[OPINION] Don’t Bury Burying Hill!

Retired Westport attorney Michael Nayor and his wife Rhoda Nayor, a retired audiologist, have lived in Greens Farms for over 40 years. With their 3 children — all products of the Westport schools — the Nayors have long enjoyed Burying Hill Beach.

But as spring nears, he’s concerned about it. Nayor writes: 

Around this time for the last several years I begin to think about Burying Hill Beach, and what a shame it is that it has become somewhat of an afterthought when preparing for the summer months.

Years ago Burying Hill was a very popular destination. Children and moms came  throughout the day. Weekends saw loads of families enjoying it.

Burying Hill Beach (Photo/Yvonne O’Kane)

Today, with the exception of one hearty club-like group of swimmers, it is used infrequently.

Burying Hill has become very uninviting. The rocky (big rocks, not pebbles) shoreline makes entry into the water precarious at a minimum, and dangerous for the most part.

In addition the jetty along the southwestern border of the beach has been in serious disrepair for years.

There are restrooms and garbage is picked up, but little else is done. Fewer and fewer people each year use the beach, giving rise to the self-fulfilling prophecy that because fewer people use the facility, fewer resources need to be dedicated to it.

Rocks on Burying Hill (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Starting over 4 years ago, an attempt was made to recruit the town administration to do something about the extremely dangerous condition of the jetty – either rebuild it or remove it altogether, with the assistance of the state.

While certain permits have been obtained, the project seems to have stalled at the bidding/funding stage. This may be understandable, under current circumstances.

But the bottom line is that while Compo may be the crown jewel of Westport, there are other jewels as well. Ignoring them does a disservice to the community.

The town has many fine resources. All should be maintained as well. To avoid doing so pulls down the town’s reputation and image.

Burying Hill jetty. (Photo/Michael Nayor)

A successful effort to rehabilitate Burying Hill enhances the benefits available to all residents, and reflects the town’s pride in all of its resources.

Hopefully when things get back to normal, efforts to rehabilitate Burying Hill will begin again.

I asked Westport Parks & Recreation director Jennifer Fava for a comment. She says:

In regard to the jetty, the town has been going through the permitting process with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers.

We received the permit to do the work, which is included in the 5-year capital plan.

We have tried to get permission from those agencies in the past to add sand to the beach, but have been denied. We plan to try again, in hopes we will be able to do so.

In terms of regular resources, we supply lifeguards and gate staff as we do at other locations. The beach gets groomed weekly (same as Old Mill), and like the other beaches we have a contract with a company to redistribute the sand prior to each season.

This year we will add screening of rocks out of the sand as part of this process, in hopes it will make an improvement.

Burying Hill Beach (Drone photos/Brandon Malin)

19 responses to “[OPINION] Don’t Bury Burying Hill!

  1. Good for you, Dan, asking Jennifer wazzup? The problem is not the jetty but the rocks both on the beach and at the entry, as Michael Naylor notes. Pat Brenneke, Staples ’67, and Mike’s sister, who introduced me to Westport when their father was still alive, told me Compo used to be ALL rocks. Could have fooled me since it’s always been sand in my 22 years here. So I hope the permission comes through to nourish the beach at Burying Hill. Of course, the problem of high tide almost reaching the sea wall will never go away.

    • Compo was very rocky through the 1950s. I’m not sure how or when the “sand” project came about, but it is a very different beach today, for sure.

  2. Karen A Kramer

    As a Greens Farms Resident and as RTM rep for same , I’m devastated by seeing Burying Hill Beach literally fall into the Sound . As a resident for over 32 years and having come to that Beach for decades.Athena perfect place for quiet and a wonderful place to regenerate. It’s a very different vibe from Compo…. and necessary to Westport’s culture. We have to do more , much more to save this ( hidden gem ) of Westport. Many many happy memories at Burying Hill . Lets save it-before it’s too late

  3. In terms of improvement, you should be careful what you wish for, Michael. The town has two primary maintenance postures; shoddy and plastic fantastic. Most of our parks (except Barons South which is in a free fall) fit comfortably within the first catagory. There’s a charming, rustic quality to Burying Hill which would never survive if the town decided to turn its money firehose in that direction.

  4. Charles Taylor

    I was a lifeguard there in 1965! It’s a great beach! Just needs the same TLC that Compo gets regularly!

  5. If the truth be told, Buying Hill Beach was NOT groomed weekly. My wife and I were daily visitors to the beach and from the beginning of July until the third week of August, the beach was never groomed. It was only after several voice mail messages, which were not returned, that the beach was groomed.
    While it might be on the schedule, it didn’t happen. To quote Tom Peters (PURSUIT OF EXECLLENCE); “What is expected gets inspected”.

  6. Perhaps it would make sense for volunteers to restore Burying Hill beach as a private initiative. For example, we might ask the town if it would be willing to pick up a pile of rocks and ask them to indicate where they could be placed for pick up. Then, when walking on the beach residents could spend perhaps 15 minutes a visit moving rocks to that site.

  7. Robert Giunta Harbormaster Westport

    I have lived in Westport for 70 years that corner never held sand for some reason the jetty needs repair replacement will be costly whe I was a contractor in town I repaired the very end for the town 25 years ago . Remove the jetty will alter the out fall this is one of the best areas for striped bass blue fish feeding area I have caught fish up to 45 pounds on a out going tide .

  8. Robert Giunta Harbormasters Westport

    Next door to buying hill beach the new owner has a permit to restore the sea wall and remove two wood jetty’s this may be a gain for Westport if you notice the sand on the east side of the jetty’s is a lot higher when the are removed the sand should move by the natural currents towards buying hill .
    Before spending any funds we should wait and see the outcome after removal of the jetty’s . The permits have been approved for this project by the state DEEP and the Army Corp .

  9. Lisa Seidenberg

    As one of the regular swimmers, I view any call for so-called improvements to Burying Hill with fear and loathing (and trepidation). As Morley Boyd pointed out, Westport has only two types of maintenance and a Compo or Longshore style is what we avoid by our preference for BH. Some of us do not care for sand (me) and others enjoy the peace and uncrowded atmosphere.

    • I’m with Lisa, from the non-swimmer segment.
      What some see as rundown, I see as unspoiled.
      Looking forward to my walk this afternoon on or around 4:39 pm – low tide

  10. Dan, including the work in a 5-year capital plan may seem like progress but the work has been included in the plan for several years, making the 5-year plan a rolling plan that just keeps on… well you know, rolling.

    I understand the motivation to keep the beach “natural” but the conditions should benefit all, not just the few who may not mind the dangerous conditions. The jetty is clearly dangerous and has a sign posted warning people to stay off. The rocky conditions make swimming for most people an option only at high tide. Burying Hill is a public facility and should benefit the public at large.

  11. I was a lifeguard at Burying Hill in the late 50’s. It was always rocky but far less than now. One summer; a dredge arrived off shore, siphoned up sand from the bottom and dumped it on the beach. One morning before everyone arrived I was shocked to see the Nautilus, the first attomic submarine being developed in New London, rise up out of the water. It was a very busy beach for families with young children. The Good Humor man arrived at 2 PM every afternoon and immediately had a large crowd. One summer I had 17 mothers-to-be in late stage pregnancy at the same time! The joke was that I had to to have boiling water and towels available at all times. I was 18 years old and scared to death that I might actually have to attend to an impromptu birth. Everyone promised to help! It was like one big get together, a great place and a lot of fun!

  12. Oh yes, the old x is dangerous and it doesn’t serve everyone approach. That was used at Compo Beach… Remember when Barons South was branded “the dangerous forest” that was too scary to enter? We sure solved that problem by savagely clear cutting it. The industrial loggers destroyed the trails and turned the rest into a lunar landscape. Good times.

  13. Jeanine Esposito

    My husband Frederic and I have been walking at Burying Hill since the early 90s. When the tide is lower we walk all the way down across all the beautifully worn jettys and actually marvel at the beauty of all the rocks because of the amazing diversity of the colors, patterns and shapes. It is a beautiful, natural, peaceful and intimate beach with stunning color at sunset and an amazing place to see the moonrise. When the water fills the marsh the trees create intriguing reflections. When I first moved to Greens Farns in 1991, there was a large group of Greens Farms neighbors that would spend a full day at the start of summer to move rocks to clear a big path into the water. We managed to do it and all the rest of the rocks were places for our kids to hunt for crabs and build rock castles. In the summer we have picnics there. We also walk Compo and meet friends there, have barbecues and our kids loved the playground and went to camp there. We love it, too. It is an amazing town beach with all the amenities and we feel lucky to have it. We have often talked about how great it is to have these 2 very different beaches in our town. (Not to mention also the very beautiful Sherwood Island which has its own character.) Im all for a little TLC for Burying Hill but let’s not haul all the natural rocks away and sterilize it – let’s maintain the diversity of our shoreline and enjoy each in its own way.

  14. As the town population increases and as we slowly and hopefully crawl out from the restrictions put in place from the pandemic, Westport will need to empkoy all its open spaces for a variety of safe recreational options. Just look at closures at Compo Beach last summer. Respectfully enhancing Burying Hill Beach with its ample parking already in place will afford residents another safe option to spend time outside to walk, swim, bike and go boating all within reach at BHB.

  15. I think fondly of Burying Hill, our one-time favorite Westport beach…(for half a century we lived close by in Greens Farms.) I’m so glad you paid tribute and urged its maintenance!….i recall sitting on that pebbly strip, as my (4) children as toddlers paddled in the water….it was there i learned to write, tentative at first, and then with growing determination….(my first newspaper/magazine articles, and my first New York Times piece)….so, hail to Burying Yill. let’s all pay tribute to that little strip of gravel, my salvation….

  16. As a Greens Farm resident who enjoys Burying Hill, I didn’t realize the rustic quality was a problem.

  17. My favorite place in town, and I was there for each of my most recent visits. It looked great to me, but I always loved the kind of roughly-hewn sense of it. Lots of flat stone there to skip on the waves–you can get some spectacular bounces if you hit one right at the top.