Baron’s South: Revisiting A Plan

As the Planning & Zoning Commission discusses possible rezoning of portions of Baron’s South, from passive open space to more organized recreational purposes, some Westporters remember previous discussions.

A few years ago, town officials commissioned a landscape plan to restore and revitalize the park, following a tree removal project.

The September 2017 draft plan, prepared by Aris Land Studio, included:

  • An improved entryway/driveway from Compo Road South, replacing 2 narrow, poorly marked entryways.
  • New ADA-accessible parking areas in that same area.
  • A restored footpath system linking the Senior Center to other park sites.
  • Habitat restoration areas, meadows, new gardens, and an area for contemplation.

The draft plan

Like many plans, this one seems to be sitting somewhere, unimplemented.

Is it a good idea? Has its time come and gone? What exactly should we do with Baron’s South — if anything?

Click “Comments” below, to add to this long-running, recently revived discussion.

30 responses to “Baron’s South: Revisiting A Plan

  1. Let’s use portions of the Barron’s open space to create areas of enjoyment for all Westporters: Allow the non-for-prifit Remarkable Drive-In Theater to drop their seasonal screen,, allow Westport Youth Group to create open area mini-golf, grant permission to the groups in Town wanting to develop a Natural playground, ( ock climbing areas, seesaws made of trees)

  2. Stacie, I know someone who could design the mini golf you suggested. Heck, by the time you read this, he’ll have the basics planned already.

  3. Wendy Morgan-Hunter

    This is a beautiful plan! This would limit adding more traffic to the congested area around Baron’s South and provide much needed areas for humans and animals to coexist .

  4. Wow, this great! I don’t understand why the town disappeared its own plan but let’s move on and move it forward. Parks & Rec, what’s the next step?

  5. Suzanne Warner Raboy

    I very much support the plan you show as it keeps Baron’s South as “open space” protected from development. We have enough development as it is.

    And improving the area with more gardens, areas for quiet contemplation, paths to roam would all be welcomed.

  6. Gerald F. Romano, Jr.

    Don’t forget Baron North, 20 plus acres.
    The the town could build 250 affordable housing apartments on this site.
    This would help Westport to achieve getting to the 10% goal of affordable housing.
    Best,
    Gerald F. Romano, Jr.

  7. What an opportunity to leave open space for all of us to enjoy. The plan has already been drawn up to restore habitats, clean up the paths, and allow people to access these beautiful 22 acres in downtown Westport. Once it’s gone, we can’t get it back. And every day private property is being clear cut for development much to the dismay of people who enjoy birds and other wildlife that needs habitat like this to survive. Think hard about this before we lose an opportunity to preserve some of old Westport. And something very special right here in our town.

    • I couldn’t agree more with my friend, Ann Pawlick. Amid the frenzy of so many in our community to renovate, develop and change as the only way to improve our surroundings, sometimes it’s better to leave things as they are. Baron’s South is a precious and limited commodity in Westport that with some minor clean-up, we can all enjoy for many years to come.

  8. Christopher P Frey

    this past weekend for a high school reunion and I had the opportunity for the first time to walk the property. The paths, while easily navigable, were in poor conditions. However, the quiet and solitude I experienced was surprising considering how close the property is to the Post Road and Compo. I enjoyed the deer that was eating in the bushes and only saw one other person while I was there. What a gem. Then it was off to Winslow Park across the street. I hope people think long and hard before the town loses these properties to development. As it once was said – land, they aren’t making any more of it.

  9. This plan is exactly what P&Z wanted Baron’s South to be. A beautiful plan.

    We wanted the meadow near the senior center to remain so that if the Senior Center wanted to have outdoor yoga, art classes, music classes or concerts they could. The regulation as written has been interpreted incorrectly as prohibiting activities as mentioned above.

    When we wrote the regulations governing passive enjoyment we were trying to allow multiple uses that would not over run the property such as pickle ball courts, soccer , lights and bathrooms.

    Rezoning is not necessary to accommodate more use. I think a better solution is the one that I proposed to Jen Fava pre Covid. Establish a working group between Parks and Rec, P&Z and others. Present the landscape plan to P&Z, further refine permitted activities, update P&R website to include Barons South as part of a very well established Green walking route in the area. There is also a non profit group established that is waiting for a formal plan by Parks and Rec to be announced that would begin channeling money into a project to assist in funding a landscape project here.

    Rezoning is really about something else . (see Gerry Romano’s comments)

    Good job by Parks and Rec on drawing up this landscape plan. Let us help you get it implemented.

  10. It looks like a beautiful plan and I hope it gets implemented but I’d like to remind everyone who reads this of the amazing walking trails available at Earthplace and the awesome natural playground at Schine preserve. When I visit my family from city, and I’m not joyriding in other people’s cars, I’ve taken my boys to these places and they are never crowded. Surely, more spaces like these would be welcome but Westport doesn’t seem to be blowing the doors off the spaces it already has.

  11. What about refining Baron’s North, too, with nicer walkways and make more a usable park. There is a beautiful old building there that could be restored into a ballroom (it has that feel) and rent it for parties to support the park?

  12. Leave it as open space for all to enjoy. We should discourage cars from entering. Lets support green space.

  13. Werner Liepolt

    It is great to see how Parks and Rec started to clean up and make the short downtown Library/Riverwalk accessible again after this topic was last raised on “06880”. They can do it!

    Now, let’s see Park and Rec get on the ball with Baron’s South. That the department has let this plan languish is lamentable.

    Maintenance first; pickle ball dreams maybe later.

  14. Donald Bergmann

    I am so pleased to read so many comments in support of passive open space. I was unaware of the draft plan but it appears to be exactly what is best. I note also that there is a really cool entrance into the park from the Post Road. Few know of it and fewer use it. One can walk right off the Post Rd. into the beauty and serenity of Baron’s South.

  15. The2017 draft looks like a good plan. But what ever is decided PLEASE no more condos, apartments, or housing of any time. Keep it a green area. We have so few left.

  16. Lets Draft the Draft and enjoy its beauty forever!!!!!!!!

  17. Regina Masterson

    Rather than spend more time and money, use this draft plan to keep Baron’s South as open space.

  18. The Aris plan takes its cues from the framework of pathways and connections that the Baron himself established during his own residency there. He walked the property daily for exercise and peaceful contemplation. This plan takes advantage of the Baron’s excellent vision, while also keeping it unfussy, natural and low maintenance.

    This is a gem of a parcel, smack in the middle of downtown Westport. Step inside it and you forget that three of Westport’s busiest roads (Imperial, Compo and the Post Rd.) surround it. It’s silent. It’s soft. It’s embracing. And it’s ripe with lessons it can teach us.

    It doesn’t need re-zoning, games and sports to revitalize it. It needs us to care – to care about its interesting history, its uniqueness, and its rare, oasis-like presence amidst the traffic, intensifying development and loss of habitat that surround it.

    Passive use is the perfect use for Baron’s South. Let’s make it this generation’s “save,” like Longshore and Cockenoe Island were 60 and 50 years ago. We’ve never regretted those decisions for a nano-second.

  19. Maybe this Westport resident needs some ‘peaceful contemplation’. Westport again rears its ugly side; https://www.forbes.com/sites/chloesorvino/2021/08/04/nyc-rock-star-butcher-shutters-as-staff-walks-over-removal-of-blm-pride-signs/?sh=1ab6502b3749

  20. Has anyone mentioned the physical state of the main house on Barons South?
    A choice between building any kind of apartments or commercial or centers, should be out of the question. But again,I am commenting, since nobody seems to tell the story, that 2-3 years ago,the Zoning Board approved a plan for the Barons property to become The Westport Art Center and the Westport Art Museum. Opposition to the idea came from the Finance board and probably other Wesport entities, but there was a unanimous agreement when the idea was first proposed. Renowned artist Leonard Everett Fisher prepared and showed a video about the amazing history of the Arts in Westport, which led to the acceptance of the Art Center/ Museum plan by the Zoning Board. Architects’ plans, under the auspices of the then director of the the then Westport Art Center. were drawn up and because of a Barons’ caretaker’s opposition to ANYTHING that would change the interior of the Main House, the architect’s plans were clever and the house would remain intact.

    Has anyone entered the Main house? It’s mouldering away, wallpaper is
    in terrible shape, everything needs restoration or the house will have be removed or restored, Despite what has been said, I’ve been told the Barons house is NOT in the historic register, and does not need historic approval to be changed. With any use of the main house,the period kitchen and bathroom could be preserved, they ARE perfect examples of their time.

    What would a museum do for Westport? Everything the other ideas could not do– If approached correctly, it would: become an important national monument to the arts, bring income and employment to the town through the multitude of visitors to the museum,; yes it would need town and state funding to begin but with museum grants and Federal monies to assist museums,it would pay for itself and produce income for thee town in many wys. no other buildings would be needed ; the second house could also become a place for other arts. The grounds could be restored as planned and it could become a natural Mecca for Westporters.

    We had a museum committee in place 3 years ago, who had planned an historic opening exhibition . This committee of artists and arts minded Westprters could easily be reinstituted to work out a plan for Barons South.

  21. I’ll repeat some of Ann Pawlick’s comment as a refrain: “Once it’s gone, we can’t get it back. And every day private property is being clear cut for development much to the dismay of people who enjoy birds and other wildlife that needs habitat like this to survive. Think hard about this before we lose an opportunity to preserve some of old Westport. And something very special right here in our town.”

  22. Robert M Gerrity

    Dan, you know the song to grace note the next column on this. “… and put up a parking lot.” This plan shows the work is done to Keep Westport Green. Put it through the regular approval channels post haste and make it so.

  23. LISA PODURGIEL

    This plan is lovely in its simplicity and respect for passive open space. To avoid analysis paralysis or perfect being the enemy of good, we should ask ourselves: why WOULDN’T we implement this plan? If some feel it is not their end-state vision, it is certainly a safe place to start. And it could be implemented in phases. For example, begin with the landscaping and solve for the buildings later. Those answers may present themselves once the park is more in use. Let’s identify the real obstacles to implementing this plan and address them, one by one, and make this happen. Should we organize a volunteer group to move this forward?

  24. Let’s revive this plan and have a beautiful open space in the heart of Westport. A place for walking, birding, and contemplation. Lovely.

  25. The 2017 Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) highlights the goal of open space preservation within Westport, devoting an entire chapter to the topic. Given the paucity of open space in Westport–far below the 11% target–the POCD urges that “Westport should retain, protect, and maintain significant parcels it has already preserved.”
    A unique jewel, Barons South should remain protected–and be maintained. The Aris plan seems consistent with these goals.

  26. Charles Haberstroh

    The Parks and Rec Commission will be reviewing the plan at a Sept 1 Special Meeting. The plan needs to be refreshed a little. We will also be reviewing two plans for the area around the Center for Senior Activities. It will be a zoom meeting which should begin at 7:30 or 8.

    We postponed implementation first because it was unclear what the final plans for the Art Center were going to be, then to resolve the controversy over the fill which was removed from the Center for Senior Activities expansion and lastly because of the pandemic. Hopefully we can move forward and unite the funding bodies and the P&Z as necessary behind the plans.

    Charlie Haberstroh
    Chairman, Parks and Rec Commission

  27. “Build it and they will come” Design around activities: jogging path, bike path, walking path, etc. Don’t commercialize it, keep it natural.

    • Carolanne Curry

      Please let the P and Z Chair take a break from all her “development dreaming”
      Perhaps she thinks she’s doing good for Westport…..perhaps she is the ONLY one thinking this.

  28. Let’s get the ball rolling. This is the first step. Then create a detailed plan identifying the facilities that will be included in the space

Leave a Reply