Unsung Hero #11

Lois Schine has done many things in her long life.

A mechanical engineer at a time when nearly all her peers were men, she helped found the Society of Women Engineers.

She served 18 years on Westport’s Representative Town Meeting (RTM). She chaired our Human Services Commission, and was a member of 1st Selectman Diane Farrell’s Land Use Committee.

Today she’s an active member of the Westport Downtown Master Plan Committee, and a Friend of the Senior Center.

But of all she’s done, Schine says her “crowning accomplishment” is helping the town keep Winslow Park as open space.

Lois Schine

Following its days as the Westport Sanitarium — and after B. Altman abandoned its plans to build a department store there — the 32-acre site of woods and meadows just north of downtown was owned by perfume executive Walter Langer von Langendorff (aka “the baron”).

First selectman Jacqueline Heneage asked the baron if the town could buy the land. Schine’s husband Leonard — a noted attorney and judge — negotiated with the owner.

The baron backed away, offended by the town’s “low” offer of $2.38 million. Schine planned to return to the issue in a while. But he died — and so did the baron.

The baron left several wills. It appeared his land would be tied up in court — then sold, to satisfy his various estate obligations.

In 1987 the RTM voted 26-8 to condemn the land. Citizens opposed to the deal brought a referendum. Lois Schine, Joanne Leaman and Ellie Solovay helped spur a “yes” vote. By 54-46%, Westporters chose to move ahead with eminent domain.

The purchase price was $9.42 million. But no one in town knew what to do with the property.

Schine worried it would be used for buildings, or some other intense activity. She asked town attorney Ken Bernhard how to designate the land as “open space.”

Winslow Park draws visitors with dogs …

He said there was no such zoning regulation in town. He suggested she run for the RTM, so the body could pass a resolution asking the Planning & Zoning Commission to create that designation.

She did. She won. And — with Ellie Lowenstein at the P&Z helm — officials created an “open space” zone for passive recreation.

“Longshore, Compo, all the pocket parks — none of them had open space designations,” Schine recalls.

Today they do. So does the baron’s other property — the 22 acres across the Post Road, between Compo Road South and Imperial Avenue.

… and sleds.

“Some people say Winslow is ‘only a dog park,'” Schine notes.

“But it’s a park in the middle of town.”

And — had it not been for Lois Schine, and many others — that middle of town might look very different today.


15 responses to “Unsung Hero #11

  1. Thank you, Lois, for your thoughtful care of our town.

  2. Patricia Spoor

    Sorry. Mistake

    Sent from my iPad


  3. Lois Schine is a great asset to the town of Westport for her work on Winslow Park and open space. Aspetuck Land Trust’s first nature preserve was in Westport and is named after her late husband, Leonard Schine. Lois was an enthusiastic supporter of Aspetuck Land Trust’s efforts to build a Natural Playground at the Leonard Schine Preserve which was voted one of the Top 50 Playgrounds in the U.S. All the people of Westport and Aspetuck Land Trust have much to be grateful for in Lois Schine. Our town is greener and more fun because of her.

  4. Thanks Dan! Great choice. We treasure all she has done for the Town of Westport. Tracy Flood, President, CLASP Homes

  5. Susan Hopkins

    Thank you, Lois Schine. Green space is a vital component to Westport and towns nationwide.

  6. Lois Schine, never one to ask for publicity, has left indelible marks in
    Westport and bless her heart! We miss her on the RTM—her quiet wisdom.

  7. Although I still respectfully disagree about having the entire acreage of Winslow Park designated as open space, there is no question in my mind about Lois’ commitment to making the town a better place and the tremendous time and effort she has devoted to doing so. Her energy, even now, is incredible.

  8. Jean Denholtz

    I, my husband, and our beloved Standard Poodle, Micah, are grateful beyond words in thanking Lois Schine for her vision and tenacity in helping to make Winslow Park a destination for our Canine Companions. In the heart of Westporti it is a much-needed AND appreciated Santuary for ALL!!!♥️🐩

  9. Lisa Podurgiel

    I could not be more grateful for and supportive of this beautiful, undeveloped park in the middle of town. And I am not a dog owner. I didn’t know it was through Lois Schine’s efforts that we now have this gem. Thank you so much, Lois!!!

  10. Julia and Scott Broder

    Kudos to Lois ❗️

    Our town owes you unconditional gratitude 💥😊

  11. Michael Calise

    Thank you Lois for your open space efforts. A hero indeed!

  12. Don L. Bergmann

    It is always so very nice to have an opportunity to say something publicly about a warm, caring and engaged person, Lois Schine.

    Don Bergmann

  13. Wendy Batteau

    Thank you for singing Lois Schine’s story. She really is a hero.

  14. Julie Fatherley

    Lois and the other women who aided in procuring this amazing open space
    have been true visionaries and very strong women. They should continue to
    serve as models for the rest of us who care about maintaining open land for the health of the our community and the environment as well.
    Thank you all and for Dan to highlight this essential part of our Westport
    history. Julie Fatherley

  15. Sally Campbell Palmer

    Thank you!!!