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Last Loaf For Panera Bread

Bad news for Panera Bread fans: The bakery/cafe on the Norwalk border closes on December 20. Sources say a rent hike is to blame.

That’s a shame. It’s often packed. Workers, seniors, moms and many others like it. Some grab a quick snack or lunch. Others linger for a loooong time.

Where will they go now?  Well, there’s one a short ways away, on Norwalk’s Main Avenue.

And there’s a Panera near the Southport border.

Sure, it’s all the way across town. But if you really love that focaccia bread…

The Panera Bread near HomeGoods.

The Panera Bread near HomeGoods.

(Hat tip: David Loffredo)

Drew Coyne: The Day After

Drew Coyne is one of Staples High School’s most popular and beloved teachers. The US History Honors and Advanced Placement Economics instructor graduated from Cornell University, then earned a master’s in education at Harvard University. He was nominated for Westport Teacher of the Year.

The day after the presidential election, he was overwhelmed with emotions. In his classrooms, students had a variety of feelings — despair, excitement, anger, fear, elation, defensiveness and more.

Like any good teacher, he seized the teachable moment. He asked them to write down their thoughts. 

They asked if he would do the same. He did. Here’s what he wrote:

I remember a time when I Asked Jeeves if being gay would pass. Would liking boys just go away, or could I will it away?  Was being gay wrong?

Drew Coyne

Drew Coyne

I asked. I waited. And waited as Jeeves moved at a glacial pace. The more pressing the answer, it seemed, the longer Jeeves needed to search for that elusive response.  

Jeeves came back with some answers. This is “normal” one site said. Most boys experience this for 3 months. It will pass.

“Awesome,” I thought, feeling relief that it was just some speed bump on the road toward normalcy for a kid from small-town, upstate New York.  

But I kept reading. The church website, a reliable source to a teenager in the ’90s, said that if the “symptoms” lasted any longer I would need medical help. There were cures. Medicines and “therapy” promised normalcy. There were ways to make me “healthy,” to make me straight.

My defense mechanisms kicked in. My walls went up. I would hide this and protect myself. And, so, a great 10-year masquerade began.

—– —– —–  

Flash forward to this week. I’m numb. As Florida turned red, Ohio flipped, and the Blue Wall of Michigan and Wisconsin rusted over into an ominous red hue, my stomach sank.  And in that moment, unexpectedly and unconsciously, my walls — emotional defense mechanisms from my youth — resumed their guard.

As I drove to school, even NPR’s words couldn’t reach me. My walls, designed for protection, were back. They took energy and focus. I lost the ability to listen as America’s new trajectory was announced to people like me.

Entering Staples, I braced myself to lead.  My students responded to reflective prompts: This morning I’m feeling… or The Westport Bubble…

Most Staples High School students could not vote last Tuesday. But that did not mean they were uninvolved in the outcome of the election.

Most Staples High School students could not vote last Tuesday. But that did not mean they were uninvolved in the outcome of the election.

As we shared, my oft-optimistic students were different. One wrote, “This morning, I’m feeling scared and worried for our economic systems.” Another said, “I woke up and panicked. I got in the shower and cried.” One scribbled, “I am thankful that I am a wealthy, white male because, realistically, I’m going to be OK.  But for others, even checks and balances won’t protect them.”  

While a majority of my students were despondent, others found joy. One reflected that “I am feeling optimistic, yet somewhat surprised. I can’t wait to see these changes.”  

During the day, teenagers wept openly. They cried because they were afraid for their rights as women. They cried because a student’s adopted black brother saw racism triumph in his eyes. They cried for a lost cause after canvassing in Pennsylvania.

I cried because for the first time in their lives, their walls were up.

—– —– —–  

Only later did I recognize my coping mechanisms, reflect on my identity, and understand the election’s repercussions.

In 2007, still closeted as a college junior, I ventured off Cornell’s campus and, for the first time, lived beyond upstate New York.  In Washington, D.C. I took classes and began my first internship for then-Senator Clinton. The Hill transformed me by helping her address systemic problems with the VA, navigating the appropriations process, and seeing her tireless work ethic. Those moments and the people have forever informed my vision.  

In college, Drew Coyne interned with then-Senator Hillary Clinton.

In college, Drew Coyne interned with then-Senator Hillary Clinton.

But it was another moment that helped me tear down the walls that kept me in that dark, lonely closet. On P Street a gay couple pushed a stroller with their child past me. That’s it. For so many, this isn’t the event that catapults a gay man out of hiding. But it did for me. It was profound because it was the first time in my life that being gay was viewed as normal. Piece by piece, a wall began to fall.

—– —– —–  

Arthur Golden writes that “Adversity is like a strong wind. It… tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that afterward we see ourselves as we really are, and not merely as we might like to be.” The 2016 campaign symbolizes those winds that have left me whiplashed.  They have revealed a vulnerable, jolted and, at times, insecure gay man.  

And in this moment of vulnerability, I think I know why.  

Last summer, Drew Coyne accompanied Staples High School students to the Haw Cong Asia-Pacific Young Leaders Summit in Singapore.

Drew Coyne in Kyoto last spring.

Back in those Jeeves years, I learned to protect myself, to shield myself from politicians who told me I was wrong. I learned that this was far from a wholly partisan issue. In 1993 the Religious Freedom Restoration Act had 170 congressional co-sponsors. While originally intended to protect religious minorities, conservative politicians used those laws to carve out methods to discriminate LGBTQ Americans.  

Candidate, eventual congressman and future vice president Mike Pence embodies a political generation that told me I needed to be fixed. During his 2000 campaign, he was one of many who encouraged federal funding for conversion therapies, including shock therapy.

His website stated that “resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.” The website continued, “Congress should oppose any effort to put gay and lesbian relationships on an equal legal status with heterosexual marriage.” And “Congress should oppose any effort to recognize homosexual’s [sic] as a discreet [sic] and insular minority” that can be protected by similar laws afforded to women and ethnic minorities.  

Today, Mr. Pence and like-minded leaders have swept into power in a wave of angst at the status quo. I understand their suffering — and am privileged to not worry about where my next meal is coming from, or if my heating bill is paid. But those leaders who have promised economic change for America’s downtrodden will also advance alt-right social policies that destabilize minority group protections. Indeed, the right-wing National Organization for Marriage is already spelling out a wish-list for President Trump, including repealing marriage equality.

These efforts that are unfolding remind me that, to many Americans, I am less of a citizen. As such, it does not make this transition easy. Indeed, it is a transition not toward a new America, but one that I knew as a teenager. Only now do I realize that Mr. Trump has already built a wall. It is a wall I knew for years and one that caused great suffering. Today, while not nearly as high, my wall is up.

And I fear that Mr. Trump’s accession is doing the same in my classroom.  How many students who are questioning their sexual identity will see the nation’s role models telling them they should be fixed or undeserving of equality? How many young women in my classroom will have to know that a man accused of sexual assault was supported by 53% of white women?  How many immigrants will feel like they are not welcome, regardless of their status?  How many religious minorities must fear hate?

So, as I cope, I am tasked with choosing how to dismantle the emotional wall that Mr. Trump’s campaign built with such ferocity.  Today, I don’t know how to surmount his creation, but I will be resilient. I will treat all of my students with kindness and love. Still, I worry, as an educator and gay man, that his campaign has already succeeded in building a wall in so many of us even before he has assumed the mantle of the presidency.  

Westport Transit: What Do You Think?

Cut back on Westport Transit District service. It’s a waste of money!

Add to Westport Transit District service. We need more buses in town!

Those 2 polar opposite opinions — and everything else in between — are what you hear when Westporters talk about our public transit system.

If they talk about it at all.

For those reasons — to get an accurate read on needs and usage, as well as to raise awareness that we actually have a Westport Transit District — local officials have launched a survey.

Working with Westport-based Beresford Research, WTD directors Patsy Cimarosa and Marty Fox designed questions aimed at 4 key constituencies. Westport commuters who use shuttle buses to the train station; those who don’t; non-commuters, and people who work in Westport all have a chance to weigh in on current and future transit options.

Commjuters using the Westport Transit District shuttle service.

Commuters board the Westport Transit District shuttle service at Imperial Avenue.

The survey will include questions about current services (including train shuttles and the lesser-known door-to-door rides for elderly and disabled Westporters); priorities going forward, and public awareness of what’s offered.

The survey — one of the best designed and most comprehensive that I’ve seen like this — is being emailed to residents on the railroad parking and waiting lists, as well as other citizens. A hard copy will be available at the Senior Center.

But you can take the survey now. Just click here.

To encourage participation, the Vine Room and 323 restaurant offer $100 gift certificates in random drawings.

westport-transit-district-logoThat’s nice — but every Westporter should participate without being pushed. Given the current traffic in town, more changes coming near the station in Saugatuck, and the budget decisions we always face, all of our voices should be heard.

Jim Marpe: Volunteers Help Make Westport Work

The other day, Jim Marpe was talking about volunteerism in Westport.

He should know. His paid gig is first selectman — after a long career as a senior partner in Accenture — but before his election, Marpe served this town in a wide variety of capacities.

He was a 2-term Board of Education member (including vice chair); chairman of the Westport Weston Family YMCA board of trustees; Homes With Hope and Westport Rotary Club board member, and president of Greens Farms Congregational Church.

First Selectman Jim Marpe sports a Sunrise Rotary Great Duck Race hat. He himself is a member of the noontime Rotary Club.

First Selectman Jim Marpe sports a Sunrise Rotary Great Duck Race hat. He himself is a member of the noontime Rotary Club.

Marpe is also an active member of the Y’s Men, League of Women Voters, Longshore Men’s Golf Association, Minuteman Yacht Club, Saugatuck Rowing Club, Senior Center and Near & Far Aid Spring Gala Committee.

His remarks about volunteering were made at the Westport Woman’s Club. For over 100 years, members have made their mark: laying sidewalks, greening the Post Road, initiating a visiting nurse service, pioneering classes for children with learning disabilities, organizing emergency food distribution, granting scholarships — the list is long and proud.

But volunteering takes work. And as Westport changes, the face of volunteerism does too.

Last week, I asked Marpe to expand on his speech at the Woman’s Club. The topic is important to him. He was eager to do so.

Marpe said that many long-standing membership organizations here are “more challenged” than they were just a decade or so ago. Quite simply, it’s harder to find helping hands.

The Westport Woman's Club -- shown here in the Memorial Day parade -- has been helping Westport since 1907. (Photo/courtesy of Dorothy Curran)

The Westport Woman’s Club — shown here in the Memorial Day parade — has been helping Westport since 1907. (Photo/courtesy of Dorothy Curran)

Government bodies — elected and appointed town boards and commissions, from Education and Finance to the RTM and TEAM Westport — depend on volunteers too. Like clubs and organizations, they sometimes scramble.

But, Marpe said, at the same time there’s a great outpouring of volunteers for special projects.

The first selectman cited a recent “06880” story on the decrepit state of Sherwood Island’s 9/11 Memorial. Immediately, Westporters offered time and energy to clean it up. Some did it on their own; others joined a low-key but hard-working group called Friends of Sherwood Island.

Just in the previous few days, Marpe said, he’d seen scores of Westporters working hard at Lobster Fest, the Wakeman Town Farm Harvest Fest, and a food allergy and education walk.

Marpe pointed too to the many Westporters helping a Syrian refugee family adjust to the area, the numerous parents involved in children’s sports and arts activites, and Staples High School students who belong to groups like SLOBs (Service League of Boys).

Among their many efforts, SLOBs (Service League of Boys) sponsors an annual spring clean-up day.

Among their many efforts, SLOBs (Service League of Boys) sponsors an annual spring clean-up day.

“There’s still a volunteer spirit in town,” Marpe said. “But different things attract people today. They’re more willing to jump into short, defined activities, that have an end point.”

Town government service does not usually have an end (unless it’s the end of a term). Marpe admitted that there was a period when it was tough to find folks who would serve. But he thinks the pendulum is swinging back.

Recently, he said, 8 candidates interviewed for a vacancy on the Board of Finance. All were “very, very accomplished people.”

It’s not easy — particularly in these days of glaring social media — to ask men and women to “put themselves in the public eye,” Marpe said. “But in a town like ours, we rely on volunteers to make government work.”

Westport’s commitment to volunteerism remains strong, Marpe noted. In fact, he said, “we’re still in the forefront of communities where individuals give of themselves. Volunteers are the people who make Westport, Westport.”

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!

Westporters Renovate 2 Historic Structures. Now Neighbors Want Them Torn Down.

Most Westport preservation battles follow the same pattern.

A historic house is sold. The new owner wants to tear it down. Outraged residents object. Others point out that preservationists could have bought the home, but did not — and the people who did, can now do whatever they want.

In rare cases — like 93 Cross Highway108 Cross Highway, or the one across the street at #113 — the home is saved. It’s a handsome stretch on an important main road.

Further down Cross Highway though, something bizarre is happening.

Near the Fairfield border sits 188 Cross Highway. The gorgeous 2.9-acre property includes a saltbox built in 1728,  a barn circa 1790-1810, and 2 legal pre-1959 cottage apartments.

When the British marched past in 1777 en route to Danbury — taking brothers Benjamin and Daniel Meeker prisoner, and sacking the house — it was already half a century old.

The "Meeker house" in the 1930s, as photographed for a WPA project. After the Revolutionary War, Benjamin Meeker built the barn in back. It -- and the house -- still stand today.

The “Meeker house” in the 1930s, as photographed for a WPA project. After the Revolutionary War, Benjamin Meeker built the barn in back. They still stand.

The Schilthuis-Meeker house — Sally Schilthuis was influential in preventing construction of Merritt Parkway Exit 43 in the area, resulting in the current “No Man’s Land” between Exits 42 and 44 — is one of 5 remaining nationwide of original medieval structure Colonial revival construction.

In 2003, Mark Yurkiw and Wendy Van Wie purchased the property. It was in foreclosure. The houses were in distress, ready to be plowed under. But the couple saved the historic homes.

For 2 decades, they have poured time and energy into their renovation project. The result is gorgeous.

The exterior of 188 Cross Highway.

The exterior of 188 Cross Highway.

But it’s been costly.

And one couple can’t live in 2 houses. They live in the barn, and rented out the saltbox. The tenants wanted to buy. Mark and  Wendy would love to sell to them — as a practical matter, and to make sure the historic structure is loved, cared for and maintained as it deserves.

They’re even willing to add covenants to keep — in perpetuity — the historic house as a single-family dwelling; forever maintain the facade, and do whatever else is necessary to maintain the house where it is. In other words, no future owner could move — or demolish — the structure.

Right now though, they can’t sell. Planning and Zoning regulations don’t permit 2 homes to exist on 1 piece of property.

Sounds like a win-win: for Mark and Wendy, and the neighborhood.

But a small cadre of Cross Highway neighbors object.

At a Planning and Zoning Commission hearing on Thursday, they (and their lawyer) cited traffic, safety, density, the fact that the house is currently unoccupied, and the sight of dandelions on the lawn as reasons to reject the application.

A recent, sun-dappled fall day.

A recent, sun-dappled fall day.

After 2 hours of heated testimony — during which Wendy and her supporters countered most of the objections, then offered even more covenants and encumbrances to save the historic building and properties — the real issue came through.

Robert Yules and a few other neighbors opposed the subdivision because it would save the historic houses.

He said essentially that the state of the property did not reflect his McMansion, and others nearby. The grounds — period gardens and stone walls, with cobblestone walkways — did not match his extremely well-kept lawn.

One more view of 188 Cross Highway.

One more view of 188 Cross Highway.

“Trash” and “eyesore” are usually not associated with painstaking historic rehab projects. But they were Thursday night.

It’s astonishing. Yet in this through-the-looking-glass tale, there’s something even more eye-popping.

In 2006, Robert and Susan Yules wrote to the P&Z supporting the efforts of their “friends and neighbors,” Wendy and Mark, on the “renovating and improving of the main house and free standing cottage/barn.”

The Yuleses added, “Their efforts have transformed the buildings significantly. Please permit them to continue to remodel the buildings as they will enhance the beauty of the neighborhood.”

An interior view of the bright, high-ceilinged renovated barn.

An interior view of the bright, high-ceilinged renovated barn.

They were not the only neighbors to appreciate Mark and Wendy’s work.

Others described how Mark and Wendy had “lovingly restore(d) these irreplaceable architectural treasures” to their “deserved place” in Westport and American history.

Now the Yuleses and a few neighbors have changed their tune. They believe a new, large construction better fits the neighborhood than a plan that would save 2 structures — lovingly restored, and paying homage to the days when history quite literally marched past the front door.

“Houses are only kept alive by their owners,” Mark says.

“This is very discouraging. We’re not trying to ‘win.’ We’re trying to give the town something.

This could be one of the most topsy-turvy tales I’ve ever told.

But don’t take my word for it. Drive by 188 Cross Highway. (That’s the official number. The mailboxes have always said 178 and 180). See for yourself. Then — if you want to contact the Planning & Zoning Commission — click here.

Will Mennie: All The Way With Gary Johnson

Much ink and many pixels have been spent trying to figure out how — or if — millennials will vote in this presidential election.

Many seem put off by both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Some see no point in voting at all.

Others have hopped on the Gary Johnson bandwagon.

Will Mennie is helping drive it.

At Staples High School, the Class of 2014 member was vice president of the Philosophy Club. He also served on the School Climate Committee.

johnson-weldLast summer — after his sophomore year at the University of Arizona, where he’s a behavioral economics major — Will met the former New Mexico governor in New York.

“Neither of the 2 presidential candidates seemed viable to me,” he says. “I had been looking into a 3rd option. The more I learned, the more I liked his sense of message and his sense of responsibility.”

Will found Johnson to be “very friendly.” He looked for ways to get involved.

Last month, the Johnson campaign sent an email to UA students. Almost immediately, Will became chair of his campus chapter.

Impressed by his work, the campaign called last week and asked him to introduce Johnson at a Phoenix rally. The request came hours before what Will admits was the Libertarian Party candidate’s “2nd Aleppo moment” — his inability to name a world leader he admired — but the chapter chair was undaunted.

Which is how, last Saturday, the young Westporter found himself in a jam-packed hotel ballroom, speaking about the man he firmly believes could be the next president of the United States.

Will did his own research for his speech. He mentioned “facts people don’t know, like he was the most financially successful governor. He lowered taxes, and created thousands and thousands of jobs.”

The event drew 12,000 viewers on Facebook Live. That — and Johnson’s strong speech — convinced Will more than ever that despite two major gaffes, his candidate has a legitimate shot at winning.

“Being a campaigner on TV is very different from having the decision-making skills to be president,” Will insists.

“Those things” — Johnson’s Aleppo and world leader stumbles — “won’t sway my vote. He’s still a candidate I very much back. He’s had a lot of applicable experience — much more than Trump.

“Hillary does have experience. But something about her rubs me the wrong way. I think a lot of millennials feel that way.”

Will Mennie introduces Gary Johnson in Phoenix.

Will Mennie (center) introduces Gary Johnson in Phoenix.

I understand Gary Johnson’s appeal to a certain segment of the electorate. But I’m convinced that no matter what you think of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, one of those 2 will be our next president. I asked Will if a vote for Johnson is not really a wasted vote.

His response: “It’s an uphill battle. But I genuinely think he’s electable.

“Only 30% of Americans know him by name or by his accomplishments. If in the next 30 days we can get attention beyond him forgetting things, he has a chance. If more people knew more about him than just 2 minutes of news clips — if they knew he’s so socially understanding, but also financially responsible — that could happen.”

Campaign organizers with Gary Johnson (center) include Will Mennie (2nd from right) and University of Arizona treasurer Julian Cohen (far right). Julian is from Weston.

Campaign organizers with Gary Johnson (center) include Will Mennie (2nd from right) and University of Arizona treasurer Julian Cohen (far right). Julian is from Weston.

The Phoenix event was encouraging, Will says. On Facebook Live, “the likes and smiles flooded in.”

This is his 1st presidential vote. The Staples grad is registered in Tucson.

“Come Election Day, that’s where I’ll be,” he promises.

(Click here for Facebook’s full video of the Phoenix rally. Will’s speech begins around 21:20, and lasts 7 minutes. Johnson speaks at 34:40. Hat tip: Jeff Mitchell)

Irene Backalenick: Our 95-Year-Young Poet

Grandma Moses took up painting at age 78. Compared to Irene Backalenick, she was just a kid.

Irene is a poet, not a painter. But after a long career as a journalist — she wrote for the New York Times, then became a noted theater reviewer — the longtime Westport resident penned her first poem just a couple of years ago.

She’s 95.

Irene has been published many times. She has fans in far-flung places. Poetry, she says, has become one of the most important parts of her life.

Irene — a Providence native who worked as a secretary after high school, then 5 years later was accepted without any college prep at Brown University, and graduated summa cum laude — never thought about poetry until she moved to the Watermark at 3030 Park in Bridgeport. She found the retirement community to be exciting, vibrant and fulfilling.

She and another former journalist decided to start a writers’ workshop. They found an inspiring teacher, Regina Krummel of Norwalk.

The small group of 5 women — including former Westport writer Gloria Sugarman — meet regularly, and dine together even more often.

Irene Backalenick

Irene Backalenick

Regina pushed Irene to spread beyond the interview-type stories she’d always written. Irene tried her hand at a few poems.

A new career was born.

All bustle, bag, bravura
She arrives upon the scene
With stethoscope, suppositories
And mountains of good will
She grips the fragile patient
Reviews his vital parts
She mumbles, notes, equivocates
Fills the room with bluster
Writes down her precious thoughts
Then offers false assurance
And beamingly departs

Some of her first poems were written after her husband Bill died in June of 2015.

The art form was “like a release,” she says. Poetry gives her “a chance to be absolutely honest about my life.” She writes compellingly of “regrets — things I should have done, and things I shouldn’t have.” Her poems include things she never told anyone.

Irene’s poems are short. But they pour out of her. When she wakes at 2 a.m. with a phrase floating in her head she goes to her computer, and writes.

Friends and lovers
Treasures stored away
In the attic of my mind
Ancient friends and lovers
Neatly stacked in boxes
Or tossed about with random
Upon the attic floor.

Jerry, detonated long ago
On the beach at Normandy
And Lise of suburban days
With judgments wise and foolish
And David of my college years
Who found me in the bookstacks

A shaft of light stabs the pane
Brings them sharply into focus
I open boxes, dust them off
Friends and lovers once again.

Irene has been published in journals — online and print. She posts on her own blog, Awakening Poems. Altogether, she’s written about 175 poems.

In the autumn of her life, Irene Backalenick has become a prolific poet.

In the autumn of her life, Irene Backalenick has become a prolific poet.

Some of her best feedback comes from Facebook. The 95-year-old likes the immediacy, ease and intimacy of instant comments.

Irene has done presentations at the Watermark and Stratford Library. She thinks it’s important for poets to read their own work. “I’m very conscious of tempo and beat,” she says. “I want to hit the reader unexpectedly.”

Dementia nibbles away
At corners of the brain.
Rounding off sharp edges
Like hungry mice
With small sharp teeth
Steadily, relentlessly,
Devouring the tasty feast.

Nine months ago, she collapsed in an elevator. The diagnosis: irregular heartbeat. She got a pacemaker, was put on medication, and now feels much better.

The incident slowed her writing — but not for long. Thanks to the Watermark and her poetry, Irene says, “I have a new life.”

(That new life includes modeling. Recently, Chico produced a fashion show at her residence. She walked the runway.)

Irene asks if I’ve ever written poetry.

No, I say. My mind does not work that way.

“Maybe you can do it in your old age,” she encourages.

Just like she does. Although any writer or poet can certainly come up with a better word than “old” to describe Irene Backalenick.

(Click here for Irene Backalenick’s blog.)

Well-Known Cottage Expands

Every table is usually filled at The Cottage — one of Westport’s most popular restaurants.

That will soon get easier. Chef Brian Lewis announced today that he’s adding 800 square feet to his existing 1,500. That means more seating, and an expanded bar.


The existing entrance and vestibule will stay. But the new, large bar is the centerpiece of an open floor plan. Tables can be combined for larger parties, and a window seat banquette will seat 10.

There’s an expanded kitchen area — and Lewis is revamping the existing “Chef’s Counter” to give diners a better view of what’s going on there.

Lewis now offers catering services on and off-site. New square footage adds the option of renting out either the entire restaurant or the bar for private events.

The Cottage — known for ts locally sourced cuisine — was recently named the #1 restaurant in Fairfield County by Hearst Media/CT Bites. The New York Times gave it a rare “excellent” rating.

But until the renovations are complete, you should keep making reservations the old way: as far in advance as you can.

The Cottage's current limited seating.

The Cottage’s current limited seating. (Photo/

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