Category Archives: Environment

Downtown Trees: The Sequel

This morning’s post warned that some beloved trees may soon disappear from downtown.

To everything there is a season, and all that. In a nearby location, 9 new trees will soon provide beauty and shade.

The Westport Tree Board has announced a “Memorial Tree Program” for Veterans Green. Trees may be purchased to honor — here’s the tie-in — veterans, for their service to our country.

New trees will join old on Veterans Green.

New trees will join old on Veterans Green.

A donation of $2,000 includes the cost and planting of the tree, 5 years of maintenance, and a 4 inch-by-8 inch commemorative plaque.

Nine spots have been chosen, on a first-come, first-served basis. The size and species of each tree will be determined by the tree warden.

Applications are available in the Town Clerk’s and Public Works department offices, up the hill from the green in Town Hall. They’re also at the Parks & Rec office at Longshore. For more information, call 203-341-1134, or email treewarden@westportct.gov.

Deadline for full payment is October 20. Just in time for Veteran’s Day.

Downtown Trees: Enjoy Them Now

While Westport wonders about the fate of the cherry trees in front of the now-abandoned downtown Y — they’ll probably end up like George Washington’s — JP Vellotti is thinking about a different species.

These stand handsomely on the small rise at the corner of Church Lane and Elm Street:

Downtown trees

Though the nearby Kemper Gunn House will soon be moved to the Baldwin parking lot, these trees will most likely not go with them. They’ll make way for the Bedford Square retail/residential/office complex, whose construction begins soon.

JP wondered if — thanks to their location — they are elms.

They are not. He learned they are Norway Maples — a common street tree, he says, “but one that Columbia University’s forestry department calls an invasive species.”

Cherry trees, Norway maples, and whatever else is downtown: JP advises, “enjoy ‘em while we got ‘em.”

 

Bye Bye, Ospreys

Alert — and very environmentally conscious — “06880” reader Wendy Crowther writes:

At 6:45 Wednesday morning, as I drove to work, I noticed that the giant osprey nest that had been perched on top of the utility pole at Fresh Market was gone.  It had been there very recently.

I want to reassure everyone who, like me, enjoyed watching this nest all summer that everything is okay. The osprey family (mom, dad and their matured hatchling) flew the coop a few weeks ago. Since mid-August the family was spending less time in the nest – often perching high up in a large, dead tree behind Fresh Market that was more spacious than their nest had become as the young one grew.

I haven’t seen any of the ospreys in their nest for a month, although I would still see (and hear) them flying overhead above Winslow Park (near my home). I don’t know whether ospreys migrate or roost elsewhere once their young ones mature. Maybe someone out there in the “06880” world knows.

I want to thank the utility companies and Fresh Market property owners for being sensitive to the presence of these birds all summer long, and for allowing nature to take its course.

The osprey nest near the  Fresh Market parking lot, earlier this summer.

The osprey nest near the Fresh Market parking lot, earlier this summer.

I loved driving by this nest every day. It was fun to see the young chick grow to adulthood. It was fascinating to watch the parents soar in with fish in their talons, or observe the fledgling patiently waiting for its parents to return. The young one would screech when it saw a parent in the distance, and fluttered its wings when mom or dad dove from on high and came in for landings.

The nest provided a unique opportunity to observe wildlife close up, while allowing the birds to remain totally wild. My heart felt a bit of a pang when I saw the empty utility pole. But the birds had moved on, as do we all.

I couldn’t imagine why such a magnificent creature would choose the top of a Post Road utility pole for its nesting site. It was a fascinating  juxtaposition. But I, for one, thank them for providing me with amusement and a lesson in nature.  I hope they’ll return next year, although I’m sure Fresh Market and the utility companies feel otherwise.

(NOTE: Connecticut Light & Power workers relocated the nest to a higher utility pole — one with fewer wires 150 feet away — earlier this week, after the birds flew south for the winter. The hope is that the ospreys return to the relocated nest in the spring.)

Poop Plea

Haskins Preserve is an astonishing site on Green Acre Lane (off South Compo Road) administered by Aspetuck Land Trust. Its 16 acres are filled with woods, meadows, ponds, dams, and a spectacular assortment of rare trees.

Many Westporters have never heard of it. Those who have, treasure it as an oasis of beauty and solitude.

Most do, anyway.

Dog waste is a mounting problem at the Haskins Preserve. And it’s not just droppings on trails and paths. Some owners actually take the time to wrap waste in plastic bags — then leave them lying around.

Some sleazeballs “hide” the poop behind rocks and trees. Others are more brazen. They dump the dumps within sight of a sign saying, “Please remove dog waste.”

Steward Jamie Walsh has posted a video documenting this spectacularly rude and seriously obnoxious behavior.

Why don’t the stewards just put garbage cans at Haskins Preserve?

“We’re a volunteer organization, with a limited budget and resources,” Jamie explains. “It’s not practical for someone to empty them on a regular basis.

“And it would attract wildlife that would feast on the remaining garbage, which would then be strewn all over the parking lot.”

Haskins is a preserve — not a park. Is it too much to ask that if you bring your dog with you, then you take your dog’s business out?

For some Westporters, the answer is apparently: yes.

Haskins Preserve: no place for dog poop.

Haskins Preserve: no place for dog poop.

 

Fox On The Run

For over a century, Westporters have enjoyed Old Mill Beach.

But wildlife has been here longer than that. And — after decades away — it seems at least one species is back.

Robin Tauck owns a quintessential, weather-beaten home on Compo Cove. Yesterday, while enjoying perfect late-September weather, she spotted a large, seemingly wounded red fox.

The fox on Old Mill Beach. (Photo/Robin Tauck)

The fox on Old Mill Beach. (Photo/Robin Tauck)

He spent much of the afternoon “cruising the beach.”

As Robin noted, he was “cute, fast, limping and watchful.” He may also be rabid.

Some beachgoers were worried. Others, Robin said, thought it wonderful “to see and be mindful of our still-natural setting, and the species with whom we share our special environment.”

Be warned. Be careful.

But remember: The foxes were here first.

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.”

Middle School Students Raise The Roof

The other day, Wakeman Town Farm received a welcome donation to its “Raise The Roof” campaign.

But the money to help replace a leaky roof did not come from a big local business or hedge fund manager. The donors were 2 Westport 8th graders.

Hannah Schmidt and Nina Barandiaran raised $145 through a bake sale. In keeping with the WTF theme, it featured vegetable-themed goods (think carrot cake). Hannah and Nina came up with all the ideas on their own.

Hannah (left) and Nina with one of their intriguing, farm-related creations. (Photo/Carrie Aitkenhead)

Hannah Schmidt (left) and Nina Barandiaran with one of their intriguing, farm-related creations. (Photo/Carrie Aitkenhead)

The money is much needed. Carrie Aitkenhead — who with her husband and fellow farm steward Mike Aitkenhead has worked with Hannah for 3 years — says that rain leaks into her bedroom during heavy rain. Towels and a canning pot temporarily solve the problem.

“When we heard that the girls took it upon themselves to raise money for the farm, the whole WTF board was humbled and floored,” Carrie says. “These 2 girls are wonderful.”

Of course, WTF hopes that many more Westporters — hedge fund managers as well as middle school students — will pitch in too. A Harvest Fest — the 3rd annual farm-to-table event — is set for Saturday, September 13 at WTF on Cross Highway.

WTF logoIt features great food, including local meats, artisanal cheeses and seasonal produce, contributed by local farmers and prepared by local rock-star chefs. Many local restaurants and caterers are contributing, including Saugatuck Craft Butchery, Tierra, Le Farm, Da Pietro’s and Saugatuck Sweets.

There’s also wine, beer, Prosecco and signature cocktails, plus a live band and auction. Items for bid include a private 4-course dinner party prepared by chef Jon Vaast at Sugar & Olives, and luxury BMW racing bikes.

In addition to the new roof, funds support youth programs, including summer camps and  homesteading workshops.

You know — the kind of stuff Westport youngsters love. And help support, in their own special, bake sale way.

(For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.) 

 

 

CVS Pulls The Plug

Earlier this year, CVS announced it would stop selling cigarettes by October.

They beat their self-imposed deadline by a month. As of today, you can’t buy cigarettes at any of their 7,700 stores nationwide. Including ours.

The nation’s largest drugstore chain has stopped selling them (and other tobacco products), in part because its 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners are tired of treating problems like high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease — all linked to smoking.

CVS will lose about $2 billion in sales — less than 1% of its $123 billion total last year.

Years ago, cigarette sales no doubt accounted for much more. I remember those days well.

Cigarettes 1There were cigarette machines in nearly every store. Westport Pizzeria had one, as a longtime customer noted on Facebook. (When she was underage and tried to buy a pack, owner Mel Mioli warned her of the dangers of smoking.)

Across the street, a popular store selling food and featuring pinball games was called “Bill’s Smoke Shop.”

When I was in 8th grade, some Long Lots Junior High friends and I were “hired” to help construct the carnival that set up every May in the vacant lot that is now the Barnes & Noble shopping center. Our pay? Cigarettes.

(The wisdom of using 14-year-olds to build Ferris wheels and tilt-a-whirls is the subject of another story.)

cigarettes 2And for well over a decade at Staples, there was a designated “smoking area.” The blacktop just outside the cafeteria — next to a basketball hoop, and where principal George Cohan once grilled hamburgers — was called (by some) “Cancer Plaza.” Many other students called it “home.”

Things are different now. According to a 2011 survey, 11% of Staples juniors — and just 3% of sophomores — said they smoked cigarettes. That was a 10-fold drop from a similar survey 11 years earlier.

I spend a lot of time around Staples students. I can’t remember the last time I heard anyone mention cigarettes. I’m not at their parties, true — but smoking among Westport teenagers seems to be dying a slow death.

Now CVS is doing its part to hasten its demise.

If your browser does not take you directly to YouTube, click here.

Patrick Overton Preserves A Preserve

Last spring, alert “06880” reader Katherine Ross was walking along Imperial Avenue, near Harborview Road. She noticed what she called “a forgotten park on the river.” Small trails, a few benches were hidden and a plaque identifying “William P. Teuscher Wetlands Preserve” were hidden, she says, by overgrown weeds and poison ivy.

This summer, Katherine noted substantial changes. Trails had been cleared. Wood chips were down. New plants had taken root.

The William P. Teuscher Wetlands Preserve -- before and after.

The William P. Teuscher Wetlands Preserve — before and after.

Katherine was impressed. But she did not know who was responsible.

Recently, she learned the answer. Staples student Patrick Overton took on the task, for his Troop 39 Eagle Scout project. He had help from his brother James.

A newly cleared path in the Philip Teuscher Wetlands Preserve. It just into the Saugatuck River off Imperial Avenue, near Harbor View Road. (Photo/Katherine Ross)

A newly cleared path in the William P. Teuscher Wetlands Preserve. It juts into the Saugatuck River off Imperial Avenue, near Harborview Road. (Photo/Katherine Ross)

What a great idea. And how nice to do something so important, so well — and so quietly.

Patrick Overton, with the Teuscher plaque.

Patrick Overton, with the Teuscher plaque.

PS: Here’s a closeup of the plaque. Very interesting and educational (except for the misspelled “whose.”)

Teuscher preserve

This Summer Did Not Bite

Alert “06880” reader Dick Lowenstein wonders:

Where have all the insects gone? Am I alone in thinking that there are few bugs flying around?

This year and last, the stinging insects seem to have disappeared — fewer hornets, wasps, yellow jackets  and bees. Also fewer mosquitoes (maybe because of less rain).

Dick says a friend noticed fewer butterflies too.

Did you notice the lack of bugs and stinging insects? Or was this summer’s weather just so fantastic, we didn’t care?

Click “Comments” below to share your entomological thoughts.

Bugs