[OPINION] Community Gardeners “Dismayed By March To Eliminate Assets”

The Westport Community Gardens and Long Lots Preserve team write:

Dear Town of Westport elected officials and residents:

Tonight (Thursday, October 19, Town Hall Room 201), we expect the Long Lots School Building Committee to announce the decision of First Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker, with respect to the future of the Long Lots Elementary School building project.

We know that her decision supports the LLSBC’s option to build a new school while simultaneously eliminating the 20-year-old Westport Community Gardens, and at least part of the newly created Long Lots Preserve.

This does not have to happen. A much-needed new school can be built without destroying the gardens and preserve.

Westport Community Gardens. They’re surrounded on 3 sides by the Long Lots Preserve.

The Westport Community Gardens have been, and continue to be, a nationally recognized, award-winning first-in-class standard of community building, environmental stewardship and unlimited educational opportunity.

The Long Lots Preserve is a volunteer-built model of suburban open space environmental rehabilitation. We believe that any other town in America would celebrate, promote and protect what we have created there.

The Board of Education specifications for a new Long Lots school have nothing to do with putting a ballfield over the Westport Community Gardens. The proposed ballfield is not for the educational and recreational needs of the students at Long Lots Elementary School. From what little we have been told, this appears to be an effort by the Parks & Recreation Department to replace the Garden with a new ballfield under the guise of a new school build.

We continue to be dismayed by the town’s march towards eliminating these 2 town assets when there are options to save them.

There are 120 plots in the Westport Community Gardens. Gardeners range in age from elementary school to 90s.

The LLSBC’s recommendation to put a large ballfield with dugouts and a scoreboard, and perhaps artificial turf and lights, flies in the face of the chair of the LLSBC’s statement that what is displaced needs to be replaced.

This decision by First Selectwoman Tooker breaks up a 20-year-old community of over 300 Westport friends and neighbors, hurts our seniors and devastates the environment.

Our seniors love this place. There are many of us, and this is one of the best passive recreational opportunities the town offers.

In a world that seems to be falling apart at the seams environmentally, Westport Community Gardens and Long Lots Preserve are teeming with life.

Hundreds of trees and shrubs and wildflowers have been planted, at no cost to the town. The American chestnut tree has been reestablished. Dozens of resident and migratory birds use this because of the habitat and great food sources provided there. Thousands upon thousands of native bees and honeybees gather nectar, pollen and live on site.

Night hawks, swallows and bats fly above the gardens at dusk because the place is teaming with insects, their critical food source. Red squirrel, grey squirrel, garter snake, ground hog, fox, toad, all inhabit this space. The gardens and preserve an ecological treasure. This administration is looking to cover it with a ballfield.

Wildlife abounds in and around the Community Gardens. (Photo collage/Lou Weinberg)

Meanwhile, in the same neighborhood as the gardens and the preserve, there is rampant development, trees are being cut down and more residential units are being built. These new residents are going to be looking for outdoor planting space. We provide that.

The new proposed school is being built over a small, underutilized baseball field and a soccer field; not the Westport Community Gardens and Long Lots Preserve. We have over 20 fields in town, and 1 community gardens.

Athletics and field use is critical, and this administration should find equitable resources elsewhere in town rather than placing them on this environmental community gem. With some creativity, the ballfields lost during construction can be placed back on the property when the old school is torn down.

This administration’s decision also hurts the neighbors who did not sign up for a ballfield immediately adjacent to their homes that will bring noise, flooding and most likely, lights.

The road to this decision occurred without ever consulting the gardeners, the preserve team, or the neighbors.

Evening at the Community Gardens. (Photo/Lou Weinberg)

The road to this decision included dangling an option to keep the gardens in place, destroying the gardens and starting them over again on another space near Long Lots School, and then, at the last minute, eliminating the gardens and restarting them at Baron’s South because the gardens will be “destroyed anyway” during construction. We were notified of the latter decision on Monday.

Thus far we have yet to see a peer review of the decisions that have been made by a few people on this approximately $100 million expenditure, the single largest capital project in Westport’s history.

We believe that scenarios are out there that can be attained where everyone wins. Unfortunately, there has been no institutional will on the part of the Tooker administration to get that done.

We should not allow a small group of politically appointed people to make decisions that affect so many of us. Doing business this way breeds distrust, dismay, ill will, and ultimately disengagement.

Where there is a will, there is a way. We firmly believe that including more people in this discussion can, and should get everybody a win.  These discussions should have happened already. Why didn’t they?

Jennifer Tooker: Be the hero.

Thank you.

77 responses to “[OPINION] Community Gardeners “Dismayed By March To Eliminate Assets”


  2. It’s obvious by now that Jen Tooker and Jen Fava have no intention of considering the several other alternatives to destroying the community gardens. It seems “dictatorship “has been fashionable in our government, and some think this is ok.. it’s not .. it’s bullying and worse.

  3. To sacrifice the Community Gardens and Long Lots Preserve, which are environmentally established jewels in our town, for yet another ball field doesn’t make sense on any level. Once they’re gone, they’re gone… why is this even being discussed? The beauty of Westport is that these unique community efforts were once revered. I may as well move back to Long Island… Please don’t go down that path. Save the Gardens and the Preserve.

  4. This is unconscionable! We have scores of baseball fields and only one garden. It is just plain wrong to eliminate a town asset that brings joy to so many and has taken years to cultivate.

  5. The committee DID create an alternate plan to keep the Community Gardens and Preserve in-place. Please save the Gardens! Bulldozing twenty years of environmental stewardship and hard work by so many residents, families, and seniors just doesn’t make sense.

  6. Rise up. Let your voice be heard. Here are opportunities to get before town officials.

    “Ain’t no mountain high enough. Ain’t no valley low enough. Ain’t no river wide enough… to keep us from getting to you, Westport Town Government.”


  7. The article and the comments above are well stated and very clear. Even if this isn’t your neighborhood, even if you do not garden, this is a town issue. All of our town assets are valuable and this one is surely the most fragile. It isn’t just land it is a biodiverse living breathing functioning necessary asset. Protect Protect Protect! We need every citizen to show us to all town meetings. Just show up or show up and speak, but show up. We got this if we make our collective voices heard.

  8. Same story, different day. My family, for one, prefers the best school option possible and a new ball field. This obviously will not be a popular comment on this blog…

    • Robert Harrington

      Alex – every voice matters and your view is clear and should absolutely be respected. Thanks

    • Thank you for your opinion. I don’t agree but it is important to know what you think. Every voice matters.

  9. Robert Harrington (BOE Member)

    Sadly she won’t be the hero.

    The decision was made long ago.

    Our First Selectwoman wants her photo next to the new and bigger baseball diamond.

    Let’s shove the gardens off to Barrons South because if the garden remain in their current location they are dead anyway as gardeners won’t have access for next two years.

    “We are helping the gardeners so they don’t lose a growing season”.


    Today was ALWAYS going to be a forgone conclusion.
    What matters much more is what come next after the Selectwoman’s statement.

    To all the people who care about the environment, sustainability and drainage in the local area – YOU are still part of the process.

    To all the Community Gardeners who might be losing faith in town government….Pick yourselves up if you get frustrated when you get to read the word of our Selectwoman today – YOU are still part of the process.

    To the homeowners around Long Lots…. the land use change if it occurs WILL affect your house values. Elected representatives just need to be honest with you about that – YOU are still part of the process.

    To all those that want a new school building at Long Lots…. the location of the new school is NOT changing if the gardens are saved or not. However, I have serious worries that the plan as it stands today will face multiple delays given some of these important land use matters. We don’t want to see a delay in a new school opening – YOU are still part of the process.

    To all our elected representatives across multiple boards and to those running in upcoming elections…. you will get to play a critical role in this process.

    Our residents and all elected representatives are as much a part of this process as the Selectwoman’s office is.

    After the Selectwoman’s statement tonight – the BOE will hear from the LLSBC at our 7pm Board of Ed Meeting at Staples High School Cafeteria.

    At this meeting I will also be proposing a motion stating the Board of Education’s support for a New School at LLS while protecting the Community Gardens in their current location.

    I hope to get the support from other BOE members.

    I passionately believe the Board of Education’s voice matters in this, and I think we can and should use that voice to help shape this process too.

  10. Daryl Styner-Presley

    This is politics at it finest. This time to the detriment of many in the Community (also tax payers), under the guise of building a needed new Long Lots School.

  11. To Alex and all other stakeholders,

    Another false narrative is that there is a competition between schools, gardens and fields. This is NOT true.
    We don’t have to choose we just have to keep going on solutions. One solution was clearly laid out in ALT – C.
    HOWEVER the biggest concern for everyone should be WATER and RAINFALL and DRAINAGE. We know that the Garden works to absorb tens of thousands of gallons of water. That should be the first priority for everyone. Especailly the Long Lots Homeowners!

  12. Joseph Vallone, A.I.A.

    Demolition of the Westport Community Gardens is the equivalent of the 1963 demolition of Penn Station in NYC. Although, the loss of Penn Station inspired Jackie Kennedy to champion the preservation of Grand Central Terminal, also in the crosshairs for demolition at the time. In 1965 Mayor Wagner, created New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, which was the only positive outcome from the loss of Penn Station.

    I’m not sure what positive outcome if any, will be born from the loss of our award winning gardens. This just feels like bullying from Town officials. However, in the event officials do plow under our beloved community asset, they will (as the decision makers involved with Penn Station) be remembered for their decision for decades, with great disdain. Town officials will be scorned because in this case, there is no meaningful justification for their actions. We have demonstrated the new school, the gardens and the athletic fields can all occupy the site in harmony.

  13. How best to deal with elected officials and their minions; who don’t respect the ‘voice of the people’? Maybe put forth a motion to initiate the ‘recall’ of Ms. Tooker. Her record is a sad failure to protect the best interests of the town and its residents. As for Ms. Fava, fughgedaboutit. Is there a lawyer in the house?

  14. Bruce Schneider

    My thoughts are simple. We have an election in a few weeks where there needs to be a strong message sent that the public cannot be ignored. The town seems to have lost its way. As I vote for town boards and the RTM, I am thinking of who has silenced or ignored the voices of the people. They will not get my vote. Our town needs to follow the words of Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address: “Government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

    I also wish it was possible to “recall” certain town officials!


    • Bruce, the Town Charter does allow for the “recall” of any elected official. § C38-6. – Recall.

      “Any holder of elective office may be removed from office for failing to perform the duties of the office (nonfeasance), for performing said duties improperly (misfeasance), for performing illegal acts while in office (malfeasance), or upon conviction for a felony as provided in this section.”

      • Bruce Schneider

        Interesting! The problem is it requires a signed petition of 10% of the town’s electorate in order to cause a recall vote. Seems like a high hill to climb, but if things continue the way they have gone recently, perhaps it will get obtainable.

        For now our votes are our best leverage to those who ignore the will and voice of their constituents.


  15. Will someone in the know please explain to me why Mr. Vallone’s idea/presentation of a multi story (thus smaller footprint) school was not considered? Some of our best school buildings are/were multi story elementary schools.

    • Joseph Vallone, A.I.A.

      Just to be clear, the drawings we generated and published illustrate construction of a two story building (we used the architect’s footprint from their pre-schematic site plan) with the 90′ baseball diamond and maintaining the Community Gardens in their current location.

      The construction of a three story school building, which I am very much in favor of, would obviously reduce the size of the school’s footprint, thereby freeing up additional space for parking and athletic fields.

      Thank you for your comment.

      • In the feasibility study which was finally published, the consultants state that they did look at a 3 story option, but that it did not provide significant energy efficiency gain, and created issues for the BOE requirements on proximity of certain spaces. However, it was a mere one sentence comment, and there were no details. It would be interesting to have the consultants share the details for that piece of their analysis.

  16. Kristin Schneeman

    Thank you to the authors for a beautifully presented argument. I support the preservation of the Garden, but leaving aside that issue entirely for a moment – when was the decision made to include an upgraded Parks & Rec facility as part of this project? Why is that decision and expenditure being rolled into this large, essential school building project? Was there a separate public debate and decision on the bigger ball field that I missed? As a member of the RTM, the body with the ultimate authority over budget approvals, I would like a separate presentation and vote on the Parks & Rec aspects of this project.

    Kristin Schneeman, RTM District 9

    • Kristin, I am not sure that’s in the RTM’s “purview.” And as you and the other members of the RTM29 made abundantly clear, that should be the deciding factor as to whether a “matter” is brought in front of the RTM. You folks really messed this one up

      • Kristin Schneeman

        Approval of expenditures over $20K is absolutely within our purview, John, as you know. This project will come to us for a vote, but I for one would prefer the costs of a Parks & Rec facility not be rolled into a vote on a Schools expenditure. By the way, school construction is eligible for state reimbursement – but is the ball field construction? Lots of unanswered questions here.

        • Kristin, Of course the RTM will be voting on the school expenditure. But you asked that there be a separate RTM presentation and vote on the P&R “aspects” of the project. I agree and would also like to see this happen. This is exactly the type of situation that I would want 2 RTM Members or 20 electors to be able to petition onto the RTM agenda. But as you and the other members of the RTM29 so forcefully told us, this type of “pick and choose” scrutiny of town matters is not appropriate for the RTM. Sad,
          sick irony abounds.

          • Well said John. Ridiculous and an example of hypocrisy. It’s okay for those elected officials who forget they answer for their constituents but not okay if you are a constituent.

          • Amen, John. Kristin seems to have a very short memory. I certainly won’t be forgetting that she and 28 other RTMs voted to strip us of a fundamental right.

            • So we don’f forget

              Here are the names of the 29 RTM Members who voted against Westporter’s Right to Petition their Town Government:

              Kristin M. Purcell District 1
              Chris Tait District 1
              Jay Keenan District 2
              Louis M. Mall District 2
              Michael Perry District 2
              Jimmy Izzo District 3
              Don O’Day District 3
              James Bairaktaris District 4
              Andrew J. Colabella District 4
              Noah Hammond District 4
              Jeff Wieser District 4,
              Peter Gold District 5
              Karen Kramer District 5
              Richard Lowenstein District 5
              Claudia Shaum District 5
              Candace Banks District 6
              Jessica Bram District 6
              Seth Braunstein District 6
              Brien Buckman District 6
              Brandi Briggs District 7
              Lauren Karpf District 7
              John Klinge District 7
              Wendy G. Batteau District 8
              Rachel S. Cohn District 8
              Stephen Shackelford District 8
              Julie Whamond District 8
              Lori Church District 9
              Nancy Kail District 9
              Kristin Schneeman District 9

              • Keep posting this “Looser List.” Some big egos here who should know better ‼️

              • I want to make a correction to this list and an apology. Julie Whamond District 8 did not attend this meeting and did not vote. Julie, please accept my apologies for including you on this list.

                • You’re a sad adult, or does this give you a feeling og power?

                  Take a break, please

                  • Nope, just trying to get it right.

                  • Ridiculous. RTM and Board of Selectman are engaged in a travesty affecting our form of town government. What has been happening behind the scenes and concerning the abrogation of our clear rights under the town charter is unconscionable. .

                  • Sad adult why ? For reprinting the list of shame ? Oh I think that list is going to be used and reused for many many years to come as it should be. Take a break on what ? Do you even know what happened on October 3rd ? Clearly you DO NOT

                    • Stephanie Kane

                      We always look forward to hearing from the ever humble, self proclaimed, Queen and Savior of downtown Wesrpott.

              • Bill Strittmatter

                Of course, most of those running for re-election to the RTM are running unopposed so no real point in publishing the list. Unless, of course, you can come up with a slate of “write-in” candidates (like the “independent” is doing for BOE) to oppose them that promise to uphold Westporter’s rights.

    • Kristin, are you not one of the RTM29, who voted to take away our voice and our rights as citizens of Westport to be able to petition the RTM, and have our matter placed on the RTM agenda schedule ?

      I know for a fact that the community garden group were told by the RTM moderator not to bother bringing a petition. That it would be rejected. I cannot for the life of me understand why. It has always been our constitutional right at least according to the charter.
      In fact I was not even aware that you were a supporter of the gardens until today, as you have, just as you did with Parker Harding, which directly effects your district, remained “mum” on both topics.

      But the final straw really has to be the RTM 29 association.

    • Kristin
      Welcome, finally, to the world of 1,000 questions. Maybe you will have better luck getting answers. There is absolutely no reason why the school project can’t go forward, and quickly. Let P&R do their own legwork on where, why and how to expand their kingdom. As for the “staging/construction zone” b.s., put up a fence along the last row of the parking lot, next to the garden. Restrict our hours if you must. But absolutely no need to shut it down.

  17. 100% agree! I support the preservation of the gardens and all those who have worked for decades to build and cultivate this wonderful oasis.

  18. I love Westport. I love gardens and I love our many precious town assets. I also love creativity and flexibility. I believe that the town would be best served by finding a new and better home for the gardens. I know there are many people in Westport who agree with me who don’t need feel comfortable voicing their opinion because of the nasty and self-serving tone of so many of the more vocal perspectives on public forums like this blog. This is a tough choice for our elected leaders and I don’t envy their position. Sometimes our community will have to just agree to disagree without being so disagreeable.

    • Thank you for your view. I do want to make a comment. The opponents to this baseball plan, myself included, got aggressive in our fight because we were not being heard. In fact, I believe there was a deliberate attempt to keep us uninformed. That forced us to take a more public approach.

      Once we learned of their plans, there was a write up in the news media that circulated among town insiders via email. To which Jen Fava commented: “I guess they got the news.”

      “I guess they got the news.” Just think about that.

      The disrespect of the town toward its citizens is not obvious, as our public words of truth have been … but it runs deep. And that is far more self-serving than a few tough but fair words on blogs like this.

      I respect your view and I am glad you expressed it. Please continue to speak up. It’s how we can all learn from one another.

    • Dermot Meuchner

      A better home for the gardens? When uprooting a soil base of 20+ years it is virtually impossible to recreate that for a “better home”.

    • Kate are you out of your mind ?
      The gardens should be staying where they are. An asset and learning tool for the school.
      Creativity would be “find a spot” to put a not needed baseball field which has to be built from the ground up, is not for the children of long lots, and has no business “suddenly” rearing it’s very ugly and unwanted head late in the process.

  19. If you’d like an overview of the history of the gardens and preserve, you can find that here: (viewable on computer or tablet, not on phone)


  20. What a bad decision, and what a shame. Shameful not only because it’s a bad decision, but also because it was predetermined and predictable from the start; because the process by which it was determined was a charade; because it failed to include the stakeholders in the planning process in any meaningful way; and because it made a mockery of any notion of public participation, exhibiting disdain for the public forum.
    This is not the way things are meant to be in a participatory democracy, but more and more frequently it seems to be the way things are in Westport.
    To be sure, a process which values robust public participation is messier and more cumbersome than governance by executive fiat, but is that really what we want in Westport? Do we want our elected boards and commissions to rubber stamp decisions already made in town hall and to have their authority supplanted by appointed committees?
    Do we really want to believe in the Orwellian notion that the word “shall” in our Charter really means “may” or at the discretion of a single person?
    Are we prepared to concede that divisive issues cannot and should not be resolved in public by dialog and compromise?
    If so, then shame on us.

    • Larry, I can’t think of a better person than yourself to help fight this. Any thoughts or ideas about how it can be done?

    • Karen La Costa Mather

      My sentiments exactly. Even if you like Plan C, the process should not be rewarded. The decision was made in the dark by a few people, stretched beyond the mandate for a new school/playgrounds, and kept secret with zero regard to stakeholders, let alone any dissent from town residents.

      And they are gambling that they can hold the new school – which everyone wants – in the palm of their hands; but to get it, ya gotta give us our Babe Ruth Baseball Field and destroy the 20-year award winning ecological treasure – the Westport Community Garden/Preserves.

      That’s outrageous. How about let the public vote on Plan C (destroy Garden/Preserves) or Plan Alt C (save Garden/Preserves).

      I hope their decision to destroy an ecological gem in the age of an environmental crisis follows them in their careers and is never forgotten.

  21. Idalia Rodriguez

    I moved to Westport around the same time the community garden was started. I was very impressed by the garden and the library. Over 20 years later I still think these two institutions are the crown jewels of Westport – two places where everyone is welcomed. We have an opportunity to create the ballfield and preserve the gardens. This is an active town and getting kids outside to play is incredibly important. Preserving a garden that provides a place to grow food, build community, preserve wild life, absorb water and carbon is equally important. The over development of this town is unstoppable, let’s preserve this critical resource. I ask Ms. Tooker to reconsider the decision and look at the alternatives presented to preserve a critical and important part of our town.

  22. Why do sports seem to win out every time over the arts, the environment, and now a community garden. I would guess most people supporting this are parents who push sports for their kids over arts and creativity. But maybe that’s ‘s harsh. It’s is obvious that they certainly don’t appreciate the needs and hobbies of an older population of people for which the garden serves. The Selectwoman is just cowing down to her voting base, it’s as simple as that. Vote here out before she continues these types of decisions!! There are many, many places kids can go for sports in in around Westport so this is a very sad situation – people can’t see there’s options for kids but not for the environment. Finally- since when is it vital for a ball field to be build for elementary school children?? It seems completely unnecessary and is definitely an issue in regard to traffic in the area if the field is used outside of only this school. Was a traffic study done? This generation of parents, who seem to be the biggest supporters of this, need to realize that many things are just as important as sports. Certainly not the values and ideas that put Westport on the map decades ago.

  23. PJ: The proposed new “Babe Ruth” ball field will be full size and too large for elementary school children. Players will have to be driven to and from games. Questions have been raised about the need for such a field given low use of the 4 existing Babe Ruths. So far….crickets. One wonders if such a field is truly needed, why wasn’t it proposed — and justified — as a separate project instead of “tacked onto” the new school approval.

  24. Jennifer Johnson

    “Where there is much desire
    to learn, there of necessity
    will be much arguing,
    much writing, many opinions; 
    for opinion in good persons 
    is but knowledge in the making.”
    – John MiIon (1608-1674).

    We all have strong opinions……for ballfields, gardens, schools, pickle ball courts, skateparks, dog parks, etc.  But the decision right now before our elected leaders is about building an elementary school for generations of kids to come. The existing award-winning garden and surrounding preserve offers all young children inspiration and learning opportunities that cannot be matched by another ball field, especially one designed for older kids or high-end teams.

    The Westport Community Gardens is a community treasure that should be permanently preserved. Keeping the garden at the new school is a concrete way for our elected leaders to demonstrate Westport’s commitment to volunteerism, teaching and the importance of future sustainability.

  25. This is a very compelling – and deeply troubling – piece. It appears there are personal agendas at play here that run counter to what many/most in town want to have happen. Moreover, it appears there are other, better options which, for reasons unknown, are (intentionally) being ignored. It is most decidedly not a good look for the decision makers involved.

    Is it really clear that the town needs yet another baseball field? If the answer is yes, is it clear that building it next to a new LLS is the best option? I am doubtful as to the first question, and convinced the answer to the second is, simply, no.

    The Community Gardens are a very special, nationally acclaimed place of extraordinary beauty, learning, relaxing, and enjoying the splendor of nature. And then there are the myriad water, drainage, clean air, and ecosystem benefits. Literally tens of thousands of hours have been devoted to making the Community Gardens what they are today – by hundreds of Westporters over the past two decades.

    When a new baseball field is constructed, it’s ready to go on day one. But a community garden cannot simply be “relocated.“ Westport’s Community Gardens can be destroyed in a day, and a new site designated with the stroke of a pen. But then it will take many, many years of tilling and toiling, labor and love, and not insignificant investment to attempt to re-create what Westport already has. Even then there is no guarantee of success. This makes absolutely no sense, whatsoever.

    Something smells rotten here, and it’s not the tomatoes. First Selectwoman Jen Tooker needs to have an open and honest dialogue with all her constituents, not just closed door meetings with a few cronies. This kind of inside dealing is inconsistent with our town’s values. Westport is a very special place and the Community Gardens are an important part of what make it so special. We need to cherish and preserve these neighborhood gems, not bulldoze over them — and the wishes of the residents, in the process.

  26. Why Yulee Aronson’s suggestions have not been seriously considered is beyond my comprehension. If the rumors are true that the gardens maybe moved to Baron’s South…and the plan to move forward with the Long Lots Committee’s suggestion to relocate the gardens is an arrogant decision that shows that our First Selectwoman seem disconnected from the greater public’s opinion and a perfectly acceptable alternative by Mr. Aronson that provides effective compromise for all parties involved. I am starting to think that Ms. Tooker is not open to embracing reasonable solutions and just wants what she deems is best for Westport.

  27. Very well articulated piece. I am late to this issue and super dismayed that we find ourselves here. Both the decision-making process and the substance of the issue are disturbing. Baseball is dear to my heart – played through college and coached my daughter 5 years here in town. Great memories. But this seems wrong-headed on so many levels. Hoping sense will prevail we will respect and protect a special part of what makes Westport a great place to live.

  28. Great article! A ball field for an award winning garden is not a reasonable trade. It shouldn’t take any greate effort to replace the ball field else in the town

  29. Sadly, Ms Tooker’s easily recalled legacy might be “She didn’t save the award winning Westport Community Gardens and Preserve from being destroyed. Allowing it to be replaced by a Babe Ruth sized ballfield at an elementary school.”

    And that won’t look as good on a her resume (when running for higher office) as “She saved the Gardens and Preserve while getting a great elementary school built.”

  30. I never thought that Westport’s beautiful Community Garden, and the Long Lots Preserve surrounding it, would be sacrificed for a baseball field. I thought another scenario keeping the garden where it is, would be chosen as the right way forward for the new school and the garden. I am dismayed that people who don’t garden seem to think they know a better place for the garden. The best place for the Community Garden is right where it is.

    A terraced garden will NOT work. Some may think it’s pretty but it’s completely impractical for the gardeners who haul dirt, wood chips, and plant material into their gardens each year. A flat piece of land is required. That is what the gardens have right now. It wasn’t perfect when it was started 20 years ago. But the gardeners have worked tirelessly to make the soil usable for planting vegatables and flowers. Westport Community Garden is a beautiful asset to our wonderful Town. It makes me very sad that, with extreme weather, due in part to climate change, that our elected officials are not willing to save this garden. I am still hoping for a miracle save.

  31. As evidenced by the outpouring here and elsewhere, many Westporters, myself among them, are shocked and deeply dismayed by the recommendation made by the Long Lots School Building Committee, and the acceptance thereof by the First Selectwoman, mandating the destruction of the nationally acclaimed and Award Winning Westport Community Gardens and Preserves in favor of constructing a new “Babe Ruth” baseball field in their place.

    These magnificent and environmentally significant gardens and preserves, grown and cultivated on vacant town property, are a community treasure, emblematic of our town’s generous spirit, and are the result of hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours invested by members of the Westport community, along with significant investments of cash and in-kind donations, all given and made during the course of the past 20 + years.

    FREEDOM OF INFORMATION – “Sunlight is the best disinfectant”

    I’ve taken a few hours to sift through the 600 pages of documents delivered thanks to one concerned resident’s recent Freedom of Information Act request.

    The story that emerges from a review of these many documents appears to me to be one of baseball and soccer constituents long having a very close, friendly, and ongoing dialogue with P&R staff, Jen Tooker, Jay Keenan , and others. What’s more, it appears that substantial amounts of information was being gathered early in the LLSBC process, information that was withheld from the public until the last possible moment in the LLSBC process, despite multiple requests for this information from elected representatives and members of the public.

    There are indications that many off-line and direct discussions were ongoing, and that they began many months prior to the final recommendation of the LLSBC delivered it’s recommendation in September of this year. Moreover, and as Lou Weinberg has long suspected and said, it is clear that the decision to reclaim the property upon which the gardens (and Long Lots Preserve) sits was decided early on, perhaps even prior to the formation of the LLSBC.

    There is no evidence that I can find that indicates that any meaningful or honest effort was made to consider approaches to expanding field capacity for Westport athletic uses that excluded the property upon which the gardens have been constructed. In fact, to the contrary, as it is quite clear that the town representatives were most sensitive to, and prioritized, the stated needs/wishes of our youth athletic community, and not of the gardeners, neighbors, or sustainability advocates. This failure to rigorously examine all options for expanding field capacities – including an analysis of expense etc for each possible alternative – strikes me as revealing that the various bodies were not acting in good faith when considering the gardens and preserves as important “facts on the ground”, or the any of the potential adverse impacts of their destruction.

    Had any material value been attributed to the gardens and preserves (their age and stage of maturity, the community investments of all kinds, impact on neighbors, their quality, function etc), one would expect that Parks and Recreation, the Long Lots School Building Committee, and elected leadership, would have felt duty-bound to create a robust matrix which included the gardens as among the many town assets and resources in need of consideration when contemplating an expansion of athletic field capacity anywhere in town, including the properties located at, and adjacent to, Long Lots School.


    Most, as do I, believe in the fundamental goodness of those elected, hired, and appointed, to serve as stewards of the community’s resources and public trust. And, in this instance they have squandered both. It is a failure of the deeply flawed processes undertaken, and many faulty assumptions, that we find ourselves on the brink of watching our town ram through a sub-optimal and regressive plan; one that is counter to the interests of the immediate neighbors, an affront to those who have created and maintained the gardens and preserves, and that is contrary to the stated values of our community, including those detailed in our commitment to sustainability, and the Town Plan of Conservation and Development.

    A better process will result in achieving everything members of our community both want and value, including the fiscally prudent and responsible creation of a new, world-class and sustainable school facility, the addition to our inventory of outstanding athletic fields, and the preservation – in place – of the nationally acclaimed Westport Community Gardens and Preserve.

    It is time for our First Select Woman to pause and reset the process. There is so much to gain by doing so, and too much to lose by forging ahead on the current path. If ever there was a time “to go slow to go fast”, this is it.

    • Realize an overwhelming number of posters here are pro-Garden. I’m sure few Westporters favor an explicit destruction of such a wonderful town asset. The decision to replace – not remodel the existing building & keep the current footprint – is the root cause decision here. Once the “new school” option was decided, the cascading decisions of Garden, baseball field, parking, etc. then get forced. I have found it very very odd that so little has been made of the “new school” choice winning out. For all the pro-Garden people, THAT’S the decision you should be questioning. Keep the current school footprint and the probability of the garden surviving goes up substantially.

  32. IMHO keep the garden as is where it is and create a walkway in through construction so the garden can continue as is without interruption. Seems simple, it can be done. Remember twenty years ago P&R forced Westport Community Garden out of Wakeman. That 30 acre property, a town asset, was then inexplicably bulldozed into ball fields poorly sited and built at a cost of millions of dollars. Remember a couple years later Town of Westport spent several hundred thousand dollars to correct the terrible “design” which to this day looks and performs subpar. Look at Wakeman and ask who would ever design this hodgepodge of misplaced fields like this? Will LLE replacement hodge podge decision process produce a similar monumental mistake by ignoring hydrology of Hyde Lane? The LL lower fields are already unusable half the time due to standing water. Finally, I would say a decade + of volunteering in youth sports was frustrated many times by Parks and Recreation control over fields sited on Westport Public School property. Various sports organizations compete for field allocation in a byzantine negotiation because P&R has to defer to school athletic department needs, yielding a plethora of miscommunication. We can fix this by siting a new multi purpose ball field on a P&R controlled property. Voila the ball field and the community garden can coexist.

  33. Victoria McGovern

    To Selectwoman Tooker and the Building Committee, PLEASE pause this charade of a process and work with the town, parents, and the gardeners for an actual solution that truly serves the town. We can all grow together if we think a little more creatively and collaborate!

    Selectwoman Tooker, don’t turn your legacy into that of a destroyer of a nature preserve and community garden. You can claim you didn’t know how town residents felt months ago about preserving these town treasures, because frankly you didn’t. And you never asked. No stakeholders were included in this process until the gardeners and residents got wind of the plans and had to beg for any information on the direction of the school construction (which suddenly ballooned into building a massive baseball field and associated infrastructure and bulldozing an award winning garden and neighborhood flood buffer).

    Give your constituents a seat at the table.

    Revisit school constructions plans, and break out a review of athletic field spaces into a separate project. These should never have been tied together to begin with, a brand new massive sports field shouldn’t be forced into existence simply because you decided to attach it to a much needed school renovation.

    Prioritize the school, leave community treasures intact, don’t force through a new sports field and put the whole project at risk. You can do better than this.

  34. I and so many others have been working to prevent the desire for a new ballfield by some to replace the Gardens. The issue of the Gardens versus a new school should be separate. To allow our BoF and RTM to vote only on a new school with a ballfield is, I believe, a conscious ploy to allow the ballfield to ride on the heels of the school. I am and continue to try to separate the issues so separate votes result. That could actually occur tonight at the LLESBC meeting. That Committee has not officially acted. It could easily support what all believe to be its recommendation and also ask that the issues be voted upon separately, i.e. the ballfield and the school. Nothing tricky here and the logic is compelling. I have asked all on the RTM to e mail the LLESBC. I have asked the LLESBC to show courage and split the issues.

  35. In Mid-August I sent a certified letter to the First Selectwoman which stated in part:

    “There is no requirement for ball and soccer fields to be located on the school property. The Committee and the Parks and Recreation team should think outside that box and inventory other possible sites to meet the need for sports fields, namely:
    • Winslow Park. A prime candidate is 29 acres of very lightly used real estate. There are many areas within Winslow that could be graded to build additional soccer fields, a championship baseball field and parking. Walking trails could coexist with the new sports facilities. Winslow Park has enough space that even the most strident dog owners should not object if the playing fields are separate from the areas they have claimed. As a reference, Yankee Stadium’s playing field is 3.5 acres, and the average size of an adult soccer field is less than 2 acres.
    • Property at Longshore near the overflow golf parking area might accommodate soccer field(s).
    • The large unused parking lot below the Women’s Club for baseball and soccer. (May be prevented during a few days of the Yankee Doodle Fair).
    • Move the location of the Westport Farmers Market and use the property for baseball and soccer. Possible options a include:
    a) Rental of a church parking lot for a day during the week when it is not in use by the church.
    b) The far reaches of the parking lot at Longshore beach are seldom in use during the week except for holidays.
    c) Consider closing a street or parking area in central Westport. This would be a festive weekly attraction during the season.”

    I never had a response from Ms. Tooker. I guess I should not have expected one, and maybe that’s better than her telling me to shut up.

    • This seems to be a pattern. I have written to First Selectpeople before and always got a response. I sent a letter last year and never got a response. I have heard this before from others as well about the current First Selectwoman never responding. I guess this is just part of the Opaque (lack of transparency) of this administration. It sad, but alas we can fix this in a couple years.

    • I have written Tooker and called no response. what is her thinking ? why does she want to be a politician ??

      • Bert S. Twombly

        Richard, you know why as much as I do. Like all politicians and politician wannabes, because it’s the pathway to power.

  36. We are a town full of brilliant, thoughtful, compassionate, and successful people! The seeming inability to think big and solve complicated problems is outrageous. This is a story you would expect on the national level. “Big government tramples on the interest of the few”. Instesd this is turning into tragic story where, neighbors interests are being pitted against neighbors interest.

    This I believe to be true:

    1) A new school has to be built.
    2) The community garden should be preserved in its current form and made an uniquely Long Lots educational asset of the school.
    3) A new baseball field can be built in town and this is a different project for another day.

    Our children, for whom these projects are being built, deserve better than what they are seeing from the “adults”.

    Come together! Do the right thing! Champion the project in a way everyone can be proud off.

  37. Cristina Negrin

    I’ve been following this story from afar now but my family move there in the early 60’s and I was the new girl in 8th grade (Jr High then). My take on this is Park and Rec has their thumb on this to make the new ball field happen. And whatever power they seem to have over the present deciders (Jen) wondering…

  38. I’ve been a baseball mom in town for 8 years. My son played little league from pre-k until he aged out and my husband coached every year from K until the end. Our son played Westport Travel baseball from 8U to 12U and has now played 2 years elsewhere. We’ve been to many many fields across the tri state region and all the Westport fields. Westports baseball facilities in town are actually pretty lacking but there are adequate fields already in town – especially for the size of the community that is using them. Why not improve what we already have rather than replace something that is so valuable with a brand new field. Has anyone seen the utilization of the current Major league size fields? We have one Westport travel team and maybe one other team that even plays on that size field. We could do a lot more with Town fields which are the 3 fields on compo north. We also already have a Major league size field between Saugatuck and Kings Highway Els. It’s right next to the PAL football field. I don’t know what they’re doing with the clubhouse renovation but they should partner and create some actual facilities like bathrooms. There’s plenty of room at SES/KHS to enhance a currently underutilized field. Even putting the gardens aside I’d want to know as a taxpayer why we need a field like the one being described. To replace something so beloved seems really wrong.

  39. Nobody is opposed to the building of the school.

    As to the “needs of the many,” that is why we have twenty ballfields in Westport already. This is about equitable distribution of resources and about the destruction of something that was created twenty years ago, with the approval of basically every Town body.

  40. just like our national politics. Everyone want common sense gun laws. The you know who party doesn’t give a crap

    • Bill Strittmatter

      This seems to transcend political parties. You might note the three Democratic Party BOE members, two of them incumbents running for re-election, that voted to move this plan along.

  41. Lauren MacNeill

    This isn’t about sports winning over gardens. This just makes no sense to put a new ball field like the one described at this location especially when something else valuable is there. What is the utilization of our current Major league size fields?

  42. Joseph V. Vallone, A.I.A.


    I think you are missing the point. We have demonstrated on a site plan we can accommodate the current architect’s building footprint on the site, along with the 90′ baseball diamond while maintaining the gardens in their current location.

    In addition I think it is incredible insensitive to tell a group of people who have worked to nurture their gardens into a nationally recognize town gem, to go find another home, particularly when such a move is unwarranted and unjustifiable.

    The point is; the arrogance of this town’s current leadership to employ a fascist, bullying methodology to bulldoze both the gardens and the gardeners is undemocratic, rude and well beneath the standards of common decency.

  43. The facts are indisputable, based on utilization there is NO need for another full size baseball field. I’d also like to point out some interesting numbers that might be relevant to this issue. These numbers were taken from the latest tax return available (public information) the 2021 Form 990 filed by Westport Baseball & Softball, Inc, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. As of 12/31/21 they had $1,330,263 in Cash & Investments while their Retained Earnings were $1,265,322. The non-profit organizations revenues ($769,405) exceeded expenses ($627,946) by $141,459. When including investment income, total income exceeded expenses by $189,162. Examples of some of the expenses’ are $227,954 for coaches & instructors, $104,484 for uniforms and $134,866 for field maintenance. To the best of my knowledge Parks & Rec is responsible to maintain the fields.

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