Category Archives: Beach

Old Mill, New Problem: The Back Story

Last week’s announcement that public parking at Old Mill Beach is reopened was straightforward. Parking is once again available for vehicles with beach emblems or hang tags, on a space available basis.

But the Parks & Recreation Department news underscored long-running tensions between residents of Old Mill and Compo Cove, and residents in other parts of town.

Parking at the small beach opposite Joey’s by the Shore has always been limited. There are 35 residences by the beach or over the twin wooden bridges (accessible only by foot). There are 13 garages in back (they’re private property, each deeded to a home). A few properties do have room for parked cars. After re-paving a year ago, the lot was striped for 64 spaces.

The parking lot in April 2019, after paving and re-striping. (Photo/Matt Murray)

Parks & Rec placards identify vehicles that belong to residents. Those allow residents to park overnight there.

Old Mill and Compo Cove owners and renters have also been allowed to purchase 4 passes: 2 for themselves (1 per car, license plate-specific), and 2 for guests. The cost is $330, and they do no guarantee parking spaces.

During the COVID shutdown — designed to minimize crowds on the sand — Old Mill residents bristled at charges that they had a “private beach” paid for by Westporters’ taxes.

Old Mill Beach, early July (Photo/Diana Griffin Coyne)

“We pay for the schools and other services we may not use,” Matt Murray says. “I’ve been here 32 years, and never had a child in the school system. It’s part of funding the town.”

(Old Mill residents have their own complaint. This spring and summer has seen a steep rise in the number of tweens and teens jumping from the wooden bridge into Mill Pond. Some ride bikes there; others dropped off by parents. Residents say the youngsters have been loud and disrespectful, and have vandalized cars in the lot. Parks & Rec has now assigned an employee to the area. But that’s another story.)

A time-honored ritual, in 2019. The parking garage — part of some owners’ property deeds — is in the background.

For years, Old Mill was Westport’s forgotten beach. Once upon a time, there was a lifeguard. Then it eroded so badly that swimming became almost impossible. The Mill Pond behind it was in bad shape too.

But Old Mill is back. People swim, go crabbing and fishing, use skim boards and boogie boards, and walk out (and party) on the mud flats. The Mill Pond is healthy again too.

Old Mill in June (Photo/Les Dinkin)

The popularity of Joey’s by the Shore/Elvira’s Coffee Bar — particularly now that the Compo concession stand is not open — has added to the allure of Old Mill Beach.

With Compo operating at half capacity (meaning occasional closures on great-weather weekends), plus some Westporters’ hesitancy to hang out at still-crowded Compo — along with the fact that more people (including kids) than ever have stayed home this summer — Old Mill has never been more attractive.

Old Mill Beach (Photo/Dan Woog)

For a couple of weeks, a social media firestorm pitted Westporters demanding more access to the Old Mill parking lot against residents defending their right to park there.

Parks & Rec’s recent decision to reopen Old Mill Beach — under the regular, first-come-first-served parking rules — has quieted the tempest.

For now — let’s hope — everyone can play nice in the sandbox.

Pics Of The Day #1203

Compo’s South Beach, looking west toward Owenoke … (Photo/Andrew Colabella)

… and Ned Dimes Marina nearby (Photo/Jeff Kaplan)

Photo Challenge #292

On a hot Sunday last week, “06880” offered a cool view.

Harrison Gordon’s image showed the back of a Wilton Road house, near the Kings Highway North intersection. The view was from across the Saugatuck River, by Parker Harding Plaza. (Click here to see.)

The home was designed to maximize its view. As Harrison’s photo shows, it sure does.

Wendy Cusick, Bob Grant, Susan Iseman, Rich Stein, Andrew Colabella, Ralph Balducci, Diane Silfen, James Weisz, Seth Schachter, Ken Gilbertie, PK Cleary, Lynn Untermeyer Miller and Mary Ann Batsell all nailed this one. Congrats!

Before moving on to this week’s Photo Challenge, here’s a note on the one before last. It featured “Alvord Beach” — the name of Sherwood Island State Park’s East Beach, which virtually no one has ever heard of (or used). No one around here has ever heard of “Alvord,” either.

But MaryAnn Meyer — who lives not far from Sherwood Island — found an “Alvord Genealogy” online. It mentions Nelson Alvord’s home at 295 Greens Farms Road.

Nelson Alvord began a carriage-making business in Torrington, in 1835. The genealogy notes:

He was a pioneer in shipping top vehicles to Ga. These were used for distributing merchandise through the country long before the advent of railroads in that section of the South.

He built up a large business, probably the largest in the state, employing at times 125 men. Before the railroad was built through the Naugatuck Valley, he had to transport his wagons by team to New Haven, thence by water to Savannah, Ga. He continued in active business until he retired in 1863, and removed to Green’s Farms, Conn., on the shore of Long Island Sound.

See you at Alvord Beach!

Meanwhile, see if you can identify this week’s Photo Challenge. If you know where in Westport this is, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Lee Scharfstein)

Roundup: Busted Chops, Haiku, Suite Tooth, More


Tonight, Church Lane celebrates its closure to traffic with music.

Busted Chops plays funk and soul between Spotted Horse and Urban Outfitters, from 6 to 9 p.m. Bring your friends — and masks!

Busted Chops takes over tonight, fro 6 to 9 p.m.


First there were planters. Now comes haiku.

This weekend, the Westport Arts Advisory Committee’s is placing 20 lawn signs throughout downtown. Each contains a photo of Westport, and a haiku by town poet laureate Diane Lowman.

Rotating lawn sign “art shows” are designed to keep downtown visitors inspired and smiling during the pandemic. Here are 2 signs — still packaged — for the first round.


Among the Westport Garden Club’s many roles: maintaining the “Beach Buds” garden at the entrance to Compo Beach.

Yesterday they added more color, through their #FridayFlowers bouquet. They came from Ginger Donaher’s garden.

So even if you arrive too late this weekend and find the parking lot closed, you’ll have something to smile about.

(Photo/Topsy Siderowf)


It’s a syrupy name, but it does the job. SuiteTooth — already active in New York City and the Hamptons — has just started working in Westport. They solve  a big obstacle to visiting the dentist — it’s inconvenient (especially now, during the pandemic) — by offering at-home preventative dental care (cleanings, exams, X-rays and sealants), plus cosmetic services like whitenings.

Their mobile dental suite can be set up inside a home, outside, or in a pergola or pool house. (You do have a pergola, right?) They just need an 8×8 space, electricity, WiFi and a bathroom.

For more details, click here or call 347-256-1445.


And finally … it’s already August. Can September be far behind?

 

Pics Of The Day #1201

Early evening on the Sound off Compo …

… on the shore …

… and in the sky. (Photos/Laura Overton)

Marpe: Fight COVID Fatigue!

1st Selectman Jim Marpe says:

As we enter a new month of restrictions and regulations designed to keep ourselves and others safe, it is understandable that some are experiencing “COVID fatigue,” and perhaps becoming too relaxed in abiding by public health requirements.

Westport needs to remain vigilant. We must all maintain social distancing, not gather in large groups, practice diligent hand washing, and continue to be responsible by wearing a face covering whenever leaving our homes. This is especially important during the summer months when we are drawn outside to exercise, shop, dine outdoors and go to the beach.

Wearing a face covering properly over both the nose and mouth protects us, and protects those we may come in contact with. To those who forget, or choose not to wear a face covering: You are placing those around you in an uncomfortable position, and may put their health at risk. Remember to bring your face covering as if it were your cell phone!

There are some who may not agree with the actions that are being taken by town health and safety official. Please: Remember that the best interests of our residents and visitors are foremost in the decision-making process. We want everyone to have the opportunity to enjoy all the town’s amenities in a safe and responsible manner while respecting family, neighbors and friends. Everyone can help by wearing a face covering and maintaining social distancing.

To date, we have not mandated the wearing of face coverings because my leadership team believes that residents’ personal responsibility in insuring the virus does not spread in this community has a much stronger impact than the imposition of a mandate. I am confident that residents, visitors and guests will be considerate of others. If we all wear face coverings, then we are setting a positive example to those around us. Please continue to be respectful of others, and wear face coverings properly at those times when you are required to do so.

Residents are reminded that weekend traffic and possible overcrowding at town beaches may result in early closure. In an abundance of caution and to insure public health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, when a beach reaches a capacity where it is deemed impossible to maintain social distancing, it will be closed to additional beachgoers. Signage at key intersections on local roadways will inform drivers if a beach is closed, and traffic will be diverted from the area. Parking on local streets to avoid the parking lots is not allowed.

Residents who wish to spend the day at a town beach are advised to arrive before 10 a.m. If a beach closes, it may reopen mid to late afternoon, provided safer conditions relative to crowds and social distancing are observed at that time. The town will make every effort to inform residents of the current conditions throughout the day via the Town of Westport and Parks and Recreation Department website homepages, and the Town and Parks and Recreation Facebook pages.

While in the Compo Beach area, please wear a face covering when walking on the boardwalk, using the restrooms or area sidewalks, or any other time when you are unable to maintain a 6-foot distance from others. Please have a face covering available at all times.

Online:  www.westportct.gov/COVID19

Updates:  Sign up for emergency alerts and email subscriptions

Roundup: Old Mill Parking; GFA; Senior Center; More


Starting today, the Old Mill Beach parking lot is fully re-opened.

That means a reversion to previous rules: Parking is available for vehicles with beach emblems or hang tags, on a space available basis.

As in the past, Parks and Recreation Department staff will strictly enforce all parking regulations.


Greens Farms Academy has announced plans for in-person, on-campus instruction, 5 days a week, beginning September 1.

The private school on Beachside Avenue has spent the summer making numerous preparations — everything from changing physical spaces and furniture, to mandating one-way building pathways, to delivering lunch to assigned spaces.

One more change; There will be no formal uniform at GFA this year.

Meanwhile,  the fall sports season will look different this year. The Fairchester Athletic Association has canceled all regular season games and tournaments. The league cited “differing return-to- school plans and academic models” for its member schools, in light of COVID-19, as the reason.

However, GFA says, the league’s announcement does not preclude the school from scheduling interscholastic opportunities between and among like schools, if able.


The Senior Center is sponsoring 3 interesting events this month.

Next Thursday, August 6 (10 a.m., Zoom meeting), a Westport Weston Health District panel will discuss COVID-19 in Connecticut. Viewers can ask questions too. Click here for the link.

A Caregiver Support Group meets on Wednesdays (August 5 and 19, September 2 and 16, 10 a.m.). Positive Directons’ Terry Giegengack will facilitate the sessions. For more information, call Holly Betts (203-341-5096) or email hbetts@westportct.gov.

Friends of the Westport Center for Senior Activities hosts a free summer concert series in August and September. The stars are local musicians. First up (August 14, 1:30 p.m.): pianist Mathew Graybil, who has played around the world. He’ll feature works by Chopin, Schubert and Brahms. Click here for the Zoom link.

The Senior Center is closed. But programs continue.


At Staples High School, 2004 alum Charlie Stoebe was a soccer and track star (and captain). He graduated from Dartmouth College, and is now working with NBC Sports.

Charlie is multi-talented. In his spare COVID-related time, he created a new party game.

“What Was the Question?” tests how well you know your friends and family. But unlike most getting-to-know-you games, it starts not with a question, but an answer. Players must figure out the question. After each reveal there are fun discussions on the answer the player gave, and the predictions everyone else made.

“What Was the Question?” is now in Kickstarter mode. To help get it to market — and help out a really great Staples grad — click here.


And finally … Danish pianist Bent Fabricius-Bjerre died yesterday at 95. You may know him as Bent Fabric. Or maybe you just know his most famous song:

Pics Of The Day #1200

Compo Beach, early morning … (Photo/Amy Schneider)

… and at night (Photo/Sile Marrinan)

The ADA In Westport: 30 Years Of Progress

Thirty years ago this week, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans With Disabilities Act into law.

It was a monumental achievement. The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, state and local government, public accommodations, transportation and more.

Its effects have been both intended (curb cuts make things easier for wheelchair users; closed captioning aids people with hearing loss) and unintended (those same curb cuts help anyone pushing a stroller or wheeling luggage; closed captions are great for TVs in noisy spots like restaurants and bars.

In Westport — as in the rest of the nation — the ADA has made building access easier. At Compo Beach, Mobi-Mats intended to ease the trek across sand to the Sound for people with mobility problems has been a boon to anyone hauling a cooler (or young kids).

Compo Beach Mobi-Mat. (Photo/Patti Brill)

The new bathrooms at South Beach are a welcome relief to many. So are the walkways that now lead from the pavilion all the way to the kayak launch.

Jim Ross — chair of Westport’s Commission on People With Disabilities — notes a few other important local initiatives.

The Remarkable Theater‘s drive-in movies have brought joy and life to Westport during this entertainment-starved COVID summer. But the theater has another, equally important mission: to create meaningful employment for the disability community. That visibility may be another legacy of the ADA.

The confidential Voluntary Registry — managed by Westport’s Department of Human Services, in conjunction with the Police Department — enables individuals with disabilities, and their families or caregivers, to register medical and living arrangements, so it can be known during a police or fire emergency.

Town officials and disability leaders are working to secure independent housing facilities on town-owned property.

An “Employment is for Everyone” initiative is in its early stages. Ross’ commission is working with the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and Westport Downtown Merchants Association to help people with disabilities find employment here — and help Westport businesses better serve the disability community.

When a beach wheelchair was delivered more than 10 years ago, then-Parks & Rec director Stuart McCarthy gave Rotary president Irwin Lebish a ride.

It is estimated that up to 1 in 5 Americans have some sort of disability. Have you, a relative or friend been impacted by the ADA? How does Westport compare to other places, in terms of accessibility and accommodations? Are there areas where Westport can do better? Click “Comments” below.

(For more on the 30th anniversary of the ADA, click here. Hat tips: Diane Johnson and Elaine Daignault.)

Pics Of The Day #1198

Boat at Sherwood Mill Pond … (Photo/Les Dinkin)

… and near Cockenoe Island (Photo/Ilmar Tamm)