Category Archives: Categories

Michael Calise: South Beach Improvement Plan Should Be Heard Later

Alert “06880” reader — and longtime keep-the-beach-as-it-is advocate — Michael Calise writes:

The Recreation Commission has a meeting scheduled for tomorrow (Wednesday, August 17, 7:30 p.m., Town Hall Room 201/201A.)

Item #7 on the agenda item says: “To take such action as the meeting may determine to approve a request for an appropriation for design and engineering services for the south beach walkway and south beach restrooms at Compo Beach.”

It is obvious that the plan which was so soundly rejected by most Westporters is being implemented by the commission in stages. I am surprised they are holding a meeting in August, when many people are away, when most other meetings are not scheduled at all, and that this item is far down the agenda.

Further, grouping a walkway with a South Beach bathroom clouds the issue, as most people feel differently about each.

Our beach is a great natural treasure enjoyed by many. It is not begging to become a park!

The public deserves the right to participate in these discussions at a later time and with more notice. I hope those who have an interest in the future of Compo will attend this meeting to impress on the commission to leave the hearing open for its September meeting, in order to give the public a greater opportunity to participate and comment.

I asked Parks and Recreation Commission chair Charlie Haberstroh for a comment. He replied:

“The appropriation is for design and engineering services, not for the construction. There will be plenty of open meetings to discuss the eventual design and construction. We are anxious to get the ball rolling. This is just the start of the process.”

Westport's Recreation Commission may vote on appropriating money for a walkway and restrooms at South Beach on Wednesday.

The Parks and Recreation Commission may vote on appropriating money for the design and engineering of a walkway and restrooms at South Beach on Wednesday.


Click here for “06880+”: The easy way to publicize upcoming events, sell items, find or advertise your service, ask questions, etc. It’s the “06880” community bulletin board!

Lee Papageorge Died Today

The popular Oscar’s owner was 65.

I am away until Thursday with very limited internet access. I join Westport in mourning his death, and thank him for all he did for all of us – Dan Woog

Fresh Air Fund A Great Experience For Guests — And Hosts

Alert “06880” reader — and very generous Westporter Seth Schachter — saw a posting here in January about the Fresh Air Fund. Remembering his parents’ experience with the program, which brings inner-city children to suburban and rural communities many years ago — and their lessons about opening doors to others in need — he decided to participate.

He and his wife just wrapped up a week as hosts to 9-year-old Jonathan, from the Bronx. Seth wants to share his emotions, insights and lessons. He writes:

Of course, we had some reservations and concerns going into this. Would Jonathan get along with our 2 children (Aiden, age 10 and Rebecca, 9)? Would he enjoy a week in our home? Would he get homesick? What would we say to his mom or dad before he arrived, and then during his stay?

Aiden and Rebecca painted “Welcome” signs for Jonathan. We picked him up in Fairfield.

Fresh Air Fund - welcome

While the week was not without a few bumps (as we expected), Jonathan loved his time in Westport. A few hours after returning home he left us a phone message, asking to come back!

And we definitely enjoyed having him as part of our family. We told him many times how courageous he was for leaving his home to stay with complete strangers.

Aiden had occasional struggles sharing his room for a week, something he’d never done before. I supposed many children would react the same way. It was also a bit hard for him to carve out “alone time.”

A friend of mine recently said that our experience hosting was like a non-stop, 7-day play date. Anyone who has hosted play dates knows that some are easier than others. They often require a little nudging to get kids engaged.

Our week was full of activities. We kept our children out of camp, to allow more quality time together. (Some host families enroll their Fresh Air Fund child in the half- or full-day camps their children are attending.)

Fresh Air Fund - baking cookie

We took Jonathan to a few of Westport’s easily-taken-for-granted jewels: the Levitt Pavilion, Compo and Burying Hill Beaches, Longshore pool.

Fresh Air Fund - Levitt Pavilion

Fresh Air Fund - Compo crab

Fresh Air Fund - Burying Hill

We included some good old-fashioned fun around the house, like slip-and-slide, water gun and water balloon battles, and his first overnight “camping” experience (n a tent he helped set up). He was equally fascinated catching fireflies at dusk.

Fresh Air Fund - tent

We ate at the family-friendly Rio Bravo restaurant. Jonathan was amazed we got unlimited free chips and salsa just for sitting down there.

He also devoured treats at one of our favorite places, Saugatuck Sweets.

We took him out on a boat. He loved it, especially steering it at the helm. At the end of that day we had dinner at Johnny Utah’s in SoNo. Aiden, Rebecca and Jonathan all enjoyed riding their first mechanical bull.

Fresh Air Fund - boating

We wrapped up our final full day taking the ferry to Port Jefferson. We had lunch, playground fun, and shopping at a mom-and-pop toy store.

Fresh Air Fund - Port Jefferson ferry

We were pretty confident that Jonathan and Aiden would have no problem clicking. But a great surprise all week was seeing Jonathan and Rebecca click too.

Some memorable quotes and observations:

Jonathan asked Aiden why he was reading at home. He said he only reads at school, when he has to. He asked me if I would read “all those words” when he saw me with a newspaper at the beach.

He had never played with Legos, and was surprised that Aiden and Rebecca had created things with them by themselves. They helped Jonathan build a speedboat, which he was very proud of. We learned he spends most of his time at home playing video games.

After being in the Longshore pool for over 4 hours, he looked at his shriveled hands and worried that he had skin cancer. He rarely goes in a pool, and never for such a long time. He learned how to play Marco Polo, and loved it.

Fresh Air Fund - Longshore Marco Polo

As we drove him to Fairfield for the bus that would take Jonathan and other Fresh Air Fund children back to New York, he said, “Everyone has cars around here. I barely see anyone walking.” I explained how hard it is to get around the suburbs without a car — unlike a city, with mass transit everywhere, and so much within walking distance.

Fresh Air Fund - goodbye

Our Westport world is vastly different than Jonathan’s in the Bronx. One of our hopes was that could enjoy a change in scenery, and participating some of the treasures our community offers. We’re certain this was realized.

Another hope was that our children would come away from the experience with a greater respect and appreciation for all that they have, in addition to heightened awareness of those in need. We feel this was accomplished. Who knows — perhaps lifelong friendships were initiated too.

The question for our family is not whether we will take part in the Fresh Air program again — we’re certain we will — but whether or not we will host Jonathan next summer. Families can request the same child up to 18 years old. But Rebecca would really love hosting a girl, so there are some things we have to figure out.

All in all, we thing the program is wonderful. It offers the opportunity to give so much to a child in need. We hope that many of you reading this will think about taking part too. I am happy to talk with anyone about the program, and our experience. Dan can put us in touch.

 

Garelick & Herbs Move Is Finally (Almost) Here

Good food — the kind you get at Garelick & Herbs — takes time to prepare.

It also takes time to design and build a new store.

Next month — a year after he expected — Jason Garelick moves his gourmet food/catering business into a much larger, more welcoming space.  He and his business partner Paola’s new digs are just a couple of hundred yards from his current Post Road flagship spot.

For the owners and staff — and their many loyal customers — it will be well worth the wait.

Jason Garelick, outside the soon-to-be-open Garelick & Herbs on the Post Road, just over the Southport line.

Jason Garelick, outside the soon-to-be-open Garelick & Herbs on the Post Road, just over the Southport line.

The new place — on the Southport line, just past Wafu and Fetzer Tire — boasts 4850 square feet on the big, open, vaulted-ceiling 1st floor. And another 4850 for the kitchen and production areas downstairs.

The current Westport location — Garelick & Herbs’ original one — is just 3650 square feet.

Since opening in 1993, they’ve added stores in Greenwich, New Canaan and — 2 years ago — Saugatuck. They cater all of Westport Inn events, as well as the Mora Mora club in South Norwalk.

But they long ago outgrew their Westport space. “The key to longevity is to own your own building,” Jason says.

Garelick and Herbs logoHe spent a decade looking. He feels most connected to Westport — the site of their 1st store — but nothing worked.

At last he saw land for rent on the Southport line: the old Double L Farm Stand. He made an offer to buy, not rent — and got ready to build.

Of course, in the food business — and in real estate — nothing is easy. Environmental issues delayed the project long past its sell-by date.

Finally, he’s ready to move. The opening is on or around August 15.

The bulk of the cooking — for all of Garelick & Herbs’ operations — will be done at the new location. One kitchen is as big as the current one in Westport; the 2nd is bigger.

Garelick & Herbs will move its baking from New Canaan to the new site. There will be an expanded bakery, full juice bar, larger salad bar, pizza oven, and a separate sandwich and panini station.

A stove and griddle next to the deli cases enables cooked-to-g0 orders, for breakfast and lunch.

There’s seating for 35 or 40 outside — separated from Post Road traffic by a soon-to-come garden and hedge. Handsome masonry by Gino Vona of Fairfield completes the look.

Garelick & Herbs' big new -- and still unfinished -- 1st floor interior.

Garelick & Herbs’ big new — and still unfinished — 1st floor interior.

As proud as Jason is of all that, though, he’s equally excited by the downstairs that customers will never see. Enormous space for freezers, prep rooms and storage will allow Garelick & Herbs to provide services they’ve only dreamed of.

He designed it all, and — with Paola — was involved every step of the way.

Good food — and good new buildings — take time.

Garelick & Herbs’ time has finally come.

Old Famous Photographers’ New Life

The Famous Photographers School is long gone. (So is the business that bought its Wilton Road headquarters: Save the Children.)

But — more than 40 years after it closed — some of its most famous photographs live on.

Yale University Art Gallery has bought Famous Photographers’ entire archive. Images, course books, advertisements — all are now housed in New Haven. A small exhibit from the archive is on display now.

After Famous Photographers School — and its cousins, Famous Artists and Famous Writers Schools — closed in 1974, thousands of artifacts gathered dust. Jeffrey Price — a Norwalk business owner — found the Famous Photographers archive, and restored it.

Among the most famous Famous Photographers faculty: Richard Avedon, Joseph Costa, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Phillippe Halsman, Irving Penn, Ezra Stoller, and Bert Stern.

This iconic photo of Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca was taken by Famous Artists School founder Victor Keppler. And even the folks who know that don’t know this iconic shot was taken by Victor Keppler. The renowned photographer lived in Westport until his death in 1987 at 83. This image is now part of the Westport Schools Permanent Art Collection.

This iconic photo of Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca was taken by Famous Artists School founder Victor Keppler. The renowned photographer lived in Westport until his death in 1987 at 83. This image is now part of the Westport Schools Permanent Art Collection.

(Hat tip: Wally Meyer)

Where Westport Meets The World: The Photos

Last week — in a nod to “06880”‘s tagline, “Where Westport meets the world” — I asked readers who do not live here to send photos of your favorite summer place.

A third of all “06880” readers live beyond this zip code. I thought it would be fun for our ex-pats to share scenes of your current, non-Westport lives.

Many readers responded. Here’s where you live, and what you love. The photos are arranged (more or less) geographically, from nearest to furthest.

Susan Feliciano and her husband Jose are just across the Westport line, in Weston. But they’re not, technically, here, so they count. He travels everywhere — in the past month he’s been in Austria, England and Baltimore; he leaves soon for Beirut, South Korea, Japan and Croatia — so home is particularly important. Susan calls this “our little piece of heaven, our little slice on the Saugatuck, especially lovely right after a summer rain.”

Happy place - Susan Feliciano, Weston 2

Happy place - Susan Feliciano - Weston 1

Bobbie Herman lives in Fairfield, half a mile over the border. Her favorite place is her garden. She spends 2 hours a day working on it. With 2.2 acres, there’s a lot to do.

“But it’s rewarding,” she says. “I have breakfast every morning on the patio which overlooks it, and every afternoon on the screened porch right next to the patio.”

Happy place - Bobbie Herman - Fairfield garden

Bonnie Bradley writes: “17 years ago, after a lifetime in Westport, I came to the town of Roxbury, in Litchfield County. Maple Bank Farm is a treasured destination, right in town. Farmers Cathy and Howie Bronson, of old Roxbury families, provide all kinds of their own vegetables and plants, and even skeins of wool from their sheep.

“Today you can go up the hill to pick their blueberries. Soon, their corn will be in. It seems you never go to Maple Bank without running into friends. That’s Roxbury.”

Happy place - Bonnie - Maple Bank Farm, Roxbury CT

From the other end of Connecticut, Peter Barlow’s photo shows Pawcatuck and Westerly, Rhode Island, separated by the Pawcatuck River (the bridge in the background on the right). Despite being in 2 different states, residents hold joint parades. Pawcatuck is actually part of Stonington, 3 miles away.

Happy plac - Peter Barlow - Pawcatuck CT

Rebecca Wolin says: “I am very lucky. After living in Westport for 20 years I moved to a vacation destination: the Berkshires. Monterey, Massachusetts has 900 residents, but in the summer it grows to 5,000. This is the lake at the end of my road ( I cheated — it’s a fall picture). I live right off the Appalachian Trail, and love it.”

Happy place - Rebecca Wolin - lake at end of her road, Monterey MA

Geoff Hodgkinson (Staples High School Class of 1964) has lived in Marblehead, Massachusetts since 1964. A peninsula 17 miles north of Boston, population 21,000, it features a harbor at Crocker Park. During the summer, 2000 boats moor there.

Geoff’s 2nd photo is of the historic district: 200 Colonial-era homes, many from the 1600s. The tower in the background is the 1876 town hall. “All in all, it’s a great place to live,” Geoff says. “But I do miss Compo and other Westport spots from time to time.”

Happy place - Geoff Hodgkinson, Marblehead Mass 1

Happy place - Geoff Hodgkinson, Marblehead MA 2

Kim Manchester Shaw writes: “I still refer to Westport as ‘home’, but It has been 30 years since I lived there. My brother and his family now live in our childhood home. It’s a blast to watch my niece and nephews enjoy all of our old Westport haunts as they grow up.

“These days I call Saratoga Springs home: the foothills of the Adirondacks. The photo is of my son, Alex, taken at the summit of Sleeping Beauty on an Adirondack hike last weekend. Tough to beat that view…unless perhaps you are in the 06880!”

Happy place - Kim Manchester Shaw - summit of Sleeping Beauty on Adirondack hike

Jane Davidson Arms (Staples High School Class of 1977) is now in Manchester, Vermont. Her youngest son (shown here) heads off to college in the fall:

Happy place - Jane Davidson Ams - Manchester, VT

After graduating from Staples in 1971, Fran Taylor has thrived in Kentucky’s horse country. She spent many years associated with Keeneland. She snapped the first photo below on Derby Day, while driving home from Louisville. The 2nd is taken from the driveway of her farm in Sadieville.

Happy Place - Fran Taylor - from Louisville to Lexington

Happy place - Fran Taylor - driveway of farm in Sadieville, KY

Tom Siebrasse offers this shot of Big Glen Lake, in Michigan’s Sleeping Bear National Park:

Happy place - Tom Siebrasse - Big Glen Lake, Glen Arbor, MI

Mike Taylor checks in with a photo of Lake Michigan. He’s halfway between Milwaukee and Green Bay. His town of Sheboygan, Wisconsin is a top golf destination; one of 3 US Official Sailing Centers in the country; home of Road America, one of the 3 car racing road courses in the world — and host to concerts partially sponsored by the Levitt Foundation. Having been an original employee of Westport’s Levitt Pavilion — he did lights and sound — he’s particularly proud of that.

Mike asks, “So why is this my favorite summer spot? I loved growing up in Westport and looking at Long Island Sound. But here, sitting on our lake deck, we look at the horizon. It’s like looking at the ocean. The sound of the waves crashing on the shore is awesome. And it’s my home.”

Happy place - Michael Taylor - Sheboygan, WI - Lake Michigan

Last August, Diana and Leonard Zaslow moved from Westport to Bonita Springs, Florida. Here’s what they see every evening:

Happy place - Diana Zaslow, Bonita Springs, FL

Alix Land says: “It’s hard to compare anyplace to Westport, but attached are shots from my home in Portland, Oregon. We get out on our bikes or paddleboards as often as possible.” The first photo shows the Willamette River, just south of Portland. She lives one street away from a ridge overlooking a beautiful golf course. On a clear day, she sees majestic Mt. Hood.

Happy Place - Alix Land - Willamette River just south of Portland

Happy place - Alix Land - OR (can see Mt Hood on clear day)

David Grant checks in from Danville, California — a San Francisco Bay area town of 42,000. The small-town atmosphere — with many unique stores and restaurants — reminds him of the Westport where he grew up. The 4th of July parade draws 40,000 attendees. Dave says: “Excellent schools keep property values strong. Good weather is a constant bonus.” Here’s Hartz Avenue:

Happy place - David Grant, Hartz Avenue, Danville CA

Finally, Mara Barth writes: “While we enjoy living in Paris at the moment (been here since October), we very much look forward to a little time in Westport this summer!”

Happy place - Mara Barth, in Paris since October

There you have it: where Westport meets the world. Plenty of water; mostly small towns; lots of beauty.

Wherever you are today: Enjoy it! There’s no place like home.

Robbie Guimond: For Safety And Commerce, Raise The Bridge

Robbie Guimond has lived and worked on the Saugatuck River for more than 20 years. Since 1996 he’s owned and operated Bridgebrook Marina, one of the last old New England boatyards. He lives there with his wife, Taryn Bolotin, and 3 young daughters. 

“We love Saugatuck, and have invested our lives in this community,” Robbie says. “We plan on raising our girls here, on this river.”

Robbie Guimond, at work.

Robbie Guimond, at work.

With the Bridge Street (aka William Cribari) Bridge back in the news — a new state Department of Transportation report favors rehabilitation over replacement — he sent “06880” some thoughts.

As a river worker, he has a special perspective:

Listening to all the chatter about the bridge, I’ve noticed something missing from every single discussion: the river underneath.

People who don’t live on the river don’t truly understand that the height of the bridge strangles the flow of boat traffic up it. I understand that if you don’t use the river for the many recreational sports it offers, or any of the restaurants, or if your home isn’t on the river, or if you don’t enjoy recreational boating in the area, then you may not care about the river.

But you should. The river from Bridge Street to Route 1 was once a thriving waterway. The library has an abandoned bulkhead/stairway to show us what could be, and what has become. Life on this river has dissipated over the years, due to the lack of dredging and the Cribari Bridge low clearance for boat traffic.

Boats moored on the Saugatuck River, south of the bridges. They can access the railroad bridge -- but not the Cribari swing bridge, Guimond says.

Boats moored on the Saugatuck River, south of the bridges. They can access the railroad bridge — but not the Cribari swing bridge, Robbie Guimond says.

Why doesn’t the Cribari Bridge match the height of the railroad bridge? Just a few feet higher and the majority boats could pass under. The difference in this height would allow regular day boats to travel for recreational use during all tides.

Just as important, it would allow safe passage for the marine police and rescue boats to get under and have access to the boaters, kayakers, paddle boarders, rowers and anyone else on or near the river.

I’ve never heard a whisper of concern for the safety of the people who are out on the water in cold temperatures, and in early morning hours or after dusk. Mere minutes could make the difference in saving lives when you’re on the water. We would love to see the bridge clearance height raised to meet the clearance of the railroad bridge. It seems obvious.

Robbie Guimond says a higher bridge, and dredging, would allow fire boats to help in the event of an office fire. Foreground: abandoned docks at Rive Bistro restaurant.

Robbie Guimond says a higher bridge, and dredging, would allow fire boats to help in the event of an office fire. Foreground: abandoned docks at Rive Bistro restaurant.

To really breathe life back into this river, dredging would need to be addressed. The town has discussed this project for years, but has not allocated money to do so.

Raising the bridge height, along with dredging, would promote access to restaurants on the river all the way to downtown. For example, the Five Mile River in Rowayton thrives with activity.

Most boaters think the Black Duck is their only option in Saugatuck. With the impending Railroad Place Development and the massive Gault project, wouldn’t it be great to offer a seasonal “water taxi” that would create a unique, transient- oriented attribute. People could arrive by train and take a water taxi to any of the restaurants on the river. Or to the Levitt Pavilion for a show, or all the way downtown to the shops that could use some more patronage (minus the parking).

This is our one chance to get it right. We hope everyone can see what a treasure the river actually is, and plan for our growing and changing community for generations to come.

Robbie Guimond asks, "How high would property values go if bigger boats could access the Saugatuck River?"

Robbie Guimond asks, “How high would property values go if bigger boats could access the Saugatuck River?”

Oh My 06880 — Photo Challenge #74

It took Andy Kaplan exactly 1 minute to figure out where last Sunday’s photo challenge was — and to email the correct answer.

The lovely lemon trees (Meyer lemons, as several alert “06880” readers noted) are located at Bill Gault’s famous red barn, on South Compo. In the winter, the trees are inside. When the weather turns warm, they’re moved outdoors for everyone to enjoy.

Aimee Borys, Martha Witte and Dorothy Fincher all also knew what Joyce Joiner’s photo showed. Click here to see that fine shot again.

I’d be surprised if anyone identifies this week’s photo in 1 minute. Seth Schachter has found a spot that few Westporters know exist — though it’s hidden in plain sight.

(Photo/Seth Schachter)

(Photo/Seth Schachter)

Click “Comments” below to add your guess to this week’s photo challenge.

If A Tree Falls…

Ah, spring! All around town, trees burst with life. Lush foliage turns Westport into a green wonderland.

Meanwhile, all around town too, trees are being chopped down.

An alert “06880” reader writes:

You’ve written about the loss of trees on the Merritt Parkway, near Trader Joe’s and at Stop & Shop.

Now there’s a new lane being added to Main Street at Clinton and Compo. For some reason on Easton Road, many new stumps show where mature trees were taken down.

And on single-house development sites, it seems they bulldoze every scrap of vegetation down, to be replaced with a row of small lollipops of boxwood and lawn.

Over the weekend, checking in on my child’s homework at Staples, I was surprised but pleased to see that this was an assigned video:

Seems like Mr. Heaphy is right in step with 3-time Fulbright Award-winning geobiologist/author Hope Jahren.

Last night, my Westport book group unanimously loved her new book, Lab Girl. In the epilogue she says, “Planet Earth is nearly a Dr. Seuss book made real: every year since 1990 we have created more than 8 billion new stumps.”

This morning, the New York Times headline cited global warming as a reason for the frightening increase in wildfires worldwide.

A 3rd reader sent along a photo of this tree -- one of several on Evergreen Avenue slated for removal. The notice says the reason is "storm damage."

A 3rd reader sent along a photo of this tree — one of several on Evergreen Avenue slated for removal. The notice says the reason is “storm damage.”

Another alert “06880” reader — Colleen Zapfel — writes:

I noticed 2 weeks ago that trees lining the south side of Sasco Creek, directly across from the Christmas tree farm between Green’s Farms Road and Beachside Avenue, have been cut down too.

Along with dogs and entitled parkers, trees seem to elicit some of the strongest “06880” comments of any topic. Of course, many Westporters defend tree-cutting, for a variety of reasons.

What do you think? Are we felling too many trees? Are the readers above over-reacting? Click “Comments” to join the discussion.

Licensing Connecticut: “State Of Innovation”

Tomorrow, a record 10,000 folks will flood the Westport Library and Jesup Green. The 5th annual Mini Maker Faire (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) is a showcase for creativity, energy, and way cool geekitude. Every year it attracts tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, artists, hobbyists, engineers, scientists, students, teachers, food artisans and exhibitors.

It’s innovation at its best.

Founder and co-chair Mark Mathias has been a tireless advocate for the Mini Maker Faire. Now he wants everyone to know just how innovative the Library, Westport — and all of Connecticut — are.

He sold the Department of Motor Vehicles on the idea for a new license plate. It says “Connecticut: State of Innovation.” A cute little robot-type figure perches in the corner.

Connecticut innovation license plate

A minimum of 400 people must sign up for the plate to be manufactured.

Tomorrow, you can be one of them. Just stop by the Mini Maker Faire’s Remarkable STEAM booth, for more information.

Sure, license plates are pretty low-tech for the Mini Maker Faire. But odds are good you’ll see some very intriguing ideas for vehicles tomorrow, too.

You might even call them “innovative.”