Category Archives: Environment

Scenes From A Solar Eclipse

If you still have your retinas, check out these photos from today’s solar eclipse:

The view at Compo Beach, during the maximum coverage around 2:45 p.m. (Photo copyright Ted Horowitz)

Former Westporter Vanessa Bradford takes in the view in Fairfield.

100-year-old Aileen DeLeon checks out the action on a youngster’s phone. (Photo/Frank Rosen)

Watching safely at Compo. (Photo/Amy Schneider)

Custom viewing, courtesy of Randall Hammond.

The eclipse itself, photographed by Dan Johnson.

Pic Of The Day #125

Gloria — Alan Sterling’s old oyster boat, in Gray’s Creek (Photo/Dave Dellinger)

A Night On Cockenoe Island

The other day, alert — and adventurous — “06880” reader Seth Schachter headed out to Cockenoe Island. 

He’d been there often. This time though, he camped out overnight.

The experience was so special, he offered to share it with “06880” readers. He writes:

A few weeks earlier, I had reserved our camping location through the town Conservation Department. There are only 4 spots available. A shout-out to Emily Wadsworth, who was so friendly and helpful at Town Hall.

A Westport friend and I loaded up our kayaks. It was Saturday afternoon, and we headed to the state boat ramp underneath I-95.

And they’re off!

My friend had done this once before. His lightweight camping and cooking gear all came in handy.

After our 45-minute paddle, we checked in at the “front desk” (aka unloaded our kayak at the beach), and set up camp.

Home for the night.

We then enjoyed the large “swimming pool” in our back yard, and the incredible views and sounds that surrounded us.

The “yard.”

The sunset; the constant sounds of wildlife (Cockenoe is a nesting ground and habitat for threatened and endangered birds); the almost full moon; the morning sunrise — it was all amazing.

(We did not get to see a humpback whale, unfortunately!)

Sunset on Cockenoe.

The island was beautiful. It was a great time. That Cockenoe could have housed a nuclear power plant — so close to Compo Beach — is hard to fathom. The hard-fought, successful lobbying by Westporters in the late 1960s is very much appreciated.

Driftwood at night.

I hope these photos help recap some of the magic that enveloped us on this 1-night journey so close to mainland Westport.

I look forward to my next overnight experience on Cockenoe. If the opportunity presents itself, others should do the same!

The view in the morning. (Photos/Seth Schachter)

A map of Cockenoe Island on the Town of Westport website shows the 4 reservable campsite.. Numbers 2, 3 and 4 all point toward Compo Beach and the Westport shoreline.

Pics Of The Day #121

Sherwood Mill Pond house and oyster shed, from the air… (Photo/Hummock Island Oysters)

… and up close. (Photo/Mark Ritter)

Unsung Hero #11

Lois Schine has done many things in her long life.

A mechanical engineer at a time when nearly all her peers were men, she helped found the Society of Women Engineers.

She served 18 years on Westport’s Representative Town Meeting (RTM). She chaired our Human Services Commission, and was a member of 1st Selectman Diane Farrell’s Land Use Committee.

Today she’s an active member of the Westport Downtown Master Plan Committee, and a Friend of the Senior Center.

But of all she’s done, Schine says her “crowning accomplishment” is helping the town keep Winslow Park as open space.

Lois Schine

Following its days as the Westport Sanitarium — and after B. Altman abandoned its plans to build a department store there — the 32-acre site of woods and meadows just north of downtown was owned by perfume executive Walter Langer von Langendorff (aka “the baron”).

First selectman Jacqueline Heneage asked the baron if the town could buy the land. Schine’s husband Leonard — a noted attorney and judge — negotiated with the owner.

The baron backed away, offended by the town’s “low” offer of $2.38 million. Schine planned to return to the issue in a while. But he died — and so did the baron.

The baron left several wills. It appeared his land would be tied up in court — then sold, to satisfy his various estate obligations.

In 1987 the RTM voted 26-8 to condemn the land. Citizens opposed to the deal brought a referendum. Lois Schine, Joanne Leaman and Ellie Solovay helped spur a “yes” vote. By 54-46%, Westporters chose to move ahead with eminent domain.

The purchase price was $9.42 million. But no one in town knew what to do with the property.

Schine worried it would be used for buildings, or some other intense activity. She asked town attorney Ken Bernhard how to designate the land as “open space.”

Winslow Park draws visitors with dogs …

He said there was no such zoning regulation in town. He suggested she run for the RTM, so the body could pass a resolution asking the Planning & Zoning Commission to create that designation.

She did. She won. And — with Ellie Lowenstein at the P&Z helm — officials created an “open space” zone for passive recreation.

“Longshore, Compo, all the pocket parks — none of them had open space designations,” Schine recalls.

Today they do. So does the baron’s other property — the 22 acres across the Post Road, between Compo Road South and Imperial Avenue.

… and sleds.

“Some people say Winslow is ‘only a dog park,'” Schine notes.

“But it’s a park in the middle of town.”

And — had it not been for Lois Schine, and many others — that middle of town might look very different today.

 

An Evergreen Grows In Westport

First, it was natural land: wooded, a bit wet.

Then it was cleared for farming. Eventually, nature took over again.

Stone walls show that this wooded land was used long ago for farming.

In 1959, Lillian Wadsworth sold 12 acres to the town of Westport — for $1. The year before, she’d given 62 acres to the fledgling Mid-Fairfield County Youth Museum. The organization later changed its name — first to the Nature Center, then to Earthplace.

A philanthropist, artist and sculptor, Wadsworth was active in the Westport Garden Club, Westport Library, and various preservation and horticutural organizations. 

The Board of Education considered the site — bordered by Stonybrook Road and Woodside Lane — for a school. Residents of the quiet neighborhood objected.

Eventually, the town designated the 12 acres for passive recreation.

The Lillian Wadsworth Arboretum is called “Stony Brook Rd property” on this Google Maps Earth view. Earthplace is at top.

About 20 years ago, the town explored selling the site to a developer. Nearby resident Dick Fincher and town attorney Stan Atwood helped scuttle that plan.

In 2009, a micro-burst felled hundreds of trees. They sat, rotting, for several years.

In 2014 Fincher and Lou Mall got 1st Selectman Jim Marpe interested in the site. When tree warden Bruce Lindsay saw it, he immediately recognized its potential.

With a $50,000 urban forestry grant — and hundreds of volunteer hours — a few trails were cut. Fincher and neighbor John Howe played key roles, and saved a beautiful Norway maple.

Dick Fincher, at the entrance to the Wadsworth Arboretum (corner of Stoneybrook Road and Woodside Lane).

A Norway maple at the Wadsworth Arboretum. The teepee nearby was built by students.

Since then, volunteer restoration efforts have continued. The land was given an official name: The Lillian Wadsworth Arboretum.

Now Fincher and Stein — both members of Westport’s Tree Board — are kicking the project into high gear. The Board has formed a non-profit — Westport Evergreen — to solicit foundation, corporate, civic group and individual funding to manage, maintain and improve open spaces throughout town.

The start of the Eloise Ray trail, on Stonybrook Road. Eloise Ray was a noted landscape architect.

In addition to the Wadsworth Arboretum, Westport Evergreen has done preliminary work at Baron’s South, the 32-acre wooded site between South Compo and Imperial Avenue.

So far, 40% of the Wadsworth site work has been completed. Dangerous deadfalls and invasives were removed; a trail plan has been established, and several trails added. Specimen vegetation has been planted, signage installed, and benches and tables were made by Stein from salvaged wood.

Dick Stein made this bench from salvaged wood. Lou Mall invited fellow RTM members here for a picnic.

Clearing the massive amount of underbrush is “not a job for amateurs,” says Dick Fincher.

Dick Fincher stands on a bridge built earlier this summer by Lou Mall, Dick Stein and tree warden Bruce Lindsay.

Dead creepers line a Wadswworth Arboretum trail.

Still ahead: a visitors’ information kiosk, 3- or 4-car parking area, and path along the Stonybrook perimeter.

A visitors’ kiosk will be built here. All the wood comes from the Wadsworth Arboretum site.

Westport Evergreen hopes to organize work days with groups like the Boys Scouts, Staples’ Service League of Boys, and Rotary and garden clubs.

One of the trails already cut at the Wadsworth Arboretum. Many have been created by students.

Last year, several Staples senior interns and members of Mike Aitkenhead’s environmental studies classes worked at the Arboretum.

Westport Evergreen seeks contributions to the general fund, or for planting a tree or purchasing a bench. Email blindsay@westportct.gov, or write Lillian Wadsworth Arboretum, c/o Tree Warden, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT 06880.

When funding is completed, this rock will bear a plaque saying “Lillian Wadsworth Arboretum.”

In the meantime, wander over to the Lillian Wadsworth Arboretum. It’s open 365 days a year.

And it’s free.

That’s priceless.

When Westport Ruled The Solar Eclipse World

As America goes gaga over the upcoming solar eclipse — it’s August 21, if you’ve lived under a rock — here’s a reminder that “06880” is not only where “Westport meets the world.”

It’s also where Westport meets the universe.

An exceptionally alert reader spotted this item for sale on eBay:

Yes, once upon a time the “Solar-Scope Solar Eclipse Eye Protector” (and souvenir guide) was manufactured right here in Westport.

You must remember that famous company, Solar-Scope, right?

The reverse side described what would happen on August 31, 1932:

So if you want your very own Westport-produced Solar Eclipse Eye Protector — from 1932, but presumably still useful in 2017 — click here.

But hurry! Bids end Friday morning.

 

“Young Shoots” Sprout At Farmers’ Market

I’ve written before about the Westport Farmers’ Market’s “Young Shoots” photo contest.

It’s open to 3 age groups: 8-10, 11-14, 15-18. They can take shots every Thursday (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.). Fruits, vegetables, flowers, people — they’re all there, showing off the vitality of the market in colorful, imaginative ways.

First-place winners receive a $100 cash prize, and the chance to lead a food photo shoot with Bill Taibe (chef/owner of The Whelk, Ka Wa Ni and Jesup Hall). Second-place winners get $50.

In addition, winners have their work shown in a gallery-like setting at Sugar & Olives (a favorite Farmers’ Market vendor).

Those are nice rewards. But the contest also changes lives.

Last year, Lillie Fortino was art coordinator for the Norwalk Housing Authority’s after-school program. She thought the contest would be great for her kids.

Many had never been to a farmers’ market. They were hesitant at first. But they trusted Fortino, and her excitement fed theirs.

They brought a completely fresh eye — as children and photographers — to the bursting-with-goods-and-activity Imperial Avenue lot.

They also experimented with foods they’d never tried, like snap peas and soft cheeses, and bought flowers they’d never seen.

A talented girl named Anastasia Davis won her 11-14 age group.

Anastasia Davis’ winning photo.

Taibe invited Anastasia to Kawa Ni and the Whelk. There, she tried even more foods. Nothing was off limits.

The contest sparked a partnership between the Norwalk Housing Authority and Westport Arts Center. Fortino has a new job — director of education for the WAC — and this year she included work by NHA youngsters in the arts center’s student show. One boy proudly sold a piece there.

Ahead: collaboration between the NHA and the WAC’s artists’ residency program.

Everyone knows the Westport Farmers’ Market vendors grow great food. Who knew the market helps young kids grow too?

Anastasia Davis

Final Court Denies Wilton Road Affordable Housing Appeal

The corner of Wilton Road and Kings Highway North will not become clogged with traffic. The fire department will not have to worry about access to a potentially dangerous site. The Saugatuck River wetlands are safe.

Those are 3 direct consequences of a judicial decision, announced today by Westport town attorney Ira Bloom.

Connecticut’s Appellate Court has denied a petition by Garden Homes. The Stamford-based developer contested a May decision in Hartford Superior Court that dismissed their appeal of a unanimous decision by Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission. In February 2016, the board denied Garden Homes’ application to build a 6-story, 48-unit apartment complex on one of the busiest, most environmentally sensitive corners of Westport.

The Superior Court judge’s decision noted grave concerns about safety, and damage to wetlands adjacent to the 1.16-acre parcel at 122 Wilton Road.

“I am very pleased with this decision from the Appellate Court,” Bloom said.  “The Trial Court’s decision upholding our denial of this application now stands.  The Planning & Zoning Commission, its staff, First Selectman Jim Marpe,  our consultants, and all the citizens who participated in the hearing deserve our thanks.”

122 Wilton Road — site of the proposed 6-story, 48-unit apartment building — sits at the corner of Kings Highway North. The property abuts the Taylortown Salt Marsh.

Whale’s Tails

This morning’s sighting of a humpback whale in Long Island Sound between Compo Beach and Cockenoe Island has drawn plenty of attention. (Click here  for a great WestportNow video.)

It also brought this email from alert “06880” reader and RTM member Wendy Batteau. She writes:

In another slice of my life, I work with the Maritime Aquarium (and also the Ocean Alliance). Regarding the whale, I received the following email from folks at the Aquarium:

Whales fall under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. There are federal restrictions on how closely you are allowed to approach them.

We do not want everyone in Fairfield and New Haven Counties with a boat to go chasing after this animal. We do not want boaters hurt, and we do not want this whale to be hurt.

One of the 3 humpbacks that turned up in the Sound 2 years ago was killed “by blunt force trauma,” probably in a collision with a sailboat.

If someone has videos or photos, please forward the images to Dave Hudson, John Lenzycki and Dave Sigworth: jlenzycki@maritimeaquarium.org; 
dhudson@maritimeaquarium.org;  dsigworth@maritimeaquarium.org.

Photos or video of the underside of the whale’s tail would be especially helpful. The pattern on the underside of every humpback’s tail is unique, and seeing it may help to identify the whale.

This is not the same whale spotted this morning off the coast of Compo. It is, however, a humpback whale.