The 2 gardens at the eastern (Klaff’s/Starbucks) end of the Post Road bridge have gotten a bit grotty.
As “gateways” to Westport — among the 1st things you see as you enter downtown from the Merritt, I-95 or Post Road — they provide a poor 1st impression. Built 20 years ago, they’re now weed-infested, overgrown and neglected.
The only people who care about them, it seemed, were folks who trampled over them putting up illegal signs, which stayed long after the events they advertised were done.
The 2 gardens were designed to be mirror images of each other. Now all they share is decrepitude.
But if you want to see for yourself, you better hurry. All that is about to change.
The town Beautification Committee is giving the “Gateway Gardens” an extreme makeover.
It hasn’t been easy.
Four months ago, a generous company agreed to pay for renovations. The committee solicited plans. Five local firms complied. 3 were selected — Laurel Rock, Daybreak and Geiger’s — and their proposals were passed on to the benefactor.
But the company reneged on its offer. The Beautification Committee apologized to the 3 garden design firms, and wondered what to do next.
A week later, Burton DeMarche called. 35 years ago his father founded Dickson DeMarche Landscape Architects in Westport. Now called LaurelRock, after Burt — a horticulturist — joined DDLA, it’s expanded to become one of Fairfield County’s leading sustainable design/build firms.
Though its headquarters are in Wilton, DeMarche wanted to do something for his hometown. He offered to donate LaurelRock’s services — from planning and plantings to hardscape materials and installation — to bring the gardens back to life.
And to do it in time for this year’s Fine Arts Festival — July 16 and 17.
It’s a donation valued at over $35,000. Beautification co-chair Angela Trucks calls LaurelRock “our heroes.”
LaurelRock also agreed to maintain the gardens through the fall. Then the Downtown Merchants Association will take over. The Beautification Committee will pay for water. (No easy task — it must be trucked in.)
DeMarche has assigned one of his top landscape designers — Brian Westermeyer — to the project. “We drew our inspiration from the bridge’s shape and structure, as well as the river,” he says.
He’s creating a garden that will blend in with both. Plantings — including evergreen ground cover and hedges, perennials and flowering shrubs — will provide “an ever-changing palette of color, texture and pattern year-round.”
Trucks is thrilled by the new Gateway Gardens. “With stress levels so high here, it’s important to ride through town and see beauty,” she says. “This is such a pivotal spot, and to make it beautiful says a lot about Westport.”
She applauds the partnership between her committee, the DMA and town officials — and is thrilled at the generosity of LaurelRock.
“There are still a lot of giving people around,” she says.
And they’re giving downtown the gift of beauty.
(The dedication ceremony is scheduled for Sunday, July 17 at 1 p.m.)