Site icon 06880

New Residents Will Change Westport. For Good?

Westport is changing.

Since the start of the pandemic, hundreds of new residents have poured into town.

Some are singles, renting apartments springing up in the past few years on the Post Road and in Saugatuck.

Some are older folks, moving to be closer to their children and grandchildren.

But most are young: men and women in their 30s and early 40s, with kids in elementary school, preschool, day care or utero.

The influx of newcomers has put Westport at an inflection point. The new arrivals will make their mark on our community. Their influence will be felt for decades to come.

It’s happened before. In the 1950s and ’60s — the post-war, baby boom years — thousands of families descended on Westport. They turned a relatively prosperous, somewhat quiet town into a more affluent, very lively one.

The men and women who came here from all parts of the country — many transferred by companies like IBM and Procter & Gamble — jumped into civic activities. They ran for office, ran PTAs, ran Little League teams, ran around making their mark on the town.

They crossed the political spectrum, and often crossed swords. All cared passionately about making this place their home.

With help from the “Connecticut Yankees” and Saugatuck residents who had been here for years they built schools, stores, a synagogue. They bought Longshore. They brought creativity, energy and passion to every project they undertook.

In 1959, a developer wanted to buy the failing Longshore Country Club, and build 180 homes on the land. In just 19 days, the town bought it as a municipal club.

Some left soon, transferred by their company to somewhere else in America. Some stayed. A few are still here.

The newcomers of the 2020s are the same age as those who preceded them, all those years ago. They come now for a different reason: he pandemic. This time, nearly all are from Manhattan and Brooklym.

But they come with the same hopes and dreams my parents had. They want space. They want opportunities for their kids. They want a community, not just a town.

And they want to get involved, to make those dreams come true.

I am excited and energized by this wave of new Westporters. They have chosen this place for the right reasons — even if they can’t always put those reasons into words.

“It feels different than other towns,” they say over and over. “I don’t know — there’s just something about it …”

They appreciate the schools. They admire the beach. They discover the Library, the Levitt, the Playhouse. They explore the nooks and crannies that those of us who have lived here for years take for granted.

Part of the Children’s Playground at the Leonard Schine Preserve — one more often-overlooked jewel in Westport’s crown.

They want to know our history. They want to know how we got to be who and what we are. And they want to take what is here, and make it even better.

There will be battles over what that means, for sure. The Westport that the Connecticut Yankees and tight-knit Saugatuck neighbors loved — in their own, different ways — at times clashed with the changes the newcomers brought.

It will be the same in the years ahead. Our new neighbors look with fresh eyes at everything from downtown and Compo to the way we run meetings, and how we trim trees.

Westport will change. It’s inevitable. It always has, and it always should.

I won’t agree with all the changes. No one ever does.

But hey, this is not “my” town. It’s “our” town.

The next generation is ready to lead. The fathers work from home, at least part of the week; they spend more time in the community than my parents’ and peers did.

Mothers have always been the backbone of our volunteers. They were always intelligent leaders; today’s moms bring the added experience of years in the professional workplace.

I know I have described yesterday and today in broad, simplistic terms. Many other factors will determine the future of Westport — who moves into all the new apartments, for example, and the social and political trends whipsawing our entire nation.

But the bottom line is clear (to me, anyway): A new generation is here. They came for a community, and they’re eager to get involved in it. They’re making their mark already — and will continue to do so — in many important ways.

The future is not in good hands.

It’s in great ones.

Past generations had the Ice Cream Parlor. The current one has Saugatuck Sweets. Memories are made at both places.

(Newcomers and old-timers — and everyone else — are invited to support “06880.” Please click here to contribute.) 

Exit mobile version