Westport Baseball Explains Community Gardens Stance

In the fervid debate over the Long Lots Elementary School building project, and possible impacts on the Westport Community Gardens and athletic fields, one voice has been silent: the baseball community. Today, they offer their perspective:

Westport Baseball & Softball (WBS) and Staples High School Baseball (SHSB) have observed with much interest the deliberations and decision-making process of the Long Lots Elementary School Building Committee, along with the debate regarding utilization of the Long Lots School property and Community Gardens.

We are the only 2 town-operated baseball programs in Westport. While there have been preferences attributed to “Westport Baseball” and considerable conjecture regarding our views, neither WBS nor SHSB has been formally contacted by the Committee, the Board of Education, Westport government officials or Parks & Recreation, and neither organization has stated publicly any position regarding Long Lots Elementary School and the surrounding land.

Neither WBS nor SHSB has any interest in, or has ever proposed, removing, replacing or otherwise displacing the Gardens from their current location. Today we present our joint position with respect to the baseball field at Long Lots and the Community Gardens, and respond to unfounded criticisms and speculation regarding such position. We welcome the opportunity to be included in the discussion going forward.


WBS is a non-profit organization led by volunteers. It offers baseball and softball programs to Westport children ages 3 through 19. These programs include Little League Baseball, Little League Softball, Travel Baseball, Babe Ruth Baseball, Legion Baseball, Advanced Baseball and our cherished Challenger program.

SHSB fields 3 teams: freshman, junior varsity and varsity. As with Westport’s superior schools and support services, Westport’s diverse offering of sports and recreation programs, including baseball, attracts families to our town.

Repeated references to the surfeit of baseball fields in Westport by participants in the discussions regarding a baseball field at Long Lots are not only not true, but completely miss the point.

Registered Players

The numbers of players for each of the WBS baseball programs varies each season and year, for a variety of reasons. Grade sizes vary; children cease playing sports, switch sports or favor a sport in its primary season, but switch sports in its offseason. Players also leave our programs to play on teams operated by third party, for-profit AAU organizations.

Nevertheless, program leaders need to plan in advance before each season for organizing their programs. This includes budgeting, resource allocation and scheduling of fields. It is a red herring to try to project the number of players across WBS’s various programs. SHSB can more easily estimate the number of players on each of its teams, and it consistently fills rosters for all 3 teams.

Scarcity of Fields

WBS and SHSB programs have distinct needs and serve different baseball and softball audiences, and participants play on different size fields based on age and league.

Westport has baseball fields in 3 sizes. Little League baseball and Travel baseball players up to age 12 play on 46/60-foot fields; Intermediate and Travel baseball players up to age 13 play on 50/70 diamonds, and Travel, Babe Ruth, Legion and Advanced Baseball, and high school players, play on 60/90 fields.

Our Babe Ruth, Legion, Advanced Baseball and SHSB teams are not private “Travel” teams, which have been criticized in this Long Lots debate, and WBS’ Travel baseball programs are town operated and non-profit.

Westport has 4 60/90 fields: Doubleday, Staples, Wakeman and Long Lots. One 60/90 field is intended to be exclusive to baseball: Wakeman D.  However, even that field now hosts lacrosse practices in the outfield during the week.

Doubleday baseball diamond at Kings Highway Elementary School, and nearby PJ Romano Field. (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)

The Staples field on which our highly regarded high school team plays is also not exclusive to baseball. A temporary fence is erected for a period of time during spring and summer. During the remainder of the year, the outfield is used for soccer and other sports.

Doubleday and Long Lots fields are mixed use — shared by baseball and other sports.

In summary, WBS alone (not including SHSB) has up to 5 teams, with approximately 70-80 players sharing one field (Wakeman) in the fall. This is untenable from a scheduling perspective.

In the spring/summer, WBS has up to 4 teams (approximately 65-75 players) that play on the 3 full size fields. During the high school season the varsity team practices at Staples and the junior varsity practices at Wakeman. The freshman team is relegated to finding their way to Long Lots, presumably on foot.

Regarding the Long Lots diamond: It is carved out on only a fraction of the available space. The rest of the area is lined for soccer.

Long Lots Elementary School and parking lot (bottom), with baseball diamond and adjacent upper and lower soccer fields. (Photo courtesy of Westport GIS Map System)

For most of the day (9 a.m. to 3 p.m.), this open space is used exclusively by Long Lots students. After 3, it is used for after-school activities. Only from 4:15 to dark (as early as 6:30) does Parks & Recreation determine which town program has access to the field.

In its current form, the Long Lots baseball field is deficient. It suffers from disproportionate dimensions between left and right field, and a steep drop beyond center field to the lower fields. It lacks dugouts and adequate space on the sidelines.

The alternative is asking parents or hiring buses to drive in peak traffic to other towns’ fields that can be as far as 90 minutes away, forgoing the home field and last at-bats advantage.

We need a field for these older players.  Attempting to discredit the use of a grass field because of the lines drawn on it is akin to discrediting a classroom based on the subject being taught in it. Unfortunately, this has occurred in certain of the dialogue regarding a Long Lots baseball field and the Gardens.

Scheduling; Domino Effect

Westport suffers from tremendous field stress, given the paucity of fields available to various sports. Existing fields are carefully rationed by Parks & Recreation before each season, at a meeting with leaders of various sports. This meeting follows months of considered planning by Parks & Recreation leaders on how to share fields. WBS and SHSB collaborate closely with Parks & Recreation and other sports programs regarding scheduling and field utilization.

Soccer at the Long Lots lower fields. (Photo courtesy of Our Town Crier)

In contrast to when many of us grew up, historically seasonal sports are now played year-round. Westport children play baseball and lacrosse in the fall, and soccer players play in the spring as well.

We can debate the pros and cons of this evolution, but it is the reality.

Full-year participation is also fueled by many students’ desire to play sports at the collegiate level, including to gain admission to a better academic school in a highly competitive admissions environment. Athletic scholarships have helped many families carry the financial burden of affording college.

The loss of access to Long Lots fields during the contemplated construction will make a daunting scheduling and field sharing challenge for Parks & Recreation and Westport sports program leaders nearly impossible.

The permanent loss of a full-size field will make it virtually unfeasible for Westport baseball teams to practice and play games at home in the fall (when earlier sunsets and later dismissal from school for younger players already limits availability of fields to a few precious hours), render spring play exceedingly challenging, and leave the SHSB freshman team homeless.

The Long Lots baseball diamond lacks dugouts and seating.

Similarly, a domino effect vis-à-vis other Westport sports will occur. It will for example severely impair the ability of the Westport Soccer Association to operate soccer practices and games in the spring.

A displaced team will in turn displace another team, and so on, ultimately creating acrimony between teams and among Westport sports programs, ending only when the last domino falls on the teams deemed least worthy of standing.


We strongly believe that there is a crucial link between youth sports and children’s mental and physical well-being. The social, psychological, emotional and medical benefits to children being outdoors and on a team with friends are well documented.

COVID highlighted the importance of offering children these opportunities. For example, when the pandemic shut down social activities, mental health-related emergency room visits increased by 24% for children ages 5 to 11 and 31% for adolescents ages 12 to 17. Dependence on cell phones and playing video games makes involvement in team sports even more beneficial.

Long Lots Elementary School field day. This is the outfield of the baseball diamond.

The plantings at, and maintenance of, the Gardens are similarly outdoor activities with team building aspects that provide countless benefits to the caretakers of the Gardens and the community.

WBS and SHSB do not seek to disrupt or displace the Gardens. We simply want to retain the availability of a full-size field.

Our town’s population continues to grow, with families driving that growth.  These families are attracted to Westport for its schools, and the diverse offerings inside and outside of the school building.

This population applies pressure on schools to accommodate larger populations.  Outdoor space available to our children for sports and other recreational activities should not contract in the face of this growth.

The benefits to children continue long after elementary school. Participating in youth team teaches  many skills including socialization, sportsmanship, collegiality, discipline, teamwork, and collaboration to achieve a common goal.

A full-size baseball field requires at least 6 acres. There are scant parcels of available land this size, especially near Staples to provide a logistically convenient home for the SHSB freshman team. The cost to purchase such a parcel of land would be exorbitant. WBS and SBHS are open to learning of other locations for a field in lieu of Long Lots that is available now, or no later than the commencement of construction at Long Lots Elementary School.

Elementary School Student Use

We understand anecdotally that field space at Long Lots was originally donated with the intent that it would be used for athletics and recreation for children. But team baseball play at the current Long Lots field, which has commanded considerable attention in the commentary regarding the best outcome for the space, constitutes only a small fraction of its use. In the fall for example, Westport soccer appropriately has priority for the upper and lower fields at Long Lots.

Our outstanding elementary schools are fortunate to benefit from expansive outdoor grounds where gym classes are taught, recess is enjoyed, after-school activities are conducted, playdates, picnics and field days are held, and team sports are played.

Kings Highway and Saugatuck Elementary Schools share about 8.5 acres of open space, including a playground, PJ Romano turfed field (football and lacrosse), tennis courts, and baseball and softball diamonds.

Coleytown Elementary School features 3.5 acres that are home to 2 playgrounds and a basketball court, in addition to the smaller baseball and softball fields.

There is a Little League diamond, and other fields, behind Coleytown Elementary School. (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)

Greens Farms Elementary School offers 2 acres of open grass space used for baseball and other sports, a basketball court and playground. Extended access until mid-evening is feasible because of lights.

On the other hand, Long Lots Elementary School has a 2-tiered field complex, consisting of 2.75 acres on the upper level where the baseball diamond is cut into about a quarter of the grass, surrounded by multiple soccer fields. The playground and basketball court are separate from the field area being discussed.

We have already noted the shortcomings of the existing Long Lots baseball field.  Construction of a new school on the upper level would supplant the full-size baseball field. Building a new full-size field on the lower level would displace the soccer fields which are already heavily utilized.

But these consequences pale in comparison to the impact on the students, families and neighbors of the Long Lots Elementary School community, which would be deprived of the current green space adjacent to the school where the baseball field is situated for the uses discussed above, which already is inferior to the open space available at the other Westport elementary schools.

False Narrative; Conclusion

The narrative of “Westport Baseball” versus the Community Gardens is a manufactured one that has engendered much passion and acrimony.

Neither WBS nor SHSB has requested that the Long Lots baseball field be relocated anywhere, including to the current location of the beloved Gardens.

Westport Community Gardens and adjacent Long Lots Preserve.

It is counterproductive and divisive to pit “Westport Baseball” or any other Westport sport against the Gardens, and vice versa, even if the perception is that the priorities and preferences of the groups differ and that they are necessarily competing for the same physical real estate.

It is especially disconcerting when the leadership of WBS and SHSB have never been formally approached for a discussion, or even asked for their views.  Further, WBS is not conspiring with the WSA to replace or relocate the Gardens.  WSA posted its thoughtful views earlier this month on this blog.

The characterization of Plan C-ALT exemplifies this effort to be provocative: “Plan C-ALT would allow the garden to remain at the expense of Long Lots’ baseball diamond.”

The actual narrative should be that Plan C-ALT would allow the gardens to remain at the expense of eliminating nearly half of the existing precious open space at Long Lots. As explained above, while Westport’s baseball and soccer programs would certainly suffer if the field was eliminated, the primary losers would be the children who attend Long Lots Elementary School, and their families and neighbors of Long Lots.

WBS’s and SHSB’s only objective is to not sacrifice one of Westport’s full-sized baseball fields for the reasons discussed above. We do not require that the field be located anywhere on the Long Lots property.

But if the field is to be eliminated at Long Lots, then we respectfully request that a new full-size field be built in close proximity to Staples.

Open space for sports fields in Westport is already highly limited. Neither WBS nor SHSB is aware of an alternative site for a full-size baseball field that would serve the needs of the members of their respective communities.

We do not want to lose the field, and be dismissed with a promise to find space in the future for a construction project and capital expenditure that needs to be planned and budgeted over many years.

We need it now, and the construction of a new Long Lots Elementary School will exacerbate an already challenging situation for Westport baseball and other sports.

WBS and SHSB’s official joint position is that we support any plan that the Committee proposes that maintains the current open space at Long Lots Elementary School and ensures that we continue to have access to a full-size baseball field, whether built at Long Lots or a suitable alternative location.

To reiterate: We admire and respect what the gardeners have achieved on the grounds of the Gardens, and in the Westport community more broadly, over the past 20 years. We hope that the Gardens are preserved and remain for generations to come.

We expect that WBS, SHSB, the Gardens, and perhaps anyone who enjoys the outdoors, have a shared interest in preserving and, in fact, seeking out and allocating more open green spaces in Westport.

WBS and SHSB defer to the considered judgment of the Committee, with continued input from the Board of Education, Long Lots Elementary School leadership and parents, the Gardens and Westport’s sports programs leaders, and its determination as to the future of the Gardens and where to resituate the baseball field. 

We kindly ask for access to the formal discussion, dialogue and collaboration to identify and implement a solution that achieves these goals, rather than resigning ourselves to concluding it cannot happen, and engaging in polarizing and unproductive rhetoric.

41 responses to “Westport Baseball Explains Community Gardens Stance

  1. Full support of creating an improved baseball field at LLS. We first had the community garden lobby raise their hands and say they have not been involved, now we have WBS/SHSB saying the same. What other stakeholders have been frozen out of these discussions? Seems like we have a serious problem with democracy in this town.

  2. Thank you for this thoughtful point of view. The baseball community seems to have ALSO been NOT INCLUDED in the process. One note of clarification: Long Lots students don’t need or use a “big/Babe Ruth/60-90/full size” baseball field.

    You ask to be included in the formal process. So does the Westport Community Gardenss and Long Lots Preserve. So far, we are only allowed to make public comments that fall on the deaf ears of an appointed board, X 2: The appointed Parks and Rec Commission REFUSES to engage on the topic even though the issue is explicitly in their purview. Long Lots students need a school and the BOE provided clear specs. P&R athletic fields are not included in their specs.

    These appointed committees are in reality the long arm of the town’s administration. The only explanations given for the lack of inclusion and transparency are the carefully curated, well-worn talk points of the wizard behind the curtain.

  3. A common theme here is request for inclusion of stake holders in the planning of this project. The town can do better in this regard.

    Another common theme is the need for civil discussion vs conspiracy mongering and name calling. Passion is great and is found here in abundance. But vitriol and mean-spirited accusations against many of the people who volunteer their time to manage town planning is below our community standards. This doesn’t attract support for a cause. The public can do better in this regard.

    Transparency, timely information and inclusion will help the process. We are not enemies. We are neighbors.

    • Mr. Mossman: your point is well taken but I do not apologize for speaking truth to power. There is no place for disrespect, though respect must be earned.

      Yes, civil discourse and freedom of speech. And mutual respect. It is a two-way street. There are many ways to disrespect a citizen; lack of transparency in government is an egregious one. You could even say vitriolic.

      And about Volunteers. Lou Weinberg is a volunteer extraordinaire … and… a school teacher. Volunteers created this garden over the last 20 years and 10,000 hours with their own hands. Volunteers donated a lot of money and sweat equity to clear out invasives (a nasty job) and plant an absolutely stunning native preserve. These volunteers are being disrespected at the highest level, with the utmost vitriol.

      For the record, I have been attacked with vitriol by elected officials for opining that there is a lack of transparency in this process. I am a volunteer on many fronts, a Master Gardener, and a communications professional. I am certainly not a politician, and thankfully I lack the political prowess needed to be one.

      When all is said and done and the gardens and preserve are plowed asunder, I’m out (props to Shark Tank). I intend to step down from the WCG Steering Committee and extract myself from this town’s unfriendly “democratic processes.” I’ll vote and shut up, as I have done for the past 23 years as a resident here.

      Instead, I have much more rewarding volunteer work elsewhere. I will continue to focus my time and effort at the Bartlett Arboretum, where I have volunteered for 8 years now. We have the full support of the city of Stamford to improve our mighty green space there, to educate children and adults on the wonders of the outdoor world; to expand our pollinator pathways and bee keeping, to work with residents at our Plant Clinic, and to continue to work with the city of Stamford on this natural gem. I don’t like the commute but I love being a garden and green space volunteer.

  4. The way this whole process unfolds continues to seem very similar in certain respects to the way the initial Staples expansion/renovation plan was presented and then debated roughly 20 years ago—a plan that was rightfully rejected by P & Z.

    So, just as that expansion/renovation ultimately played out, why not simply focus on a plan that ends up preserving the existing amenities at Long Lots?

    I do question one point made here: “Athletic scholarships have helped many families carry the financial burden of affording college.” Are there any stats on the number of baseball alums—or Staples athletic alums in general—who have been able to obtain even a partial athletic scholarship in recent years?

    The odds on achieving that seem so small (and, unfortunately, it strikes me as potentially giving false hope to those parents who end up shelling out considerable money to for-profit sports programs).

  5. I agree 100%. Construction of the new school shall not be a “Sophie’s Choice”. This was a viable solution that keeps the gardens where they are, created proper athletic fields and replaces the school building with larger one in size but smaller in footprint . It may take a little longer to build, but can be done safely for all occupants of the property and would not cost more than any of the plans currently proposed by the consultants to the SBC. SBC should direct our hired professionals to develop and execute this plan.

  6. Robert Harrington

    It is really sad to see yet another important stakeholder has not been consulted or included. First it the Westport Community Gardens, and now the Westport Baseball. It is very sad to see the process play out like this.

    We value our schools and that must be the top priority on this site. However, also value our open spaces – including our only community garden, and our sports fields. We need to pay up as a community to make this fit.

    It is very disappointing that Parks and Recs have been near silent on this issue. There is a lot of important information in this excellent article that should already have been provided by Parks and Recs.

    We need to get this project right – but we also need to learn from this and include ALL important stakeholders much earlier in the process. Finally we need to record and live stream these meetings and provide proper minutes so the entire community can have access.

  7. That our various youth sports are compelled to say they were not called to the table has nothing to do with a knock on the democratic process. Rather, the context is strictly an attempt at halting the conspiracy theories of an us vs them mentality– that said sports were conspiring behind the scenes with the BOE to move or eliminate the gardens. Rather, just as the WCG community wishes to maintain the space it has at LLS, so does the youth sports community. Simple as that.

  8. First I hope the gentlemen who had a medical emergency at last nights Parks and Rec meeting is OK. The meeting up to that point was a real eye opener. Parks and Rec has no agenda. Numerous residents who spoke have asked time and time again that certain concerns be put on the agenda only to be ignored. One residents question and criticism of this met with a “belligerent “ response from Jen Fava the Parks and Rec director. Why is it only now that the usage of the ball field at Long Lots is being researched?
    Most residents who spoke were passionate about saving the Community Gardens. If the decision is made to destroy the gardens for a ball field I have the distinct feeling the Parks and Rec will say it wasn’t their fault because they never took a position either way. Don’t you think you need to listen to the community Ms Fava?

  9. Isn’t there an obvious solution? Make the new school one story taller to reduce its footprint and preserve open space. I would love to understand why no one seems to consider that alternative.

  10. Dear Town Leaders:

    Please find a way to protect, and their current state, the 20 year-old Westport Community Gardens, and newly established Long Lots Preserve, while also finding equitable resources for ball fields. While putting a ball field over the Westport Community Gardens and Long Lots Preserve seems to be the easiest thing to do, it is not the right thing to do. It is hurtful. It hurts our seniors. It hurts the adjacent residential neighbors. It hurts the environment in an area being overrun with development. It hurts 20 years of community building. It hurts the educational opportunities for hands on learning for Long Lots and Stepping Stones students.

    We have one Community Garden in town, carefully tended over twenty years by 120 families and their guests, your neighbors. It is surrounded by a preserve initiative to reclaim and environmentally improve town land at no cost to the town. Dozens of local businesses and organizations have contributed to this initiative. It is a tangible model of how we can help our planet, not harm it. This is what we are teaching our kids in school.

    We can do better.

    For those of you who do not understand the magnitude of the Westport Community Gardens and Long Lots Preserve, pictures speak a thousand words…


    As does this video….


    Please find the resources needed to support athletics for our kids. Please don’t do it at the expense of our only Garden and model Preserve.

  11. Karen La Costa Mather

    The First Selectwoman’s use of an undemocratic, opaque process in such an expensive project, which impacts many excluded stakeholders, is creating much anxiety, anger, and sadness in Westport.

    This process must not be rewarded but rejected lest future politicians learn this is the way to achieve a desired end result.

    Time to pause the recommendation and allow for all stakeholders to be present at the table and as Robert Harrington stated, ‘pay up as a community to make this fit’.

    Otherwise, Westport will become a future case study in ‘Poor Governance’ – What Caused it? What would you do differently if you sat on the LLSBC/BOE/P&Z/Parks & Rec/ or were an excluded stakeholder?

    We all like to think we would be the brave one and stop a disastrous process and plan that is barreling forward full steam ahead. So far we have Robert Harrington.

    Jay Keenan wants the recommendation out soon to deny Westporters a voice AGAIN in the upcoming elections.

    I think there is moral clarity that the established 20-year old Gardens/Preserves should remain in place while finding a scheduling solution/alternative site for a baseball field.

    Now we need the moral courage to make it happen.

    (It takes about 45 days to construct a baseball field. It took our tight 120-family community 20 years to make our ONE and only Garden/Preserves a thriving eco-system above and below ground, with a pollinator pathway and nesting home to migratory birds. It cannot be relocated).

    I have an old, partial poem taped to my fridge. It is a bit tattered and yellowed but it expresses many of our emotions today.

    O I was born low and inferior
    But shining up beyond
    I saw the whole superior
    world shine like the promised land.
    So up I started climbing
    to join the folks on high,
    but when at last I got there
    I had to sit down and cry.

  12. Although not a member of the Westport Community Gardens, I am an advocate of nature connection and the community gardens as I’ve posted in the past. However, I applaud the Westport Baseball & Softball for this very thoughtful and non-polarizing response. It is sad that WBS was not included in the discussion sooner. As a somewhat new member of the Westport community, I agree there seems to be an issue with the governance on this type of issue. It is true that outdoor sports provides our children with important physical and mental health benefits, much like the benefits of gardening outdoors. It is also sad that LLS does not have a partnership with the Westport Community Gardens to offer our children “edible” education like the Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, CA. There are so many ways the community garden could be used to benefit our children, and its not often that you find a robust community garden and nature preserve so close to a public schoolyard. The Edible Schoolyard transforms “public education by using organic school gardens to teach both academic subjects and the values of nourishment, stewardship, and community.” The hands-on experiences that connect students to nature through the Edible Schoolyard Project is useful for addressing climate change, public health, and social inequality. Additionally, the Westport Community Gardens provides opportunities for intergenerational collaboration and education, an aspect of community that is largely missing in our modern communities. I hope Westport can find a way to keep and utilize the community gardens for planting seeds of change in our children, while also providing ample space for our children to participate in outdoor sports.

  13. Joseph Vallone, A.I.A.

    This is a well crafted, comprehensive analysis of our baseball and softball needs, thank you to the author.

    I have often wondered why the (29) acre Winslow Park, used as 100% passive recreation, does not include a portion of active recreation? I served on the RTM shortly after the Town acquired the property. The Town paid $12M for the land with no idea what to do with it. At the time, the thinking was to prevent a developer from swooping it up. By the way, all those lush rolling hills, …they were all man-made, they are not natural.

    Baseball fields are referred to as parks, because aside from the infield dimensions, every park is different. Just look at Fenway. In fact the baseball diamond in Mead Park in New Canaan has a stand of 100′ tall oak trees in deep center field. Ballparks are all different and require about 4 – 5 acres of land. Why not create a first rate field in this Winslow Park? The field could be lighted as it backs to the Playhouse parking lot, Compo North and the Post Road. One could argue, bringing families closer to the Post Road benefits the local retail establishments, while eliminating traffic from residential neighborhoods.

    Many years ago I designed the Terrace the Hill, seating on the hill at Albie Loeffler Field, home of the Staples HS varsity soccer teams (pro-bono) and if asked, I’d be happy to sketch some potential design solutions for a field in Winslow Park. (also pro-bono)

    I am quite familiar with many of the baseball parks in Fairfield County, as my son played baseball, from K-8 and then, 4 years at Staples. No doubt, the Long Lots field is poorly sited, has a short porch in left field and has no room for dugouts and stands.

    Just something to think about…..

    • It is a useful exercise to open up the “Google Maps” aerial images of Westport and look for locations which might hold an alternatively located full-size baseball field (300 ft foul lines) — you can use the “measure distances” feature to good effect. One possibility which seemed to “jump out” to me is the “north meadow” in Winslow Park. It could hold a full-size baseball field by cutting down only six trees! To be sure, it is not walking distance from Staples High School (no doubt a shuttle-bus could be arranged for the Freshman Team), but, at least the Town already owns the land!

  14. First, I love to read Toni Simonetti and of course agree with her. The letter from the sporting community is well written. I suggest the bottom line of that letter and nearly all the public comments is that the Gardens and Preserve need to be maintained and if there is a need for another ball field the Town develop or find and pay for a new location. The Parks & Recreation Commission should go on record that it will not support an outcome that destroys an existing parks and recreation facility. I have written all candidates for election from all Town bodies on this matter, requesting only their personal views. The responses have been minimal so far, with no responses from the BoE candidates, the P&Z Candidates or the BoF candidates.

  15. Well written piece.

    I think an unfortunate aspect of this, as a practical matter, is the treatment of the existing Gardens and Preserve as Land for which we should decide the best use. That decision was made twenty years ago and some in Town are acting as if this should all be part of a blank slate. I find that disregard for what we already have quite troubling. First do no harm.

    Of course, all stakeholders should be involved in the decision making process. I appreciate the openness to the Baseball folk to explore alternative locations.

  16. I don’t believe anyone on either side of this discussion wants to jeopardize the positives of youth athletes or the community gardens. I do believe that Parks and Rec has not done their due diligence in finding an alternative. The Director and the Parks Commission has not involved themselves in this very important discussion. What are they waiting for? The immediate need for transparency is now not after all the other departments have come to a decision that will without a doubt cause hardship for one or the other. This is not how the Westport community needs to act. If these leaders of parks and rec can’t or won’t become involved it’s time they be replaced.

  17. Our children are our future. You need to do what is best for them. Do what is necessary for the good of the children. The community garden was a gift from the town. It does not belong to them. If it has to be moved , then do it carefully.

    • Hi Joan.

      The Westport Community Gardens was not a gift from the town. It was unanimously approved by Commissions, Planning And Zoning and Board Of Selectmen. That they are a gift is like saying that all ballfields are gift to the town. They are not. They are part of an integral component of providing a wide array of recreational activities for all of Westport citizens. We pay for them with tax dollars. They are not a “gift.“ As for moving them, that is a misnomer. “Moving” a 20 year old firmly established Community Gardens means killing them and having them reconstructed somewhere else. Carefully or not.

    • The children have plenty other fields.
      There’s no need for yet another one at the expense of something magnificent.
      I really do shake my head at these comments citing the poor children…
      Have you looked at the town budget for the schools…. ?
      I believe a very very very indulged system we have..
      and we have one community garden and 23 baseball fields…
      Sorry as one of the biggest tax payers in the town… we have enough !

  18. Thank you for sharing WBS, I’m sorry to hear that your group also hasn’t been included in this process. It’s hard to believe that the committee has been so forceful about relocating the baseball field in their designs without any study on field utilization or contacting WBS at all. It’s another huge gap in this process that has excluded so many stakeholders, and left the decision making in the hands of a small chosen group.

    I hope we can find a way to grow together, and that more creative options can be considered by the committee that will build a great school, maintain the established gardens, and retain or find more suitable areas for sports fields.

  19. Last evening, when the chairman of Parks and Rec announced that the LLSBC committee deliberations had all been held “publicly” it prompted a huge belly laugh from the assembled crowd – I think that that speaks volumes.

    I think our town administration has opened a dangerous process here by reducing transparency in our municipal government, and written the playbook for future administrations to put their imprimatur on Westport in anyway they see fit.

    When you set up unelected Committees and Commissions that don’t involve all the relevant stakeholders don’t act surprised when there is challenge and push back and act hurt and ask for “respect for volunteer service.” Candidly the administration had no respect for the opinion of the public when these folks were appointed.

    The tone of these meetings is always “we know better than you…” Things would have proceeded much better if there were Neighbors / LL PTA members / Representatives of youth sports like soccer and baseball etc. / Gardeners and so on on these advisory boards from the start – THEN you would see really creative thinking happening instead of these blunt instruments we have now, acting either entirely passive ( to paraphrase Seinfeld – “no agenda item for you”) or judge, jury and executioner.

    Instead the administration has chosen to ignore all these stakeholders entirely by their appointments and on the contrary seem entirely comfortable pitting them against one another judging by the deafening silence from Town Hall.

    Their motto seems to be that of Admiral Farragut:

    “Damn the torpedoes! Full Speed Ahead!”

  20. I am very disappointed in the attacks on our Parks and Recreation Commissioners, Elected Officials, and others who volunteer their time on Boards and Commissions for the greater good of Westport.

    I have been on the RTM for 12 years, have had a front row seat to such controversial issues as the Compo Beach improvement plan which included new sidewalks, and South Beach Bathrooms; Barons South, School Security, Police Review Panel, and so much more.

    Each issue has been handled with civility, and respect of the process. Meetings always noticed, agendas posted and followed in accordance with our town charter and state law.

    Making up “playbooks” “ignoring stake holders” “reduced transparency” “undemocratic” “moral clarity” “poor governance” “denying of voice” ….really?

    Please, let’s stop the attacking. I thought Westport is the town of “hate has no home here.”

    Everyone is working their butts off to find solutions that works for everyone. As I’ve mentioned before, everyone is going to have to give a something up.

    My two cents again-

    Long Lots stays right where it is. New or rebuilt. Why? Because it’s the BEST Location.

    Kids move out- Why? “construction distractions” it’s real we had it at Staples 1980-83 with re-model. We stayed because we couldn’t move because it was the “only high school.”

    Where do we put the kids? between Greens Farms, Kings Highway, Coleytown, and Bedford we find “room” – This is only temporary, but not impossible for 2 years. Don’t forget we have the Long Lots staff to move temporarily as well. Kids will have teaching resources if classes are a bit full.

    At the same time we should be redistricting. Why? Why not? We have been talking about this long before Covid and the Coleytown mold situation (oh speaking of kids in motion!).

    The Gardens stay where they are. Must understand once a construction date comes to fruition ( Yes, a transparent process like always, p and z, bof, rtm, flood erosion, fire etc), there will be a temporary closure of the Gardens.

    Why? Insurance Liability, Town, Contractor and state safety mandates. The whole property will be a construction zone for 2 years.

    Nothing gets destroyed, everyone endures some sacrifices for a couple of years, and we can all be civil knowing we all are sacrificing for the greater good of Westport.

    Again, just my two cents, just one of 28,000 in town 🙂

    • Don’t confuse “disappointment” with ‘hate” Jimmy – you are the one casually throwing that word around, I can’t recall anyone using that kind of rhetoric in these meetings.

      Would you agree that the public has a right to transparency or do we just let them pat us on the head and say “run along?”

      For what its worth I happen to agree with your point of view expressed here but I think the LLS PTA should weigh in as their students would then become the most affected – another stakeholder group that seems oddly absent from this process – why? I’m not sure.

      FWIW and speaking purely for myself I don’t hate anyone, but if you think that I won’t ask questions of unelected bodies trying to justify something that I find misguided then you are mistaken. Parks and Rec won’t even put the issue on their agenda! Does that constitute a denial of voice or are you alright with that?

      Again using your rhetoric, that’s not an “attack”, it’s an insistence on good governance. Stating the obvious, appointments new important and process is important but they are two very different things.

    • Well stated Jimmy! Boots on the ground!

    • Mr. Izzo
      Regarding your comment about the “volunteers” on boards and commissions who deserve our respect: We are ALL volunteers for the greater good of Westport. I wholeheartedly agree with you that volunteers deserve respect.

      Those volunteers on appointed Boards and Commissions are also known as political appointees. They do deserve our respect. But they could also earn it.

      The garden community is all volunteer! Lou Weinberg is the lead volunteer. We use our heads and hands to build and maintain a spectacular green space, voluntarily. We put money and elbow grease into clearing out a jungle of invasive plants to create a native natural habitat. We volunteer to spend our days and nights at meetings begging. We are all volunteers. We deserve respect too. Respect in actions such as transparency, inclusion, and a willingness to look at different ideas.

      I thank you for your support of the gardens and a willingness to look at creative solutions! But I do have to quarrel with your definition of government transparency.

      Noticing and holding a meeting is NOT a good definition of transparency. Refusing to place important matters on meeting agendas is not transparency. There are many documents that have been developed that are not publicly available— again not transparent. FOIA requests have gone unanswered. Emails and phones, unanswered. The list is long, and I’m only referring to the LLBS Project.

      Thank you, Mr. Izzo. This too shall pass.

      • Hi Toni,

        I have been to the Gardens and have seen the great work that has been done, and continues today.

        No one is questioning, your hard work, Lou’s, or anyone else who have volunteered time and money to the WCG over the past 20 years.

        My family has been here over 100 years on both sides, mom is a Gilbertie ( yes, related to all of em’), we grew up with Gardens. I had the privilege as a chore weeding around 143 tomato plants and all the other veggies.

        Took me a while to understand the life lessons learned from spading the soil, (thank god the rotor tiller came along) planting, nurturing, and harvesting.

        I am very respectful of all involved with the WCG. I have no wooden spoon in any of the 3 pots on the stove here. I just want to see us resolve this situation with civility, and get to an outcome that will be acceptable by all the cooks in the kitchen.

        I have given my suggestions of what I feel is a compromising solution in my earlier comments. Everything I mentioned involves moving parts, sacrifices, and community buying in for a couple of years.

        Watching from outside, and reading comments and emails that continue to divide, rather than solve, will not get us where we all want to be.



  21. When I was in Little League in the 1960s, there was a special baseball field in Gault Park. What made it special were the stands, which were covered and had supporting poles–like the MLB fields of the time. Aside from covering the spectators (parents and siblings) from the sun, it allowed us to pretend we were playing in a real major league park. I don’t know why the Gault Park baseball stands were torn down (no doubt because they were rotted away and the town didn’t want to pay for replacement) but it deprived subsequent generations of little leaguers of being able to dream they were in an MLB stadium–as well as discouraging their families to attend the game.

  22. Hi all,
    I appreciate the dialogue and especially agree with the comments about more transparency, democracy and inclusion in the planning and decision making process.
    I’m sharing a letter I sent to Jen Tooker yesterday.

    September 20, 2023

    Dear Ms. Tooker,

    After visiting the Westport Community Garden last week, I am writing to you with a simple message: Please save this garden and don’t be a destroyer of gardens.

    I was horrified to learn that a plan to renovate or rebuild the Long Lots School didn’t include preserving this community treasure. If you know anything about gardens and soil, you must be aware that it can’t simply be relocated.

    Barely a day went by this summer when we didn’t learn (or experience) another catastrophe related to our current climate crisis, whether it was a drought, flood, fire or unbearable heat wave. The worst part is that governments, industry and individuals aren’t taking sufficient action to make the necessary changes. Yes, we are responsible and part of the problem. But we can also be part of the solution. For example, I work closely with Save the Sound. Others work and plant at the Westport Community Garden, a treasure that is under threat.

    As far as I am aware, you do a good job representing our community’s best intentions and shining a positive light on Westport. This issue is not a matter of balancing various interest groups. It is a defining moment for you and our community. Do you or we want to be defined as a destroyer of gardens, nature, hope and community?

    “I am the Lorax and I speak for the trees.” — Dr. Seuss.
    (I taught 5th grade for 30 years.)

    Thank you for reading my letter and considering my thoughts.

    Please save the Westport Community Garden.
    There is a solution. Create it.

    Raphael Elkind
    Westport, CT

  23. What a coincidence. Today as I read the latest extremely informative and enlightening articles in both our local news outlets I was struck with a very similar feeling.
    Does our first selectwoman truly understand the ramifications that are in play here? I thought of Fortune 500 CEO’s and federal politicians that hire the top notch PR firms to steer those leaders back on track when they make a misstep or a series of missteps. How would they advise our first selectwoman and other officials? What I don’t understand is the silence from our first selectwoman on matters that she should be leading.

    The events that are transpiring are troubling to many. Can you not HEAR us? Even if she wants to say that she has no comment until some step of the process plays out. That request for comments also goes for other town officials that are not expressing their gut opinion on these concerns. I want to give people the benefit of the doubt, but wonder how long that can last for all the citizens of Westport.

    I was also grateful to hear from the local baseball/softball community. Thank you for helping the community understand your operation.

    Leaders! Where are you?
    Do you hear us? We are neighbors, colleagues and friends. Please stop ghosting us!

    See you at the next local fundraiser. Maybe you will come up to me and personally explain.

  24. This is a very well written and informative statement. My thanks to the two town-operated baseball organizations – the WBS and SHSB – for using the 06880 platform so effectively to properly share their views and perspective.

    While I readily admit that I certainly learned some new things reading it, I still found myself feeling a strange sense that something was a bit “off” in this piece. Not exactly sure what it might be, but having learned long ago the importance of paying careful and close attention when ever something crosses my path that feels “off”, I read the statement again, and then again. It was on my fourth or fifth read through that I finally saw it. It was hiding in plain sight. The “tell.”

    Look at the 3rd paragraph.

    The authors state that neither of the two groups “has been FORMALLY (emphasis added) contacted by the Committee, the Board of Education, Westport government officials or Park and Recreation and neither organization has stated PUBLICALLY (emphasis added) any position regarding Long Lots Elementary School and the surrounding land.” Their own statement begs the real question: were they, or their representatives, INFORMALLY contacted by the Committee, the Board of Education, Westport government officials or Park and Recreation and has either organization, or their representatives, NOT PUBLICALLY stated any position regarding Long Lots Elementary School and the surrounding land?

    Seriously, how did this pressing need for a baseball field first end up in the Committee Chairs “to do list” anyway? Was it the case of the WSB and the SHSB informally contacting the Committee, the Board of Education, Westport government officials or Park and Recreation? Realize that these two organizations are very well established and connected in Town. There exists multiple ways for each of them to successfully convey their desire for a baseball field without ever being “formally” contacted.

    Is that, in fact, what happened?

    The likelihood of something like that happening doesn’t feel so “off” to me.

    And if so, by presenting themselves in this piece as being just as equally disenfranchised as the Gardens in this situation seems… well… a bit disingenuous to put it mildly.

    But, what do I know?

    John F. Suggs

    • Mr. Suggs
      We do know that representatives of Westport’s organized baseball have been in direct contact with P&R Dept. representatives discussing their “LLS FIELD NARRATIVE.” I believe their narrative, in the works for some time, is thoughtfully, carefully and professionally crafted.

    • Mr. Suggs, thank you for taking the time to read this summary of our statement. To clarify, our point is that none of the organizations in an official capacity requested or solicited our views. If a resource – the Long Lots baseball field – is being taken away, parties that stand to lose said resource should be consulted and their views should be duly considered. Because that resource exists today and it could be eliminated or relocated, that is why it is on the agenda for the Long Lots Elementary School Building Committee and others and belongs there.

      • Brian, thank you for clarifying. It sounds as if your organisation was, in fact, contacted regarding this matter ( as you certainly should have been). Your point, it seems, is that this contact was not “official”. Since I would only be speculating as to what official contact means, would you be willing to describe the nature of the unofficial contact your organisation received?

        • Hi Morley, to follow up: none of the organizations, including the Long Lots Committee or the Board of Education, reached out to Westport Baseball or Softball for its views or reactions. We have never contacted the Committee or the Board of Education on behalf our non-profit organization until our submission to the Committee last week, which Dan summarized on this blog.

          And to return to Mr. Suggs’ comment, there has been no ground game behind the scenes to get on the committee’s ‘to do list’.

          • Thanks very much for clarifying, Brian. The town has really made a pig’s breakfast of this process. I certainly hope a resolution can yet be found.

    • RTM Candidate Suggs,

      Providing “formal” or “official” notice to constituencies is a fundamental tenet of any well functioning democratic body or government. Your failure to understand this protection is a telling sign of what kind of government official you would be if elected. You seem to think that it is the responsibility of citizens to self-educate and learn about issues and raise them rather than the responsibility of those vested with power to formally notify and canvas opinions of the people.

      Most of the members of the various organizations discussed in the post above are volunteers. These individuals interface with members of other organizations like soccer and baseball. The obvious point is that Westport baseball has learned of views informally or anecdotally through these private conversations. There is no need to look for conspiracy theories as to why the retention of a baseball field could end up on the “Committee Chairs” radar. And if it is on their radar, kudos to the Committee for taking into account various viewpoints.

      While walking my dog this morning, I could not help but notice that you have placed more of your campaign signs than any other candidate in front of the Town baseball fields. How ironic! It would appear that you are trying to capitalize for your own political gain from the “well established and connected in Town” organization that you criticize in your response. It is shameful to post your personal signs in front of the fields for your own political currency and then to suggest that the organization is “disingenuous” and “off.”

      Let the kids play baseball and soccer and stop picking apart a written attempt to unite organizations and speculating about ulterior motives and back-room dealings.

  25. It is a useful exercise to open up the “Google Maps” aerial images of Westport and look for locations which might hold an alternatively located full-size baseball field (300 ft foul lines) — you can use the “measure distances” feature to good effect. One possibility which seemed to “jump out” to me is the “north meadow” in Winslow Park. It could hold a full-size baseball field by cutting down only six trees! To be sure, it is not walking distance from Staples High School (no doubt a shuttle-bus could be arranged for the Freshman Team), but, at least the Town already owns the land!

What do you think? Please comment! Remember: All commenters must use full, real names!