Category Archives: Beach

Listen, My Children, And You Shall Hear…

…of the Minute Man statue we hold so dear.
Not any one man is now alive
Who remembers back to 1775
Or the march of the British from Compo’s shore
To Danbury north, and its arsenal store
Or the days that followed, as they marched back south
And ran right into our militia’s mouth
The Battle of Compo Hill became quite a story
And Westport’s Minute Men earned all their glory
But seldom today do we give any thought
To all that our patriot ancestors wrought
We pass by the statue with ne’er a glance
For far more concerned are we with the chance
To sunbathe and swim, go boating and grill
Or enjoy yet another modern-day thrill
As the Minute Man stands, a sentinel silent
To a long-ago chapter so bloody and violent
But hark! For on Sunday we look back and praise
The remarkable heroes of those valiant days
(Click here for the details of all the events
Then read further this poem; ’twill make much more sense).

Minuteman statue 2

In 1906 Daniel Webster moved here
Though just 29, his sculpting talent was clear
Four years later he was asked (in part by the state)
To design, develop, cast and create
A sculpture to show a patriot kneeling
With flintlock in hand, and a strong steely feeling
‘Twould be placed near the beach, at the same exact spot
Where the Battle of Compo Hill had been fought.

Robert Penn Lambdin's

Robert Penn Lambdin’s “The British Landing at Cedar Point, April 25, 1777″ oil painting is part of the Westport Schools Permanent Art Collection.

Lewis P. Wakeman is a name from the past
He’s the model from whom the Minute Man has been cast
In bronze, where he sits on a mound of green grass
From his perch now he’s watched a full century pass
The Westport statue is one of just four
Saluting a Minute Man to remember that war
Feelings were stronger in the year 1910
The unveiling was quite an event way back then
A clambake, parade, music and speeches
Made June 17 a red-letter day at the beaches.

The Minute Man statue, around the time of his 1910 dedication.

The Minute Man statue, around the time of his 1910 dedication.

In the 10 decades since then, much has been seen
The Minute Man’s patina turned brown to green
Rain storms eroded the earthen knoll’s contour
The fence fell into disrepair even more
But now, thanks to a passionate, hard-working team
The Minute Man once again shines with a gleam
His hill is restored, his fence now is steady
And once again with his flintlock he kneels at the ready
To remind us that once upon men, bold and brave
(Some of them buried in a near shallow grave)
Defended this land with a spirit so strong
That to forget their sacrifice must surely be wrong
So this Sunday — and all days — think, if you can
Of the saga of Westport’s beloved Minute Man.

(To learn more about this Sunday’s Minute Man celebrations, click here.)

(Photo/Katherine Hooper)

(Photo/Katherine Hooper)

Happy Earth Day!

After a gorgeous start, Westport’s skies turned menacing this afternoon.

Alert “06880” reader Matt Murray was at Compo Beach, just before a brief but gusty storm rolled in.

(Photo/Matt Murray)

(Photo/Matt Murray)

A Few Hours To Honor The Minute Men

They’re called the Minute Men, but they spent 8 years fighting the Revolutionary War.

It took a couple of years to renovate Westport’s Minute Man statue.

The annual Minute Man Road Race is actually 2 races — 5K or 10K — which take considerably longer than a minute to run.

So it’s fitting that Westport will celebrate “Minute Man Day” next (Sunday, April 26), with a series of activities that take 300 minutes (5 hours, if you failed math).

Minute Man Road RaceThe activities — commemorating the 238th anniversary of the British march from Compo Beach to Danbury and back again (our Minute Men did a pretty good job against them), and celebrating the renovation of Henry Daniel Webster’s 105-year-old statue — begin at noon on Sunday, April 26, soon after the Minute Man Race.

Departing every 15 minutes from 12 to 1:30 p.m., Westport Historical Society docents (including yours truly) will lead guided tours. We’ll start at the Ned Dimes Marina (definitely not a Revolutionary War facility), and make stops at the old cemetery and Minute Man statue. There are special children’s activities at the marina. Net proceeds from a suggested donation of $10 (ages 13 and up) go toward the ongoing care of the statue.

From 1-5 p.m., a recreated Revolution militia encampment will be set up on Jesup Green. The Connecticut Society of the Sons of the American Revolution color guard performs musket demonstrations. This event is free.

At 2:30 p.m. in the Westport Library, conservator Francis Miller will describe how he restored the Minute Man statue. This one is free too.

The Minuteman statue. In the distance is Minuteman Hill.

The Minuteman statue. In the distance is Minuteman Hill.

At 3 p.m. — also in the library — history lecturer Ed Hynes discusses the Danbury raid. He’ll talk about the 4-day adventure, which included noted brigadier general Benedict Arnold. If you don’t know which side he was on — or even if you do — this promises to be very educational.

In fact, the entire day is worth more than a few minutes of our time.

Minute Man Day

Ready To Renovate Longshore?

The Compo Beach Site Improvement Committee is fading away, in our rear view mirrors.

Up ahead: renovating Longshore.

The Parks and Recreation Commission — and plenty of Longshore users — have talked for a while about improving the 169-acre park. The crowded area around the 1st tee — with its ramshackle golf pro shop, landfill driving range, helter-skelter parking and dumpster near the Inn — is one area ripe for improvement.

Marina parking, and the maintenance shed sitting smack in the center of things, are other places worthy of examination.

Longshore -- one of Westport's crown jewels -- includes a golf course, tennis courts, marina, pools, and much, much more.

Longshore — one of Westport’s crown jewels — includes a golf course, tennis courts, marina, pools, and much, much more.

Then there are usage questions. Do we need more paddle courts? Do the pool and skating rink work well? You get the idea.

The 2015-16 town budget includes money for a study of Longshore — something similar to what the town did with Compo, says Parks and Recreation Commission chair Charlie Haberstroh.

He hopes to organize a committee later this year. “It probably won’t be quite as comprehensive as Compo,” he says. “We’re not talking about building a clubhouse in the middle of the golf course. But we should start the planning process now.”

Several constituent groups are already gearing up to be heard. In an email to current and former members, the Longshore Men’s Golf Association board floated the idea of a small new clubhouse — with locker rooms, a pro shop, and an upstairs grill room — taking advantage of water views.

There will be plenty more discussion ahead. That’s a given — this is Westport.

The Inn at Longshore is a major attraction at the park. It sublets space to a restaurant -- but right now that space is empty.

The Inn at Longshore is a major attraction at the park. It sublets space to a restaurant — but right now that space is empty.

Meanwhile, a more pressing Parks and Rec concern — as well as for many diners and drinkers — is the status of Longshore’s restaurant/bar.

 Splash closed several months ago. Though Inn at Longshore lessee Rory Tagert’s lease requires him to run a restaurant, time is running out for this summer. The Inn is reported to be close to an agreement with a new sub-tenant. But permits — including liquor licenses — take time to obtain. A new operator would most likely want to make renovations too.

Bottom line: You may be bringing your own food and drinks to Longshore for a while.

And when you do, you’ll have time to chew over the Next Big Issue in town: Longshore 2.0.

Our Ospreys: The Sequel

As reported yesterday, Westport’s ospreys have returned to their (relocated) nest, high above Fresh Market.

Drivers regularly stop to gawk. But busy Route 1 is not the only place in town to spot these magnificent raptors.

Ospreys

Three other platforms exist here. Two were created by CL&P (in their pre-Eversource days), in partnership with the Westport Conservation Commission.

CL&P set old utility poles at Longshore. One was on the right side of the exit road, near the 12th fairway. It’s hosted a nesting pair for at least 5 or 6 years.

The 2nd pole was set in the back of the guest parking lot, to the left of the marina. A pair nested there for a while last year, but seems not to have had success with eggs or chicks.

A 3rd platform exists to the east of Burying Hill Beach. In a private yard next to the seawall — erected, probably, by the homeowners — it has been home to some successful nesting ospreys.

Meanwhile, alert reader Mary Ann West reports that purple martin “scout” arrived at Sherwood Island yesterday. Scouts  venture ahead of the flock after spending the winter in South America.

Tina Green spotted the early arrival as she helped set up 24 “gourd condos” in Connecticut’s 1st state park.

purple martin at Sherwood Island

The “condos” (pictured above) consist of 12 “homes” per pole. They were established outside the Sherwood Island Nature Center last year.

The houses are removed after each nesting season, cleaned and put up just before the birds arrive. That keeps more invasive species from taking over the colony. Last year, 105 new featherless baby bird residents were monitored by volunteers.

The fledglings were banded in early July, before they prepared to fly the coop back to their wintering grounds. The Westport band is red, so if you see a bird sporting a red metallic band, it’s one of ours.

Another pole with 12 condos will be added soon, making a total of 36 purple martin couples very happy.

Sherwood Island is also home to 2 other Westport ospreys. The park’s couple — Will and Kate — are due back to their nest soon. It’s set up in the marsh outside of the Nature Center.

You can see it there — or on the “osprey cam” (click here).

The big debate in Westport these days is over affordable housing. Ospreys and purple martins seem to have solved that problem. Perhaps we can ask CL&P/Eversource and Sherwood Island to help the humans too?

The Sherwood Island "osprey cam," earlier this morning.

The Sherwood Island “osprey cam,” earlier this morning.

Parks & Rec Commission: “We Heard Public’s Beach Comments Loud And Clear”

A large crowd flooded into Town Hall tonight. A number of Westporters were ready to fight for parts of Compo Beach they believed were threatened: parking on South Beach. Keeping grassy spaces. The skate park.

What they got was Kumbaya.

Parks and Recreation Commission chair Charlie Haberstroh introduced 7 recommendations. None were earth-shattering. All seemed to come directly from raucous town meetings last year.

The basic theme: Less is more.

Here they are:

1.  No changes to South Beach and eastern area parking. 

“We heard the message loud and clear,” Haberstroh said. “It’s important to keep parking near the beach.” He noted that commissioners had parked near the proposed spaces away from the beach, and realized the view was not the same.

No changes will be made to South Beach parking. (Photo/Laurey Tussing)

No changes will be made to South Beach parking. (Photo/Laurey Tussing)

2. No changes to vehicular traffic flow.

The Compo Beach Site Improvement Committee had recommended moving the entrance to across from Bradley Street. Haberstroh said no changes would be made.

Parks and Rec director Stuart McCarthy noted that traffic flow — and safety issues — are the #1 priority for his department. After he spoke, Haberstroh agreed that fixing the current entrance (though not relocating it) could be addressed outside of the master plan.

3.  Create separate pedestrian paths separate from vehicular traffic. 

Haberstroh noted that, as a new grandfather, he feels vulnerable pushing a stroller. Other commissioners added that beach usage has changed; more people are walking than ever before. Extending the boardwalk to the cannons, and on to South Beach, is one way to help ease danger.

Compo Beach: a town jewel, beloved by all.

Compo Beach: a town jewel, beloved by all. Pedestrians don’t always have it easy, however.

4.  Constructing new bathhouses.

The current brick bathhouses were badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy. A new structure would meet — or exceed — FEMA flood regulations.

5.  Adding restrooms on South Beach. But no pavilion. New facilities are sorely needed — 2 or 3 “fixtures” per men’s, women’s and family bathrooms, to use the polite term. But there would be no other structures. “They take on a life of their own,” Haberstroh said.

6.  Renovating the skate park, including possible partial private funding. This is also a recommendation that came directly from the fall meeting. The commissioners heard many Westport youngsters loud and clear.

7.  Resurfacing the basketball courts.  That’s a slam dunk.

A few minutes after 8 p.m., public comment began.

There were no catcalls, boos, cheers, whistles or shouts.

It was almost as quiet as the beach in winter.

Everyone loves Compo Beach. (Photo/Stacy Waldman Bass)

Everyone loves Compo Beach. (Photo/Stacy Waldman Bass)

Minuteman Speaks Up For Autism Awareness

The Minuteman has been many things during his 100-plus years in town: Santa Claus. Easter bunny. Anti-war protester.

Today, however, may be the 1st time he’s an advocate for autism awareness.

Minuteman - Autism Awareness 2

Our town hero looks very sharp — and committed — with his Autism Speaks hat, sweatshirt, bag and water bottles.

(Hat tip: Stacey Henske)

 

As The Fog Settles In…

…Betsy P. Kahn makes Compo Cove look more like a painting than a photo.

Old Mill fog - Betsy P. Kahn

Remember The Compo Beach Site Improvement Committee?

If you haven’t heard much from the Compo Beach Site Improvement Committee in a few months, there’s a reason:

It no longer exists.

After the group sent its report to the Parks & Recreation Commission in October, the committee was dissolved.

Now the commission is ready for next steps. A hearing is set for for Tuesday, March 31 (7:30 pm, Town Hall auditorium). The meeting will include public comment.

Parks and Rec chair Charlie Haberstroh says, “The Commission is anxious to move forward and make recommendations to the First Selectman, so the town can implement appropriate improvements to one of Westport’s most popular recreational facilities.”

The meeting will be televised (Channel 79 Cablevision, Channel 99 Frontier), and livestreamed at http://www.westportct.gov.

Compo Beach: a town jewel, beloved by all.

Compo Beach: a town jewel, beloved by all.

 

Tearing Down A Teardown Sign

The stretch of Hillspoint Road from Hales Road to Old Mill is not an official historic district. But plenty of older, handsome homes line both sides of the street, as it dips gently from I-95 and the railroad down to Elvira’s.

For a long time, a “demolition” sign seemed to doom 158 Hillspoint Road. But the other day, Fred Cantor — who in addition to being an alert “06880” reader is also a very alert neighbor — noticed the sign was gone.

He spotted contractors’ trucks on site. So on one of his walks he talked to a next door neighbor, and a worker. Both confirmed that the home was sold, and will stay.

Score one for preservation!

158 Hillspoint Road is no longer a teardown. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

158 Hillspoint Road — built in 1803 — is no longer a teardown. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

Fred is not content to just spread the good news. He also passes along the history he’s dug up.

According to tax assessor records, Fred says, the original portion of the home was built in 1803.

Fred found information from former owner Sue Braley on WestportNow in 2013, when it was first slated for demolition. Sue — who sold it in 1996 — said it was originally an outbuilding of the Sherwood House at 160 Hillspoint, then modified for human occupation in the early part of the 20th century, when artists and others began coming to Westport for the summer.

Sue writes:

Oral tradition claims that it was a tea room for the tourists, perhaps operated by Edith Very Sherwood, who lived at 160 and was the Westport librarian.  (A subsequent owner was) Richard Seyffert, a portrait and landscape painter who began construction of the studio toward the rear of the property.

Felice Holman Valen (the author of over 20 children’s books, including “Elisabeth and the Marsh Mystery” and others clearly inspired by the nearby mill pond) and Herbert Valen (who worked in advertising and later as a “gag” writer for the New Yorker) owned the property from 1955 to the late 1980s.

Westport’s old homes are disappearing at an alarming rate. How nice to read of at least one that escaped a very imminent wrecking ball.

Two doors away from 158 Hillspoint is #170. It bears a plaque, dating it from 1870. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

Two doors away from 158 Hillspoint, this house bears a plaque dating it from 1870. (Photo/Fred Cantor)