Category Archives: Environment

“We Love Our Dogs In Westport”

Westport Animal Shelter Advocates posted this on Facebook:

Last week at about 6:15 p.m., when the air was still very muggy with the temperature in the high 80’s, a group of diners (and Westport residents)  at Sherwood Diner became aware of a large SUV in the parking lot with a small dog inside — and New York plates. The windows were completely shut.

It was determined that the car had been there at least 45 minutes. A call was made to Westport Police, as Westport’s animal control officer was off duty.

Officer Wong Won and another officer (whose name we don’t know) responded quickly. The owner of the car was identified (mid-meal). She became belligerent and defensive, and stated, “this wouldn’t be an issue in Westchester.”

Officer Won responded, “Ma’am, this is Westport. We love our dogs in Westport.”

The dog owner was ticketed, and warned about leaving her dog in a hot car.

Westport Animal Shelter AdvocatesWASA would like to thank Officer Won and his fellow Westport officer for coming to this dog’s rescue, and handling the situation so beautifully. Tails are wagging all over Westport in appreciation.

Our thanks too to the Westport residents who were advocates for the little dog.

Yes, Officer Won, this is Westport. And we do love our dogs!

(Hat tip: Kendall Gardiner)

9/11 Memorial: Friends Of Sherwood Island Respond

The other day, “06880” reader Ellen Bowen complained about the unkempt, goose-drop-filled state of the 9/11 Living Memorial at Sherwood Island State Park.

Yesterday, Friends of Sherwood Island State Park co-president Liz-Ann Koos said:

First, it is  very important that you understand  some facts about birds nests. If house sparrows are making nests in the indoor memorial, they can be removed, even while they are building their nests. They are one of the few bird species not protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

A volunteer Friends member (and dedicated birder) will check and remove whatever  nests are in the 9/11 Memorial area now. However, if a protected bird such as a swallow built a nest, nothing can be done until after the birds leave the nests. Most migratory birds have left their nests by now.

Second, please understand that controlling the Canadian geese is impossible. No one, including the Town of Westport, can remove every goose dropping..

The 9/11 Living Memorial at Sherwood Island State Park. (Photos/Ellen Bowen)

The 9/11 Living Memorial at Sherwood Island State Park. (Photos/Ellen Bowen)

Third, the Sherwood Island supervisor and his staff work  hard to keep the Park looking its best, in spite of the many visitors leaving garbage all over the grounds and not using dumpsters. You are correct that the  responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of the 9/11 Memorial  is indeed part of the staff’s responsibilities. Rest assured it will be in order for the September 8 (5:30 p.m.) service.

However, I am sure that you have been reading about the huge budget cuts impacting the size of the staff and other matters relevant to your concerns, which brings me to my last point.

One of the reasons for the founding of Friends of Sherwood Island State Park was to supply assistance to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection in the form of advocacy, volunteers, and funds (through memberships, donations, fundraising projects and events). We need concerned people like yourself to join our ranks to produce positive changes and support for our beautiful Sherwood Island  State Park, where state budget dollars fall short.

Friends of Sherwood Island logoPlease consider buying a ticket or two for our upcoming ShoreFest in the Pavilion (strikingly reconstructed including solar-heated year-round restrooms, with your tax dollars) on Friday September 9 (6 to 9 p.m.). Proceeds from the silent auction will be specifically targeted for our 100 Trees for 100 Years Project, aimed at replacing and maintaining trees and shrubs that were devastated in major storms.

Please go to our website (www.friendsofsherwoodisland.org) to learn about joining Friends, or purchasing tickets for ShoreFest (where you will have an opportunity to discuss your concerns with the park supervisor, State legislators who have adopted the park, and our board and other Friends).

Please contact me directly at  lizannlwv@gmail.com if you would like to know more.

Ellen Bowen: Sherwood Island 9/11 Memorial Now An “Embarrassment”

“06880” reader Ellen Bowen recently visited  Sherwood Island State Park. She was stunned at the condition of the state’s official 9/11 memorial. Among the Connecticut residents honored there are several Westporters. 

With the 15th anniversary of that tragic day near, Ellen writes:

Imagine my surprise and disgust to find the plaques covered with goose poop,  and the walkways and grassy areas (including near the water fountain and picnic area) overrun and filled with weeds. The condition was disgusting. And I paid $9 to park.

(Photos/Ellen Bowen)

(Photos/Ellen Bowen)

I am appalled and saddened that a beautiful and contemplative place remembering the victims and heroes who lost their lives that day has become an embarrassment to our town and the state of Connecticut. I will share some of the pictures I took with the Friends of Sherwood Island, local and state government officials, and anyone else I can think of.

I hope they clean it up in time for the governor and 9/11 families’ visit, and the memorial service, on September 8. But I sincerely hope they consider maintaining the memorial on a year-round basis, and not just “for show.”

Feral Cats Return To Compo

Nearly 2 years ago, a pack of feral cats caused havoc near Compo Beach. Finally, police and PAWS came to the rescue.

Now the cats are back.

A few weeks ago, a resident found a cat in his garage. They thought the cute animal was exploring.

But it never left — because it was nursing 4 kittens in the back of the garage.

A feral cat mother in the back of a Compo Beach neighborhood garage.

A feral cat mother in the back of a Compo Beach neighborhood garage.

The resident’s wife — who had volunteered for an animal welfare shelter in New York — knew she needed to get them help. She also had to act quickly: The beach home had been rented, and tenants were arriving in 3 days.

Dorrie Harris — co-founder of TAILS — arrived with another rescuer to safely remove the cats, which will be socialized and placed for adoption.

Dorrie told the homeowners that the cats were feral. Turns out, they came from the same Norwalk Avenue home as before.

Another neighbor’s cat was then attacked by a feral cat, and nearly lost an eye. Her owner is out $2,000 in veterinary fees.

The feral cat woman leaves food for the cats — and other neighborhood animals — with her porch door open.

A neighbor says she is breeding “bazillions” of kittens. They overrun porches and cars, and leave messes everywhere.

The feral owner has had issues with hoarding — and been helped by the town. Neighbors — who are sympathetic to her blight plight, but also fed up — find the cat problem tougher to solve.

Again.

Jonathan Livingston, I Presume?

Sunday’s photo challenge showed the dilapidated brick wall at Compo, near the lockers and Joey’s.

The photo below is much more evocative of the beach every Westporter loves:

Seagull at Compo

The photographer requested this credit: “Patrick Goldschmidt and Jonathan Seagull.”

Stacy Bass Shoots 365 Flowers

Years ago, alert “06880” reader/nature-and-lifestyle photographer Stacy Bass had an idea: For the next year, she’d take and share an image of whatever she happened to be doing at noon that day.

It was, she admits, “crazy and stupid.” The project lasted exactly 2 days.

Now, Stacy’s back. Her new idea is much more workable — and beautiful.

She was inspired by Kerry Long. Stacy’s friend and fellow photographer worked on her own 365-day project, shooting images of her young daughter Lucy. Kerry’s photos were “outstanding, stunning and wonderfully composed,” Stacy says.

Lucy Roth (Photo/Kerry Long)

Lucy Roth (Photo/Kerry Long)

Her own children — much older than Lucy — “would not be nearly as cooperative,” Stacy notes. Nor are portraits her specialty.

Stacy wondered what subject matter would keep her interested and motivated every single day, for a year.

Suddenly she knew.

Flowers.

Though she photographs flowers regularly,  as part of garden shoots for magazines and private clients — check out her great Gardens at First Light book — Stacy knew she’d have to stay focused (ho ho) for a long time to find, take and share an image each day.

Stacy Bass. (Photo/Julie Bidwell for Wall Street Journal)

Stacy Bass. (Photo/Julie Bidwell for Wall Street Journal)

But she wanted to try.

Vacationing on Nantucket with her family last summer, she began.

Stacy Bass's 1st flower.

Stacy Bass’s 1st flower.

Nantucket bloomed with flowers of all kinds. When Stacy returned to Westport, she found many more.

The daily challenge proved invigorating. The positive reactions her photos drew on social media kept her going. Friends and strangers thanked her for providing a daily dose of “beauty and positivity.” (Hydrangeas are the crowd favorites.)

Some days were easier than others. About 2 months in, Stacy hit a figurative wall. She wondered if anyone would notice if she stopped.

But the feeling passed. Now that she’s finished, Stacy is proud of her consistency. She’s also thrilled to have tangible proof of 365 flowers, with a beginning, middle and end.

(Photo/Stacy Bass)

(Photo/Stacy Bass)

She’s not quite sure what to do with all those images, though. Fans have inquired about buying a print of their favorite “day,” or of a special date as a birthday or anniversary gift.

Perhaps figuring out how to do that is Stacy’s next project.

(For more information on Stacy’s flower photos, email swbass@optonline.net.)

A collage of Stacy Bass' flower photos.

A collage of Stacy Bass’ flower photos…

...and a collage of all 365 images.

…and a collage of all 365 images.

[UPDATE] Red-Tailed Hawk Rescue

Alert — and humane — “06880” reader Colleen Zapfel writes:

While driving on Sasco Creek Road today, we saw a man named Rob stopped next to an injured osprey. [NOTE: Readers — including Audubon experts — have identified this as a red-tailed hawk.]

It was sitting in the middle of the road, not moving, as cars drove by. We got out to help.

Osprey

We called animal control, went back and put him in a box for safety.

Gina from Westport animal control picked him up. She took him to Dr. Plunkett  in Fairfield.

So if the osprey red-tailed hawk you love to watch is gone for a few days from its normal nest — now you know why. 

Farmers’ Photos Fan Favorites

Two of our town’s most creative institutions — the Westport Farmers’ Market and Westport Arts Center — have teamed up to showcase the creativity of one of our town’s most important assets: our kids.

The Young Shoots Digital Photography Competition highlights images taken all summer long at the Farmers’ Market.

The remarkable shots — from every angle imaginable — pulse with life. Fruits, vegetables, flowers, people — they’re all there, showing off the vitality of the Thursday market in colorful, imaginative ways.

If you like what you see (and you will) you can vote for your favorite. There are 3 age groups: 8-11, 12-14, 15-18. But hurry: voting closes at midnight tomorrow, Tuesday, August 24.

Winners will have their work shown in a gallery-like setting at Sugar & Olives (a favorite Farmers’ Market vendor), and will receive a membership to the Arts Center. Really though, virtually every image is a winner.

Click here for the photos, and to vote. Warning: Don’t do it on an empty stomach.

One of the many entries in the Westport Farmers' Market photo contest.

One of the many entries in the Westport Farmers’ Market photo contest.

Gabby Wimer Digs Mealworms

Growing up in Westport, Gabby Wimer accomplished a lot. At Staples High School she was a 4-year varsity swimmer and water polo player. She played violin, and sang in the choir.

She spent 8 years swimming with the Y’s Water Rats, and helped out with Amnesty International.

But she never took Staples’ popular Environmental Science course. And she had nothing to do with Wakeman Town Farm.

Gabby always figured she’d go pre-med in college. And she was fascinated by the history of medicine.

The University of Chicago seemed a perfect fit. She majored in the history of medicine and global health. She did volunteer work in Rwanda.

Like many students, she had no idea where it would all lead. Then, as a senior, Gabby was chatting with 2 friends who had done global health work, in Nigeria and Guatemala.

Gabby Wimer (center), flanked by University of Chicago friends Joyce Lu and Elizabeth Frank.

Gabby Wimer (center), flanked by University of Chicago friends Joyce Lu and Elizabeth Frank.

They identified common problems — and vowed to take action.

They competed for the Hult Prize: up to $1 million, plus mentorship, for start-up enterprises that tackle grave issues faced by billions of people.

Enter mealworms.

The larval form of a beetle — once thought of as a pest — can be baked or fried, for human consumption as a healthful snack food. Mealworms don’t need much water and eat almost anything, so raising them can help improve nutrition in areas that desperately need it.

Mmmmm -- mealworms!

Mmmmm — mealworms!

The women made it to the Hult Prize regional finals, in Boston. They won $20,000 in seed funding, from 3 organizations, including the Clinton Global Initiative University Resolution Project.

In September, Gabby heads to Guatemala. Right now, she’s studying the best ways to farm mealworms in that country.

She’s set up 2 mealworm plots at Wakeman Town Farm. She and steward Mike Aitkenhead are experimenting with different foods found in Guatemala. Banana peels work particularly well.

She’s also testing different ways to produce mealworm powder — roasted in an oven, for example, or barbecued — along with the best grinding methods (food processor, mortar and pestle). Gabby’s colleagues are concocting recipes with tortillas and oatmeal.

The women’s organization is called MealFlour. The goal is for families in Guatemala — a country with the 4th-highest rate of malnutrition in the world — to learn how to build mealworm farms using recycled materials. The mealworms are then dried and ground into a flour that’s more than twice as protein-efficient as beef.

It’s a win-win: Along with nutritional benefits, MealFlour creates jobs. And mealworm farms are small: just one square foot.

“I always wanted to do global health work. But I never knew about mealworms,” Gabby says.

“This is perfect for me. It combines science, sustainable agriculture and public health.”

At first, she admits, “my friends were weirded out. But now they think it’s cool.”

Perhaps they were convinced by Gabby’s delicious mealworm cookies. They taste good, she says.

And — as she and her generation know — bringing sustainable agriculture and public health to areas of the globe that desperately need it is a recipe for success.

Mealworm cookies.

Mealworm cookies.


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James O’Brien Farms Garden Technologies

The next time you see a kid hunched over a smartphone screen, oblivious to the world, don’t assume he or she is idly Snapchatting, sexting or searching for Pokemon.

If the teenager is James O’Brien, he might be listening to a TED Talk.

And learning how to reimagine agriculture.

Not long ago James — a rising Staples High School senior, Oprhenians singer and Staples Players stage star — stumbled on a TED Talk about African farmers. Caleb Harper — director of MIT Labs’ Open Agriculture Initiative — talked about changing the world food system by connecting growers with technology. His goal is to grow delicious, nutrient-dense food, indoors anywhere in the world.

James learned that a shipping container-sized computerized device can help preserve agricultural knowledge, and maximize the effects of air and water on crops and plants.

He was especially intrigued to discover that a smaller device is available, for anyone to build and learn from.

James knew nothing about farming. He has not taken Environmental Studies at Staples.

But he downloaded the designs. When school was out in June, he went to work.

James now grows lettuce — in a tiny bit of water, not soil. Software monitors every aspect of growth. Every time he looks in his box, James learns about chemistry, physics and circuitry. (He now knows, for example, that lettuce grows best with 16 hours of light, followed by 2 hours of darkness. The device controls those hours.)

James O'Brien, with his home-built lettuce box.

James O’Brien, with his home-built device. Inside, he grows lettuce.

Inspired by his lettuce — it grows much more quickly in water than in soil — he’s passing his knowledge on.

He’s shown his device to students at Mike Aitkenhead’s Wakeman Town Farm summer camp, talking with them about the importance of sustainability.

James O'Brien, talking to Wakeman Town Farm campers. Director Mike Aitkenhead is on the table at left.

James O’Brien, talking to Wakeman Town Farm campers. Director Mike Aitkenhead is on the table at left.

James has also started Workshop Garden Technologies. His goal is to use the Open Agriculture Initiative’s Food Computer platform to educate and inspire coming generations.

“I want to create a space for kids to tinker and experiment like I did,” he says.

Meanwhile, his lettuce thrives.

Next up: strawberries, beans or tomatoes.

“There are lots of possibilities,” says Westport’s newest — and most innovative — farmer.

(For more information on James O’Brien’s Workshop Garden Technologies, click here or email workshopgarden@gmail.com)

James O'Brien - logo


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