Sound And Fury

Gail Cunningham Coen has lived most of her life on Soundview Drive — the Compo Beach exit road.

She’s acutely aware of the beauty of Long Island Sound — and the power of nature.

She knows when a storm is coming, and what to do when it hits.

And as a former president of the Compo Beach Improvement Association, she’s been intimately involved in the political process of protecting the beach — and the residents across the street.

Gail can recite the history of the retaining wall that runs from the boardwalk all the way to Schlaet’s Point jetty at Hillspoint Road.

In 1998 Gail Cunningham Coen -- a tall woman -- demonstrated how high the Compo Beach seawall had once been.

It was built over 70 years ago to retain the seawaters and protect the new community of homes at Compo Beach, stretching all the way to the Minuteman statue.

Since that time, sand has built up against the seawall.

A nor’easter in December 1992 caused memorable devastation on Soundview and side streets.  After that storm, many residents raised the heights of their homes.

In 1998 the CBIA staged a “Save the Seawall” event to show town officials how tall the wall had once been.

Last week — in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene — Gail was meeting with her insurance adjuster.  She saw a group of men at the roped-off site by the wall.

When she asked if they were going to take the opportunity to repair and restore the entire wall — “since Mother Nature had so kindly excavated it with surgeon-like precision along its entire length,” Gail notes — they said no.  They’d work only on the part that was roped off.

Hurricane Irene swept away plenty of Compo Beach sand -- and exposed long-lost footings for the seawall.

Gail is concerned that town officials will “do a patch job and then push sand back up against the wall to hide the cracks and crevices, leaving us with a weak little pie crust of a wall — poised and ready to find our homes and possessions in a bowl of seawater and sludge all over again.”

Town officials and the state Department of Environmental Protection have had many discussions about the seawall.  Their engineers say it’s not the height of the sand that affects whether water overtops the wall — it’s the height of the water.

In other words, if tides are 12 feet above normal, they’ll be 12 feet above the normal sound height — not 12 feet above the sand.  Water will flow over the wall regardless.

Water seeks its own level.  So too, apparently, do storms at Compo Beach.

31 responses to “Sound And Fury

  1. Gail & Coach Lane are THE beach experts. Seems like now would be the perfect time to repair and reinforce the entire wall…Irene took the sand away, it’s a shovel ready JOB, and it’s overdue. Is this an important enough issue to get the 4 RTMers representing District 1 to each follow up on this matter? and keep us posted? It would really be appreciated. RSVP 🙂

  2. So in our cash strapped town we should spend our scarce resources to protect a bunch of rich people who choose to live by the beach. Don’t think so – I’d rather pay our teachers and firemen.

  3. ever notice how anonymous eunuchs are usually mean spirited ?

    Guess it goes with the territory…

  4. The Dude Abides

    Not sure I understand the crux of the article but then again, mother nature will win out in the end. On my daily run, however, I do notice that many streets (including
    major thoroughfares) remain cluttered with branches and debris. The side streets still have big tree limbs lying on the side of the street. I am not sure why homeowners don’t do something about this??? Are they waiting for the town to clear up everything?? Or the landscapers?? When did WE look so much to others to clean up our own property. On Burr Farms Road: tree limbs, unkept lawns and telephone books clutter the landscape. WTF??? We need a Clean Up Westport day. You might even meet your neighbors?

  5. I’m game for a “Westport Clean Up Day” or willing to give a hand to anyone that could use some help (Especially our Seniors!). Not fond of the big chainsaws (they scare me plus I’d like to keep my arms, legs, etc.) but willing and able to help otherwise. Let me know.

  6. Which is a more important: A better retaining wall or a half-way house at Longshore (see newer blog entry and comments)? What are our priorities?

    • David J. Loffredo

      I believe the halfway house will be entirely funded by private donations, not my tax dollars which apparently have to go pay someone’s unfunded retirement plan.

      • Exactly which is why the rich people who live by the beach should pay for the seawall.

      • Yes private funds building on public property. I am not sure why
        but I have issue with that? It seems if you want things done, you raise
        the money yourself and the town moves over to accomodate you.

  7. BTW, not all beach residents are RICH..there are many elderly peolpe that have lived here their whole life and can hardly afford to stay in their homes cause us beach people pay double the taxes than anyone else in town…and for the schools… us beach people, some of us don’t have kids and I don’t bitch about paying my taxes to send your kids to school..the beach is a wonderful place for all residents to enjoy…we should protect it and it’s residents…it’s sad how miserable some people are…get a life!!!

  8. First of all: the sea wall is in DISREPAIR. It is at the BEACH. Compo Beach. Which is owned by the Town of Westport, and maintained by the Town of Westport.

    So, here is the $60,000 question: WHO is supposed to fix it ?


    Furthermore, WHY is it that everyone assumes the beach area is filled with “rich people ???” Certainly there are plenty of wealthy individuals in the beach area (just as there a PLENTY of wealthy individuals elsewhere in Westport), but there are also plenty of “normal” folks too — AND what most fail to realize is that many of us beach residents simply made a choice, in the classic real estate “trade off” sense: smaller home, much smaller property, same price.

    Are all of us “rich” by Westport standards ? Hell no ! Go out and drive the streets, and open your eyes to the many many other wealthy Westporters out there. They are a dime a dozen, and they happen to choose to live elsewhere.

    Meanwhile, I digress… back to the matter at hand:

    The residents of Compo Beach don’t own the beach. We don’t own the sea. We don’t own the wall. We don’t own the roads, altho as a community, we strive to maintain an attractive landscape, for EVERYONE to enjoy, through the efforts of the Compo Beach Improvement Association. The CBIA, which is funded strictly thru private donations, plants and maintains the barrels and gateway gardens around the beach, as well as doing other projects.

    SO, maybe these dissenters would be content just leave the “jewel of Westport” (which is how the Town constantly touts about Compo Beach) looking like a ravaged area of a 3rd world country ?

    Like someone said above: Get a life (and a brain, while you’re at it !)

    • BTB: If you get the drift of the comments, nobody really gives a rat’s rectum about the wall and that little maze you call beach property. It may just wash away one day and there will be more parking for New Yorkers.

  9. “Rat’s rectum’s” and “rich people” aside, BTB just pointing out the obvious:
    Town owns Wall = Town fixes Wall. [e.g. if PUBLIC road in front of your home fell into disrepair, who would you expect should fix it ? You and your neighbors ? No. Correct answer: the Town.]

  10. Anyone using “rat’s rectum” is to be applauded for alliteration, and mixing in “little maze” would seem to indicate a high IQ, BUT there is a flawed logic that reduces the writer to just plain mean spirited eunuch as an earlier poster claims. Rage on! 🙂