“06880 On The Go”: Baron’s South

Like many Westporters, Andrew Brennan spent years in Westport without setting foot on Baron’s South.

Or even thinking about it.

But the other day — just before leaving for his junior year at Hamilton College — our “06880” intern headed to the 22-acre town park, between Compo Road South and Imperial Avenue.

He recorded himself walking the trails, climbing the hills, and discovering this hidden gem, a few yards from downtown.

Click below, to join Andrew on his tour:

(Baron’s South is open from sunrise to sunset. Click here for more details from the town website. Click here for “06880” stories, from the archives.)

(“06880” is more than a blog. We cover Westport with words, photos — and video. Please click here to support our work. Thank you!)

12 responses to ““06880 On The Go”: Baron’s South

  1. Bravo Andrew, nicely done. You used several key words that were used only by the the teenagers who endorsed saving this property so many years ago. Meditative, tranquil, being in nature. The young people of this town understand why we all fought so hard to keep this property open space. Stay a little longer next time and watch the sky especially at sunset. You will be rewarded .
    The path where you turned around goes to the senior center where you can view their beautiful garden. Go thru the parking lot and find the path to Imperial ave where you will see an abundance of wild life.

  2. John D McCarthy

    Thanks for the tour Andrew.

  3. Loved this video tour Andrew. Although I’ve read a lot about the property, I’ve never made it over there. I’m going to make it a point to this month! Thank You.

  4. On March 16, 2016 Mr. Jeffrey Ward Ph.D. Chief Scientist, Department of Forestry and Horticulture, CT Agricultural Experiment Station with Mrs. Amanda Massa undertook a 21 page comprehensive habitat evaluation of Baron’s South, providing numerous recommendations/suggestions with an extensive write-up of reasoning behind their recommendations.

    In 2017 Westport retained Aris Land Studio to create a draft renovation plan. Aris presented Westport with a detailed 32 page report underscoring Baron South’s landscape uniqueness (“a rarity in CT due to intensive pressure of development”), the necessity for maintenance and improvements, and its potential for meditative, learning, healing, educational and intergenerational spaces. Its proximity to the Senior Center, as well as accessible access to the physically challenged also presented special opportunities to Westport’s residents. Accompanying Aris’s report was a Draft renovation conceptual plan which included habitat and conifer restoration, garden areas, contemplation maze, pollinator meadow and pedestrian pathways. This cost Westport’s taxpayers $9,800.00.

    In 2021 Aris Land Studio was re-retained to update their 2017 plan. At Aris’s request an ecological study was performed by REMA Ecological Services. This comprehensive 45 page study was presented to Westport in conjunction with updated Aris Land Studio rehabilitation plans for Baron’s South. This cost Westport’s taxpayers was an additional $6,400.00.

    Over $16,000.00 of taxpayer funds has been spent on consultants, yet Baron’s South continues its deterioration while studies and plans gather dust. For over a decade the public has been demanding that the Town rehabilitate our Baron’s South acreage (separate from the buildings) yet still it languishes. Despite it NOT being a resident priority or request, instead of Baron’s South, the Town recently spent over $500,000.00 of taxpayer funds on renovating Riverside Park (intentionally stated by the PRC to NOT be a destination) while the resident priority Baron’s South has received a mere pittance. Imagine what $500,000.00 dedicated to Baron’s South could have achieved.

    Our RTM should be appalled that for over 10 years the PRC has neglected the BS property and permitted its continued decay. Each passing year of neglect results in further environmental deterioration. Just read the extensive detailed survey reports that were performed to see what is involved and at stake.

    Starting a project, getting public involvement, investing hours and hours of people’s time, expending resources and taxpayer funds, to create documents and plans that languish and do not go anywhere is a public betrayal that must be addressed by our resident’s representatives – the RTMers are our only voice.

    The BS property is literally the Senior Center’s back yard, so just imagine the potential for our seniors that is being squandered, the potential educational value it has for our children, and by its location the intergenerational opportunities being squandered.

    The public wants the Baron’s South property renovated. It has paid for initiating this rehabilitation, however the PRC continues to ignore what the people want. My repeated requests for the PRC to put Baron’s South onto its agenda has not succeeded. Its time for our RTM to step in and do something.

    Thank’s to Andrew and Dan for putting this neglected jewel back into Westport’s consciousness.

  5. Perfect location for affordable housing. Let’s step up Jay. Do the right thing.

    • And, Ms. Clemmons, thereby ruin the largest open space in town. Any “Affordable” housing built would be by private sector and, therefore, only 10% of the units would be “affordable” and the rest, market rate….and for what?

  6. Allie,
    The fate of Golden Shadows and the ancillary buildings is a separate and distinct discussion from the 20+ park acreage that desperately requires rehabilitation regardless of building utilization decisions. The PRC was mandated to be the steward of that DOSRD acreage but has intentionally neglected its mandate. Taxpayers have paid for a plan so let’s finally get it on an agenda for discussion, public guidance, modification, and initiation.

  7. Heather Williams

    Thanks for the post and the background information from Cathy and Jay. I was always suprised at the amount of invasives and lack of a land management plan there. Hard not to see it waiting in traffic on Sourh Compo. What a shame that the Town or whoever has not followed through on this. There should be a Friends of Baron South Group, I would join and help where I could. I agree that money and a land management plan to take care of the property is sorely needed and long overdue.

  8. Nice work, Andrew.

    To Cathy’s point above, I’m always cheered by the way in which younger people almost intuitively grasp the essential value of this former park. But, at this juncture, the depth of my cynicism when it comes to the adults who have presided over its ruin, would require a deep water berth.

    Obviously, Parks & Rec is high on the municipal malpractice list- what it has done is simply unforgivable. But so is the Tooker Administation – which has actually ordered the Parks Superintendent to stay out of Barons South and just let it rot.

    And rot it has. The invasives, such as the dreaded Mile a Minute, are systematically digesting what’s left of the native plantings.

    But the good news is that everything will be totally and completely different just a short stroll away in Parker Harding where the town wishes to blow 6 million on a new parking lot, landscaping and, of course, public art. Never mind that the current, deteriorated state of the lot in question reflects the town’s hard wired standard of maintenance…

    So, with respect to Barons South, I suppose that just leaves the RTM – our direct representatives. Certainly one would think that body would be at least a little concerned by now. There’s an election coming up and Barons South is in District 9 – the same as Parker Harding. Maybe conditions have finally gotten so outrageous that perhaps the D9 RTMs will stand up and demand answers. I think the owners of this property deserve them.

    • Morley, Sadly you speak the Truth. Parks and Rec has committed malpractice when it comes to Barons South. And it is also a matter of public record that its gross negligence has been duly sanctioned by the Tooker Administration’s infamous order to the Parks Superintendent to stay out of Barons South. (You can look it up.) As for the Members of the RTM District 9, well, unfortunately, only one, Sal Liccione, has truly work to preserve Barons South. Simply put, Sal is outnumbered and desperately needs reinforcements. That is a major reason why I have recently thrown my “hat into the ring” and have placed my name on the November Ballot to serve alongside Sal on the RTM for District 9. If elected, I will fight on the RTM to champion the vital and long over due care and maintenance of Barons South. You have my word on it.

      John F. Suggs

  9. Great video Andrew! When we moved to Westport, we visited Barons South quite a bit and I wondered why these buildings have not been earmarked by the Historical Society and why more of an effort has not been made to maintain the property? I tried researching but did not come away with any clear understanding of the situation, based on the comments above – it seems to be mired in local politics. Is there anyway to work to preserve these amazing buildings and space? I am unconvinced this is an appropriate area for affordable housing… why would you tear down historical buildings for that type of development?

  10. Thank you, Dan and Andrew, for returning Westporter’s attention to Baron’s South (BS).

    Thank you to Cathy Walsh and other members of the P&Z who, nearly ten years ago, saved the property from a deleterious development plan and then rezoned it as open space to preserve its unique qualities and prevent similar, future threats.

    Thanks also to Jay Walshon, Morley Boyd and John Suggs for their above comments – all three have walked the talk over the course of the last two decades to save BS from development, to achieve and preserve its open space status, and to convince the town (futilely thus far) to perform even the most simple maintenance. I fully support their observations and criticisms.

    Over and over, our Parks & Rec Department and Commission have turned their back on this incredible piece of property.

    As I viewed BS through Andrew’s eyes, I loved how he saw its soul. But, what I saw (having loved this property since the town acquired it in 1999) was its soul beaten down via town neglect.

    Park & Rec, Board of Selectpersons, and RTM – please put this on your priority lists. It is “property abuse” and “blight propagation” to continue to do nothing.

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