Most people go to Town Hall for one reason: to do their business. They pay their taxes, pick up a clamming permit, complain about their neighbor’s swing set.
Now there’s another reason to go. And linger.
Clarinda “Rindy” Higgins has just created — from scratch, and virtually alone — a fascinating poster series about the Saugatuck River. Hanging on the 2nd floor (front entrance level), just to the right when you walk in, it’s educational, entertaining and eye-opening.
Rindy — a longtime environmental educator — provides Town Hall visitors with a comprehensive history, and behind-the-scenes (okay, “below the surface”) look at this important artery which, since the time of the earliest settlers, has shaped how our town looks, feels and acts.
As the exhibit points out, the Saugatuck River is such a vital part of Westport that we sometimes ignore it.
Rindy’s posters — which (despite her protests that “I’m no Miggs Burroughs” and “I have limited computer skills”) she designed and printed herself, each one taking 30 hours — highlight its significance. Along with the river’s history, beauty and fragility.
Westporters cross the river several times a day, without really looking or thinking about it. The next poster notes the importance of our bridges; they unite the 2 sides of 1 town. Back in the days of ferries, the Saugatuck divided 2 towns.
Panels 3 and 4 — “Bustling Maritime Trade” and “Industry” — show the enormous impact of wharves, vessels, onions and riverside factories.
The next poster shows the USS Saugatuck — a Navy ship named after the river. I’ve lived here my entire life, but this one’s news to me.
“Changing Riverscape” details the effects man and nature have on the water. Whether we fill in the river to create a parking lot behind Main Street, or the tides work their magic, the Saugatuck changes as constantly as any living thing.
“River Quality = Quality of Life” reminds us that “how we choose to use the land and the water affects not only Saugatuck River and Long Island Sound but also our own properties, livelihoods and quality of life.” Our river is part of a watershed stretching all the way to Quebec, as a we’re-all-in-this-together map vividly shows.
The penultimate panel says “Each of Us Can Make a Difference.” Calling each property a “micro-watershed,” Rindy offers suggestions for making sure that river and coastal water quality begin at home. From our kitchens, bathrooms, laundry and garage to our basements, gutters, driveways and gardens, everything we do can ensure the health of the Saugatuck River (and thus Long Island Sound) for decades to come.
Or it can help destroy it.
This Saugatuck River exhibition was Rindy’s labor of love. Gault Energy, Jim Marpe and Eileen Flug gave donations, but she paid for everything else out of pocket. She even bought the frames (from Walmart.)
Rindy’s posters are well worth a trip to Town Hall.
And as you leave — catching a glimpse of the Saugatuck River in the distance — you realize you will never again think of it in the same way.