Category Archives: Beach

Monumental Memorial Day

(Photo/Robin Tauck)

(Photo/Robin Tauck)

Down By The Old Mill Fog

(Photo/Matt Murray)

(Photo/Matt Murray)

Click on or hover over this gorgeous photo to enlarge.

Unearthing A Mosquitoes-And-Malaria Mystery At Burying Hill Beach

As beach season barrels down upon us, alert “06880” reader Rob Schmidt asked a question that has vexed him since the 1950s:

All along the salt marshes at Burying Hill and Sherwood Island, a perfectly laid out grid of small canals is apparent at high tide. I’m guessing they where dug in the 1930s by the WPA or some conservation group. I have not seen them maintained for 60 years, and have never figured out their purpose except drainage of some sort. Do you know the history behind them?

An aerial view of the

An aerial view of the “canals” (faintly seen above the inlet; click or hover over photo to enlarge). The inlet running from Long Island Sound separates Burying Hill Beach (right) from Sherwood Island State Park (left).

I not only did not know the answer; I’d never even thought about them. Although our junior high posse played there back in the day, I’d always thought they were natural.

But I knew who would have the answer. I contacted an engineer friend I grew up with. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things related to Green’s Farms (and a desire for anonymity).

He replied almost instantly:

I’ve seen these since I was a kid in the Burying Hill and New Creek Road area. I’ve also seen extensive evidence of this in Branford and Guilford.

My understanding is that these are hand-dug “mosquito ditches.” The idea was to better drain low-lying salt marshes where mosquito larvae thrived due to stagnant pools.

They were started after the Civil War, when there was a serious malaria outbreak. Long after malaria was controlled we continued the practice because mosquitoes were a nuisance. The practice continued slowly to 1900, but blossomed in the 1930s. It became a WPA effort in the Depression. By 1940 virtually all of Connecticut’s coastal salt marshes were ditched for mosquito control.

Hand-digging ditches during the Great Depression.

Hand-digging ditches during the Great Depression.

In 1970, when we became much more environmentally aware, we figured out that the practice caused more harm than good. In 1985 the DEP stopped the practice altogether. When feasible they seek to fill in these ditches and let the natural flooding process take place.

Nowadays the Connecticut DEEP encourages the development of a minnow population that feeds on mosquito larvae to control mosquito populations.

The next time you’re at Burying Hill or Sherwood Island — or Branford or Guilford — think about the hand-dug “mosquito ditches.”

Be thankful you didn’t live during the 1800s, when mosquitoes were a nuisance.

And malaria was deadly.

Building Castles In The Sand

For some reason, the Castles in the Sand event seems to be held every year on the chilliest Saturday in May.

But for many other reasons, no one cares.

Judging one of the contest entries. (Photo/Jeff Wieser)

Peter Cadoux judging one of the contest entries. (Photo/Jeff Wieser)

It’s one of the most intriguing events on the civic calendar.

It brings a variety of Westport organizations — plus families and friends — to Compo Beach for good-natured competition.

And it’s fun.

Animals seemed to be a theme this afternoon at Compo Beach. (Photo/Jeff Wieser)

Animals were a theme this afternoon at Compo Beach. (Photo/Jeff Wieser)

This year, approximately 40 “lots” were sold.

That’s a lot of sand. A lot of creativity. And a lot of much-needed funds for Homes With Hope, the non-profit that does so much housing good, for so many.

The most colorful creation, by far.

The most colorful creation, by far.

An intricate ziggurat.

Relaxing after building an intricate ziggurat.

I have no idea what this is. But the kids who made it seem to be having a blast.

I have no idea what this is. But the kids who made it seem to be having a blast.

It was cold at Compo today -- and, in a way,

It was cold at Compo today — and, in a way, “Frozen.”

Perhaps the only true

The Greens Farms Church’s lighthouse: intricate, clever and very well constructed.

How Our Gardens Grow

You can see the Westport Garden Club‘s work all over town.

In the early 1970s, Ginny Sherwood asked fellow members to reclaim a 3-acre landfill on Imperial Avenue. Her vision of a refuge along the Saugatuck River came true. Today, Westporters love the hidden-in-plain-sight beauty of Grace Salmon Park.

It’s a delightful spot for a walk, picnic or simply a few moments of peace and quiet.

Over the years though, the land has flooded. Vegetation has been lost. It needs improvement.

The Garden Club will once again help. Members are recommending which plants to save, and which native species to add. They’ll provide volunteers to do the labor, and keep Grace Salmon Park looking great.

To accomplish this — and so much more — the club needs funds. They raise money the best way they know how. This year’s annual plant sale is set for Friday, May 8 (9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.) at the Saugatuck Congregational Church.

Among the Westport Garden Club's many activities: keeping the Compo Beach entrance looking gorgeous. Members were hard at work recently. (Photo/Ann Pawlick)

Among the Westport Garden Club’s many activities: keeping the Compo Beach entrance looking gorgeous. Members hard at work recently (from left): Roseanne Mihalick, Jane Eyes, Jenny Robson, Debbie Tiede, Lori Meinke, Sue McCabe. (Photo/Ann Pawlick)

The Garden Club is one of those organizations whose work Westporters constantly admire, even if we don’t know it’s theirs. They’re responsible for — among many other things — planting, weeding, pruning and mulching sites like the Compo Beach entry and marina; Adams Academy; the Earthplace entrance; the Library’s winter garden near Jesup Green; various cemeteries, and the Nevada Hitchcock Memorial Garden at the Cross Highway/Weston Road intersection.

We also owe the club thanks for what we don’t see.

In the 1930s — just a few years after its founding — the Westport Garden Club persuaded the town to ban billboards on all local roads.

The prohibition still stands.

So on Friday, buy a plant to support the Westport Garden Club. For nearly 100 years they’ve made our hometown look beautiful — just like home.

Westport Garden Club logo

 

Staples Students Are Complete SLOBs

Today was as sweet as it gets.

Staples students could have celebrated the spectacular weather by going to the beach. Playing tennis, golf, frisbee or with each other. Studying for AP tests that start tomorrow, even.

Instead, over 100 boys — and 80 or so parents — spent the day on community service projects all around Westport.

The Staples Service League of Boys — SLOBs for, lovingly, short — headed out to the Bacharach Houses, Gillespie Center, Compo and Burying Hill Beaches, Wakeman Town Farm, Linxweiler House, Powell House, Project Return, ABC House and Earthplace.

They wielded tools...

They wielded tools…

They weeded, planted, mulched, picked up garbage, painted and cleaned.

...got dirty...

…got dirty…

They worked long and hard. They did manual labor, and learned some skills. They worked side by side with their parents, and a few siblings.

...picked up garbage...

…picked up garbage…

It’s all part of SLOBs’ ongoing commitment to their town. So far this year, they’ve contributed more than 2,300 hours of service.

And how did you spend your day?

...filled and hauled wheelbarrows...

…filled and hauled wheelbarrows…

...learned new skills...

…learned new skills…

...took down branches...

…took down branches…

...bonded with their parents...

…bonded with their parents…

...and siblings...

…and siblings…

...and left the town far better than it had been just a few hours earlier.

…and left the town far better than it had been just a few hours earlier. (Photos/Emily Prince)

Minute Man And Friend

Today’s ceremonies — marking Westport’s role in the Revolutionary War, 238 years ago today — drew a good-sized, historic-minded crowd.

One of the highlights was a walking tour from Compo Beach — where the British landed on April 25, 1777, en route to raiding the Danbury arsenal — to the Minute Man.

Our beloved (and newly renovated) town icon was joined by a kindred spirit: a member of the Sons of the American Revolution.

Minute Man with Son of American Revolution

Tour-goers learned plenty. Here are 3 things I never knew:

  • It’s “Minute Man,” not “Minuteman.” At least, that’s how it was punctuated during the original dedication ceremony in 1910. So that’s how I’ll write it from now on.
  • It’s a “monument,” not a statue. We should focus on all the elements — sculpture, knoll, fence, stonework — rather than just the Minute Man himself. That was the whole idea, 105 years ago.
  • There are only 4 Minute Man monuments in the world. The other 3 are in Concord, Lexington and Framingham, Massachusetts. When ours was dedicated, speakers declared it would be as famous as the 1875 one in Concord.  It isn’t — but of the 4, ours is the only one depicting a patriot kneeling, at the ready. And that was the whole idea: to be ready “in a minute.”

 

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