Category Archives: Environment

Fresh Market “Freshens Up”

This summer, Westporters focused on a state Department of Transportation plan involving special left-turn-only lanes, curbing, sidewalks and more at the Fresh Market shopping center.

That’s far in the future. We should have been focused on a more immediate plan to renovate the facade. And the parking lot.

As customers have noted this week, work involved the installation of spiffy new old-fashioned light poles.

But there was a cost. Gone is some of the landscaping that once made the shopping center if not pleasant, at least tolerable.

(Photos/Michael Calise)

The work is not finished. Perhaps beautiful new trees and shrubs will be planted.

And perhaps one day I will walk to the planet Zork, too.

Pic Of The Day #907

Library Riverwalk (Photo/Johanna Rossi)

Pic Of The Day #904

Now that the crowds have gone … (Photo/Michael Vitelli)

Pic Of The Day #900

Deadman Brook bridge, between the Levitt Pavilion and Imperial Avenue (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Blessed Are The Animals

Everyone is welcome inside Saugatuck Congregational Church.

Pets and other animals — not so much.

But this Sunday (October 6, noon to 2 p.m.), every living thing is welcome at the sweeping front lawn, on the Post Road just a dogleg from Myrtle Avenue.

Westport Animal Shelter Advocates joins the church in co-hosting a Blessing of the Animals.

The Great Lawn of Saugatuck Congregational Church is well suited to a Blessing of the Animals.

All are welcome to bring a pet leashed, or safely contained (recommended for pythons). You can also bring a photo, for an individual prayer of blessing (probably even better for that python).

Rev. Alison Buttrick Patton will lead the service. She’ll include all wildlife in her prayers.

Representatives from Wildlife in Crisis will be there too. They’ll answer questions about local wildlife, and discuss their rehabilitative and release efforts.

Also on site: Sitting Pretty Dog Training.

Our pets and wildlife are true blessings.

On Sunday, Rev. Patton is honored to bless them.

PS: Looking for more animal-related events on Sunday? Earth Animal celebrates its new location too: noon to 5 p.m.

(Questions? Click here, call 203-557-0361, or email wasa1@optonline.net)

A dog waits to be blessed.

 

From Blight House To Bright Spot: Green Honors For Hillspoint Home

For years, only one thing marred the view from Old Mill Road and Elvira Mae’s, down Hillspoint Road. There — sandwiched between handsome beach homes and the beach itself — sat a blight house.

Unkempt and untended, it looked out of place. And dangerous.

When Robin Tauck bought the property, and an adjacent lot, she wanted to maintain the traditional beach community vibe. But she’s also an ardent environmentalist.

Her vision for the blight house was to maintain the same footprint for minimal impact, while creating a model for future homes.

Working with architect Michael Greenberg and TecKnow, the Bedford Square-based company that combines automation technology with green energy products, she built an innovative “guest cottage.” (Her own, similarly designed home, is next door.)

The new Hillspoint Road home.

227 Hillspoint Road uses sustainable building practices and innovative technology. Solar and battery storage is optimized, so the house is run almost entirely off the grid.

It meets many of the standards for a Green Building Award: rehabilitation, energy efficiency, innovation, conservation, sustainability, and modeling for the future.

So the other day — around the same time the United Nations hosted its Climate Action Summit — Governor Ned Lamont and Congressman Jim Himes were in town. So was Albert Gore III, from Tesla (one of the companies TecKnow works with), environmental leaders from groups like Sustainable Westport and Save the Sound, and all 3 selectmen.

Robin Tauck and Governor Ned Lamont, on the steps of 227 Hillspoint Road.

They presented Tauck, Greenberg and TecKnow with a Green Building Award. It recognizes this project, for its contribution to sustainability.

The honor signifies one more step on Westport’s path to being a net zero community, by 2050.

And it also shows that a small, blighted house need not be replaced by a bigger, more energy-sapping one.

Especially at such a well-known, beloved and lovely spot by the shore.

Phil Levieff of TecKnow, Albert Gore III of Tesla, and Robin Tauck. (Photos/JC Martin)

Earthplace: Environmental Center Sponsors Fall Bash

One day last winter, Diana Mashia walked into Earthplace to drop off her kids for a vacation nature program.

She and a staff naturalist began chatting about environmental issues. When executive director Tony McDowell heard that Mashia had an impressive command of the issues Earthplace cares about — science, conservation and education — he did what any good leader does: He asked her to help.

Last month, Mashia — who already was active managing Sustainable Westport‘s social media — joined the Earthplace board. She focuses on the organization’s zero waste initiative, and community engagement.

Diana Mashia (Photo/Tomira Wilcox Photography)

It might seem an unusual passion for a woman who started her career as an equity research analyst. But as Mashia moved into venture capital finance, she specialized in consumers and innovation. She then founded a consulting practice, working with VC firms and startups.

Mashia certainly walks the talk. In addition to her day job and volunteer activities, she’s working on a master’s degree in management and innovation at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. She’s studying the intersection of public/private partnerships and sustainability.

“I’m a big proponent of community-building, volunteerism and engagement,” Mashia — who finds time to also be a Daisy troop leader, and dance with a local company — says.

She knows that — for all its wonderful work — Earthplace has a relatively low profile in town.

Earthplace summer campers enjoyed a downpour. (Photo/Jaime Bairaktaris)

“This is my passion project,” she says of her board activity. “Tony and his team really explore relevance in program. I love their basic idea: that humans are part of the natural world.

“We all exist in nature. But modern life often leaves us disconnected from the physical world. Being stewards for the environment, and creating better awareness, allows us to connect. It has positive impacts on human health and well-being.”

She believes it is particularly important to educate children to be stewards and leaders. They need to be inspired to seek innovative solutions to environmental problems. Mashia is “proud to live in a community that actively thinks about and finds local solutions” to those issues.

However, she notes, many Westporters think of Earthplace as primarily a pre-school, Mashia — whose own children are 6 and 3 — says.

They may not know about its environmental education and after-school programs, 60-acre sanctuary with walking trails, birds of prey exhibit and scholarships, or that it us home to Harbor Watch, the water quality project.

An Earthplace owl.

So Mashia is excited to pass along word of Earthplace’s Woodside Bash and Festival.

The big fundraiser is a 2-day event. It kicks off this Saturday (October 5, 7 to 10 p.m.) with an adults-only party. There’s a harvest dinner, open bar, live band, DJ, a “haunted trail” and the very popular mechanical bull.

Sunday (October 6, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) is for families. Traditional fall activities include an apple slingshot, donut-on-a-tree, pool of corn, climbing wall, food trucks, animal encounters and more.

Either day — or both — are excellent opportunities to support Earthplace (and, if you haven’t already been there, discover its wonders).

Like Diana Mashia, you might even end up as a passionate volunteer.

The earth would thank you.

(For more information and tickets, click here.)

Lachat Lets Loose

Sure, you weren’t invited to Keith Richards’ daughter’s wedding.

Neither was I.

But us peons can still hang out there. Or at least at Lachat Town Farm, the site of the biggest event in Weston since, um, ever.

Lachat is a grassroots, volunteer-run initiative. It began when officials decided to tear down a 1770s homestead that had been deeded to the town by dairy farmer Leon Lachat.

But a group of citizens had a vision: turn the beautiful 40-acre site back into a farm.

Friends of Lachat raised enough money to restore the farmhouse. It opened in 2016.

Since then, Lachat Town Farm has become a local gathering place. A 50-plot community garden was built. A grant paid for a greenhouse. A large dairy barn was also restored.

Once a month in summer, an early evening farmer’s market with live music, children’s crafts and food trucks draws a crowd. Music in the Meadow concerts feature a variety of performances. In the winter, there’s a Fireside Concert series. Adult and children’s programs range from tai chi to pickle making.

Lachat Town Farm

It’s all done without tax dollars. The Farm is self-funded through programs, donations, grants and fundraisers.

Lachat’s major annual fundraiser is this Saturday (October 5, 4 to 8 p.m.). All ages are invited to a country barbecue and hoedown. Renowned square dance caller Eric Hollman will be accompanied by the Flying Fingers Jug Band.

The ticket price includes dinner from Odeen’s Barbecue of Ridgefield, plus wine and beer. There are no tickets at the door; click here for reservations.

NOTE: Keith Richards’ family donated $15,000 to Lachat, after the wedding. It was a great gift — but hardly enough to keep the farm operating.

Saturday’s event is great — and important.

Wild horses shouldn’t drag you away.

Andrea Dutton: Westport’s Newest Genius

Andrea Dutton is a genius.

That’s not just hyperbole. The 1991 Staples High School graduate — visiting associate professor of geology at the University of Wisconsin, who investigates changes in sea levels and ice sheet mass — is one of 26 people chosen as 2019 fellows of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

That’s the official wording. The world calls them “genius grants.”

MacArthur fellowships honor “extraordinary originality.” The award is pure genius: a no-strings grant of $625,000, distributed over 5 years.

The fellowships — announced yesterday — went to men and women whose work “pushes the boundaries of disciplines and genres,” says the New York Times.

They include a theater artist who incorporates artificial intelligence into performances; novelists, musicians, scientists, historians, legal advocates, community activists and others. All were chosen “at a moment in their careers when the award might make a difference,” and range in age from 30 to 67.

Andrea Dutton with a fossilized coral reef in the Florida Keys. (Photo/Joshua Bright for Redux)

Potential geniuses are suggested by hundreds of anonymous nominators, in many fields. The final selection is made by a committee — also anonymous.

Dutton calls herself a “detective collecting clues to solve the puzzle of earth’s climate history.

The paleoclimatologist’s work has immense real-life implications. Her reconstruction of sea levels over thousands of years can help predict future rises. In 2017, Rolling Stone magazine listed her among “25 People Shaping the Future in Tech, Science, Medicine, Activism and More.”

Dutton is not Westport’s first MacArthur genius. Photojournalist Lynsey Addario — a fellow 1991 Staples grad — received a fellowship in 2009.

(Click here for the stories of all 26 new MacArthur fellowship awardees. Hat tips: Sandee and Chuck Cole.)

 

Fish Mystery At Old Mill

Hundreds — perhaps thousands — of dead fish washed up yesterday at Old Mill Beach and Compo Cove.

Health authorities and Harbor Watch are investigating.

(Photos/Tessa Smith McGovern)