Category Archives: Beach

Disabilities Commission: It’s Way More Than Ramps

The Americans With Disabilities Act — signed by President George H. W. Bush in 1990 — had many consequences.

Some were intended. Others were not.

It opened employment and educational opportunities for tens of millions of Americans with physical and emotional issues. Curb cuts and other design changes now benefit pregnant mothers, parents with youngsters and the elderly.

The ADA also impelled the state of Connecticut to create grants, allowing towns to fund initiatives studying the best ways to promote inclusion for people with disabilities.

In 2006, Westport and Wilton formed a task force. One recommendation was followed: Today our town has a designated official for disability issues (Sarah Heath, in Human Services).

One recommendation was not followed: the creation of a permanent commission.

Until now.

Jim Ross

Jim Ross

Earlier this month, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe announced appointments to Westport’s new Commission on People With Disabilities, which the RTM approved in July. Members include Marina Derman, Diane Johnson, Stacie Curran, LuAnn Giunta, Tom Holleman and Evan Levinson.

The chair is Jim Ross. A successful businessman, he’s also the former head of the Westport Citizens Transit Committee.

Ross is legally blind, and the father of 2 special needs children. “I live this every day,” he notes.

He became a voice for the disabled community in 2012, when  he helped pass legislation giving students access to epilepsy medicine when a school nurse is not present.

Along the way, he  met Human Services director Barbara Butler, who told Ross that the proposal for a town commission had never been implemented.

Ross went to work. Now — with Marpe’s help, and broad public support — it’s a reality.

Westport's former director of human services, Barbara Butler, is a longtime advocate for people with disabilities.

Westport’s former director of human services, Barbara Butler, is a longtime advocate for people with disabilities.

There’s a reason so many Westporters support the new commission. Twenty percent of the town’s population is directly affected by their own or a family member’s physical or intellectual disability. In a community like ours, that means all of us have neighbors, friends and fellow members of civic groups and congregations with disabilities.

“This is an exceptionally humbling opportunity,” Ross says of his post. “It’s a chance to take the ADA — a magnificent civil rights initiative — to the local  level.”

He notes that Westport — a “very socially aware town” — has already done good things. There are ramps everywhere. Compo Beach has a sand wheelchair. The Levitt Pavilion is quite accessible.

But, he adds, “this is about a lot more than ramps. It’s a 2-way conversation between people with disabilities, and the community as a whole. It’s a chance for businesses, organizations, the town and people to have a dialogue to create avenues, paths and bridges for everyone to come together.”

In many ways, Ross says, “people with disabilities are heroes. We can learn a lot about ourselves by including them, and letting them contribute to a more vigorous, dynamic environment. This is not about clubbing people over the head. It’s about everyone working together.”

Beach wheelchair sign

He mentions education, housing, transportation, recreation, employment, the arts and emergency preparedness as areas in which discussions involving people with disabilities can lead to “logistical and tactical benefits” for all Westporters.

He’s eager to get started. Ross calls the 7-member commission “a dynamite group. Everyone has a different area of expertise.”

The Commission on People With Disabilities will meet publicly the 3rd Thursday of every month. The 1st session is Thursday, January 19 (8:30 a.m.), at Town Hall.

Of course, it’s handicap accessible.

Compo Marina: Then And Now

In the wake of my recent “06880” post about the upcoming Compo Beach marina dredging project — specifically, who should pay for it — plenty of folks weighed in (on both sides of the issue).

The 50-plus comments included several from long-time and once-upon-a-time slip owners. Some recalled an era before permanent docks, when you did not have to wait several years for a mooring permit.

Now, alert reader Matt Murray sends along this fascinating aerial photo:

compo-marina-aerial-1965-rp-lentini

Click on or hover over to enlarge.

The shot — taken by R.P. Lentini in 1965 – shows a much less crowded basin, for sure. And yes, owners had to toot horns to be ferried from their boat to the dock.

But there are some other interesting items too, which you can see clearly if you hover over the photo or click on to enlarge.

Chubby Lane’s concession stand sits where the volleyball courts are today.

To the south of Chubby’s and the pavilion are the old (and very scary) wooden bathhouses.

But what are those two rectangular things in the bottom of the photo, near the west end of the circular drive?

And — most importantly — why was there no one at the beach?

It’s mid-summer; the trees are full. But there are just a couple of cars, and no one on the sand.

It’s hard to tell from the photo. Perhaps it was taken just after a thunderstorm.

Or maybe no one went to Compo in the summer of ’65?

A much more recent shot of the Compo Beach Ned Dimes Marina.

A much more recent shot of the Compo Beach Ned Dimes Marina.

You Know What They Say About New England Weather …

… If you don’t like it, just wait a few minutes.

It will change.

compo-beach-january-4-2017-jp-vellotti

(Photos/JP Vellotti)

(Photos/JP Vellotti)

Dredge We Must!

Westporters are used to paying taxes for services we may never use.

Single folks and childless couples pony up for education. Country club members subsidize Longshore. We all chip in for the fire department, even though most of us (thankfully) never call them.

Yet a recent proposal has called into question an intriguing question: Who should pay to dredge the Ned Dimes Marina?

No one denies it’s needed (it was last dredged in 1993). But the cost is $1.2 million.

The Ned Dimes Marina.

The Ned Dimes Marina.

The Board of Finance thinks boat owners with slips in the marina — that’s the one at Compo Beach — should cover the entire bill. The RTM Finance Committee agrees.

But another option on the table is an 80-20 split between boat owners and the town, respectively. The RTM will discuss the matter at their January 10 meeting.

What do you think? Is this a project that — while it does not benefit everyone — the town should fully cover? Are there intangible benefits that non-boat owners receive from a dredged channel? Is this one of many uses for tax money that we should not even quibble about? Does it open the door to a discussion of other types of funding, for other “town projects”?

Click “Comments” below. And be sure to note whether you’re a boat owner or not.

And if so, where you keep it!

So Long, 2016!

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

Timeless Compo

As we think about the end of one year, and the start of a new one, this is a great time to enjoy a “timeless” shot of a favorite Westport scene.

Happy New Year to all beach lovers!

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

Restaurant Rights Abandoned; Big Changes Ahead For Old Mill Beach

The on-again, off-again, on-again saga of a restaurant near Old Mill Beach is off again.

This time, forever.

When Positano — the latest in a string of restaurants on Hillspoint Road — closed almost exactly 2 years ago, there was speculation the new owners wanted to tear it down, and build a big house right there on the sand.

There was also talk that some neighbors — fearing the loss of their shoreline view, and enjoying the funkiness of a restaurant in the midst of a residential area — were doing what they could to make sure a new restaurant took Positano’s place.

The "Positano property," at Old Mill Beach diagonally across from Elvira's.

The “Positano property,” at Old Mill Beach diagonally across from Elvira’s.

That was somewhat ironic. When Positano applied for patio dining in 2012, neighborhood opposition scuttled the plan. Lack of outdoor seating was one factor leading to Positano’s closing, and its subsequent move to a new location next to the Westport Country Playhouse.

Though a number of residents worked for months to get another restaurant on the site, one neighbor continued to object. She sued.

Now comes news that the owner of the property — an LLC with an office in Nashville, Tennessee — has filed an affidavit with Westport’s Planning and Zoning Department. The owner acknowledges and affirms that “any and all commercial uses of the premises at 233 Hillspoint Road have been irrevocably abandoned and discontinued.”

In other words, any chances for a new restaurant — grandfathered in as a pre-existing condition — has been killed. Now, and in perpetuity.

Before it was Positano, 233 Hillspoint Road was several other restaurants (including, most notably, Cafe de la Plage). But before THAT it was a grocery store. Among its names: Beach Food Mart, and Joe's.

Before it was Positano, 233 Hillspoint Road was several other restaurants (including, most notably, Cafe de la Plage). But before THAT it was a grocery store. Among its names: Beach Food Mart (above), and Joe’s.

So what happens next?

The property is back on the market. It’s listed as “A Generational Waterfront Opportunity.”

Potential buyers have a chance to “build and live directly on Compo Cove Beach’s [sic] most unique [sic] lot with spectacular Long Island Sound views.” The land “is now available for a luxury private home to be built.”

Buyers can enjoy “the most beautiful expansive water views, spectacular sunrises and sunsets” (those sunsets might be tough, since the listing notes it is an “east facing property”, and Compo Hill is a substantial obstruction to the west).

This photo from the real estate listing shows the current footprint of the former restaurant (center). The yellow line shows the property boundaries.

This photo from the real estate listing shows the current footprint of the former restaurant (center). The yellow line shows the property boundaries. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

The listing continues:

Enjoy the ever-changing tides and light, the shore birds, and the tranquility that exists with living right on the beach. With no neighbor to your right,  it’s like having your own front row seat to the best Long Island Sound offers — sunbathing, swimming, fishing boating…

Seize this opportunity to create your own magnificent custom home for the first time ever on this site.

The cost?

A mere $4,500,000.

But wait! There’s more!

Elvira’s — diagonally across Hillspoint from #233 — continues to be on the market too. There’s been no sale yet, but word on the soon-to-drastically-change street is that it may not remain a grocery store/ community center.

All of which is food for thought.

A good place to think about it is at the Sherwood Mill Pond Preserve.

You know — where for nearly a century, Allen’s Clam House used to be.

Larry Silver’s Permanent Collection

Larry Silver is one of Westport’s best photographers. His images have been admired in galleries around the world.

Those shows end. But now Larry’s photos will be part of a permanent collection.

The museum of the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design has acquired 17 images. Though Larry has photographed people and scenes all over the world, Westport is one of his favorite subjects.

RISD has chosen a pair of Westport classics, as part of Larry’s 17 photos.

“Beach Showers” was taken in 1980:

larry-silver-beach-showers-1980

“Dancing on Jetties” was taken in 1979:

(Photos/Larry Silver)

(Photos/Larry Silver)

Both are timeless.

And both are perfect right now — 3 days before the shortest day of the year.

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Winter…

(Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)

Westport Oysters Pop Up At Grand Central

Claus Meyer is a world-famous food activist, cookbook author, professor and TV host. A founder of the New Nordic cuisine philosophy, his Copenhagen restaurant Noma was rated the Best in the World 4 times (!) since 2010.

So it was pretty cool the other day when he showed up at Sherwood Mill Pond. He visited the Northrop family’s Hummock Island house, accessible only by boat — the base of operations for their famous oyster farm.

He and a few of his chefs sat with the Northrops, discussing the finer points of oystering.

Claus Meyer (left) and Jeff Northrop Jr. at Old Mill Beach, before their oyster farm tour and tasting.

Claus Meyer (left) and Jeff Northrop Jr. at Old Mill Beach, before their oyster farm tour and tasting.

But that’s not the whole story.

Meyer invited Jeff and his son (Jeff Jr.) to be part of his food operation in Grand Central Terminal.

That’s the 16,000-square foot Great Northern Food Hall in Vanderbilt Hall, which has taken the historic landmark by storm.

Which is why — all week long — commuters, other travelers and food lovers of all kinds have been stopping  in at the Hummock Island Oyster pop-up bar.

Pat Hanna and Kenny Varyruardrok of Hummock Island Shellfish opening oysters from Westport for the hungry masses.

Pat Hanna and Kenny Varyruardrok of Hummock Island Shellfish opening oysters from Westport for the hungry masses.

They’ll be there through next Thursday (December 22) tomorrow (Friday, December 16) from 4-8 p.m.

That’s good news for Westporters heading home via Grand Central.

But if you’re not — heck, even if you are, but you love Hummock Island oysters — you can get them at Pearl at Longshore, any day of the week.