COVID-19 Roundup: Bells, Seders, Easter, Entertainment, Saugatuck Island, More

Yesterday marked one month since the Westport Public Schools closed — and the full impact of the coronavirus hit home.

The original “2-week” period has been doubled. Though there has been no word from the governor, it looks increasingly likely that schools will remain shut through June.

Four weeks ago, we could not imagine being out for 2 weeks. Now, we realize we can do this. And we can do a lot more, in all facets of our lives.

Human beings are remarkably adaptable creatures. But it takes an enormous amount of support and collaboration to adapt. Here’s a shout-out to all who have done whatever they can, to help us through that very tough first month.

It’s still too early to get a handle on the financial impact of COVID-19 crisis on Westport. When Board of Finance chair Brian Stern sat for an interview with Rob Simmelkjaer yesterday, he noted that it is too early to know about its effect on the mill rate, which will be set in mid-May. Click on the app for the full interview; download it here.

Brian Stern and Rob Simmelkjaer.

Yesterday marked Westport’s 2nd Wednesday of bell ringing. Churches, businesses, families — all got together at 5 p.m., to show support for medical personnel and frontline workers.

One of the special ringers was Rebecca Schachter. Her bell came from her dad Seth’s World War II collection. It was used by British wardens during air raids.

Eight decades later, we’re in a different war. But the bell is as important as ever.

Like many Westport families last night, the Aders and Yormarks celebrated Passover — commemorating the Israelites’ escape from slavery when God inflicted 10 plagues upon the Egyptians — in the midst of a plague. Here’s their “virtual” Seder:

Also yesterday, Governor Lamont ordered all flags lowered to half staff statewide, mourning those affected by COVID-19. Flags will remain lowered throughout the emergency.

Reader Brendan Byrne spotted a firefighter at the Saugatuck station responding immediately:

Posted without comment (though there undoubtedly will be some from readers):

“SISTD” is the Saugatuck Island Special Taxing District. It was established in 1984 to tax island property owners on the land just beyond Harbor Road for local costs — mainly road maintenance. (Hat tip: NextDoor)

St. Luke Church will livestream all Holy Week masses and services. That’s Holy Thursday (tonight, 7:30 p.m.); Good Friday (8 a.m., 3 p.m.), Holy Saturday (8 a.m., 8 p.m.) and Easter Sunday (7:30 a.m.).

After livestreaming, they’ll be available on YouTube. Click here for details.

(Photo/Julie Mombello)

Aspetuck Land Trust’s 44 preserves are still open. They’re great places to walk, de-stress, and leave the coronavirus world behind.

But — unless people start obeying the well-marked rules — they won’t be open much longer.

There is a clear “no dogs” policy. The reasons make sense: the COVID-19 virus may be spread on dog fur just like on other surfaces. Plus, the heavy volume of dogs harms wildlife.

Yet people still bring dogs. And recently, people who did not want to follow the rules went further, and ripped up signs.

Beaches and athletic fields have been closed. Aspetuck’s preserves are still open. But some entitled morons may soon put an end to that.

Just in case you haven’t gotten the memo that Westport sports facilities are closed: There are new electronic signs at Staples High School. They rotate 3 messages: “No Trespassing.” “Athletic Fields Closed.” “Area Patrolled.”

(Photo/Jennifer Kobetitsch)

With Westport’s schools and town buildings shut, the Westport Public Art Collections presents 2 new online exhibits. They feature artwork that’s part of the new Learning Galleries — spaces at each school for displays responding to teacher requests.

Click here for “Face to Face: Looking at Portraits from the Westport Public Art Collections.” Click here for “Ties that Bind: Westport and Yangzhou.”  For more, click on the WestPAC website.

If you’ve been de-cluttering your house like crazy: Good news! Goodwill donation centers are open.

Goodwill’s career centers are open too — virtually. That’s a great resource for people looking for work. Click here for more info, and/or to make an appointment with a job counselor.

John Richers spent 40 ears in corporate finance. He owned a couple of guitars and harmonicas that were gathering dust, but for the past 5 years he’s attended a weekly jam group with “musicians of a certain age.” Now also done open mic shows, covering Dylan, Tom Petty, Neil Young and the like.

Now — in the new normal — John has started writing songs. H ejust began posting them on YouTube. Who knows? With a push from “06880” readers (and perhaps a nudge from Weston’s Keith Richards — see why below), the Westporter may soon be a pandemic star.

Richard Epstein — the Westport dentist who moonlights as a WPKN programmer — wants everyone to know that the 89.5 FM station is livestreaming a “Global Dance Party” tomorrow (Friday, April 10) from noon to midnight.

All hosts are live — from their homes. Among them: Talking Heads drummer and Sturges Highway resident Chris Frantz playing disco, house and funk, and Westonite Eric Cocks (surf, garage, psych).

Other genres include big band, swing, bluegrass, American and roots, Middle Eastern, ska, dance hall, hip hop, salsa, Latin, Afrobeat, blues, rockabilly, Bollywood, new wave, punk, and unclassifiable.

Stew Leonard’s has changed their minds. They will be open on Easter: 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

And finally, because this is our new reality:

32 responses to “COVID-19 Roundup: Bells, Seders, Easter, Entertainment, Saugatuck Island, More

  1. Dan you’re the MAN! Love ❤️ each and every post. Thanks 🙏 Sending you love and a hug! Mike Boyle

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. To those people responsible for erecting the signs at Saugatuck Shores:
    shame on you—and anybody else who resides there that is “OK” with the signs. You should stay on your island and not venture out anywhere into other areas of Westport (or Norwalk) where people in those areas would be “inconvenienced” or “bothered” by you walking or riding or running in front of their homes!

  3. Ruth Donohue

    With so many people pulling together with a sense of community this was a bit of a gut punch to us this week. There is no place for others to park on Saugatuck Island so this sign is directed at the neighbors on Saugatuck Shores. We’ve walked a family dog from our home off Harbor Rd and onto the island for almost 40 years. We’ve always been neighborly,chatted, picked up after our dog and in this current crisis, cross the road to give everyone space.

    Now, we are not welcome. Some of us with underlying medical issues have not left our homes other than a walk for over 3 weeks now. So now we will stay on our side of the bridge while many of our “neighbors” on Saugatuck Island speed past us with little regard for the posted 25 mile per hour speed limit. I understand we are all stressed and afraid for our safety, but was this necessary? To me it shows a shameful lack of community spirit.

    • Russell Gontar

      “As I went walking I saw a sign there,
      And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
      But on the other side it didn’t say nothing.
      That side was made for you and me”
      – Woody Guthrie


      Sorry, but Saugatuck Island has and is a Private Island… somehow everyone dismisses that we pay high taxes for this privilege !!)

      • Fred Cantor

        Robert, but didn’t the town of Westport share in the expenses of the major bridgework done in the recent past? If I recall correctly, that was a major expenditure by the town.

        And, if so, I think you have less of an argument to justify keeping non-residents out. I would contend there was an implicit trade-off in that deal.

        • The Tax District owns the bridge. Westport / State did contribute IIRC. I am still curious if the roads are private or town owned?

      • Robert, I will still be taking my weekly walks on “your” island. Pop out next time and say hi! See you Saturday!

  4. Does the Saugatuck Island Special Taxing District make the island private and separate from the town of Westport, empowered to keep all but homeowners off it? How about members of Cedar Point Yacht Club? Have identity cards or armbands been issued? Some clarification from Westport officials would be appreciated.

  5. David Webster

    I know that the Aspetuck trust “park” on my street has already been closed due to repeated non-compliance. I posted about the issue a few days ago on a thread on the “front porch” site and that resulted in the thread being locked with no more comments allowed. I guess pointing out that people were selfishly disregarding the rules and increasing the likelihood of park closure was considered “shaming” somehow (despite not calling anyone out by name). So if you want the other Aspetuck locations to stay open, please take this seriously. Bringing multiple dogs off the leash onto these lands is stupid and selfish. And when we behave like children, we get treated like children. As they say on the Internet, “this is why we can’t have nice things”.

  6. Speaking if dog walkers, have the rules at Sherwood Island about no pets been suspended? I notice MANY dog walkers there. Not judging, just asking.

  7. Sharon

    According to the Sherwood Park Web Site and in speaking with the Park Ranger a few days ago dogs are allowed as long as they are on a leash until April 15th.

  8. The presence of those signs restricting access to Saugatuck Island are so disturbing. Most of the community has rallied together during these trying times. The residents on the island should be ashamed of themselves. What type of message are you setting for our children? The board should not have caved to threats by a handful of island residents to post those signs. Please come to your senses and remove those signs.

    • Please, what is the Board? Do the property owners also own their streets? Or does Westport give them trash removal, which means they don’t? What penalties can they enforce for violators of their signs?

  9. Wendy Cusick

    This is nothing new. They started being anti-social in the mid ’90s about Saugatuck Shores. New people moved it and basically shut the rest of world out.
    A thought came to mind as I was reading the comments…. They should put in their own General Store with food, paper products and building supplies and make a new driveway just for Cedar Point Yacht Club.
    To dog walkers, please keep your pet’s on leashes. I went to Haskins Preserve long before this happened and had a dog jump on my back. Follow the rules please and keep all dogs leashed. Thank you

  10. Bill Strittmatter

    Pretty funny. Saugatuck Island pulling a Westport on the rest of Westport – outsider’s not welcome. And people are upset?

    Maybe the Island can sell a limited number of day passes for outsiders to come in.

    • Wendy Cusick

      Bill S. This gave me a chuckle.
      I’m just waiting for a similar sign to be posted facing Saugatuck Island from the residents at Canal Rd, Marsh Rd and the Harbor Rd bridge.

  11. William M. Thompson

    I’ll keep it “civil” but will probably be walking on the line:
    when you see a Comment from a guy who uses “” as his identity , you know that that person
    is too scared to show their real name because their comment is going to be an unpopular one to “most people”. What “Robert” said above is such
    b.s. and it’s said in such a wannabe elitist attitude that he is the kind of person that should truly live on a “real” island, with no way off. What those signs are really doing is targeting their next door neighbors who reside in Saugatuck Shores, because those folks are the only ones who would care to walk on, run on, or bike on Saugatuck Island. Other residents of Westport sure as hell aren’t looking to drive over to Saugatuck Island in order to walk, bike, or run. Why not? Because it’s incredibly out of the way to most everything in Westport, but maybe that’s what “Robert” loves about it.
    I hope he, and others on Saugatuck Island who feel the same way he does, don’t ever enjoy the use of other areas of town for pleasurable activities. It wouldn’t seem right or fair to others, would it now?

    Maybe the regal “Saugatuck Island” should secede from Westport…..
    but in the meantime look for “Robert” and others to give you the finger every time they drive by the mere “commoners” next door.

    By the way, whatever happened to using a full “real name” when posting…..huh, “19Robert”??

  12. Dick Lowenstein

    Does the U. S. Post Office deliver mail on Saugatuck Island? The sign is a toothless warning. Who’s going to enforce it, the Saugatuck Island constabulary? And if it scares you, there is Canal Road entrance.

    • And what about access to the town-owned park on the south shore listed on the Westport Parks & Rec map? I live on a private road in Westport/Norwalk, contribute to a Road Association to pay for snow plowing and maintenance, get no refuse pick-up from either town, and walks, bikers and drivers from all over — particularly skateboarders — use it with impunity.

      • That is an excellent question! If its a town owned/public park, can access to it be restricted?

  13. James Townsend

    I may be throwing myself to the lions right now but as a resident of Saugatuck Island I want to address a few things in these comments. This is from me personally, not the board or any other residents. Firstly, the island is actually private and the residents do own the streets as we are a municipal taxing district (and yes there is a board). CPYC owns their land and a section of the road closer to the club and their members and guest are allowed to access the club via island roads. On the whole, we residents are not evil, we love our non-island neighbors, and have specifically not erected a gate of anything like that because we do not want to live in a gated community. That is why non-residents are typically ok to stroll and walk dogs. The COVID crisis and this quarantine have led to an influx of non-residents accessing the island, congregating without socially distancing, in some cases being rude and aggressive, leaving trash+dog poop, and illegally parking and accessing private beaches. The sole purpose of erecting signs is to remind people about the status of the island and keep everyone safe per pretty much all public and private health guidance. Nobody is going to face more risk by sticking to the legal no-trespassing rules at this time, people are at risk if more and more people from Westport and the surrounding towns keep coming to and hanging out on this island. I hope this clears up some of the questions and I would urge the commenters in here with so much venom to get their facts straight before judging.

    • Thanks for the facts, James, the lack of which has led to some of the venom. So Saugatuck Island is just as private as Compo Mill Cove, which amid home-owner controversy finally decided to put a locked gate at its entrance. Do the resident firebrands have any plans to station people at the bridge checking drivers in their cars, as I once experienced heading to CPYC for Fourth of July fireworks. Wasn’t let through until I could produce the boat’s name and owner. They had a list. Very thorough.

      • James Townsend

        Hi Bill. I’m not an expert on all the private roads/gates stuff but there’s no way I could see my fellow island residents ever going for anything like that. We’re honestly pretty chilled on the whole very accepting of all our friends and neighbors who walk around the island all the time. This virus is just making people crazy and these kinds of tensions are unfortunate. I believe the signs have been taken down so let’s just hope we can all get back to some kind of normal soon. Happy Easter/Passover/Whatever to everyone.

        • I do not see the sign(s) so either the wind blew them away or someone took them down.

        • Funny, James, for the fireworks, I thought nothing of it. And never connected it to road ownership — just simply crowd control similar to what PAL does at Compo. Happy Whatever to you, as well.

  14. Sorry, Dan, but the major discussion on this topic seems to be on Nextdoor, which you credited with first displaying the sign. My fave is the town’s map of all the roads and exactly who owns which. Only wish I were a little less color-blind online:

  15. Stephen Tweed

    I’m just wondering whether this
    horrible pandemic gave the residents
    of Saugatuck Island an “excuse” to erect signs telling people to stay out?
    Will “trespassers” be welcomed back and the signs taken down once the virus is gone??? Me thinks not.
    Any “islanders” care to share their thoughts?

  16. Tery Brannigan

    Let’s see what happens the next time the wheatherman calls for a flood.