Category Archives: Environment

Roundup: Kings Highway Bridge, Farmers’ Market, Shark!, More


It’s the project that never ends.

The Kings Highway North Bridge — the one at the light near Canal Street, near several medical office buildings — has been under construction since (it seems) the Truman administration.

Work may last through the Sasha Obama (or Barron Trump) administration.

But it’s important work. The bridge was in dire need of repair or replacement. School buses could no longer legally cross, because of its deteriorated condition.

Last winter, the P&Z explored many options to speed up the process. However, as chair Danielle Dobin notes on Westport Front Porch, work will continue through this winter.

The Frontier telephone lines that go under the sidewalk are being relocated now. Crews will then finish the sheeting, build the footings, set the precast bridge sections, and build the parapet walls (which are designed to evoke the historic design of the old bridge).

If this winter is warm, work could be completed by April or May. Otherwise, it will likely continue through May or June.

Large stones in the abutments beneath the Kings Highway North Bridge may be remnants of a much earlier bridge. (Photo: Wendy Crowther)


Saturday’s Westport Library “Show of Shows” was wonderful. The hour-long program featured tons of local personalities in comedy sketches, humorous shout-outs and musical numbers.

David Pogue MCed the event, and Andrew Wilk produced and directed. It ended with 2 powerful moments: a stirring video created by teens through the library’s media program, and the Staples Orphenians singing “Imagine.”

If you missed the show — or want to see it again — click here.

Who’s that guy stealing wine from 1st Selectman Jim Marpe’s cellar? Find out by watching the Westport Library’s “Show of Shows.”


Wakeman Town Farm’s upcoming offerings are intriguing. Among them: a Little Farmers Parent/Child class, and an Election Day Camp for kids ages 8-12.

Click here to register (search for “WTF”) for programs. Problems? Call 203-341-5152 or email recreation@westportct.gov.

WTF’s holiday pie fundraiser kicks off next week too. To get on the email list for notification, cilck here.


Sighted recently at Compo Beach: a baby shark.

But not in the Sound. This one was displayed on a South Beach picnic table, far from shore.

I’m not sure how it got there. But it sure got my attention.

(Photo/Matthew Levine)


Drivers stopped at the Playhouse Square traffic light often delight in the whimsical, ever-changing costumes worn by the animal sculptures on the Post Road lawn.

This Halloween, the creatures have been joined by a slew of skeletons. Despite COVID, looks like the animal hospital staff are up to their old tricks.

(Photo/Molly Alger)


And finally … Mahalia Jackson was born 109 years ago yesterday. The Queen of Gospel died just 60 years later. But she left a remarkable legacy.

Winter Farmers’ Market: Some Things Old, Some Things New

Just like normal, the Westport Winter Farmers’ Market opens soon. Of course, in a pandemic there are a few new twists.

The winter market begins Thursday, November 12 (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.). It runs every Thursday through March 11. That’s a change from the usual Saturday winter dates.

The open-air market will be held in 3 greenhouses at Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center, on Sylvan Road South. Windows and doors will be open, and vendors will be spread out.

Over 35 vendors provide high-quality locally grown or raised fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, milk, baked and prepared foods, as well as handmade items.

At-risk shoppers can come between 1 and 2 p.m., when fewer people will be in the greenhouses.

Pre-ordering is available with many vendors too.

As always, the Westport Farmers’ Winter Market promises entertainment, kids’ activities, and a few surprises.

And of course, plenty of great, fresh seasonal food.

Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center greenhouses will be transformed on Thursdays into the Winter Farmers’ Market. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Roundup: Staples Players, Alexandra Korry, Pumpkins, More


Mark Potts has written for the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and — while he was a Staples student — the school paper Inklings.

Last night he reconnected with his alma mater. He writes:

Several years ago an unexpected storm deposited me in Kansas, sans ruby slippers. But my hometown is Westport. Once upon a time I was part of the team that launched radio station WWPT, and playing in the pit band for a Staples Players production of “Oklahoma” is one of my favorite high school memories.

So being able to sit in distant Kansas on Sunday evening and listen to the charming, expertly performed WWPT/Staples Players radio production of “The Wizard of Oz” was a great treat.

Bravo to all involved on a delightful piece of entertainment. It just proves, once again, that there’s still no place like home.

Behind the scenes at “The Wizard of Oz.” Plastic separated the actors from each other, in the Black Box Theater.


Alexandra Korry did not have a high profile in Westport. But when she died at 61 recently of ovarian cancer, the New York Times took note, with a long, admiring obiturary.

It called her “a trailblazing Wall Street lawyer whose potent legal and moral rebuke as head of a civil rights panel helped spur the abolition of solitary confinement for juvenile inmates in New York City.”

She was one of the first women elected partner in the mergers and acquisitions department of the prominent law firm Sullivan & Cromwell. She was also committed to public service, as head of the New York State Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

Her committee’s reports “criticized the New York City Police Department’sstop-and-frisk strategy, intended to reduce the proliferation of guns, arguing that it was disproportionately directed at Black and Hispanic people.

“And it concluded this year that disparities in state and local funding of education should be considered a civil rights issue because they denied equal opportunity to students in poorer, Black and Hispanic school districts.”

Click here for the full obituary. (Hat tip: John Karrel)

Alexandra Korry (Dick Duane for Sullivan & Cromwell)


Gene Borio sends along this photo:

He explains: “I didn’t know what this was until a woman walking nearby said it was weird: Every pumpkin on her block had been attacked by squirrels. 76 years on this planet, and I’d never heard of such a thing. Neither had she.”


Two religious institutions’ coat drive for Person to Person is nearing an end.

Clothing should be bagged, and sorted by gender and age (adult or youth). Donations can be dropped off in a blue bin labeled “Coat Donations” on the side elevator entrance at Saugatuck Church, or The Conservative Synagogue.

Donation pick-ups are available too. Email alexandrawalsh9@gmail.com for arrangements.


And finally … after more than 50 years on the road, Arlo Guthrie has retired from performing. The 73-year-old son of Woody Guthrie has suffered strokes.

He’s best known for “Alice’s Restaurant.” But his 5 decades of work go far beyond that 20-minute Thanksgiving garbage dump talking classic.

I saw him at the Westport Country Playhouse many years ago. He was the consummate performer. And I really loved that great head of white hair. (Hat tip: Amy Schneider)

New On The Menu: Organic Krush

It’s been nearly 2 years since Chipotle said adios to Compo Acres Shopping Center.

The “fast casual” Mexican restaurant’s burritos were high in fat, cholesterol, carbs and sodium. The chain weathered several hepatitis, norovirus and E. coli outbreaks. On the other hand, Health.com did include Chipotle in its list of “Healthiest Fast Food Restaurants.”

A new eatery opens in the old Chipotle space November 2. This time, you won’t have any problem finding healthy options.

In fact, that’s entire premise of Organic Krush: It’s an “organic lifestyle” restaurant, with something for everyone. Meats, vegetables, herbs, spices — they’ve got you covered.

The Westport location — just down from the healthy Pokeworks (and the less healthy Jersey Mike’s) — is the small chain’s 7th. It started on Long Island, and grew there. There’s also one in Richmond, Virginia, with another opening there soon.

Co-founder Michelle Walrath always had a passion for healthy living. In college she double majored in health and women’s studies. In her first job, she traveled often — and discovered a wide world of food beyond Long Island.

Intrigued, she drew up a business plan for a healthy restaurant chain. But it was tough to finance, so she got a master’s in elementary education at the University of Bridgeport, became a teacher, and had 4 kids. While a stay-at-home mom, she remained involved in the healthy food movement.

Several years ago, she and her friend Fran Paniccia traveled far and wide, taking their kids to Taylor Swift and One Direction concerts. Finding good, quick meals — amid a sea of processed food — was difficult.

So Michelle and Fran decided to do it themselves.

Michelle Walrath (left) and Fran Paniccia.

They found space in Woodbury, Long Island. They hired a chef with a “great palate.” He created a menu with steak wraps, fish tacos, smoothies — “everything we loved,” Michelle says.

The women learned on the go: hiring (and firing), managing food costs, you name it.

They learned well. Customers flocked to Organic Krush from all over Long Island. Many had health or dietary issues — cancer, celiac disease, etc. — and said that this restaurant was the only place that served them.

And, customers pleaded: “Open another one in my town.”

Two years ago, Michelle and Fran took the next step. They developed a business plan, to scale across the US. They hired a CFO, a COO and an HR person.

An Organic Krush bowl …

The women are especially eager to open in Westport.

Michelle’s husband’s family is from Danbury and Newtown. She knows this area well, from her University of Bridgeport days.

This is a town filled with foodies, environmentalists and fitness enthusiasts, Michelle says. (That’s for sure: Organic Krush’s new neighbors include SoulCycle and Row House.)

“It’s a community that really cares about nutrition. We love being part of people’s health and well-being.”

It’s great too, she says, to take over space that was formerly a restaurant. Planning began in the summer of 2019.

… and gluten-free bakery items.

“The staff is so warm and friendly,” Michelle says. There won’t be any speakers series or special events — a staple at other locations, before COVID — but there’s free WiFi. Socially distanced tables encourage people to linger. There are outdoor tables in front and, hopefully, in back.

Organic Krush will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner — “and everything in between.”

It’s not easy opening a new restaurant — particularly in the middle of a pandemic. But Westporters are excited, Michelle says.

Here’s hoping she’ll krush it.

Halloween 2020: Town Issues Guidelines

Both Fairfield and Norwalk are now “red” communities: Each has at least 15 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents.

Westport is “gray.” We have fewer than 5 cases per 100,000.

But Halloween looms. What does that mean for next Saturday’s trick-or-treating? In recent years, hordes of kids — from this town, and elsewhere — have swarmed Westport’s densest neighborhoods. High on the list: Compo Beach.

In an effort to “protect the health and safety of Westport residents, and keep our schools open,” town officials will close Compo to parking at 3 p.m. Only marina slip holders will be allowed in.

These kids are not wearing masks. That’s okay — the photo is from 2014.

“Parents are encouraged to keep all trick-or-treaters in their own neighborhoods, and are strongly discouraged from allowing trick-or-treating in areas that draw a crowd,” says 1st Selectman Jim Marpe.

He adds:

The Centers for Disease Control considers traditional trick-or-treating to be a high-risk activity, and should be avoided. It recommends alternatives for celebrating the holiday with lower risk activities and small events that allow for reduced exposure and ease of contact tracing.

If you decide to participate in trick-or-treating, it is strongly recommended that it be done with increased precautions. A surgical mask must be worn. The CDC advises against wearing decorative masks over surgical masks. Trick or treaters should be aware that if a home is darkened, it is likely not partaking in Halloween festivities and that decision should be respected. Limit the amount of homes visited.

Click for Halloween guidelines from the state Department of Public Health.

Marpe Quarantining Out Of Caution

On Sunday, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe was in direct contact with an individual who then exhibited symptoms of COVID-19 this week. The individual tested positive for the virus on Wednesday.

First Selectman Jim Marpe

Marpe is not exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19 himself.

However, in accordance with CDC guidelines and medical advice, he is self-isolating, and awaiting COVID-19 test results.

In an abundance of caution, the town’s chief executive advises everyone with whom he came in contact of the situation.

Westport Weston Health District director Mark Cooper says:

Mr. Marpe is considered a contact of someone who has had a positive COVID-19 test. While there is the possibility that he had a direct exposure to the virus, based on his actions, he does not appear to have exposed anyone. He is ordered to quarantine for 14-days or until he receives a negative PCR COVID-19 test.

If any symptoms develop or his test result is positive, the WWHD will commence contact tracing to know who he has been in close contact with since Sunday or during the preceding 48 hours of either when he was tested, or when the first symptoms present themselves.

Marpe reminds residents to wear a face covering, social distance and practice good hygiene and sanitary measures.

Photo Challenge #303

Who knew where last week’s photo of a carved owl was? (Click here to see.)

Susan Iseman, Jennifer Piseck and Elaine Marino, that’s “who.”

It’s at Earthplace. It’s just one small part of a magnificent, sometimes overlooked Westport facility. If you haven’t been to the science, conservation and education center off off Stony Brook Road, click here — then check it out in person.

This week’s Photo Challenge shows a different bit of nature. If you know where in Westport you’d see this watery scene, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)

Scarice Explains Schools’ Full Reopening Pause

On Tuesday night, superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice told the Board of Education that the current hybrid model — 2 days in person, 3 out for middle and high schoolers; morning and afternoon sessions for elementary-age youngsters — will continue at least through December.

In an email yesterday to Westport families, he described that decision. He wrote:

Last night I was asked by the Board of Education to share my decision regarding the next phase in our school reopening plan. I am most grateful for the opportunity to work through this process in collaboration with a team of committed Board of Education members, as well as all members of our school community.

In short, following a public examination of the advantages and disadvantages of a full reopening, last night I recommended that the prudent course of action at this particular point in time is to remain in our current model for at least the next four to six weeks while monitoring the trajectory of infection rates.

This will be a year of responsiveness, i.e. responding to trends in changing data, responding to feedback from parents, students and educators regarding our performance, and responding to any possible breakthroughs that might alter the direction of our way of life during the pandemic (i.e. treatments, testing, vaccines, changes in the efficacy of specific mitigating measures).

I fully understand the entrusted responsibility of decisions such as these and I feel the weight of that responsibility. That said, beyond delivering the best educational experience possible for our students, I also feel responsible for any efforts to pull the community together during polarizing decisions and possible divisiveness.

I intended to make a decision based solely on transmission rates and our ability to maintain our mitigating measures in a full return. In full candor, what I did not anticipate was the impact that the current elementary instructional model would have on my thinking in the next phase of reopening.

It is true that a number of school districts across the region that originally began in a hybrid model are now fully opened for on-site schooling, particularly at the elementary level, and these districts have experienced very low rates of COVID incidences at the elementary level.

Furthermore, as promised, we administered an internal assessment of our mitigating measures. The results are very promising in assuring that not only are the current measures effective, but with some modifications, they show promise to be maintained in a full return, with some exceptions.

That said, I’d like to reiterate a comment from my last parent letter where I indicated that it is critical that any changes in our schooling models are responsive to trends in virus transmission rates. Absolute rates remain in the low risk category, yet weekly data has demonstrated a consistent increase in virus transmission. Yesterday our state experienced the highest positivity rate since June, and just over the border, Westchester County saw the largest jump in positive cases since May while hospitalization rates recently doubled.

Westport students will continue to learn in school — and at home.

Our local Westport/Weston Health District (WWHD) has advised that we take a cautious approach in any reopening moves as they expect an increase in infection rates. There is evidence of an increase in rates of infection at the present moment.

Although there appears to be a window for a full return before the rates advance to a level that warrants additional restrictions, based on current trends in virus transmission, I do not see the value of what would likely be a temporary return. The trade off is not our current elementary model for a “normal” classroom and schooling experience. The trade off is the value of our current elementary model for a “pandemic classroom”.

As I articulated last night, with substantive support from the elementary principals and our Elementary Curriculum Coordinator, Ali Moran, our current model enables our faculty to deliver an instructional program during this time that would be restricted in the “pandemic classroom.” Our current model empowers our teachers to work closely with individual students and small groups, actively moving within the confines of our mitigating measures to ensure that academic progress is not lost, but actually advanced. It also supports social/emotional development in ways that would be compromised in a fully reopened “pandemic classroom.”

This week we have engaged in an analysis of our entire K-12 reopening instructional model with focus groups at each level for teachers, parents, and students. This information will be instrumental in our efforts to improve our programs for students. There are clearly areas for improvement. Although we will stay the course, this feedback could alter our practices across all levels, elementary, middle and high.

Thomas Scarice (Photo courtesy of Zip06.com)

If we are to be assured of anything it is that the landscape will continue to change. We’ve seen this since the onset of the pandemic in March. Guidance on masks, virus transmission on surfaces, and most recently on the effectiveness of neck gaiters, has evolved and changed regularly. In fact, my own thinking has changed as I received input from the school community and was able to conduct classroom observations in each elementary school. I anticipate that changes will continue and our responsiveness will mark our success.

Our next step is to receive the feedback from our focus groups and take action. It is likely that this will begin with reconvening the district wide School Reopening Committee. Updates will be forthcoming as we continue to move forward.

Given the advantages and disadvantages of a full reopening, I am confident that we can balance safety with desirable instructional experiences for our students by taking the prudent course of action at this particular point in time. We will continue to monitor the changing environment and look to fully return when infection rates stabilize and trend downward so that we are able to loosen the restrictions in the educational setting.

 

Roundup: Hybrid Schools, Hugh Jackman, Irrigation Ban, More


The current hybrid model — 2 days in person, 3 out for middle and high schoolers; morning and afternoon sessions for elementary-age youngsters — will continue at least through December.

Superintendent of schools Tom Scarice announced that decision last night, at a Board of Education meeting. It was driven by an uptick in coronavirus cases — a trend expected to rise this fall.

Public sentiment is divided. But Scarice called this “the prudent” and “correct” approach, based on current infection numbers, future models, the ability of educators to adapt to both in-person and distance learning, and input on how the hybrid model has worked so far.


Sure, it rained earlier this week. But Aquarion has announced a mandatory irrigation ban in southwest Fairfield County. The area — including Westport — has hit its 3rd “drought trigger” this fall.

Effective immediately, the ban includes automatic irrigation systems and hose end sprinklers. (Hand-held watering, soaker hose and drip irrigation continue to be permitted for new plantings.)

The ban will help ensure “an adequate water supply for everyday needs, and give reservoirs time to recover for the spring,” the water company says.

Click here for water conservation tips.

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 Last Friday, Hugh Jackman stopped by the Remarkable Theater.

Okay, the Australian actor was not actually at the Imperial Avenue parking lot.

But he did send a special message, introducing a screening of “The Greatest Showman” (and it had nothing to do with the music, by Staples High School graduate Justin Paul).

A video message from the movie’s creator and screenwriter Jenny Bicks also greeted the audience. The screening was in support of Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities.

Next up: “Playhouse at the Drive-in,” this Saturday night.


The Milken Institute Global Conference is in the midst of 8 days of inspiring talks and panels. This year’s topics are (of course) the global pandemic, and social injustice.

And (of course) it’s virtual. Over 4,000 of the world’s leading thinkers have tuned in.

There’s a solid Westport presence at the prestigious, 22nd annual event.

RTM member Kristin Schneeman is a director at FasterCures, part of the Milken Institute. Théo Feldman is an associate director, innovative finance there.

Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio was featured in a conversation, while the hedge fund’s CEO David McCormick spoke on a panel called “Leadership: Moving Beyond Conventional Thinking.

Feldman adds: “During last year’s Global Conference in Beverly Hills, I met a fellow Westporter: Russell Sherman. We realized his sister — Suzanne Sherman Propp — taught my daughter at Greens Farms Elementary School. And his niece did a play with my other daughter.”


As the weather turns cool, a pair of local religious institutions are sponsoring a coat drive for Person to Person.

Clothing should be bagged, and sorted by gender and age (adult or youth). Donations can be dropped off in a blue bin labeled “Coat Donations” on the side elevator entrance at Saugatuck Church, or The Conservative Synagogue.

Donation pick-ups are available too. Email alexandrawalsh9@gmail.com for arrangements.


Speaking of help: last week’s Longshore Ladies 9 Hole Golf Association annual fundraiser brought in plenty of groceries for the Westport Woman’s Club food closet. The event also raised over $1,170, which will go to gift cards for food insecure Westporters.

Donations for the Longshore golf food drive.


And finally … in honor of Hugh Jackman’s Westport “appearance” (and Justin Paul’s music):

 

Downtown Murals Disappear

Animals are not the only thing disappearing at an alarming rate.

Downtown murals are vanishing too.

Then again, that’s the plan.

This week, the Artists Collective of Westport introduced an intriguing public art project.

“Vanishing Species/Vanishing Murals” showcases temporary works by Westporters Susan Fehlinger, Jana Ireijo, Day Moore and Dale Najarian.

Each piece — displayed on exterior walls inside Bedford Square, next to Jeera Thai, below Amy Simon Fine Art and in front of Anthropologie — will depict a different endangered species.

Downtown locations for vanishing murals.

The art is created using non-permanent materials like charcoal forged in the heat of destructive wildfires, supplemented by non-toxic chalk.

Exposed to the elements, each mural will disappear — echoing what’s happening to many beautiful creatures across our planet.

Jana Ireijo’s koala disappears.

“The process of aging, fading and degradation speaks to the attention span of our fast-paced world, and offers its own lesson on the ephemeralness of art and life itself,” the Collective says.

As the image fades, and the stains and seams of the wall reappear, viewers are prompted to think about how change is constant, and life is fleeting and fragile.

The future cannot be pushed away. Time continues to unfold at its own pace.

It is incumbent on us, as world citizens, to see and appreciate our world more fully, in real time, so that we can act in ways that honor and respect our world and our future.

The murals are being created this week. They’ll take a few months to decay. Watch for them, now and all winter long.

(The Artists Collective of Westport thanks the Westport Downtown Merchants Association, David Waldman and Roger Leifer for their help with this project.)