Town Takes Over Riverwalk Maintenance

In 1992, a volunteer committee led by the indefatigable Betty Lou Cummings created the Library Riverwalk and Gardens.

A 6-month fundraising campaign drew 5,000 contributors, donating cash as well as services.

Together with a 2nd phase 7 years later, the accomplishments are stunning:

  • 11,000 bricks, many of them engraved, in a path 638 feet long
  • 57 benches, 3 picnic tables, 23 pole lights and 2 sculptures
  • 127 shrubs and bushes, plus 19 trees (and a sprinkler system)
  • Stairs from the library to the water, and a boat launch walkway.
A small portion of the library Riverwalk.

A small portion of the library Riverwalk.

After 22 years, the committee has asked the town to take over responsibility for maintanance. They’ve turned over $15,000 in their account to help.

Parks and Rec is happy to accept the responsibility. Over the past several years they’ve taken a more active role in assisting the committee. With the opening of the renovated Levitt Pavilion nearby, the time is ripe for the transfer to happen.

The Riverwalk is one of Westport’s hidden gems.

Okay, it’s not really hidden. Plenty of people enjoy it, at all times of day and throughout the year.

But many others don’t know it exists. And not many know the back story of its creation.

Thanks, Betty Lou and the 5,000 donors who helped make it a reality. More than 2 decades later, your work is greatly appreciated.

And it looks better than ever.

8 responses to “Town Takes Over Riverwalk Maintenance

  1. Cheryl McKenna

    I watched this transfer during the BOS morning meeting this past wends. Betty Lou Cummings was humble and happy to be there. She giggled and said this was fun!
    I must say people like her are to be treasured and Barons South needs to go forward to keep them here.
    Populations shift but why do we throw away the people that have given us this beautiful town and that beautiful river walk ?
    Something to think about P and Z ….
    I also trust Barbara Butlers staff to know the people that need help and the others that are just our national treasures like Betty Lou.

  2. David Schaffer

    Whenever I get back to Westport to visit the Riverwalk is one of my favorite places to go. I greatly appreciate the efforts of those who conceived and built it and those who continue to maintain it. I’ll have to check out that stairway down to the river, don’t remember it being there last time I went down.

  3. Wendy Crowther

    Uh oh. This could be a big mistake. The Town’s Parks & Recreation Department isn’t great at maintenance, especially in places that are more passively used. Down the line, the P & R Dept. will claim that they don’t have the manpower, skill set, and/or budget to properly maintain this property. That’s true, in part. Tight budget restrictions force them to make choices. Passive parks lose.

    Passion for these beautiful, quiet places doesn’t get transmitted to the town’s funding bodies by the P & R Dept. They have bigger fish to fry (ball parks, Longshore). I would debate the comment that the P & R Dept. was “happy to accept the responsibility.” Believe me, another property placed on their plate doesn’t make them happy, although the $5000 helps.

    The property will gradually fall into dishevelment and disrepair if the Riverwalk Committee (or some other semi-official body) doesn’t remain active in holding the Parks & Rec Dept. (and the Town) accountable for proper care and maintenance. Without advocates, things will slide.

    This I know too well.

  4. Nick Thiemann

    Betty Lou is the little engine that could. She has been a force that makes things happen in Westport. Her energy, together with her happy disposition has made her especially effective. Volunteers do so much to make this is great town. I would put Betty Lou at the head of the for all of the work and time she has put in over the years. She is one of our heroes.

  5. I couldn’t be more grateful to Betty Lou for ALL she has done for Westport. She is an incredible role model!! I love you BLC!!!!

  6. I agree with the comments of Wendy Crowther above: notwithstanding Riverwalk’s poor state of repair, it is highly doubtful that P&R “welcomed” the additional responsibility given its well known budget constraints. In reality, the area in question needs a full restoration; invasive tree removal, poison ivy removal and a proper planting plan. It’s a totally solvable situation and the finished product would be stunning. Unfortunately, despite great potential, this space will most likely only continue its decent.

  7. Nick, you SAID it! She’s all that and more for as long as I’ve known her, all the way back to the Young Women’s League days!