[OPINION] Longshore Survey Is Odd, Flawed

Scott Smith has taken the town’s “Longshore Community” survey. Like several other Westporters who commented on “06880,” he finds it focused too much on certain areas, not enough on others.

Scott — an ardent environmentalist, and a golfer — is not some Johnny-come-lately-to-Longshore. Over a decade ago, he chaired the 50th anniversary celebration of the town’s park purchase.

He writes:

I’ve taken the Longshore Club Park survey, and, frankly, I’m alarmed. With its odd insistence on parking and flooding issues, and in light of recent public comments about selling off precious riverfront property inside the park, the effort fairly shouts “hidden agenda.”

For starters, why was Stantec, a Canadian firm, hired to formulate the questions, and whose interests do they serve? And why was any discussion of the fate of Longshore Inn largely omitted? Anyone who is familiar with Longshore operations knows the future of the public park is inextricably linked with the prospects for the property’s landmark inn, restaurant and banquet facility.

Inn at Longshore and 18th hole (Drone photo/John Videler for Videler Photography)

Then there’s the sorry history of the town’s ineptitude of managing our public assets, Longshore included. For all the talk of parking problems, know that for decades the town has hogged spots in the marina lot to warehouse trucks and other equipment, very little of which is actually used at Longshore. The town has long used and effectively trashed the green building next to the tennis courts. Once the starter shack for the golf course, why keep this prime property as a work shed? (The golf maintenance company has its own well-equipped facility in the middle of the course.) The town has also allowed the refuse dump in the middle of the park to sprawl into an unsightly mess of a dumping ground.

Like any lover of Longshore, I have my own ideas and dreams for this crown jewel of 06880. I can’t imagine Longshore without its pool complex, though surely the locker rooms could stand to be refurbished. And I’ve long argued for constructing a new, much-needed multi-purpose clubhouse, to serve not only golfers but all users of the park, including those who seek more access to Westport’s scenic waterfront.

I like the idea, long promoted by Sean Doyle and other golfers, to tear down the ramshackle golf building and situate the new clubhouse on the knoll between the two parking lots adjacent. With the state’s forthcoming dredging of the river, and the recently announced plans to add a ferry service from the envisioned “Hamlet at Saugatuck,” it makes perfect sense to add launch facilities for the growing numbers of kayakers, paddleboarders and other low-impact water enthusiasts seeking to enjoy the harbor and river.

And though I served on the Golf Advisory Committee for over a decade, I can see giving up the driving range, in favor or a coastline walking path and pollinator gardens, perhaps with an expansive “Himalayas”-style putting course for families. (I wouldn’t dream of building on the point, as who knows what toxic nightmares lurk under the surface of that onetime dump.) Heck, I’d even be willing to give the pickleballers a couple more courts, as long as they promise to shut up about their sport.

The point is, everybody has their own “what you oughta do” at Longshore. Starting that process with a guided, biased survey and lack of transparency is no way to begin the conversation.

(The Longshore Community Survey is available through June 14. Click here to see.)

Another view of Longshore.

29 responses to “[OPINION] Longshore Survey Is Odd, Flawed

  1. Scott,any one, or all of your good ideas, could be taken , implemented and the town’s folk would see and enjoy a much improved facility. Unfortunately, the town will never, let me repeat, never, spend the money…the P&R deciders would rather have a million dollar, over the top crapper than a family friendly, well managed recreational, strolling and view enhancing treasure.

  2. Kelly Coveny

    Thank you for this! My husband and I felt the same way about the singularly parking focused questions. Didn’t address anything we had hoped for. Perhaps it would be better to use this post as a petition that supersedes the survey if there are many who feel the same or at least provide an addendum. Thank you!

  3. I agree with Scott that the survey was obviously biased. My husband and I, both golfers, couldn’t understand the focus on PARKING! There are so many more important issues related to preserving our gen of Longshore. We were frustrated that the important questions weren’t asked. Now I’m afraid of what the town might do to,Longshore…more PARKING!

  4. Tatyana Hixon

    Great article and ideas. Would hate to lose the driving range. I think its essential to attracting less experienced golfers who could improve their skills and not take up time and space on the course.

    • Heather Brothwell

      I whole heartedly agree. I thought the survey was based on someone’s agenda and not a true attempt to get thoughtful feedback.
      I think most of Scott’s ideas and comments are spot on.

  5. Cornelia Fortier

    Great ideas, Scott Smith.

  6. Agree with Scott, I took the survey and it didn’t address anything I’d see as an improvement

  7. Ellen Greenberg

    The survey was beyond flawed. One question asked do you prefer a and b or c and d leaving no option for just c or b and d. If you add more amenities by the pool and tennis courts you will tax the parking by the marina while there is a largely unused lot by the driving range. Flooding? I live across the creek. At super high tides you get a very high water table. It comes with the location. What about the cottages? They are charming but are they the best use for that location? It is a complicated puzzle of maximizing amenities and access and parking while being mindful of sensitive waterfront property and wooded areas all this amidst a busy golf course. How much are we looking to spend?

  8. I just wished they had asked a question about simply having more chairs on the pool deck…

  9. Suzanne Raboy

    I agree with the comments about the survey being incomplete without adequate opportunity to address so many issues critical to the enjoyment of Longshore. The questions were focused on a few topics to the exclusion of so many important ones. I also agree that it’s a poor choice to have a large out of town company like Stantec guide our town officials in making substantive and expensive changes to Longshore that we all will have to live with for many years. Aren’t our town officials capable of developing a process to elicit input from citizens and getting some consensus about what to do? If not, why not?

  10. Mike Stuttman

    Thanks Scott! I agree with everything you said, though I’d like to see a new golf clubhouse attached to the Inn… it’s historic home, and replace the dumpsters, grill storage and parking eyesore that is now situated on prime real estate next to the Inn.

    It’s sadly ironic that we are still talking about these same issues well over 2 decades after we joined the Golf Advisory Committee.

    Also, related – It’s June and the golf course looks tired/shabby like it’s August. This is the 2nd year in a row where the course conditions are not where they should be. Why?

    • Hi, Mike, and everybody. Yeah, same as it ever was… hopefully these shared concerns will prompt a thorough review of the process and lead to a reset.

      • Seriously. I feel like I have just come home from a Golf Advisory meeting!! And it is maybe 20 years since I have served! Could not agree more with your comments. The Survey aside, it is sad to see this gem deteriorating.

  11. I think Scott Smith’s analysis of that survey is “Spot On”!

    Let’s not happen in Westport what has and continues to happen in Greenwich!

    We tend to leave the futures of our town’s best qualities and assets in the hands of “OTHERS” including a lot of “employees” and at the sametime forget WE OWN THE COMPANY!

  12. Michael Elliot

    All comments are spot on. Did we really need another survey to piss away more money on obvious upgrades to Longshore that have been lacking since the 80’s. This town is bassackwards on this issue. The maintenance shed on the exit road and adjacent to the tennis courts. The yard waste dump off the 13th hole. The existing clubhouse, in a word disgusting. There are so many areas that are opportunities to turn this “jewel” into a first class facility. Longshore is the only golf course I have ever played that does not have a decent lock room facility and pub for gatherings post round. I have lived here most of my life, I doubt I will see anything come to fruition in my life. I know for a fact plans have been developed for upgrades and for years. I wonder what shelf at town hall they are gathering dust on.

  13. Richard Johnson

    The Parks and Recs department in Westport is completely ineffective and unresponsive. Most of Westport’s parks are terribly maintained and filled with town refuse. If you email P&R, no one responds (trust me – I know from personal experience – although to be fair, this is typical across Westport town government). The P&R director is often rude and dismissive. If it’s not Compo, no one cares about it. This blog shouldn’t have had to make a post for Grace Salmon park to get mowed. That’s shameful – not something to be celebrated.

    So it’s no surprise that P&R outsourced the Longshore survey for what plainly seems to be the purpose of creating a justification for adding parking and selling off land, rather than thinking creatively about how to use this incredible spot for its full potential.

    But look – Jen Tooker told people when she was running for first selectman that she had no intent of trying to reform Westport’s town government, thinking it operates just fine. And maybe it does for her, because I bet the P&R director returns her emails. But people can’t be surprised by the lack of positive change when the department at issue is dysfunctional, failing to perform even its basic duty of keeping parks in a condition where they can be used by residents, and the person in charge sees no need for reform.

  14. Couldn’t these same comments be made in a more polite and respectful manner? If I were a public servant involved in this issue, I certainly would be put off by the tone of this letter.

    • Just how would critique more politely than, say, Richard Johnson, peter…please, demonstrate with a paragraph. These comments could easily have been vitriolic but are, simply, not.

    • jack krayson

      Oh Please,,,

  15. Michael Calise

    It is a well known fact that Parks and Rec has zero respect for public interest
    and that every sub-committee, forum and study is created to further their plans and goals.

  16. Robert Andrew

    I had the same reaction to the overall format of the survey. Very awkwardly designed, and I almost quit part way through. Aside from being obviously tilted toward specific subjects, it wasn’t even clear what the overall scope was supposed to be and the stilted format (designed by an IT dept?) didn’t allow for meaningful input. A real waste of money, should have n been tested for its overall efficacy before going public.

  17. Richard Bortolot

    Got to say – excellent points

  18. Scott- I can’t agree with you more. After 13 years on P&Z and having to endure so many of these survey’s and faux charettes, there is definitely an agenda driving this survey. I took the survey and found the options to be absolutely biased with a specific project in mind. The focus of the survey was bizzare and whoever devised it was a real rookie when it comes to planning and working with our community.. Like you, I have spent a few hours with Sean Doyle and agree with many of his ideas. What I’d like to see is our very capable selectwomen have a real conversation with the people who live here. You, Sean and many townspeople should be heard and not in a P&R meeting (not taking shots at current commission here) My experience is that the locals know what needs to be done and we have the will to keep the discussion focused on both need and cost.

    Why are we dealing with a Canadian firm based in Alberta? Why would we not “buy” local? We have many great local architects, designers and land use experts in CT.

    What’s going on? None of this makes any sense. In my opinion, bringing back the brown bag lunch to discuss what the residents want to do with longshore is needed. I’d like to see Sean ‘s ideas vetted in public. Bring in Dr. J and Tom Lowrie who have great ideas for their sports (and everyone else). Have a free flowing discussion without 2 minute time limits.

    Toss out that survey, it’s worthless.

    • John D McCarthy

      “absolutely biased with a specific project in mind” What is the specific project? Let’s name it

  19. Charlie Haberstroh

    I am no longer Chair of the Parks and Rec Commission, so I am writing as a private citizen. I was involved the the choice of the consultant and wanted to give some history. Scott, as you know the Longshore project has a long history. Under Gordon Joseloff and Steve McCarthy the idea was that the golfers should underwrite any review of the Park. When Jim Marpe and I assumed our roles, we decided that the town should underwrite the costs and we asked for and received many proposals to do the project (8 I believe). After an unavoidable delay caused by the pandemic, an internal committee including me reviewed the proposals and interviewed the top 3 and chose Stantec as the most qualified. As always, the proposal was reviewed by the applicable commissions and boards and the funding approved. I have not been involved in the process since last November, but I understand the survey is just the first step in the process and there will be ample time for all interested parties to provide input into the process. I can only tell you that there are very many competing interests for the limited space at Longshore, but the major items, some of which were identified by Scott, are well known. Not everyone will be happy with aspects of the process, but I encourage all to participate.

  20. This is a minor issue compared to Longshore, but during my walks through The baseball fields on Compo North aka “Town Farm Ball Complex” the rear of the park that borders Weichert Circle appears to be a dumping ground for the the landscapers, who hang out there- Maybe taking breaks? The space back there is under utilized and with some grooming could be the site of a useful recreational court of some sort….

  21. Sorry to say but as most towns in Connecticut, the term ” public servant” is used to defensively in situations like this. I see and realize that these public servants love to say how they are overworked and under appreciated in their duties. I don’t buy this mantra. Have not seen many in Town Hall or most other town services ” breaking a sweat” in their jobs. They are well paid and beneiffited. Not saying they are bad at their jobs. Just saying they need to pick up the pace and rise to the level of production the Town needs. It’ time for many in public government to step up, raise the level of their performance in these departments and tackle the issues and problems at town managed facilities and respond to their constituents with positive progress and results. As NIKE puts it “JUST DO IT”! And stop handing the project responsibilites to over priced and inneffective consultants.
    .I know I will probably be blasted for this comment, but someone has to say it!

  22. Clark Thiemann

    I just went to the Stantec website and the project website says “As we look to the future, we know that improvements to traffic flow, parking, and pedestrian circulation; the needs of recreation enthusiasts and stakeholders; and trends and sustainable best practices in park offerings will be paramount.” We do? To be clear, “traffic flow, parking and pedestrian circulation” have never been a concern to anyone I know at Longshore. More broadly, pedestrian circulation through much of the park isn’t something I would generally encourage. We have a pretty tightly packed golf course in much of the park, with all of the good places to walk in town, the middle of the golf course is a terrible idea from a safety perspective, especially when I see people walking with strollers…