Category Archives: Longshore

Fore!

When the Longshore golf course closed for the winter, it was not in good shape.

The next few months were not exactly kind.

But as spring takes its first, tentative — and very late — steps, an air of excitement hovers over all 18 holes.

Parks and Recreation director Stuart McCarthy sent an email yesterday to golfers. Acknowledging that course conditions over the past 2 seasons have “not met your expectations,” he outlined many steps being taken to “restoring the greens to championship condition.”

Perhaps the most important is outsourcing maintenance to ValleyCrest. The company — which services over 75 courses nationwide — introduces itself Monday, April 21 (7 p.m., Town Hall auditorium) in a public meeting.

New superintendent Ryan Segrue will be there. By that time, the Stanwich Club and Lake Isle Country Club veteran will already have performed a deep tine aeration of the greens.

A view of the Longshore course, courtesy of Golf Digest. ValleyCrest is working hard to get the links looking like this again.

A view of the Longshore course, courtesy of Golf Digest. ValleyCrest is working hard to get the links looking like this again.

The course is anticipated to open on or around Friday, April 18. In celebration, for every 18-hole round played through May 23, the golfer will receive a voucher for a free round good any time during the 2014 season.

The nearby practice range at Hendricks Point is temporarily closed. Hurricane Sandy exposed the landfill, and — after finally getting DEP permits — restabilization work is underway.

Finally, Longshore pro John Cooper has unveiled a new and improved website.  www.LongshoreGolf.com includes the latest course information (frost delays, conditions, etc.), a calendar of events, a Twitter feed, tips from the pros and more.

It’s been a rough patch for Longshore golfers — and the staff that serves them. 2014 will be far more than par for the course.

 

Thank You, Allen Raymond

Allen Raymond has lived on Compo Cove since 1922.

The unique, beautiful spit of land drew his parents to Westport nearly a century ago, and kept Allen here ever since. (He added a house on King’s Highway, which is perfectly fitting. It’s the most historic part of town, and no one knows Westport’s history better than Allen Raymond.)

Allen is 91 years old now, and his heart is failing. This afternoon – the 1st sparkling day of spring — he visited his beloved Old Mill home. It’s rented out, but he sat on the porch, gazed at the rippling high tide and spectacular views of Compo Hill, and reminisced.

Allen Raymond this afternoon, in the Compo Cove home he has loved for 91 years. (Photo/Scott Smith)

Allen Raymond this afternoon, in the Compo Cove home he has loved for 91 years. (Photo/Scott Smith)

Allen spoke about his childhood days on the water, his summers growing up, and the life he’s lived here — and loved — ever since.

What a remarkable 9 decades Allen has spent in town.

He’s served on more boards, brokered more good and smart deals, and contributed more to every facet of life — educational, recreational, spiritual — than anyone since the Bedfords. (And there were a lot more of them than him.)

The Westport Y has named the entrance road to their new facility at Camp Mahackeno after their longtime friend.

The Westport Y has named the entrance road to their new facility at Camp Mahackeno after their longtime friend.

Allen has contributed unfathomable amounts of time, energy (and money) to the Green’s Farms Congregational Church, and the Y. He led the Westport Historical Society into (paradoxically) the modern era, and Earthplace to sustainability.

He has advised nearly every elected official in town, at one time or other. He’s saved many of them from political disasters, and us from the financial fallout.

It is safe to say Westport would not be the town it is — nor would we be the people we are — without the love (sometimes gentle, sometimes tough) that Allen Raymond has lavished on us for longer than nearly any of us have been alive.

Perhaps his greatest gift to the town, though, is the 169 acres on South Compo Road known as Longshore.

Allen Raymond, circa 1963.

Allen Raymond, circa 1963.

Few Westporters realize that our town jewel camethisclose to being something else entirely. In early 1960, the privately owned Longshore Beach and Country Club — with a golf course, tennis courts, pools, marina, inn/restaurant and play areas — came up for sale.

The typical Westport response — build houses! — was strongly considered.  But First Selectman Herb  Baldwin and his kitchen cabinet decided to make a bid, on behalf of the town. Baldwin put his best adviser in charge of the project: Allen Raymond.

The group had to act quickly. In just 18 days they put together a $1.9 million package — then earned approval from the Board of Finance and RTM.  The latter vote was 38-0. (The RTM doesn’t even name bridges or approve jUNe Day unanimously.)

A month and a half later — on May 28, 1960 — Longshore Club Park opened to the public. It’s been one of the town jewels ever since.

As has Allen Raymond.

He is a remarkable, inspiring, truly wonderful man.

Allen Raymond, last month. (Photo/Scott Smith)

Allen Raymond, this winter. (Photo/Scott Smith)

Looking Down On Westport

When a tree falls in Westport, who hears it?

Everyone.

Some of us lament the loss of every tree, whether felled by a developer, an arborist, wind or old age.

Others applaud the removal of dead, dangerous trees, or say it’s simply smart design to remove trees from near new, large homes.

Most of us, though, agree on one thing: Westport has “always” been a woodsy, New England town.

Most of us are wrong.

A look through photos in the University of Connecticut’s fascinating 1934 aerial survey shows that — well within the memory of some of our older citizens — much of this town was open fields or active farmland. South of the Post Road, in fact, there were virtually no woods.

Here is a shot from just 80 years ago. The railroad is the dark line near the top, running from west to east. South Compo is the white road, cutting southeast across the middle of the photo. Longshore is at the left; Sherwood Mill Pond is on the right in the middle, with Soundview Drive at the bottom right:

Westport south of Post Road - 1934 UConn aerial survey

Contrast that view with today. We’ve got much more development — and many more trees:

Westport 2013 south of South Compo Road

Further north, here’s the Saugatuck River (center), with Main Street/Easton Road shown from south to north on the right. Those squiggles just west of Main Street are Willowbrook Cemetery:

Westport - Easton Road 1934 UConn aerial survey

Today, it looks like this:

Westport 2013 - aerial view Saugatuck River

Much has changed — including the addition of the Merritt Parkway, at top.

We can see more trees in the1934 scene below. It shows Long Lots Road, heading northeast near the bottom of the photo (that’s the Post Road at the far bottom). There are substantial woods between the main north/south roads (from left: North Avenue, Bayberry Lane, Sturges Highway), but also plenty of open fields and farmland:

Westport aerial view 1934 - Roseville Road, North Avenue, Bayberry Lane

So what does all this mean?

Westport looks different, at different times in our history. Farms didn’t just happen; our ancestors had to clear the land. Gradually, though, that open space was built over. Trees were planted. Now some of them are coming down.

So when we talk about “preserving Westport,” we aren’t always 100% accurate.

Perhaps we should say, “preserving the current look — which may look substantially different, not many years from now.”

(Aerial video bonus: Check out this YouTube video of Compo Beach and Longshore, taken by a drone on November 9, 2013. If your browser does not take you directly there, click here.)
 
 

The New Yorker Visits The ‘Burbs

The Westport Historical Society’s current exhibit showcases the 761 New Yorker covers drawn by 16 local artists.

The magazine has noticed.

A story in the “Culture Desk” section answers the intriguing question: Why, from its inception through the 1990s, did New Yorker covers feature New England scenes as often as city ones?

Unfortunately, the answer could not come from a Westport artist. Our pipeline to the magazine seems to have ended in 1990.

Whitney Darrow Jr.'s 1959 cover was probably inspired by the small colonial cemetery at Longshore.

Whitney Darrow Jr.’s 1959 cover was probably inspired by the small colonial cemetery at Longshore.

Fortunately, the insights come from Roz Chast. The staff cartoonist grew up in Brooklyn and moved to Ridgefield (in, coincidentally, 1990). But she’s a frequent visitor here, seen often at Westport Arts Center events.

She called Ridgefield “not super-country, and it’s not super-urban. We’re not on the train line—that’s why it’s affordable. Westport, which is about a half hour away, is fancier—a lot of New Yorker artists moved there at one time. We lived in the city until the second kid. We needed more space, and the public schools are good up here, and that was pretty much why we moved.”

Chast adds:

If somebody asks where I’m from, the first answer that pops into my head is New York, because I don’t feel like I’m from Connecticut. We bought a whole house for what a crummy two-bedroom apartment in the city would have cost and, yes, it’s different.

First, I had to learn how to drive—there is no public transportation up here. And also, the taxi thing—you can’t stand out in the middle of Elm Street and wait for a yellow cab to pick you up. It’s just not going to happen—standing there with your arm in the air, you’ll just look like a crazy person.

Sounds like a New Yorker cartoon waiting to happen.

Back in the day, it would have been drawn by a Westporter.

Marpe Makes It Official: Longshore Trees Must Go

Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe released this statement today:

After reviewing Tree Warden Bruce Lindsay’s report and his recommendation to remove the remaining original 15 trees, and after participating in the public on-site information session with a number of citizens and RTM members, I have advised Mr. Lindsay and Parks and Recreation Director Stuart McCarthy to proceed with their recommendation.

This recommendation was an extremely difficult one to make given the age and size of the trees, as well as their iconic presence at Longshore. I would like to thank all those who attended Saturday’s information session and who helped me with my decision.

Mr. Lindsay has made it clear that, among other things, there is a safety issue which the town cannot ignore and which requires the removal of these trees.  Most of the larger trees along the entrance drive have already come down over the years and, as stated during the information session, the removal of the additional trees reflects the final stage of a landscape plan which has been in place for over 20 years. Fortunately, the town had the foresight to start the tree replacement process many years ago.

Longshore trees tagged for removal along the entrance road.

Longshore trees tagged for removal along the entrance road.

I am fully aware that the entrance to Longshore Park presents one of the more scenic views in Westport. There are many newer trees along the entrance which are doing well and I believe that as these new trees continue to mature, they will preserve that familiar majestic look. The removal of the trees presents us with an opportunity to plan for the future. Many helpful suggestions to address the planting, care and maintenance of trees within Longshore Park and on other town owned property in general have come out of our recent discussions. With those suggestions in mind, I will:

1) Consult with the Parks and Recreation Commission and staff to ensure that a sufficient number of trees are planted to replace those that are being removed.  (In this regard, Charlie Haberstroh, Chairman of the Parks & Recreation Commission, will propose to the Commission that two trees be planted for each one that is removed within the Park);

2) Seek recommendations from the Tree Warden and the Tree Board on how to adopt a program of tree preservation in town which balances aesthetics with safety; and

3) Look into establishing a fund to which citizens may contribute for the purpose of purchasing trees to be planted on town property.

I remain committed to ensuring that Longshore will continue to be of great pride to Westport residents today and for many generations to come.

Tree Warden’s Report: Old And Dangerous Longshore Trees Must Go

Last month, First Selectman Jim Marpe directed tree warden Bruce Lindsay to report on the condition of the 15 trees slated for removal along the entryway to Longshore.

Today, the tree warden delivered his report.

Among the key findings:

The 11 Tulip Poplars and 4 Norway Maples are 50 to 80 years old. The trees have been cared for extensively over the years. The warden’s initial decision to post the trees for removal was based on observation and tree knowledge.

“The Tulip is not recommended for street use, and is extremely susceptible to drought and a variety of diseases,” Lindsay wrote. “It is best found in forests in a thicket of protected stands of diverse species….It does not respond well to salt and is known to deteriorate from drought and sunscald.”

The Tulips have reached the end of their life spans. They have reached their maximum heights and widths. They also show “the characteristics of drought, salt abuse, wind and storm damage, road side or urban abuses such as: soil and root compaction, salt and snow pileups, bark damage from being repeated nailed and stapled…these trees have become highly defective.”

Tulips at Longshore. The captions in the report describe (clockwise from upper left): compromised branch structure; extensive pruning due to breaks/decay; massive bark rot sloughing off in sections; weak canopy and leaf cover.

Tulips at Longshore. The captions in the report describe (clockwise from upper left): compromised branch structure; extensive pruning due to breaks/decay; massive bark rot sloughing off in sections; weak canopy and leaf cover.

Lindsay said that the Maples have several rotting sections. There are extensive hollow sections, indicating interior rot and water damage. They also exhibit a condition called “co-dominance,” creating a likelihood of breaking from wind shear.

The Maples have also reached their maturity. They too are at the end of their natural lifespan. They have a tendency to choke out all plant life and grass below them, and “create numerous problems along streets when dropping weak wood and debris.”

While the allee landscape design of the entrance to Longshore is “pleasant and gives a tremendous visual as the trees are generally uniform in specie and represent a serene view,” the fault of the allee principle is that the same species or similar trees were all planted at the same time.

“Had the species been diversified and newer trees been planted in the same line over a course of time, perhaps the hardship of this final removal” would not be so difficult, Lindsay wrote.

The warden praised the Parks and Recreation Department’s planning for the removal of the trees, begun 25 years ago. The new trees are growing in balance, and because they are further from the roadway, they enjoy enhanced root growth and reduced salt exposure from snow removal. They also are safer for walkers and joggers.

The more than 75 newer trees in the entrance represent “careful planning, culture and the next generation of roadway-framing trees to enhance the entry for several decades to come.” The mix of oaks, maples, zelkova, beech and sycamore will enhance the allee.

Photos of the Norway Maples in the report show (clockwise from upper left): rot and decay; open hollows; weak crotches, and one entire side of the tree dead.

Photos of the Norway Maples in the report show (clockwise from upper left): rot and decay; open hollows; weak crotches, and one entire side of the tree dead.

Lindsay said he posted the removal of the 15 trees at the end of December to allow for removal during the period of lowest use of Longshore. The tree removal service will use a crane, several trucks and numerous employees — work that is best performed when the ground is frozen or covered in snow.

In summary, Lindsay wrote, Parks and Rec has “made great efforts in recreating the allee along the roadway. The removal is not going to eliminate the tree lined effect…The grand trees at Longshore Club Park represent a period of iconic splendor and significance but they are failing and the new trees are in place to recoup the same effect for generations to come. The decision to remove these fifteen trees was not one made in haste.”

As tree warden — with “primary duty to see that all town owned roads and grounds allow safe passage” — Lindsay affirms that the trees in question are in “extremely poor health and decline, are of poor species” and are in danger of falling or losing limbs.

Because of their hazards, he said they must be removed.

To read the full report, click here.

Lindsay and Parks and Recreation Director Stuart McCarthy will hold a public information session at 9 a.m. this Saturday (January 11) at Longshore to explain the decision to remove the 15 trees. The public is invited to attend. The session will include walking a portion of the park. Dress accordingly. 

Hall And Oates: Westport Went For That

Most people, upon hearing that Hall and Oates will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in April, think “She’s Gone.” “Rich Girl.” “Private Eyes.”

Westporters of a certain age think, “#$%^&*!

The duo — who for some reason were wildly popular from the late 1970s through the mid-’80s — are part of the lore of Westport concerts.

There is only one difference between Hall and Oates and the  Doors, Cream, Yardbirds and many others (besides talent).

Hall and Oates never actually played in Westport.

It was perhaps our town’s greatest hoax.

Hall and Oates, back in the day.

Hall and Oates, back in the day.

According to the Norwalk Hour of July 10, 1985, “The surprise the town’s 150th Birthday Committee had planned for Sunday’s celebration at the Inn at Longshore was apparently on the committee itself.”

First Selectman Bill Seiden’s office said that “a person claiming to represent the rock group Hall and Oates was an impostor.”

The paper said, “Almost 4,000 people crowded Longshore Park on Sunday, many in anticipation of the pop stars performing at the town’s birthday party. Tickets were $20 per person.”

Someone “purporting to be a legitimate representative of Hall and Oates” had contacted the Birthday Committee and “offered the services of sound, stage and lighting equipment for the birthday party.”

There was one stipulation: no media publicity.

Ahem.

The Inn at Longshore would have been a great spot for a Hall and Oates concert.

The Inn at Longshore would have been a great spot for a Hall and Oates concert.

On the big day, committee members fielded several phone calls, saying the van carrying equipment had broken down on I-95 in New York State. However, the group would still make the gig.

There had been no written contract. “It was all verbal and it was all done in very good faith,” said Al Binford, administrative assistant for public information.

Double ahem.

Westporters waited. And waited. And waited some more.

Eventually, Staples student Cary Pierce’s band played. Then everyone went home. Hall and Oates-less.

No legal action was planned, the Hour said. $10 refunds were offered to those people “with tickets in hand.”

Hall and Oates never made it to Westport. But now they’re in a better place: Cleveland. At least, for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Anyway, if you were one of those who sat at Longshore waiting for hours for Hall and Oates to appear — or even if you weren’t — here’s what you didn’t see:

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

Marpe Requests Longshore Tree Removal Delay

Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe issued the following statement today:

I have asked for a temporary delay in the removal of 15 trees along the entrance to Longshore Club Park.

Since this is a new issue for me and my administration, Westport tree warden Bruce Lindsay will prepare for my review a written report outlining his analysis and confirming his recommendation that the trees be removed.

I have the utmost confidence in, and respect for, Mr. Lindsay, who recently came to Westport with excellent credentials in this field. However, in view of the importance of this issue and the discussion which it has generated, I have requested that Mr. Lindsay temporarily delay the tree removal and to prepare this report.

Upon receipt and analysis of the report, which of course will be shared with the public, I will determine the appropriate next steps. It is anticipated that a public meeting will be held to review the Tree Warden’s analysis and recommendations.

I should note that the Longshore trees have been the topic of much analysis and planning by the Town for many years.  Twenty years ago, new trees were planted by the Parks and Recreation Department in anticipation of the replacement need.  There are now approximately 75 younger and healthier trees lining the Longshore entrance.  Most recently, in September 2013, Parks and Recreation Director Stuart McCarthy brought this matter to the Parks and Recreation Commission, which had a public meeting to discuss the need for the tree removal.

I look forward to receiving Mr. Lindsay’s report soon and sharing it with the public.

Longshore trees tagged for removal along the entrance road.

Longshore trees tagged for removal along the entrance road.

With Apologies To John Greenleaf Whittier…

…Gary Abshire sent these words, and this photo, to “06880″:

“Cut, if you must, this old gray head,
But spare your county’s trees,” he said.

Longshore trees -- courtesy Greg Abshire

Longshore Tree Removal: Too Much? Too Soon?

Today — the 1st day of winter — the weather is hardly “frightful.” In fact, it’s fantastic.

Plenty of people flocked to Longshore on this beautiful solstice. As they jogged or biked, they noticed that 14 trees lining the entrance are tagged for removal.

According to a notice from the tree warden — dated December 19 — the trees will be taken down within 10 days, unless the public appeals to stop the process.

The notices give Westporters 10 days to contact the tree warden.

The notices give Westporters 10 days to contact the tree warden.

Westporters seem surprised.

They shouldn’t be.

On September 19, I posted a story about this. Called “New Life For Old Trees,” it read:

The trees lining the entrance to Longshore are handsome and stately.

They’re also old. And dangerous.

The Parks and Recreation Department, with the consent of the tree warden, has identified approximately 15 trees that are the last of the originals along the entry road. They’re identified by their poor shape, and the condition of their crowns.

These trees have reached — or will soon — the end of their useful lives. The crowns are sparse and misshaped, as a result of deterioration and falling dead wood over many years. Large branches have fallen — threatening golfers, drivers, bicyclists and joggers — and the trees themselves may topple in high winds.

Trees tagged for removal today.

Trees tagged for removal today.

Nearly 20 years ago, Parks and Rec realized what was coming “down the road.” They planted a new strand of trees, further back along both sides of the entrance. Now mature, they create a visual row of trunks and shade. When the 15 oldest trees — which also crowd and shade the new trees — are cut, the new ones will benefit.

Parks and Rec — and the Westport Tree Board – understand the love many Westporters have for trees. (Until they fall on your property.) Thanks to the new trees, there will be no real visual impact after removal.

And the department and board hope the old trees will have a 2nd life.

I asked “06880″ readers to suggest new ideas for the old trees. Only 6 readers responded.

Whether it was the beginning of a new school year, the start of autumn or whatever, I don’t know. But the story did not stir the reaction I thought it would.

Now the removal of the trees is becoming reality. A number of readers have emailed me about it. RTM chair Eileen Flug received 2 calls in the past 15 minutes.

A summer view of the Longshore entrance road.

A summer view of the Longshore entrance road.

Earlier this morning, “06880″ reader Marcia Falk wrote “06880″:

I have not seen any article about this decision posted by the town or in the local news.

These trees significantly enhance the beauty of Longshore Park. They are irreplaceable in the short term.  All of us know the havoc and damage which the severe storms have wrought upon our local environment, and it is possible that the decision to remove these trees is justified.  However, before such a dramatic and irretrievable act is completed,  the public should be given full disclosure as to reasons behind the warden’s decision.

Longshore Park is one of Westport’s most important,  beautiful, and adored environmental resources. Anything that is done on such a major scale should be publicly announced and explained.  Most local people are so busy that they have no time to visit the park and are unaware of the situation and the threat to the park.

The removal of these trees will drastically alter the landscape of Longshore Park.  Before these trees are removed I believe it is the responsibility of the town to explain why they ALL have to removed, and if so, what are the plans to replant for the future?

Larry Silver loves photographing the Longshore entry drive. This photo is from 1979.

Larry Silver loves photographing the Longshore entry drive. This photo is from 1979.

I sent Marcia a link to my September 19 story. She replied:

If all these trees are in the poor condition their removal makes sense.  However, I seriously doubt that ALL the trees have to come down at once and there is no immediate emergency.

Furthermore, it is not only unreasonable, but bordering on deceptive, that the tree warden announces his decision during the major holiday week.  Although the warden may be abiding by the law, he is not  fulfilling the purpose of the law enabling citizens the right to be informed within a timely manner.  By posting this at the height of the Christmas holiday,  it appears that the tree warden wishes to avoid input from the residents who love the park.  This is not the way a public employee who is hired to serve the needs of the town should treat our citizens.

We should insist that the removal of the tree posting be withdrawn and re-released on January 2nd for the benefit of community disclosure.

There it stands.

Whether the trees also remain standing — well, that remains to be seen.