Category Archives: YMCA

Mahackeno Y Opens August 29; Long Journey Ends, New Road Begins

The new Westport Family Y at Mahackeno faced years of approval and litigation delays.

But once construction began 17 months ago, the Y raced ahead.

Now — ahead of schedule — the new facility is almost ready for prime time.

The final touches are underway. The cardio and weight machines are rolling off the truck. Next month, the pool will be filled.

On the evening of Thursday, August 28, a ribbon will be cut. The next day – at the usual bright-and-early start time of 5:30 a.m. — the Wilton Road building opens for business. Throughout that Labor Day weekend, the community is invited to use the new Y, for free.

The view of the new Y, from Mahackeno.

The new Y, as seen from Mahackeno.

It’s just 2 miles from the 90-year-old Bedford facility downtown. But measured another way, it’s a world apart.

The old Y — which includes the Weeks Pavilion, shoehorned in 36 years ago next to a former fire station — had 17 different elevations on the 1st floor alone. The Mahackeno building has 2 normal stories.

Westport Y CEO Rob Reeves stands proudly by the nearly completed front entrance.

Westport Y CEO Rob Reeves stands proudly by the nearly completed front entrance.

It’s also got:

  • The Gault Welcome Center, including tables and seats.
  • A 10-lane pool — with lanes wider than the current Y’s — and an adjacent 20-yard warm water/family therapy pool.
The pool is scheduled to be filled in mid-August.

The pool is scheduled to be filled in mid-August.

  • The Vince and Linda McMahon Gymnasium with 4 adjustable basketball hoops, and scoreboards. It’s also lined for badminton, pickleball and volleyball.
  • A cafe serving healthy food.
  • A “Fort Mack” play space featuring slides and other fun equipment, to be used when siblings are in the pool or parents are taking classes.
Youngsters admire the light and airy new Y.

Youngsters admire the light and airy new Y.

  • A cycling room, with 21 new bikes.
  • 3 studios for dance, cardio and Zumba classes, and small-group personal training.
  • Adult locker rooms with steam and saunas. There are youth lockers too, plus a special one for families and dependent adults.
  • A large cardio and weight room — the Robin Tauck Wellness Center — filled with all new equipment. Large windows look out onto woods and the Saugatuck River.
Cardio machines are delivered to the Robin Tauck Wellness Center.

Cardio machines are delivered to the Robin Tauck Wellness Center.

It’s a serene setting — if you ignore the traffic speeding by on the nearby Merritt. (Every part of the building is oriented away from that side.)

The Y has planted 300 trees. They’ve regraded some of the Mahackeno land — and upgraded much of what was in the old Y.

The road from downtown to Mahackeno is fairly straight. But the route the Y has traveled had countless twists and turns.

Next month, they’ll unveil a new map. They hope it will guide them for the next 90 years.

Y - rear view

Last Call For The Old Y’s Guys

Annual meetings of the “YMCA Association” are generally humdrum affairs.

They’re legally required, but most business is routine. Official business is conducted; youth, staff and volunteers are honored; new members join the boards.

Folks got het up a while back over the Y’s plan to leave its longtime home downtown for the Mahackeno property, but that’s a done deal. Now it’s back to well-we-gotta-do-’em annual meetings.

This year, though, will be different.

The 90th annual meeting of “the Association” is the last one in the 1923 building. So the Y is honoring its history there.

The Bedford Building lobby in 1923. Former staffers and ex-members can see it again on June 16.

The Bedford Building lobby in 1923. Former staffers and past members can see it again on June 16.

At 12 noon on Monday, June 16, former staffers and past members are invited to an open house. It’s the last chance many will get to see the old Y (and the newer, narrow, already crumbling 1978 addition).

They can enjoy a workout and swim, gratis.

At 4 p.m., the “extended Y family” reunite in the gym. Old photos and displays will highlight the Y’s presence in Westport since the Harding administration.

There’s a reception at 4:30 p.m. The general meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. If anyone is still there.

Earthplace Will Add Childcare

With the Y skedaddling from downtown, and no childcare facilities available in the new Mahackeno building, Westport parents are scrambling for alternatives.

Earthplace hopes to help.

EarthplaceIn September the non-profit adds an innovative all-day, 12-month program for 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds to its already popular nursery school, summer day camp, nature programs, interactive natural history museum, live animal hall and 74-acre wildlife sanctuary.

The childcare program will run from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. During the school year, children will be based in the nursery school. In the summer they’ll participate in the summer camp.

Taking traditional childcare one step further, Earthplace will offer a developmentally appropriate environment that is immersed in nature. The program will include animal encounters, trail walks, habitat exploration, music, singing and gym.

The teacher-to-child ratio is 1:6. Teachers will schedule home visits to meet families before children enter the program.

Earthplace hosts an open house this Saturday (May 31, 10 a.m.-noon) for interested families. For more information, call 203-557-4400 or click on the Earthplace website.

The Most Important Downtown Question Of The Day

For decades, Westporters have marked the arrival of spring by this spectacular sight in front of the Y:

YMCA spring 2

It lasts for only a few days. But it’s as much a part of Westport as — well, the Y itself.

A few months from now, the Y moves to Mahackeno. Construction will begin on Bedford Square, an exciting retail/residential/office complex that could remake downtown Westport as we know it.

But will it be done with — or without — these 3 beautiful trees?

Wise Words, From Bob And Judy Rosenkranz

Just over 3 years ago, Bob Rosenkranz retired after a long career as an endodontist on Boston’s North Shore. Married half a century, he and his wife Judy — a former phys ed. teacher — had to decide, “What do we do after we grow up?”

They figured they’d split time between their 2nd house in Vermont, and a gated community in Florida.

Their daughter Robin, son-in-law Matt Leon and 3 grandchildren — Jake, Josh and Jessica — had lived in Westport for nearly a decade. Whenever Bob and Judy visited, they stayed in Norwalk hotels. They’d take the grandkids to the usual dining spots — McDonald’s, Swanky Frank’s — and the tried-and-true recreational areas, like the beach.

Bob and Judy didn’t know much about Westport. But one day, they had dinner — by themselves — at Positano’s. They saw a Richard Dreyfuss performance at the Westport Country Playhouse. The next day, they took the train to New York, and stayed overnight. Both had grown up in Brooklyn. They remembered the city from the 1960s. It had changed dramatically, for the better.

Not the "wise men" Judy and Bob met. These guys don't play tennis.

Not the “wise men” Judy and Bob met. These guys don’t play tennis.

Judy — who played tennis with women 20 years younger at home — and Bob visited the Westport Tennis Club. They saw a bunch of older guys playing — quite well — and heard talk about the “Wise Men.” A man named Otis spent an hour chatting with them. “In Massachusetts, no men play tennis in the morning,” Bob says.

Judy broached the subject with Robin and Matt: How would they feel if she and Bob moved to Westport? The “kids” were all for it.

Judy and Bob talked to a realtor, but weren’t sure what they wanted. A rental? Condo? Nothing felt right.

Through a series of coincidences — including friend-of-a-friend stories — they bought the perfect house, off Partrick Road.

Then things really started to happen.

Bob and Judy found great new friends with older couples. They joined 2 film groups. The Fairfield University extended education program. A book club. A bridge group.

Bob joined the Y’s Men (he now knew how it was spelled). He joined 2 regular tennis games, plus 1 of platform tennis. He plays bocce. He hikes.

These are the "Y's Men." They are a very active group. The only thing they don't do is ride camels.

These are the real “Y’s Men.” They are a very active group. The only thing they don’t do is ride camels.

“I don’t know if these guys are former Fortune 500 CEOs or cobblers,” he says. “It doesn’t matter. They’re great!”

He is inspired by Y’s Men like Kurt Rosenfeld and Gun Moen, who is 87 and still skis, plays bridge and poker, and hits the speed bag.

Judy hooked up with a Manhattan art tour group, led by Westporter Joyce Zimmerman. She got involved with the Y’s Women.

She too plays platform tennis — outdoors, in January. She’s also in 4 other tennis games.

Bob and Judy Rosenkranz, in a rare quiet moment at home.

Bob and Judy Rosenkranz, in a rare quiet moment at home.

The couple dines out often. They love Westport’s restaurants, including Jewish-style delis Gold’s and Oscar’s. (In their previous life, the nearest deli was 35 miles away, in Newton.) They call the choices in supermarkets “phenomenal.”

As for shopping, it’s “fantastic — accessible and easy.”

They show off the library, beach — and many other parts of Westport — to out-of-town friends. They are awed by Staples Players performances, and love the Playhouse (especially the recent Harlem Dancers show).

I should note here that Judy and Bob are 2 of the warmest, most outgoing and funniest people that I have ever met. They also seem to have found a fantastic balance between doing things as a couple, and on their own. Still, their excitement about their new home town is astonishing.

“I’m like a kid in a candy store,” Judy says.

“I don’t have enough hours in the day,” Bob adds. And then he starts describing all the great hiking spots he’s found, like Sherwood Island in the off-season.

Many longtime Westporters have never been to Sherwood Island State Park. The Rosenkranzes love it.

Many longtime Westporters have never been to Sherwood Island State Park. The Rosenkranzes love it.

What’s nice to hear — beyond so many great words about Westport – is that, as Judy says, “people who have been here 30 or 40 years are opening up their lives to new people like us.”

But don’t think the Rosenkranzes spend all their time playing tennis, dining out and going to shows. They’ve cooked dinners for the Gillespie Center, done other volunteer work, and are always on the lookout for ways to give back.

Plus, of course, there are the grandkids. Judy and Bob were “mesmerized” by a recent Long Lots music concert (“there was no dissonance at all — and they had a whole ensemble with steel drums!”), and they are faithful attendees at endless soccer, baseball and lacrosse games.

Nor do they just travel between Westport and New York. They recently returned from a trip to Patagonia. (The region, not the store.)

But Bob and Judy always come back — physically, and during our conversation — to the wonders of their new home town.

“We love it here,” they keep saying.

Almost as much as we love having them here.


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)

It’s Official: Y Closes Early Learning Program

Last November, the Westport Family Y warned that if a suitable site was not found by January 1, its much-heralded Early Learning Program would close.

YMCA logoBecause a child care wing at the new Mahackeno facility is slated for Phase 2 at the new Mahackeno facility, for which no official timetable has been set, Y officials searched for an alternate site. Parents of the approximately 100 children — ages 6 weeks to 6 years — were devastated that the program’s engaging curriculum and community engagement would end. They were saddened too that staff members — some of whom were with the program for over 16 years — would lose their jobs.

Today the Y sent a letter to ELP parents. CEO Rob Reeves and child care senior director Tasha Dennison said that they were extending the service from June 30 to August 29.

However, that is the final day of the Early Learning Program.

The letter said:

Due to the complexities involved with establishing a new Child Care facility at our Mahackeno campus — approvals, public meetings, permitting, designs, site preparation and construction — we will not be able to complete this process in time to avoid an interruption in service. Therefore, Tasha and I, as well as the volunteer leaders who guide the Y’s operations, have had to make this unfortunate decision.

In an accompanying email, Reeves wrote:

Our staff have been touched by the feedback you’ve shared regarding the quality of our program which will be difficult for many of you to match. We remain committed to the care of your children and I want to personally thank Tasha and all her staff who have agreed to continue providing the love and care for your children until the last child leaves our care in August.

In my over 34 years of working for the YMCA, I have not worked with a more dedicated and caring group of teachers and care givers than what we have here at the Family Y and I’ll do all we possibly can to assist them in finding their next place of employment.

Quality day care is never easy to find. Today, dozens of parents begin looking for a program with the same dedication, care and love that they’ve lost.

An exterior view of the new YMCA at Mahackeno.

An exterior view of the new YMCA at Mahackeno.

Remembering Roy Dickinson

Longtime Westporter — and always-ready-to-work civic volunteer — Roy Dickinson died yesterday, from a heart condition.

Roy served as a Parks & Recreation commissioner, president of both the Westport Historical Society and the Y’s Men, and deputy moderator of the RTM.

Roy Dickinson

Roy Dickinson

He was also a director of the Aspetuck Land Trust, a member of the Republican Town Committee, and an active member of the Green’s Farms Congregational Church. He was deeply involved with the Westport Library too.

As Historical Society president, Roy was instrumental in developing Woody Klein’s book on the history of Westport. At the WHS, he was a major force behind the completion of the Octagonal Barn.

Roy had a long career with Pfizer. As an executive in their water purification area, he brought water to areas of the world with limited access to it.

A memorial service will be held at Green’s Farms Congregational Church, at a date to be announced.

(Thanks to Pete Wolgast for this background information. Roy Dickinson co-chaired Pete’s campaign for 1st selectman in 1993.)

And This Is With The Heat ON

The Westport Family Y tries its best to keep the back entrance warm.

But when the door opens and closes all day — and the temperature outside struggles to get above 15 — here’s the result:

Y coldSo much for “heat rises”!

Warm Up At The Y

Power out? Pipes frozen? Just plain cold?

The Westport Family Y is open to anyone seeking relief from the extreme weather.

“We want everyone to be safe, and find warmth and comfort — or a workout and a hot shower — at the Family Y as long as these hazardous conditions persist,” says CEO Rob Reeves. Just check in at the Member Services Desk near the  entrance on Church Lane.

For more information, call 203-226-8981 or click here.

This was the view the other day from inside the Y. Don't worry -- the icicles were outside. It's plenty warm indoors!

This was the view the other day from inside the Y. Don’t worry — the icicles were outside. It’s plenty warm indoors!