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[OPINION] Canal Road Guardrails: “Really?!”

An alert — and frustrated — Saugatuck Shores “06880” reader writes:

After months of road work, Canal Road and the culverts are complete.

But the town of Westport finished the job with galvanized steel guardrails that make us all feel like we live on I-95.

All the neighbors on both sides of the canal are upset that the town did not use wooden guardrails. There have never been guardrails before. Now they’re rusting (after just 1 week), and an eyesore to all of us.

New guardrails on Canal Road …

We would have all happily pitched in to pay the extra cost for wooden guardrails.

When I called the highway department, their response was, “we knew everyone would be upset, but you can paint them.”


… and another view.

Serena Tirado Needs Our Help

Serena Tirado is a beloved Staples High School science teacher.

Students and parents praise her for nurturing a love for biology — and for her caring, mentoring and inspiration.

A student from 2011 says, “As much as she loves bio — and she really does — she loves every student even more. Her kindness and passion spread to us like molecules going down a concentration gradient. I still look back on that class with a smile. When she was no longer my teacher, and I struggled with personal problems, she was the only teacher I felt comfortable confiding in.”

Another student — never in accelerated classes — says that Ms. Tirado was the first teacher who told her she was smart enough to do whatever she wanted. In 6 months, she will earn her veterinary degree.

Serena Tirado

Those sentiments — and many more — are expressed on a GoFundMe page. For over a year, Serena Tirado has undergone treatment for breast cancer.

She’s battling the disease — but it’s taken a toll on her and her family. Even with insurance, she needs help.

“Every day she taught, Serena gave all she had to her students and our community,” the page says.

Now, “it is our turn to give back to her. Please do what you can for this special teacher, who is beautiful both inside and out.”

Click here to see all the tributes — and to contribute yourself.

Pic Of The Day #580

Compo Beach boardwalk, without the crowds (Photo/Katherine Bruan)

Staples Girls Soccer, Field Hockey Head To State Finals

For the 2nd year in a row, the Staples High School girls soccer team will play in the state final.

And for the 2nd straight year, they face Ridgefield.

Coach Barry Beattie’s 5th-seeded Wreckers earned the right to avenge last year’s 2-1 defeat by knocking off #1 Glastonbury 1-0 Monday night. Both teams completed the regular season undefeated. Staples was 13-0-3; the upstaters, 15-0-1.

The Wreckers’ route to the LL (largest division) title match included victories over 3 Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference opponents: Fairfield Warde (2-1), New Canaan (2-1) and Trumbull (3-0).

Staples and Ridgefield tied 0-0 earlier this season. The championship game is set for Saturday, 1 p.m. at Fairfield Warde High School.

The Staples girls soccer team celebrates after beating Glastonbury.

But soccer is not the only girls team contending for a Connecticut crown this weekend. The defending state champion field hockey team — ranked 2nd in the L (largest division) #1 Cheshire on Saturday. They face off at Wethersfield High School, at 10 a.m.

Coach Ian Tapsall’s squad — who posted a perfect 16-0-0 regular season mark — advanced to the final with 3 wins: 3-0 against Glastonbury, 1-0 over Norwalk, and 2-1 in an overtime, penalty shot semifinal against Darien.

The Staples High School field hockey team.

Good luck to both teams. Win or lose, you’ve already done us all proud!

First Night Westport In Peril

For nearly 25 years, First Night has been a Westport tradition.

On New Year’s Eve, Westporters gather downtown and across the river. Indoors and out, they’re entertained by musicians, ice sculptors, comedians and caricaturists. They watch stars through telescopes, and see fireworks shot in the sky. They dance and dine.

It’s a family-friendly, alcohol-free festival.

Once upon a time, there were hundreds of First Nights across the country. Over the years though, they’ve dwindled. Last year there were only 2 in Connecticut: Westport and Hartford.

Now there may be just one.

Last year’s button

Last night, the First Night Westport Weston board voted to end the event — immediately. They’d dissolve their corporation, and donate whatever money is left to charity.

The event costs $50,000 — perhaps more — to run. Ticket sales account for half. The town of Westport chips in $7,000. Weston gives $750 — but may eliminate that, perhaps in retaliation for higher beach fees.

Barbara Pearson Rac — the longtime volunteer director — explained that over the past few years, bank sponsors like TD, Patriot and People’s have pulled out.

Pearson Rac — who is 72, and works full-time as an accountant — notes that it’s been difficult to recruit younger board members. And, she adds, with so many great events throughout the year in Westport now, First Night has “lost its panache. It’s just another thing.”

Last year, the Saugatuck River froze. Fireworks were canceled. Attendance plummeted.

A horse-drawn sleigh was one of First Night’s many attractions.

It sounds like First Night Westport Weston is now only a memory. There is no button design. Venues are not set. Performers already signed have been told it’s off.

But wait! A few moments ago, Pearson Rac agreed that if enough angels step up by a week from today — Thursday, November 15 — First Night might still live.

The First Night ball is in our court. If you’d like to help, click “Comments” below. Or contact Barbara Pearson Rac directly:

First Selectman Jim Marpe (left) is a long-time First Night volunteer.

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Owenoke, as seen from the Compo Beach kayak launch (Photo/Alan Hamilton)

Spreading Compost, Spreading The Word

Alert “06880” reader — and ardent environmentalist — Alice Ely writes:

When Paul Newman helped start the first Westport Farmer’s Market, he began a ripple effect of good which I hope to continue to spread.

That was when we first began buying, cooking and eating local. Suddenly we found ourselves with way more produce trimmings than we had before. So we started composting.

We had so much of the rich black stuff, we put in a veggie garden of our own. Thanks to the composting, our weekly trash pickup shrank by a third, and we saw a dramatic difference in the way our plants grew.

Compost at Wakeman Town Farm

Soon I was not just spreading compost, but spreading the word. I even took the University of Connecticut Master Composter’s course so I could learn more. I also began volunteering at Wakeman Town Farm, where Westporters can see compost in action on a bigger scale.

Paul Newman was famously modest, but I think he would appreciate that we named our home compost pile after him. He was the one who said, “You have to be like the farmer. You have to put back in what you take out.”

In compost and in life, I agree.

Composting takes no more time than taking out the trash. Want to know more? This Monday (October 8, 7 to 8 p.m.), Wakeman Town Farm presents “How to Compost.” Alice Ely herself will explain the basics, and answer questions. It’s free, but you should register here:

On Monday night, Alice Ely, UConn Master Composter, will be at Wakeman Town Farm between 7 & 8 pm, to explain the basics and answer questions for would-be composters. It’s free, but click here to register.

Attendees will receive “Brown Gold” to take home. It will rev up a home compost pile in no time. (Don’t worry: Working compost piles don’t smell!)



Westport Faces Epilepsy

In 6th grade, Emma Borys experienced staring spells. Other times, her eyelids fluttered.

The symptoms confused her and her parents: Aimee, director of the Earthplace preschool, and Steve, a social studies teacher in Westchester and Westport youth sports coach.

They also confused her Coleytown Middle School teachers. From time to time, they thought, she just wasn’t paying attention.

Eventually, Emma was diagnosed with epilepsy.

When her younger brother Peter was in 6th grade, he got the same diagnosis. For that to occur, both parents had to carry recessive genes.

Emma and Peter Borys (Photo/Stephen O’Hara, SMO Photo)

Emma’s epilepsy was more pronounced than Peter’s. She began having seizures. It was hard to find the right medication, and proper dose. The side effects were strong.

She was active in Staples Players, doing hair and makeup as well as acting. But last spring she had to take the final quarter of junior year off.

This summer she felt better. She worked as a counselor at the Earthplace summer program, attended vocal camp and was a Harbor Watch intern. She’s now back at Staples full-time, and is a crew head for the upcoming Players production of “Legally Blonde.”

Emma is also active in the Epilepsy Foundation of Connecticut. In fact, she’s a “Face of Epilepsy” for the state.

The organization has helped immensely. In addition to funding research, they provide free training for Emma’s teachers.

“A lot of educators don’t know how epilepsy impacts kids,” her mother says. “It’s hard for parents to do this on their own. And each kid has different symptoms and reactions to medications. They come in and describe each child’s case individually.”

This Sunday (October 7), Emma and Peter — now an 8th grade football and basketball player — will give back to the group that has given them so much. They’ll form a team for the Great Purple Pumpkin 5K for Epilepsy trail run in Farmington.

Through Earthplace, Staples Players and sports, many Westporters know the Borys family. Emma and Peter have joined the 5K as a team. Their parents support them strongly.

Now everyone else can too. Click here to contribute to their fundraising effort.

(Hat tip: Jaime Bairaktaris)


Remembering Bill Seiden

William “Bill” Seiden — 1st selectman of Westport from 1981-85 — died August 8 in Bend, Oregon. He was 91. He had been in hospice care, and utilized the state’s Death With Dignity act.

When 2-term Democrat Jacqueline Heneage did not seek reelection, Seiden — a Republican businessman — ran on a ticket with Barbara Butler. They prevailed over Martha Hauhuth and Ralph Sheffer.

According to Woody Klein’s history of Westport, Seiden ran on a platform to “preserve the past, and protect open space.”

Bill Seiden (Photo by Doug Healey, courtesy of Woody Klein)

His most notable accomplishment was the appointment of a Homeless People’s Committee. Overseen by Butler — who later became the town’s human services director — and including Reverend Ted Hoskins and James Bacharach, the group opened the town’s first soup kitchen.

Westporter Phil Donahue featured it on his TV show, as an example of “an affluent town with a social conscience.”

Seiden’s administration was marked by a bitter feud with Arnie Kaye. The entrepreneur wanted to open a video game parlor — “Arnie’s Place” — on the Post Road (where Balducci’s is now). Seiden opposed the idea.

At one point, Kaye chained himself to Town Hall. He later organized a recall petition against Seiden, but failed to get the required 1,600 signatures.

In 1985, Hauhuth again ran against Seiden. This time she and running mate Wally Meyer prevailed, 5,171 votes to 3,393. Seiden would have served as third selectman. But — citing personal commitments and business responsibilities — he declined. Hauhuth appointed Jo Fuchs — who had run with Seiden — to the post.

An obituary has not been published. However, an insight into Seiden’s post-Westport life comes from his friend Carrie Elmore. This summer, she sent a note to “all who are lucky enough to call Bill Seiden a friend”:

As you may know, Bill is nearing the end of a wonderful adventure called life, which he has certainly lived to its fullest. Even now, at 91, he has a desk full of work, engagements on the calendar, phone calls to make and emails to send. From what I can tell, Bill has never been one to slow down.

And slowing down, he is not. Bill is truly excited to begin his next adventure with the guidance of God and the assistance of the Death with Dignity program. However, before he goes, he’s hoping for one last party, one last celebration, with those who meant the most…you!

My family and I have had the honor of getting a glimpse into an amazing life well lived. The lessons he has taught us without even realizing it, will not be forgotten (or laughingly, maybe that was all part of his plan).

And speaking of plans, he is still making them. Bill would love nothing more than to share some time on the afternoon of August 5 with you, at his home. While there is no road map or “right” way to do this, Bill’s only wish is that this will be a party, celebrating the relationships he’s made in this great life. Tears are allowed but what  Bill is really hoping to share is laughter, memories, food and drink, and lots of handshakes and hugs. He’s calling it “”A memorial in which he can  participate.”

Bill requests that you bring questions for the departed. He will try his best to get the answers. But choose the names carefully. He already has ones for Cousin Houdini, Uncle Moe, Larry and Curly.

(Hat tip: Robert Hauck)

Pic Of The Day #490

20 Morningside Drive South — on Walter and Naiad Einsel’s former property — is a candidate for demolition. (Photo/Anna DeVito)