickly found out once we were a half mile offshore.

The swells were high, even though no boats were in sight. We were about 25 strong, but although the spirit was willing, Mother Nature was not.

The scene from a previous Westport Historical Society kayak trip to Cockenoe Island. This year's weather was less pleasant.

The scene from a previous Westport Historical Society kayak trip to Cockenoe Island. This year’s weather was less pleasant.

Our 2-person kayak was overwhelmed by relentless waves. Though both of us are strong and seasoned boaters, we were captive to the water that quickly filled our boat. We were forced to evacuate, fortunately onto a nearby sandbar.

We were like drowned rats, cold and shivering in the water with a boat we had no way to bail out. Peter Jennings expertly handled his safety boat to get us out of the water, but it was Bob Myer of the Westport Marine Police Unit who saved the day.

He got the kayak in his motor boat, pulled us on board, covered me with a medical blanket (my teeth were chattering), and got us back to the marina safe and sound. He then went out and rescued others on the tour as well.

Everyone got back safely. We applaud the Westport Police Department, who are there in a heartbeat to provide the most caring, compassionate and exceptional service to all in need.

One of the Westport Police Marine Unit's 2 boats. (Photo/Westportct.gov)

One of the Westport Police Marine Unit’s 2 boats. (Photo/Westportct.gov)

PS: Once we got back and my partner tossed me the car keys from the boat — well, they never made it into my hands. They now lie on the bottom of the Sound.

Fortunately, a diver overheard our dilemma and said he’s happy to take a look next week and fetch them for us. The giving never stops.

Feral Cats: The Sequel

The infestation of feral cats in the Compo Beach neighborhood may be over.

According to Foti Koskinas — Westport Police Department deputy chief who, as one of his duties, oversees animal control — told “06880” today that he and several others are helping the homeowner who, to the dismay of neighbors, has provided food and shelter for up to 30 feral cats.

The owner is “working hard to do the right thing,” Koskinas reports.

Four cats have already been removed, and will be spayed. Then they’ll be relocated, away from the neighborhood.

When feral cats multiply, it's no day at the beach.

When feral cats multiply, it’s no day at the beach.

The owner is also collaborating with PAWS. That organization will trap 5 more cats, spay them, and relocate them to farms and barns.

The woman has agreed to feed only her personal cats — not strays — and to do so inside her home, not outside. She will also give up 1 rescue cat for adoption.

“We’re committing to helping her in any way we can,” Koskinas says. “The neighbors are helping too.”

Several neighbors contacted “06880” to offer praise for Koskinas, PAWS and the homeowner.

Sounds like a problem that — in more than one way — is almost “fixed.”

Positano’s To Change Hands — And More?

An Old Mill area resident writes:

My husband and I are devastated over rumors that Positano’s will be sold to a developer from Greenwich, to become a residential home.

I’m not sure how many people know that the wonderful owners of this restaurant fought to have 3 tables of outdoor seating a few years ago, but were denied due to a very few uptight neighbors. This devastated the owners.

Most of us in this area love them, and Positano’s. Having a restaurant on the beach in Westport is truly magical, even a necessity.

The number of marriage proposals that I’ve seen take place at Positano’s is a testament to the beauty of the space.

Positano's, on Hillspoint Road near Elvira's.

Positano’s, on Hillspoint Road near Elvira’s.

I can’t believe there aren’t more options for both food and festivities on the Sound. I have heard wonderful stories about Allen’s Clam House (now the Sherwood Mill Pond preserve).

Splash will now be the only water view restaurant on the Sound.

Today, I called Positano’s to track down the rumor. A representative said he could not confirm the potential sale, for a private residence. He said, however, they would “probably” move by the end of the year.

Minuteman Statue: That’s A Wrap

The Minuteman statue just begs to be decorated.

Over the years he’s worn a Santa Claus hat and Easter bunny ears. He’s had flowers — and a bagel – stuck in his musket.

It’s all in good fun. Even if, every time, a few folks get all bent out of shape about the “desecration” of our town symbol.

This time, though, the entire statue is involved. The Minuteman looks like — I don’t know, an early Halloween celebrant.

(Photo/Betsy Phillips Kahn)

(Photo/Betsy Phillips Kahn)

But hold your fire. (Get it?!)

The wrapping job was official. The stones around it — and the statue itself — are being power washed.

Soon the cover will come off. The Minuteman will look as good as new. Or, at least as good as he did when the statue was dedicated in 1910.

And we can all go back to lovingly decorating the guy.

Steve And Toni Rubin Say Goodbye (Y’All)

35 years ago, Steve Rubin’s medical and surgical supply company was considering a move from Long Island to Norwalk.

Steve and his wife Toni lived in Douglaston, Queens. They began talking about moving to “the country.” Their friends thought they were crazy. They sort of did, too.

“We both grew up in New York City,” Steve says. “For us, Westport was the edge of the earth, before it cracks off.”

But fresh air, and a produce stand on North Avenue, lured them in. The Rubins rented the big white Rippe house, next to 7 acres of corn farmed by a guy named Buster.

“We truly felt like we lived on a farm,” Steve recalls. “We fell in love with this place.”

Toni and Steve Rubin.

Toni and Steve Rubin.

The 1st folks they met were Betsy Wacker — from Welcome Wagon — and her husband Watts. George Underhill, from the town tax office, soon became a good friend too. All 3 introduced the Rubins to many aspects of their new home town.

Steve’s company never moved to Norwalk. He spent 5 years commuting to New York.

Then, 23 years ago — at age 47 — he suffered a heart attack.

The Rubins’ Westport friends responded immediately. Meals poured in. People drove him to the doctor. They did whatever they could for the couple.

Steve Rubin

Steve Rubin

The heart attack led Steve to retire from his stressful work. He got a job with Westport’s Parks & Rec Department, manning the Compo gate.

He organized workers for the Compo Beach playground construction project. He joined the Y’s Men. Toni created the Respect program, for children with special needs.

“It snowballed,” Steve says. “It was like we’d lived here 100 years. This town has a magic effect. It makes people feel like natives.”

The Rubins’ activities grew. Steve spent many years as the voice of Festival Italiano. He did not stop until the last raffle ticket was sold. “I made a whole bunch of new friends there too,” he says.

Perhaps his most important contribution began the day he complained to Gordon Joseloff about “some safety issue.” Joseloff — at the time the moderator of the Representative Town Meeting — urged him to run for the legislative body.

Earlier this month — almost 20 years later — Rubin resigned from the RTM. In an emotional farewell, he announced that he and Toni are moving to Charleston, South Carolina.

Steve and Toni Rubin's t-shirts say it all. He adds, "I could not have done any of this without my wife and best friend."

Steve and Toni Rubin’s t-shirts say it all. He adds, “I could not have done any of this without my wife and best friend.”

The impending move is “bittersweet,” Steve admits. After a couple of years of consideration, the lure of warmer winters and a lower cost of living was too good to pass up.

“We don’t want to wait until, god forbid, we’re too old to do it,” Steve says.

The Rubins don’t know a soul in Charleston. But, he notes, “We didn’t know anyone when we moved here. We did it before, and we’ll do it again.”

Steve adds, “we’ll love this town forever. There are so many great people here. It seems like Westport is filled with mensches.”

Steve Rubin in the Memorial Day parade.

Steve Rubin in the Memorial Day parade.

The Rubins leave knowing they’ve made a major mark on their adopted home town. Their name appears on the quilt at Town Hall, the library River of Names and brickwalk, the Wall of Honor at the Staples football field and the Longshore pool wall mosaic.

They’ll miss the many activities they’ve participated in, and enriched: the Memorial Day parade. First Night. PAL fireworks. Downtown trick-or-treating.

They’ll miss Compo, Longshore and Saugatuck. “We’ll even miss the Post Road and Main Street,” Steve laughs.

They’ll miss Westport a lot. But not as much as we will miss Steve and Toni Rubin.

Even At Chill Burying Hill…

…someone felt the need today to save a parking spot.

(Photo/Christine Cullen)

(Photo/Christine Cullen)

Note to Very Entitled Beachgoer:

This is Burying Hill. It’s a teeny tiny beach. Even on the hottest days, there are parking spots available.

But this is September 7. Check out the photo.

Put the beach chair on the sand, where it belongs. You’ve got plenty of room.

 

The Calm After The Storm

Once today’s storm passed, Fred Cantor headed to Compo Beach. Here’s the serene scene:

(Photo/Fred Cantor)

(Photo/Fred Cantor)

Plus, he reports, Joey’s was open.