Category Archives: Environment

The Mink Of Ford Road

Alert “06880” reader — and avid fisherman — David Ader writes:

I’m a recently retired, now former financial strategist, who has decided to fish until I get bored.

I’m not bored yet.

I like to fish along Ford Road because it’s convenient, beautiful, and there’s not too much garbage for me to clean up to keep the place neat.

David Ader’s favorite spot on Ford Road. Unlike many fishermen, he’s not afraid to give the location away.

For the last while, especially in the morning, I’ve fished beside a mink who keeps me company. The mink bounds along the shore, stops to stare at me in sort of an acknowledgement, and in contrast to the osprey, kingfisher and once in a while bald eagle, doesn’t compete for the trout I dutifully throw back when I catch, which is rare enough.

Today I was saddened to find this fine furry fellow squashed in the middle of Ford Road. That’s a bit gross, I admit, but there was something really lovely going on.

As I watched him from a rock near the bridge that leads to Bridgewater, I saw all the cars and trucks passing by slow down to give the mink wide berth. Some slowed to a real crawl to look at it. Others just went by, still with a sense of respect or at least curiosity.

A cyclist on a very expensive bike, wearing racing clothes, stopped and just stared by himself for a moment.

The mink, in the middle of the road. (Photos/David Ader)

I heard a story that may be apocryphal: Some years back, enviro-activists freed minks from a mink “ranch” somewhere in this county; the minks we encounter are descendants of those coats that never were.

It’s possible, though I imagine cage-raised minks couldn’t survive in the wild and that this one’s line runs back to the beginning, to Indian times surely.

A few months ago I was picking myself up from the bank, having slipped in the river under the eye of that mink, or a relative perhaps. I picked up a stone that was clearly made for some purpose by the original inhabitants.

I liked the mink for its own antics, but too like to think that he’s a holdover from Westport’s more ancient heritage.

I hope another one, or two, show up when the weather warms up.

Oh, I did catch a large rainbow trout as well.

Persona Of The Week: WTF’s Liz Milwe And Christy Colasurdo

If you can’t — or won’t — trek to New York for tonight’s Christmas tree lighting at Rockefeller Center: no problem!

Wakeman Town Farm’s annual tree lighting is this Friday (December 6, 4:30 to 6 p.m.).

That’s just one of the many events taking place regularly at community farm/sustainability center/gathering spot.

This week, Persona’s Rob Simmelkjaer interviews Liz Milwe and Christy Colasurdo. They chat about all the great things happening all year long at WTF.

(Friday’s tree lighting at Wakeman Town Farm is free, and open to all. There’s music, marshmallows, cocoa, cookies — and a collection box for unwrapped toys, courtesy of Al’s Angels.)

Tree Lighting Honors Angela Trucks

When Angela Trucks died last month at 69, she left a legacy of beauty.

Angela Trucks

As co-chair of the town’s Beautification Committee for well over a decade, she championed the Re-Greening of the Post Road. The project encouraged business owners to take pride in their property, with the most outstanding “streetscapes” recognized at an annual awards ceremony.

Today, great streetscapes include Terrain and Jesup Hall. So it’s fitting that both are collaborating on a memorial tree lighting that celebrates Angela’s life.

The event is this Saturday (December 7, 5:30 p.m.), on the Jesup Hall patio. Attendees are asked to bring coats and/or clothing, to benefit Homes with Hope.

Terrain donated and decorated the tree. The Westport Downtown Merchants Association is contributing ornaments and tree tags, so people can write warm thoughts of Angela or a loved one they’d like to remember.

The tree lighting is part of a “Holiday Jam” (4 to 6 p.m.). It includes live music, and free warm drinks for kids and adults. Rothbard’s will provide complimentary mulled wine, while Amis will have a s’mores table.

But the tree lighting in Angela’s memory is the centerpiece. “Hang messages from its branches, to sparkle in the light,” her friends and colleagues urge.

And then enjoy the beauty — literal and figurative — of downtown Westport.

Angela’s friend from Terrain, Page Englehart, adds this tribute:

Angela lived in Westport for a quarter century. Seven years ago, having gardened every allowable nook in town (legally or otherwise), she signed up to help transform our Cadillac dealership into Terrain.

Angela was an original Mother Earth. She bemoaned homes that did not have a hose, shovel or garden tool of any kind. She loved sharing her knowledge of plants and design with her clients — those who wanted “just pink flowers,” those who had budgets, and those who did not. She was a master at inspiring people who had seen it all before, and those who confessed to knowing “absolutely nothing.”

Angela Trucks, hanging a basket on Main Street.

Angela was a team player. The physical work she led us to do was at times hard, but she was always the hardest worker among us. And although she’d send newbies to string outdoor lights on the waterfront side of properties in December, she was always there to help, encourage and indulge a good natter on whatever ailed you, anytime of day (particularly over a sandwich).

Her husband Bill made her iconic sandwiches (peanut butter and apple, turkey and homemade horseradish).  She’d tear off a section of the sandwich to share with you before loading her red Toyota Tercel with bags, brooms, branches, moss, plants, lights, wires and tools.

Angela never struggled with the small stuff.  She understood the ebbs of nature and its beauty in any season, how the woods blended, how each plant worked with the other. She understood the same of people.

When Angela fell ill, and when she was no longer popping over to clients’ homes despite her cancer, our Terrain folk thought of ways we could lift her spirits — when she came home, when she got better …. a Christmas tree in her honor, perhaps.

When she died, many clients came together to celebrate her imprint on our community: Terrain, the DMA, Jesup Hall and Amis. All felt the best way to memorialize her was with a seasonal tree decorated with natural ingredients — vines, cones, branches and metal tree tags, to sparkle in the light and ring in the darkness.

The tree tags also gave us the opportunity to make Angela’s tree the town’s tree, by encouraging everyone to inscribe a thought or wish before hanging them on the branches. Whether they knew her or not, these tags allow us all to connect with Angela’a good spirit, with her love of the natural world, with a wink.

When the tree comes down at the end of the season, we hope to collect the tags and give them to the Trucks family.

Trimming Trees

Many Westporters spent the weekend buying Christmas trees.

On Saturday, workers were busy chopping trees down. This was the scene at TD Bank on Main Street, just north of Parker Harding Plaza:

Today they were back at it. This time the site was South Moon Under, at the entrance to the Taylor Parking lot:

(Photos/Chip Stephens)

No word on whether they were dead, diseased, or simply in the way.

Pics Of The Day #946

In all the years she has lived on Sherwood Mill Pond, Kendall Gardiner says she has never seen a fish surge like this morning’s.

“They were on all sides of the dock” she reports. “Just amazing.”

It was a great day to be a fisherman.

Or a bird.

(Photos/Kendall Gardiner)

Single-Use Plastics Ban: It’s Now The Law

Alert “06880” reader and RTM member Andrew Colabella writes:

As we embark on the 6-month anniversary of the first single-use plastics ban east of the Mississippi, I extend a big thank you on behalf of my co-sponsors: P3, the Conservation Department and Westport Weston Health District.

Last May, the Representative Town Meeting passed an ordinance that prohibits food establishments from distributing certain plastic food service containers to customers. Food products produced and packaged off-site are exempt.

We lead 46 states, along with cities in California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii. It takes a village to clean a village, but it takes a town to lead the world. Our intent was to lead with perseverance, ease, and informative alternatives to make the transition smooth.

On November 7, the ordinance took effect in Westport. This means that single- use plastic items such as straws, stirrers, plates, cups, to-go containers, and all expanded polystyrene products such as Styrofoam cannot be distributed to patrons of food service establishments in town.

However, PLA (plant-based) containers are allowed.  In addition, plastic straws will still be available upon request to those who need them for a medical or physical reason.

New straws at Pink Sumo.

The ordinance tried to be realistic in its wording, taking into consideration whether acceptable alternative options for certain products are available. This is why utensils are not covered under this ordinance: There are no viable, cost-effective alternatives readily available.

Plastic utensils for take-out orders are available upon request. Plastic lids are also allowed.

The purpose of the ordinance is to collectively change our behavior, to steer us away from increasing our individual carbon footprint, reducing waste, and incentivizing new product development. This should also result in the added benefit to our food service establishments of reducing their garbage output, and extending the length they hold inventory of these products.

Establishments throughout town have already started switching over to more sustainable serving products. However, the Conservation Department — which is responsible for enforcement — has agreed that all establishments which still have an inventory of single use plastic products may be allowed to use and distribute them past the November 7 date.

It would be counterproductive to force establishments to throw out products that can still serve a purpose. Please be patient and respectful of these businesses, as we all work together.

Single-use plastic is everywhere. (Photo/Bob Weingarten)

The transition will take time. You may note that some newer products look and feel like plastic, but actually are not. This polylactic acid material is a plant/leaf –based product allowed under the ordinance. PLA is beneficial because, if it is incinerated along with other garbage generated in Westport, no toxic fumes are emitted.

PLA is not recyclable with other recyclable plastics, but it is compostable under the right conditions. Unlike plastic which is made from petroleum, PLAs contain no benzene or styrene, which are carcinogenic products, and are made from a renewable resource.

Out of 78 million metric tons of plastic produced yearly, only 14% is actually recycled. At one time China, India, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and other Asian countries purchased our plastic recyclables. They have now ended up in their tributaries, creating floating garbage islands around the world.

These countries no longer accept our recycled plastic products. Westport has always led the East Coast as an agent of change for advancing environmental protection, education, innovation, safety, and reducing waste fiscally and physically. This ordinance is one more example of that effort.

As we change the way we use these products provided by our businesses, which are often disposed of frivolously, we are committed as a town to reduce our waste.

We also expect private industry to introduce more environmentally friendly, harmless alternative packaging products. In the end, reducing usage, reducing demand and increasing inventory lifespan will reduce our waste.

 

Unsung Hero #123

Oops!

This one almost slipped by us.

Earlier this month, Nell Newman was inducted into the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame.

The ecologist, conservationist, biologist, organic farmer — and founder of Newman’s Own Organics, and the Nell Newman Foundation — joins a long list of amazing Nutmeg State women, including Helen Keller, Marian Anderson, Clair Boothe Luce, Ella Grasso and Katherine Hepburn.

Nell Newman

Her work in organic food was inspired by her youth in Westport. When she learned that her favorite bird — the peregrine falcon — was headed toward extinction because of the pesticide DDT, she began studying ecology.

In 2014 Nell received the prestigious Rachel Carson Award from The National Audubon Society, for her environmental leadership.

Westport is justly proud of Nell’s parents, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. Both were active in a number of important causes, far beyond stage and screen.

We are proud now too that this Westport native is paying it forward. Congratulations, Nell, on your Hall of Fame honor!

(Hat tip: Kathie Motes Bennewitz)

Remembering Angela Trucks

Longtime resident Angela Trucks died last weekend. She was 69.

Her mark on Westport through beautification efforts is visible — literally — everywhere we look.

The Long Island native was a teacher, restaurant owner, and a village trustee. She was also one of the first female regional sales managers for Del Monte Foods. 

Angela is survived by her husband William; her daughters Leigh Lutenski and Emma Trucks; their spouses Mark Lutenski and Jordan Padnuk, and her grandchildren Leonardo and Benjamin Lutenski, and Josephine Padnuk. Linda Adelman offers this tribute:

Angela Trucks was a force of energy to be reckoned with. She was artistic, curious, passionate and tenacious in her efforts to promote beauty. She loved Westport, and Westport benefited from her perseverance.

Angela Trucks

For well over a decade, as co-chair with Nancy Carr of the Westport Beautification Committee, Angela — a master gardener — conceived of and completed projects that improved the appearance of public spaces and promoted pride in our community. She maneuvered through bureaucracy, sought funding and donations, fostered consensus, and tackled physical work if needed.

The Re-Greening of the Post Road was a major 3-year project to improve the visual appeal of the Post Road between the Fairfield and Norwalk borders, and the median between Roseville Road and the Sherwood Island Connector.

Undaunted by state Department of Transportation red tape, town bureaucracy, business owners’ concerns, a shortage of funding or anything else, Angela resourcefully found ways to ensure that 90 trees were planted and cared for.

Angela encouraged business owners to take pride in their property, publicly recognizing the most outstanding “streetscapes” at an annual awards ceremony in Town Hall.

She envisioned gardens of perennials on the corners of the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge, and made them happen.

Every spring, she guided the committee as they organized and oversaw the participation of local businesses in the planting of flowers and shrubs on traffic rotaries. They were called “Adopt-A-Spots,” and Angela was relentless in her effort to reduce the number of illegal signs littering those islands.

In the early years of her tenure, Angela delegated committee members to cut evergreens wherever they could find them to use as holiday decorations in baskets on light poles along Main Street. She never hesitated to climb a ladder to “plant” those baskets.

Angela Trucks, hanging a basket on Main Street.

Angela Trucks was warm, generous of spirit and full of life. She was an inspiration, a beloved leader and friend. She worked without fanfare, but had a lasting impact on Westport’s public landscape.

Angela’s death has left a hole in our hearts. She is a hero who will be greatly missed by many.

(In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Norwalk Hospital, in recognition of the caring and dedicated nursing staff.)

Leave Leaves Alone!

Last weekend’s “06880” post about Westport’s leaf collection program — which included a brief note at the end about the alternative of composting — drew approving comments from readers. 

Alert — and environmentally conscious — reader Bill Kutik followed up with some information on alternatives to leaf blowers from Aspetuck Land Trust. They say:

Hate the sound of leaf blowers ?

You can leave the leaves alone! You really can leave them on your lawn.

Here are 3 simple steps this fall to do less, and help nature more.

Mulch Leaves on Lawns

Leaves are not litter! Mulch mow these leaves right into the lawn. This adds organic matter and nutrients to the soil, which is good for the grass, prevents weeds, and reduces need for fertilizer in the spring. Here’s a video about how to mulch mow. It really is as simple as mowing over the leaves on the lawn.

Leave Leaves in Beds

Leave leaves in your garden beds. They will decompose, adding nutrients and organic matter to your soil, improving drainage and water retention as well as feeding beneficial microorganisms in the soil.

If you must cut back your plants, just leave the cuttings in the bed so the insects and birds can benefit from them. Birds also love last season’s garden debris for spring nest building.

Ease up on the Leaf Blower

If you love nature, ease up on the leaf blower. Aside from the horrendous noise (90-120 decibels) — which in itself is harmful to all sorts of creatures (including human’s ears) — butterfly eggs will be blown far away; luna moths wrapped in leaves will be totally blasted, and frogs and salamanders, snuggled in moist seclusion, will be ripped apart by hurricane-force winds (180-200mph).

If you use landscapers, please tell them you don’t want them using leaf blowers anywhere except on hardscapes. Mulch-mow the lawns. and let nature settle down for the winter.

The Bottom Line…

Tell friends and neighbors to “leave leaves alone.”

Leaves are not litter; they are nutrients for your lawn and garden. Leave them on your property. It’s less work for you — and it’s better for the planet.

Celebrate fall — don’t blow it!

(For more details on what to do with autumn leaves, click here.)

Eventually, fall leaves fall. What are you going to do with those leaves? (Photo/Andrew Colabella)

Leaf It By The Curb

Westport’s curbside leaf collection program begins this Monday (November 4). It runs through December 2.

During this period, Public Works will collect leaves placed in biodegradable paper bags on the curbside. Leaves placed in plastic bags will not be picked up. Residents living on private roadways must place their bagged leaves at an intersecting town roadway.

DPW crews will pick up bagged leaves several times during the collection period. A final pass begins December 2, 2019, and takes about a week.

Only Westport residents with valid proof of residency may bring their leaves directly to the yard waste site at 180 Bayberry Lane. Leaves transported in plastic bags must be emptied from them.

The yard waste site is open weekdays and Saturdays, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Westport residents with valid proof of residency may dump up to 6 30-gallon bags or containers full of leaves without a fee. Any van, pickup or tag-along trailer exceeding the 6-bag limit will be charged $40 per load. Any vehicle or trailer larger than a conventional pickup with a 4-foot by 8-foot bed will be charged $90 per ton.

Any vehicles with a 9-foot body or vehicles changed to significantly enlarge their factory design size will be charged $90 per ton, estimated at 2 tons without weigh slip ($180). Dump tickets must be purchased at Town Hall, Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., or by writing Department of Public Works, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT 06880.

NOTE: For ease and cost savings, Public Works urges homeowners to consider backyard leaf composting. For details, call the Conservation Department (203-341-1170) or Earthplace (203-557-4400).