Category Archives: Environment

Pic Of The Day #303

It doesn’t get more classic than this (Photo/Amy Schneider)

Rare Tesla 3 Purrs Into Town

Word on the street is that Westport has more Teslas than any other town in the state.

But only one is a Tesla 3.

That’s the new affordable electric sports sedan. After state and federal incentives, the Model 3 starts at $25,000, according to a press release from the Westport Green Task Force. (A Westporter who works for Tesla says the cost is actually $35,000 to $40,000.)

Over 180,000 people pre-ordered the car within 24 hours of its announcement last July.

Production is sluggish though. So far, only 2,500 have come off the line.

But Westporter Bruce Becker — an architect and member of the Westport Electric Car Club — took delivery of his on Monday. He says it’s one of only 3 Tesla 3s in Connecticut.

Becker brought his vehicle to Staples High School this afternoon. It was part of a “high tech show-and-tell” for interested students.

First Selectman Jim Marpe checks out Bruce Becker’s Tesla 3.

The event took place at Staples’ charging stations, outside the fieldhouse.

Becker calls Westport “a leader in the transition to electric vehicles — an important driver for environmental, public health and economic reasons.” He says that besides the highest per capita number of Teslas, our town also leads in per capita registration of all kinds of electric vehicles.

First Selectman Jim Marpe lent his support. Noting Westporters’ long support of sustainable solutions, he said, “The town is proud to support EV ownership through its network of public EV charging stations.”

Besides Staples, there are chargers at the library, Town Hall, train stations, and in a few commercial and private residential areas.

Electric vehicles lined up near Staples’ charging stations today (from left): Chevy Bolt, Tesla S, Volkswagen, Tesla X, Nissan Leaf,

Scott Smith Discovers Westport’s Hidden Gems

Scott Smith is an alert “06880” reader, a longtime Westporter and an ardent outdoorsman. He writes:

If you ask Westporters to comment on our community’s natural charms, chances are most would cite the dazzling string of beaches and coastal places: Compo Beach, Sherwood Mill Pond, Gray’s Creek and Burying Hill. If pressed, they might claims Sherwood Island too.

Others would tout the Saugatuck River, from the fly fishing shallows along Ford Road to the impoundment of Lees Pond, and the tidal stretch through town leading to the mouth at Longshore and Cedar Point. Cockenoe Island gets a shout-out, too, especially from those with the nautical means to visit it.

Fishing off Ford Road (Photo/Richard Wiese)

But plenty of other places across Westport beguile with bucolic beauty. Many of these underappreciated open spaces are in the midst of a welcome renaissance, sparked by renovation efforts from those who love and tend them.

I’m talking about the town parks, preserves, land trusts and wildlife sanctuaries that constitute our remaining inland open spaces. Over the past year or two, I’ve visited quite a few. I always come away thinking how fortunate we are to be able to trod upon them.

“06880” has covered these developments over time, noting singular efforts and improvements. But if you step back and tally them all up, it’s quite an impressive list, covering virtually every part of town.

Over in Old Hill there’s the Lillian Wadsworth Arboretum. I toured it a couple of seasons ago with its caretakers, including Lou Mall and tree warden Bruce Lindsay. They’re spearheading its transformation from an untended patch of blow-downs and invasive vines to a fetching enhancement to the adjacent Earthplace facility.

Dead creepers line a Wadswworth Arboretum trail.

Coleytown has the Newman Poses Preserve, which affords a wonderful walk through meadows along the Saugatuck stream and through upland woods. Having the memory of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward and their family as you traipse along is a nice bonus. Their neighbors — and the Aspetuck Land Trust — get credit for giving us that open space.

Right near downtown there’s the blossoming of long-neglected Baron’s South, another town-led reclamation project with even brighter prospects in store as a nature-driven arts campus.

A path in Baron’s South. (Photo/Judy James)

And just down Compo, off Greenacre Road, is the hidden gem of the Haskins Preserve, my longtime favorite place for a weekend stroll.

Haskins Preserve’s dogwoods and daffodils — a lovely combination.

I have “06680” to thank for cluing me in to my newest place to take a hike: the Smith Richardson Preserve in Greens Farms. I’ve long known about the 2 parcels north of I-95. The Christmas tree farm off Sasco Creek Road is where I chop down a tree every year. I consider it in part my annual donation to the Connecticut Audubon Society, which manages the farm and the open space across the road.

But I had no idea of the separate property just across 95, a 36-acre parcel stretching from Sasco Creek all the way to the playing fields behind Greens Farms Academy off Beachside Avenue.

I walked it the other day, taking advantage of frozen ground to course through fields that are in the midst of being cleared of smothering vines and other invasive species.

It’s an impressive project, even if the space is hard by the highway and Metro-North rails. Hemmed in by neighboring houses big and small, and what looks to be a refuse depot managed by the railroad or state, the area has the look of a pocket-size Central Park in the making, with Olmstedian trails that wind through woods, and alongside meadows and ponds. I can’t wait to see how the property develops, with its ambitious new plantings and clearings, and whether the caretaking crews can keep the tick-haven invasives at bay.

Smith Richardson Preserve (Photo/Scott Smith)

These public/private corners of our community are all discovered places, at least for me. When I visit them, either with my dog or solo, I’m often the only one around. I like the solitude, and question why I’d even want to spread the word about them. Parking is often a pinch, and I’m not even sure about the proper access to the new Smith Richardson preserve behind GFA’s sprawling athletic fields.

But these largely hidden local natural spaces deserve recognition, and our support for the groups that manage them — the town, Aspetuck Land Trust, and the Connecticut Audubon Society — whether by check or volunteer hand.

Separately and together, they all make Westport a wonderful place to live and to explore.

Pic Of The Day #302

The river on Lyons Plains, in Sunday’s rain. (Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)

How You Gonna Keep ‘Em Down On The Farm? ALS Pepper Challenge Spreads To WTF

The Haberstroh family’s #ALSPepperChallenge has spread all over the country.

But right here in Westport, it’s bearing particular fruit.

The latest group to raise money for research into the devastating disease — in honor of Department of Human Services program specialist Patty Haberstroh — is Wakeman Town Farm.

Challenged by Parks & Rec — whose commission chairman is Patty’s husband, Charlie — Liz Milwe and Christy Colasurdo decided to be creative.

Taking her cue from “Rapper’s Delight,” Christy wrote lyrics. Corey Thomas — WTF’s talented steward — showed his versatility as the rapper.

The video was filmed yesterday at the farm, after their annual team retreat. It’s already been viewed over 450 times on Instagram, and 400 times on Facebook.

Wakeman Town Farm was not the only organization in town taking the hot pepper challenge yesterday. Staples High School’s boys basketball team did the same — and were inspired by a visit from both Patty and Steve Haberstroh, a former Wrecker hoops star (and Patty and Charlie’s son).

Haberstroh noted that Jon Walker — a 1988 Staples grad, and another famed Wrecker basketball player — died last year of ALS.

Coach Colin Devine (far left) and members of the Staples High School boys basketball team take the #ALSPepperChallenge yesterday.

The Haberstrohs’ challenge has raised nearly $220,000 so far. That includes a $100,000 anonymous donation. Another $250,000 anonymous pledge is expected this week.

(Click here for the Haberstrohs’ hot pepper challenge donation page.)

Pic Of The Day #299

Dogs welcome at Compo (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

World Admires Westport Blood Moon

This morning’s super blue blood moon drew admiring crowds up and down the East Coast. Plenty of folks headed to Compo Beach.

Many took pictures.

You or I would have posted them to our own Instagram account.

Famed Westport photographer Stephen Wilkes sent his to National Geographic.

They’ve got a lot more followers.

Which is why millions of people around the world now can share in Westport’s wonderful morning.

(Hat tip: Julie Rosemarin)

 

Food For Thought: Farmers’ Market Helps Veterans, Chefs Grow

Farmers’ markets are cool. They usually have fresh produce. Shopping there boosts local economies. It’s hassle-free and homey.

The Westport Farmers’ Market is that — and much, much more. It’s dynamic, constantly evolving, and a true community event.

One element contributing to all that is programming. There are demonstrations, projects, and ongoing partnerships.

One of the most creative and meaningful is called Farmers to Veterans to Community. The program gives military vets affiliated with Homes for the Brave in Bridgeport a chance to prepare farm-fresh food under the guidance of WFM’s vast chef network.

Homes for the Brave helps homeless men and women, and their families, attain housing and learn life skills.

Through the Farmers’ Market, veterans learn about the health benefits of local food — and job opportunities with area restaurants. It’s a win-win-win — for vets, farmers and restaurateurs.

Of course, it helps the entire community — and economy — too.

FVC began 2 months ago, with 6 women. Chef Jennifer Balin — a Westporter who owns Sugar & Olives, just over the Norwalk line — and chef Dan Sabia of Jesup Hall pioneered the program. They shop at the indoor farmers’ market, then bring ingredients to the kitchen at the women’s home. They demonstrate cooking techniques. Then, at dinner, they share recipes, and discuss life skills and employment opportunities. One job may already be in the works.

Chef Dan Sabia of Jesup Hall explains his technique.

More dinners are planned for February. Chefs Geoff Lazlo, Bill Taibeand Matt Storch, along with food blogger Liz Rueven, will participate.

Westport Farmers’ Market executive director Lori Cochran-Dougall is justly proud of her creative programming. But, she admits, Farmers to Veterans to Community is special.

“This puts to work — literally — our values of giving back ot the community, by helping those who have given so much of themselves,” she says.

What a wonderful recipe for success!

(The winter Westport Farmers’ Market runs every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Gilbertie’s Herb Gardens, 7 Sylvan Lane. For more information click here, or email director@westportfarmersmarket.com)

Chef Jennifer Balin’s delicious table, at Homes for the Brave.

Peter Dickstein’s Solful Startup

Ever since moving to the Bay Area nearly 35 years ago, Peter Dickstein has been immersed in that torrid startup scene.

The 1973 Staples High School graduate — and former University of Pennsylvania soccer captain — founded and operated a variety of companies. For the last 10 years he’s advised CEOs and boards on corporate and financial strategy.

Peter Dickstein

“I enjoy the process of building businesses, and doing deep dives. And I love helping younger entrepreneurs,” Dickstein says.

Now he’s building a new business. He’s doing it with a young co-founder. And he’s helping shape one of the fastest-growing industries around: legal cannabis.

In 2015, when Eli Melrod — son of longtime friends — took a pause from Wesleyan University, he sought Dickstein’s entrepreneurial experience. With California headed toward legalizing marijuana for recreational use, they looked at multiple opportunities: intellectual property acquisition and licensing, testing lab, cultivation, you name it.

The most compelling prospect, they believed, was creating a branded destination dispensary, focused on a great customer experience grounded in cannabis education. They would use healthful, locally grown products, sold in a warm, welcoming environment.

On January 1, Solful became one of 88 dispensaries across all of California licensed to sell to adults 21 and over. It’s in Sebastapol, nestled in Sonoma County.

Dickstein (the first person interviewed in the video clip above) is executive chairman. Melrod — who his mentor calls “diligent, thoughtful, curious and hard-working” — is CEO. With a team of marketing and retail experts, they’re building a brand and experience they hope to roll out in multiple locations.

“We didn’t want to be a head shop,” Dickstein emphasizes. “We want to be an important part of the communities we serve. We cater to mainstream consumers who want to improve their physical and mental health.”

That’s not, he says, what most dispensaries in California are like. Many are small “mom and pop” shops.

Opening a dispensary in California is not easy. Numerous state and local regulations demand diligent record-keeping and compliance. In the absence of normal business banking options, there are tough financial management challenges.

Obtaining a local permit is arduous too. Proposition 64 allows each jurisdiction to make its own rules. Marin County, for example, rejected a dozen or so applications, for reasons ranging from proposed locations to the backgrounds of applicants.

Publicly traded companies– including big drug, food and tobacco enterprises — are prohibited from investing in and selling cannabis. So most investors so far have been private entities and individuals, Dickstein says.

“We’re bringing a professional business approach, applying best business practices to what has, until now, been a black market, under-the-radar industry,” Dickstein says.

Solful is designed to bring light to the formerly underground sale of cannabis. The store is open, bright and natural-looking. It’s a happy, upbeat place, with a well-trained, friendly staff.

A few members of Solful’s large, well-trained and happy staff.

Products are well-organized, and clearly displayed. Thoughtful signage helps customers understand each product, along with how to ingest and the body’s reaction to it.

A 30-page “Solful Field Guide” (hard copy and online) provides even more information.

Staff members ask questions: “What are you trying to achieve with cannabis? Do you have any ailments? Have you used cannabis before? If so, did you smoke? Vape? Use edibles, topicals or tinctures? Most importantly, how did it affect you?”

There’s no hard sell. As with a store like Patagonia — one of the founders’ inspirational brands — the emphasis is on education and information. Farmers, health professionals and manufacturers are invited in, to give and see live demonstrations.

The shelves in Solful’s Sebastapol store.

The dispensary opened in early October, when only medicinal marijuana was legal in California. Almost immediately, wildfires devastated the region.

Solful’s staff headed into the community, helping residents and volunteering with the Red Cross. They fundraised for victims.

The store partnered with a major edible and vape pen manufacturer to supply medicine and devices to medically dependent people, becoming one of Sonoma’s 4 free distribution centers.

Since January 1, sales have been robust. Twenty-five percent are to people 60 and over.

Some customers seek relief from cancer and its treatment, epilepsy, glaucoma and depression. One uses cannabis to ease back pain; he’s now opioid free.

Some simply seek to relax, or alter their mood.

Solful offers a wide range of products.

The West — California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Alaska — leads the country in terms of recreational marijuana legalization. In the East, only Massachusetts and Maine have passed similar legislation.

What about Connecticut?

Because federal laws prohibit the movement of cannabis products across state lines — it’s classified as a Schedule 1 drug — Dickstein says the laws of economics suggest that the industry will evolve more quickly in states with bigger populations.

“If adult use happens in Connecticut, it would probably look more like Colorado — where the plant needs to be grown indoors — than California, where there’s a deep, multi-generation outdoor tradition,” Dickstein says of his home state.

So you probably won’t see Solful stores in the Land of Steady Habits any time soon — if at all.

But, Peter Dickstein believes, his branded destination dispensary model can be replicated in communities like Sebastapol across the Golden State.

It’s hardly a pipe dream.

Pic Of The Day #266

Traffic jam on Lyons Plains Road, this morning. (Photo/Bonnie Dubson)