Unsung Heroes #205

A group of “06880” readers who ask for anonymity write:

We would like to nominate the founding members of the Westport Preservation Alliance as the Unsung Heroes of the Week, for their valiant efforts to preserve both the history and the open spaces of our beloved town.

We were ecstatic to see their activism recently in relation to Baron’s South. We are grateful for their tireless efforts. We watch, with great pride, the activism that they galvanize in our community.

Newcomers to Westport should know that it is thanks to the tireless efforts of  WPA members Morley Boyd, Wendy Crowther, Helen Garten and John Suggs that much of Westport’s natural beauty, as well as some of its historic treasures, remain protected.

The preservation of our Cribari Bridge and the prevention of its expansion and/or destruction, for example, is due in large part, to the WPA’s inexhaustible efforts. Without it, 18-wheelers might now be causing even worse traffic, cacophony, and air pollution in our otherwise idyllic town.

William F. Cribari Bridge. (Photo/Sam Levenson)

It is with great relief too that we watch the WPA step up to protect such sites as the Golden Shadows mansion and surrounding property (between South Compo and Imperial Ave.)

As we keep our eyes on the new Amazon development in the former Barnes & Noble plaza, we hope that the WPA will monitor potential subsidiary developments, and keep the area surrounding Greens Farms Elementary School safe for our children.

It is a tremendous honor for us to nominate Boyd, Crowther, Garten and Suggs for their tenacity and strength as they stand up in order to do right by our charming, beautiful, and relatively peaceful town.

Each of the founding members has an impressive resumé in his or her own right; the fact that these Westporters devote so much time and effort to keep our town unspoiled makes the WPA more than worthy of the Unsung Hero of the Week nomination. Thank you, Westport Preservation Alliance, for fighting the good fight for us all.

{PS. For those who don’t know the history of the WPA’s efforts in preserving the iconic Cribari Bridge, we encourage you to click here to read the detailed history of the WPA’s efforts.)

(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email dwoog@optonline.net)

28 responses to “Unsung Heroes #205

  1. Thank you for this post!!

  2. Richard Johnson

    I care a lot about preserving historic structures and thank the WPA for their work there. The vanishingly few areas of town with any real historic protections (e.g., King’s Highway) contribute so much to Westport and would not be there but for the work of the WPA and its members.

    I also care a lot about not using historic preservation as a fig leaf for other bugaboos. The writer’s reference to the Amazon “development” (it’s just a store in a banal shopping plaza with absolutely no aesthetic or historical value, along a stretch of Post Road filled with other plazas just like it) sets off some alarm bells. So does the cryptic reference to “keeping” the area around Greens Farms Elementary “safe for our children.” Post Road is safe for children now? News to me! Anyway, it’s hard to imagine why an organization nominally dedicated to historic preservation would invest its limited resources in big-box shopping plazas from the 1980s, or would want to be entrusted with child protection services.

    So I hope the writer’s vague concerns don’t reflect those of the WPA. There is a dire need for real historic preservation in Westport – we lose historic structures every month not to Amazon or apartment buildings, but to spec builders and town residents who tear down charming, historic structures to build big single family homes. So there is a real need to avoid mission creep to include vague NIMBY sentiments that are totally disconnected from the task of historic preservation. There are plenty of other people to stand up for the strip malls.

  3. I was recently told that a 1,000 of the old homes in Westport have been recently replaced by McMansions. Trying to “save” Westport is like trying to save a Stage 3 cancer victim. “My” Westport really doesn’t exist anymore. Kudos to those attempting to “save” Westport, but you’re running out of places to “save.”

    • But, can you imagine if nobody ever tried? On the other hand, don’t!
      Be assured, there are still places to worth saving. It may just take enough people caring and taking a stand. Do not lost hope or give up!

  4. I second the nomination!

    The Westport Preservation Alliance is certainly deserving of the recognition and gratitude of everyone who cares about historic preservation and the character of the town. Their hard work deserves the support of every similarly minded resident.

    For another week another hero could well be Save Westport Now, which for years has been working towards similar goals. I’m not sure whether they’re “sung” or “unsung”, but for all they’ve done they deserve both mention and recognition.

    Westport is fortunate to have such people in its midst, and the WPA overwhelmingly deserves the nomination and the honor.


      Unfortunately Save Westport Now seems to have lost interest in saving Baron’s South as open space.

  5. Gloria Gouveia

    I second Judy Starr’s comments. I would be honored to sign my name to unsung hero nominations for all the unsung heros whose efforts are lauded today. Thank you one & all.

  6. Hoorahs to these Westporters who are trying to save our town. We moved here in1968, and although we expected that Westport would change over the years, we never thought it would be RUINED by developers. lt is now at the point of no return. Is “Preserve Westport Now”. a group that we can join to keep the very few open spaces and historic houses??

  7. I owe much gratitude to this group of Westporters!!!!!!

  8. Jennifer Johnson

    Hello “newcomers”! For a broader view on the Cribari Bridge and the Town’s very divided opinions on this traffic-choked river crossing, then search “Cribari” on this 06880 blog. It’s definitely not a new topic.

    This is an excerpt from an email sent last October after Preserve Westport helped block Westport from qualifying for $40 MILLION in federal funds that could have made vital and necessary improvements to this obsolete, unsafe and antiquated bridge (built in 1884):

    I guess we’re supposed to forget about all those missed trains and miserable traffic tie ups across town when the bridge needs to open or needs another repair….and just ignore its deteriorating age and recent weight restrictions for heavy vehicles (horses definitely weigh a lot less than a school bus or fire truck!).  Why not merely turn a blind eye to our state’s $2 billion deficit and our region’s desperate need for federal funding to support important infrastructure projects.   Who really cares about Westporters being able to walk or bike safely to the train station anyway? …. Tell me, what’s wrong with building a new bridge? How about a bridge that opens up the river’s view shed and celebrates Westport’s future with bike lanes and sidewalks in both directions. How about a bridge with a new design that can handle rising waters during a storm surge and allows for rapid open and closing when boats need to pass. Trucks you keep saying? Remember…NO ONE WANTS MORE TRUCKS!!  If trucks are the issue, then focus on getting the Town to enact regulations and enforcement that limit trucks on Town roads leading to the bridge. And work on getting the state to agree to limit trucks on this stretch of historic RT136 just like they already do on other stretches of RT136 in Westport.  Sure, we love the idea of the bridge … bathed in rose-colored light…. empty of cars. Given the chaos of the world around us, we’d all love to retreat to that vision of yesteryear.  But sadly, like all of us, the bridge is aging…and in this case it’s down right antiquated.

    Given that opinions are definitely divided on the Cribari Bridge, it would be great if the First Selectman candidates on the ballot this November (Tooker & Steinberg) take a position on this bridge…. and how they plan to address our traffic-choked streets.

  9. A great nomination. This tireless crew has consistently advocated to preserve our small town. Thank you for all that you do.

    SWN is no longer interested in preserving Westports small town character and environment. They now support Harford imposed zoning issues . A terrible betrayal of those who live here and of those who recently arrived to enjoy our established locally controlled way of life.

  10. Jennifer, you are correct that there are differences of opinion on the bridge. It is the discussion of those differences that can lead to a focus on our needs. One of those needs is for traffic that flows, not stagnates. Another is for safety on town roads.

    Unfortunately, besides its being ah historic structure that ties the town with its past (particularly for Saugatuck), the actual design of the bridge that the state of CT wants to replace it with would allow 18-wheelers on Westport’s streets. That makes it an invitation for big trucks to use Westport’s streets as a detour from I-95 during one of its many tie-ups.

    We should note that the Post Road (as well as 136) are State Roads, not local roads.

    At any rate, as you may already see, I believe that the WPA has made a solid case for preserving the historic Cribari Bridge. Moving forward doesn’t mean a town has to “burn the bridges” of the past behind it. Rather, having the past to look back to gives a perspective on who we are and how we got here.

    In closing, I would suggest: don’t undo what can’t be undone unless you are sure you can reverse the results, if you don’t like what replaces what you’ve undone.

  11. Leaving aside the Cribari Bridge, – the preservation of which is of dubious value – the notion that rejecting the Jonathan Rose proposal – which would have developed only a small area of the Baron’s South property, leaving the majority as open space; which would have provided for maintenance of the site at no cost to the town; and which would have generated substantial annual revenue – is something to be celebrated, boggles the mind. It ranks with the failure of the town to acquire the State Police building as perhaps the worst, most short-sighted municipal decision in a generation, and rather than being lionized as “heroes” those who were responsible for and contributed to that debacle should be constantly reminded that it was and remains a colossal mistake.

  12. And, we can thank this same group for some of the traffic congestion at the Post Rd and Riverside, when with determined shortsidedness, they declined a generous offer to provide a right hand turning lane heading south, because they didn’t want to see 14 inches of height on new construction nearby. All of us are concerned about traffic and this group passed up an improvement of this intersection, which the DOT has declared the worst intersection in Connecticut.

    (PS: who nominated this group for hero status and are reluctant to disclose their names. Curious and suspicious.)

  13. Preservation in general is a good thing. To pursue it fanatically at an inordinate expense to the Town is another. In 2014 the Town was pressured by preservationists to accept an offer to move an old residence of dubious historic value free of charge to the downtown area.

    The true cost to Westport: the Town relinquished 22 highly valued parking spaces and received a very modest return on the lease of those spaces. After major renovation and modernization the result is the newest old house in Westport that looks like it was lifted from a frontier town theme park.

    Indiscriminate pursuit of preservation at any cost because it is “good”
    can be harmful and costly. It should be pursued in a measured, intelligent manner.

  14. The Westport Preservation Alliance are all unsung heroes, and indeed, the tireless efforts of WPA members Morley Boyd, Wendy Crowther, Helen Garten and John Suggs in this important area SHOULD be recognized, and applauded –

    And for their hard [purely volunteer]work in this area they get called out (sometimes politely, oftentimes not) by those who would like to see our Town’s iconic landmarks replaced with characterless concrete structures, and develop our Town’s few remaining open spaces – in an unsung hero piece! Sad . . .

    This is exactly WHY I have chosen to run and get back on the P&Z, and join their fight for the preservation of Westport’s charm, character and soul. Preserve Baron’s South as open space, free from the sort of development now being sought by a group of P&Z commissioners led by Danielle Dobin. Maintain and preserve the Cribari Bridge – a signature element of the Saugatuck scene.

    Hold on Morley, Wendy, Helen and John – you deserve recognition and you need support – I’m hoping to lend a hand.

  15. How is irk Dan, that your blog which has consistently claimed not to be “political” finds it appropriate to run an anonymous suggestion which could not be more political? You can’t have it both ways. I am surprised and disappointed that you don’t recognize how irresponsible and hypocritical this post is.

  16. “Irk”? Small keys, fat thumbs

  17. Robbie Guimond

    lol….. Anonymous says it all.

    Judy are you aware the state WILL raise the height limit on the EXISTING bridge to close to 14′ allowing those big trucks you speak of ?

    My guess is most are not so allow me to explain as best I can so everyone is clear on the facts and not hype .

    The electrical box on the north west upper truss which is “sagging” will have be replaced outboard of the truss system thus allowing the height increase. This IS happening SOON and this group can’t stop it. (ask them)

    Then IF your worse fears comes true all legal height trucks can access this route as it sits today, unless the town puts a ban in place which was discussed, but that stops some local company trucks from using this route, Hmmm…. wonder why Marpe blocked the truck ban idea and who’s trucks would be affected?

    While some admire this groups actions most are oblivious to the tactics used to force feed the 20k+ residents of this town to a small groups agenda.

    Id luv to have a town wide vote on this topic, my guess is the 100 or so who spoke against it would be dwarfed by a majority who favor practicality and improvement of flow over the illusion of preservation.

    This bridge has been butchered so many times the only thing left is the truss system , the entire load bearing span has been replaced and not historic what so ever. Ask Jim stefinano* who spear headed the restoration in the 90’s. His words ” it was a mistake”.

    Ken hit the nail on the head, lots of slick behind the scenes manipulation of a few that affects the entire town daily.

    Some things need to be looked at for preservation but to quietly leverage ones agenda is just plain wrong, like turning down the funding which will just delay the outcome.

    Respectfully, Robbie Guimond (not some anonymous bs )

  18. Ken, my friend, I’m not sure what group you are talking about, but I worked with the developers as a member of BoS to push forward plans tor a dedicated turning lane at the Riverside/Post Road intersection.

  19. mary schmerker

    This is a group of very hard working people who care and have the best interests of the town at heart. I have said very often be careful what you wish for. Try and see all sides to the issues and think them trhough to conclusions. These “Unsng Heroes care deeply and spend hours trying to do what is best for Wesport. You are priviledged to live in a beautiful and historic town with the best public school system any one could wish for. Thank those who tirelessy work to preserve the town.

  20. I’ve never understood the “save the bridge to prevent trucks argument”. You live in a town that has 2 (basically) 3 exits off of I-95. Trucks regularly use the town as a cut through during rush hour or when accidents happen, that’s the reality. Instead of having a bridge that could accommodate these trucks and keep them all on the shortest path to the next exit, you prefer town wide detours. Saugatuck to riverside to the Post Rd to the Sherwood island connector back on 95 or all the way to exit 19. Ever see a tractor trailer trying to turn onto Route 1 from riverside? Now that’s a disaster. What makes more sense to me is trucks staying on Bridge St to Greens farms.

  21. Werner Liepolt

    This is a great nomination as the Westport Preservation Alliance has initiated as well as embraced many causes that promote and benefit the sensible and modest high quality life that most long term, “born in Westport” resident and those newly attracted to live in Westport embrace. That they have championed the Cribari Bridge preservation effort from both the perspective of preserving a National Registered Historic structure and as a structure that benefits the community is what qualifies them as heroes…

    The failure to transcend personal interest and desire for profit is a theme winding through the would-be detractors on this post. I urge Johnson, Weismann, Bernard, Guimond, and David to put personal desires aside and jcelebrate the WPA’s unsung heroism in fighting for the good of the residential neighborhoods of Westport.

  22. The sad fact is that there are two major groups of Westport residents. Those who want to live (or have always lived) in a relatively verdant and low key town, and those who could not afford to live in Greenwich or get their kids into Dalton or Riverdale and “settled” for Westport because it was not “too far beneath them.” There is also a third group, typified by developers and their attorneys (who have submitted comments without disclosing their biases) who would be happy to cover the entire town with asphalt and concrete and charge their clients accordingly. with the passage of time the first group is shrinking or moving away, as we did. But those of us who care would hate to see a relatively historic, attractive, and unhurried town disappear completely.
    As a former Westport resident who rose before sunrise and commuted, I do not see it as such a hardship for my successors to leave five or ten minutes earlier to catch the train. It should not be necessary to destroy the town’s character for a few minutes every morning. Those of us who care more about the aesthetics, history, and lifestyle of our town should be grateful for the efforts of these unsung heroes and stand firm against those who apparently would make Fairfield County another borough of NYC for their own temporary benefit.

  23. I support preservation and admire the efforts of those who have worked hard to save historic treasures (often a losing battle), artistic treasures (always a losing battle), and our open spaces (a very mixed bag). And Morley and Helen are two of my favorite people who I have known in my twenty-five years in Westport.

    But I would completely echo specific concerns of Richard Johnson and Larry Weisman. Somehow connecting preservation of the ugly and obsolete Saugatuck River bridge with protecting the neighborhood from traffic diminishes the argument that this is about history and undermines genuine efforts to protect our neighborhoods.

    I am 100% supportive of doing what we can to prevent Greens Farms Road from being the Fairfield Throughway. (Thank goodness the Beachside Avenue Bridge is closed!) But using the bogus argument of historic merit is intellectually dishonest and only invites more intellectual dishonesty in our civic debates.

    Finally, it does seem odd that a website that forbids comments posted anonymously will run an anonymous op-ed. I don’t get it. Why is this a matter that would merit anonymity? Though, I suppose, someone who can answer that would get to the crux of the matter.


  25. I live on Greens Farms Road between Hillspoint and the Connector. Reading these comments made me feel queasy and apprehensive, alienated from and abandoned by a community where I’ve tried to be of use for the past 33 years.