Category Archives: Beach

Very Special Family Visits Joey’s

Joey’s by the Shore is one of Westport’s not-so-hidden gems.

It’s got the most interesting menu of any beach place I’ve seen. Joey, Donny and the kids who work there do a great job cooking, handling crowds, and coaxing orders out of kids (and parents) who get to the cash register, look up from their iPhones and suddenly have no idea what they want.

Joey’s crew is also fanatical about keeping the place looking nice, inside and out.

One thing they should not have to do is clean up after customers.

On my way inside Sunday, I passed a family — dad, mom, 3 cute kids — eating at a patio table. The sky was blue; the vibe, wonderfully chill.

This is what I saw when I came out:

The happy family was nowhere to be seen.

Of course, they may have had an excellent excuse for leaving their gross mess:

Perhaps it was their maid’s day off.

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Compo Beach jogger (Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

Turning The Tables

Westport’s Parks and Recreation Department and Commission have done an admirable job improving South Beach.

The alcohol-allowed-but-no-glass-please section of Compo Beach was always a favorite spot for cookouts, picnics, sunset-watching and walking.

This summer, the extension of the walking path from the cannons made it much safer. The addition of new barbecue grills eased the crunch for choice spots. The rollout of a Mobi-Mat enabled folks with mobility issues, strollers, even heavy ice chests to reach the water’s edge.

Parks & Rec has done even more at South Beach. But many beachgoers may not be aware of exactly what it all entails.

Picnickers love the new round tables, placed close to the parking area:

They look great, they’re comfortable, and they’ve got a nice, modern design.

That design is not by chance. Here’s a view from the other side. That open area is specially created, for people using wheelchairs.

(Photos/Bruce McFadden)

Note the new nearby grill. It’s adjustable — and handicap accessible too.

The concrete pad in the foreground makes for easier access for wheelchairs, and others with limited mobility.

Many people with disabilities use the new tables and grills. I’ve also seen them occupied by groups in which no one has a disability.

That’s not their fault. They probably have no idea what the new equipment is designed for.

And there may be more of these tables and grills than there are people who’d like to use them.

Perhaps there could be signs on the tables and grills: “Designed for use by our neighbors with disabilities.”

I’m sure they’d still be used by non-disabled folks. But maybe they’d be the last ones occupied — not the first — on those days when everyone (including those with wheelchairs) wants to enjoy our wonderful, beaautiful beach.

The Saugatuck: A Cooperative Thrives On Bridge Street

Westport does not have a nickname. But if we did, we might be called “The Land of Lawsuits.”

Westporters like to sue. The town won a lawsuit to prohibit construction of a nuclear power plant on Cockenoe Island (yay!). Neighbors lost a suit to prohibit construction of the Compo Beach playground (yay!).

Neighbors also threatened to prohibit Positano restaurant from putting a few tables on an outdoor patio near Old Mill Beach. As a result, the restaurant moved. A private home now rises in its place (boo!).

Lost in the mists of time is another lawsuit. In 1985, 64 residents of Bridge Street and nearby roads sued to prevent the conversion of what was then Saugatuck Elementary School into multi-unit housing.

Three years later, a settlement was reached. The agreement limited the project to 36 owner-occupied, age-restricted units.

(Photo courtesy of SmartMLS Inc.)

Today, The Saugatuck is a true success story. One of Westport’s most affordable residences lies a short walk from thriving Saugatuck Center and train station, and not much further from Compo Beach.

The attractively renovated red brick building graces Bridge Street between South Compo and Imperial Avenue.

Residents have formed a tight-knit, active community. It’s hard to imagine the neighborhood without it, in fact.

None of that could have been predicted in 1984. Westport’s school population was declining. Burr Farms Elementary was torn down. Hillspoint Elementary turned into daycare. Bedford El became Town Hall. Greens Farms Elementary School housed the Westport Arts Center.

When the lawsuit was settled, plans were drawn up to convert the school that generations of Saugatuck residents attended. It dated back to the early 20th century, when the original wooden building was called the Bridge Street School.

It took several years, but 17 1-bedroom and 19 2-bedroom apartments were built in what were once classrooms, the library and auditorium. Because Saugatuck had been a classic elementary school, each unit features large windows and high ceilings.

Units at The Saugatuck feature large windows.

Those surroundings are familiar to at least one current resident — and several others in the past. They attended Saugatuck El as kids. Living there now is very different — but also quite familiar.

Joe Veno has lived in The Saugatuck for more than 20 years. As a youngster, he walked to the school from his Franklin Street home. He played basketball in the playground — now a parking lot — and baseball in what is now a quiet back yard.

The Saugatuck is a cooperative. The Town of Westport owns the land, and holds a 99-year lease on the property. But the Cooperative owns the building.

Members must be at last 62 years old (at least one, in the case of married couples), able to live independently, and their income must be below the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority’s guidelines for homeowners at 80% of area median income. Importantly, there are no limits or restrictions on assets.

To ensure affordability, the resale price is linked to the average increase in income for individuals living in the area.

Three units are currently for sale. A 2-bedroom, 1 bath apartment is listed at $222,282; 2 1-bedroom units have listing prices of $179,800 and $168,300. (Inquiries can be directed to the property manager: 203-226-1570.)

Those are far below other Westport prices, because of the original affordable housing prices implemented in the 1990s, and the strict resale cap/formula that limits how high prices can climb.

A view of The Saugatuck’s back yard.

A cooperative’s rules are are more stringent than in a condo, particularly in areas like rentals. Saugatuck units must be their owner’s primary residence.

One of the great perks of The Saugatuck is Shaun Cullen, a part-time super.

Residents include longtime Westporters who have downsized, and no longer want the responsibilities of a home and yard.

Other residents have moved to The Saugatuck from elsewhere, to be close to their children and grandchildren in Westport.

Most Saugatuck residents are retired, from careers including Wall Street, Madison Avenue, refuse collection and tile installation. At least 2 — an accountant and a contractor — are currently working.

The vibe is friendly. Neighbors chat easily, in the community room, mail room and hallways.

The cooperative is governed by an executive board. They and other residents organize a variety of activities: movie nights, supper at the beach, a jazz keyboardist and Labor Day picnic.

A recent party in the community room.

It’s hard to imagine Westport today without the Compo Beach playground — or to visualize the town, had a nuclear power plant been built on Cockenoe.

It’s just as hard to imagine what Bridge Street would be like without The Saugatuck. How great that the neighbors who sued more than 30 years ago cooperated in a settlement that led to a co-op.

FUN FACTS: 1) During the Depression, the WPA commissioned Westport artist Robert Lambdin to paint a 7-foot high, 20-foot long mural: “Pageant of Juvenile Literature.” For years, it hung just inside the main entrance to Saugatuck Elementary School.

In 1992, when the town finally began to convert the old Saugatuck El to senior housing, the mural was slated for demolition.

A group of art-lovers — including Mollie Donovan, Eve Potts and Judy Gault Sterling — set out to save the work. Within a month they raised $40,000. That was enough to remove the mural, conserve it, and reinstall it at its new home: The Westport Library. 

It stayed there for more than 2 decades. When the transformation project was announced, and a suitable spot could not be found for the work, Westport arts curator Kathy Motes Bennewitz and members of the Westport Public Art Collection searched for a large wall, with plenty of foot traffic.

They — with architect Scott  Springer — found it, at Staples High School. Now, the enormous, eye-catching mural hangs proudly near the auditorium lobby, just a few feet from the Staples library.

2) When Saugatuck was an elementary school, Pete Seeger — at the time, blacklisted as a folk singer — performed on its auditorium stage. 

Pic Of The Day #846

Gloria — the late Alan Sterling’s oyster boat — still sits in Gray’s Creek. (Photo/Jerry Kuyper)

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Kids like Lily Josephine Katchmer are timeless at Compo (Photo/Melissa Gai Katchmer)

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Compo Channel (Photo/Ward French)

Bonus Pics Of The Day: Storm Cloud Edition

The skies over Westport darkened ominously — and beautifully — tonight. “06880” readers were ready with their cameras.

Here’s the scene at Compo Beach …

(Photo/Dave Whybrow)

(Photo/Carolyn Wilkinson)

(Photo/Carolyn Wilkinson)

… and sailing into Cedar Point …

 (Photo/Linda Stern)

… and at Burying Hill:

(Burying Hill photos/Nico Eisenberger)

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Ned Dimes Marina at Compo Beach (Photo/Michael Tomashefsky)

Beaches Open: Everyone Into The Water!

Earlier this afternoon, the Westport Weston Health District gave the all-clear.

Westport beaches are now safe for swimming. They were closed on Saturday afternoon, following a sewage spill.

Compo Beach was almost empty today. Tomorrow, the crowds will return.

Weather permitting, of course.

Jump for joy! The water’s fine! (Photo/Richard Wiese)

(Hat tip: Amy Schneider)