Ellen Bowen: Sherwood Island 9/11 Memorial Now An “Embarrassment”

“06880” reader Ellen Bowen recently visited  Sherwood Island State Park. She was stunned at the condition of the state’s official 9/11 memorial. Among the Connecticut residents honored there are several Westporters. 

With the 15th anniversary of that tragic day near, Ellen writes:

Imagine my surprise and disgust to find the plaques covered with goose poop,  and the walkways and grassy areas (including near the water fountain and picnic area) overrun and filled with weeds. The condition was disgusting. And I paid $9 to park.

(Photos/Ellen Bowen)

(Photos/Ellen Bowen)

I am appalled and saddened that a beautiful and contemplative place remembering the victims and heroes who lost their lives that day has become an embarrassment to our town and the state of Connecticut. I will share some of the pictures I took with the Friends of Sherwood Island, local and state government officials, and anyone else I can think of.

I hope they clean it up in time for the governor and 9/11 families’ visit, and the memorial service, on September 8. But I sincerely hope they consider maintaining the memorial on a year-round basis, and not just “for show.”

27 responses to “Ellen Bowen: Sherwood Island 9/11 Memorial Now An “Embarrassment”

  1. A.David Wunsch

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I went to the memorial shortly after it was opened. It was beautiful then and well maintained.
    ADW Staples 1956

  2. I’m not too surprised to learn the condition of what should be a sacred space. My wife and I recently visited the park after an absence of some years. We were saddened to see that its long slide into decay appears to be on course. With the notable exception of the Nature Center (which provides a wonderful, vibrant learning environment that everyone should check out) on an overcast day, this intrinsically beautiful yet shabby and careworn landscape has the distinct look and feel of an East German municipal park, circa 1980. But even the Communists kept their monuments clean.

  3. It should be planted with a plethora of sea grasses, which are not only lovely, but are appropriate for the area. Trees are not appropriate there. That’s most the problem. The memorial should not be closed in by a line of trees that attract birds and need soil that create weeds. Trees will naturally scraggle and die in the wind and salt. It should be planted with what the best the sound coast has to offer. Find the most charming of natural indigenous sea vegetation and plant it and allow it to flourish there. The most special thing we can do is sculpt a deliberate and natural seascape there that does not block the sun or the view of the nyc skyline.

    • Emily Hamilton Laux

      I’ve walked Sherwood Island for years, observing and reflecting on both its natural and “hand-of-man” design.

      In a subtle way, those trees call attention to the memorial, inviting viewers over to this special place.

      What I like most about the trees is that they are scraggly and wind-blown, haveing weathered Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene, and dozens of nor’easters…they are Mother Nature’s metaphorical reminder about survival in the age of terrorism.

      Let’s leave those trees alone.
      (PS – the memorial trees are on the northeast side of the memorial, so they do not block the extremely distant view of Manhattan.)

      • Mary Palmieri Gai

        There are certainly those who agree with you. But as a nurseryman’s daughter I hear my dad’s voice in my head about trees dying from salt….from salted roads in winter and salted water in the winds by the shore. I only evoke my father’s words not his knowledge…I have precious little. What I do have is an artist’s eye. There are very few trees that are planted in public beaches for a reason because it’s all about the view. We could make it a competition among our population to come up with the best design for what could both prevent the geese (are there plants they don’t like? ) and could be aesthetically pleasing …including the trees or not.

        • Jerry MacDaid

          The only real way to “prevent the geese” would be to “harvest” them on a regular basis. I’m sure there is some local artisan butcher that would be happy to do so, perhaps even giving half of the haul to the local food kitchens. And, just think, a new source of local, organic, free-range goose liver pate.

  4. Jerry MacDaid

    I would imagine CT’s fiscal situation has reduced the funds for “official” maintenance along with reduced lifeguard coverage, shorter hours and park closures across the state park system. That is unlikely to get better any time soon given further deterioration in the budget which would suggest more personal volunteer action by those who are disturbed by this is necessary.

    The real problem is the geese. You need pretty much daily attention if you want to keep an area frequented by geese “clean” or 24/7 coverage to keep geese away. Unfortunately, geese, like deer (and certain other animals recently discussed here) have become nuisance species as natural predators are non-existent and human presence has disrupted natural patterns while human intervention to counter the problem has been generally discouraged (and possibly would have limited effectiveness).

    Before I’m attacked as a goose-hater, I am making no judgement on animal control (or how to accomplish it if there were control) but am merely pointing out that lack of control has consequences. In the case of geese, it is lots of goose poop where you’d rather not see it.

    Since the geese aren’t going away any time soon, once again, personal volunteer action by those who are disturbed by this is necessary.

    • Jerry MacDaid

      From the Hartford Courant:

      “There will also be reductions in the staffing for maintenance of our parks,” the department said. “At less-visited sites, the public will see less frequent lawn mowing and other maintenance work. The focus will be on maintenance and repairs that assure the health and safety of park visitors.”

      An interesting comment in the article:

      Until 2009, the annual collections of the parking and camping fees — about $6 million — were placed into a special conservation fund to maintain the parks. But legislators then decided they needed those funds to balance the overall budget, and now the money goes into the general fund.


  5. Michael Calise

    My understanding is that the “summer geese” have “lost their DNA” to travel north. These non-seasonal geese are easy to identify since they are the only geese here in the summer season. Witness the Compo lawn areas where geese mess at night and children play during the day. Why we can not take a common sense approach and eliminate these geese before the seasonal geese return from Canada is beyond my comprehension.

    • Elizabeth Thibault

      Agreed. It’s not just the lawn area, as they’ve rendered the baseball diamond unusable also. My son’s team had a game there last spring, and the coaches ended up playing in a corner of the field because that had the least amount of droppings.
      I walk to and around the beach several times a week. I give the animals a wide berth, as I’ve seen them get aggressive towards those whom they don’t feel are far enough away.

  6. My husband and I went for a walk earlier in the summer and we astounded
    by the large number of geese at the park. It was difficult to walk on any path
    without encountering them. It made an otherwise beautiful location unpleasant.

    • Sherwood island used to be called “Fox island” probably because there so many foxes there. How does “Goose Island” sound?

  7. History might repeat itself. When Diane Farrell was First Selectman, Tom Lowrie did some research and convinced the Town that a Border Collie was the solution. The LMGA bought the dog and it was cared for by the Greenskeeper. It worked wonderfully on the much smaller golf course…the geese got the message. I’m not sure where they went perhaps to Sherwood Island but they got out of Longshore. I’ll think about it a little more.

  8. Werner Liepolt

    Take a walk there tomorrow (Monday) morning. You’ll see what a cleanup the Sherwood Island crew faces.

  9. Its a beach….

  10. Holly Wheeler

    The poop problem at/on the 9/11 memorial (and elsewhere) is not helped by the lack of cleansing rain this summer.

  11. Lynne Betts Baker

    I went over this spring to see the memorial. Had never been. Couldn’t find it. Now I understand why. Sounds like a small fence is needed. Something to keep the geese out. They don’t know they’re walking on a memorial. Who’s responsible for the site? State or Town?

  12. An embarrassment of a memorial. Teeny, looks thrown together, a mess and dishonorable. Needs a colossal do over.

  13. Anthony Palmer

    Well alot has changed since all of the “gripes” about the 9/11 Memorial. One of my crews spent close to 50 man hours pruning,weeding and mulching the site. It looks 1000% better.

  14. Thank you to all commenters and supporters for your thoughtful and passionate comments and ideas. I have since found that The Friends of Sherwood Island is a wonderful organization and needs our support so I hope you will consider attending next Friday’s Shorefest fundraiser or making a donation. I have. i am considering reaching out to a local nursery, business or organization to “adopt” the 911 Memorial to provide ongoing maintenance if any of you have suggestions or have a business that might want to sponsor this project. Actions speak louder than words. Thanks again

    • Anthony Palmer

      I would be interested, let’s talk.
      T.Palmer Landscaping Co LLC, we know what needs to be done now after completing the recent work

      • Anthony Palmer

        I am the owner operator of both T.Palmer Landscaping Co LLC and Anthony’s Nursery & Garden Center LLC both located here in Westport. I await hearing from you. Anthony

        • Thank you Anthony! I have heard that you and your crew did a wonderful job cleaning up the 9/11 Memorial! That is beyond amazing. I am talking to Liz-Ann at FOSI and we will be in touch soon. THANK YOU!

  15. Last comment. Craig Patton of the Friends of Sherwood Island just sent me the following information for a Clean Up Day on Wednesday 9/7 from 9 am to 11 am:

    In preparation for the 9/11 Memorial Service on September 8, please help Friends of Sherwood Island weed, clear, and prune a large garden bed visitors pass on their way to the memorial. T. Palmer Landscaping has generously spent two full days cleaning and preparing the memorial itself. Help us supplement the hard work of the CT DEEP staff by restoring this portion of the grounds.

    Volunteers should bring work gloves and gardening hand tools if able, as well as sunscreen and water as needed. For more information, or if you have questions, contact Friends of Sherwood Island board member Luise Bianco at 203-226-5228 or via email at lcbianco@me.com.

    For more information on Friends of Sherwood Island and their Shorefest fundraiser for the park being held on September 9, visit http://www.friendsofsherwoodisland.org.