Category Archives: Environment

Photo Challenge

Last week’s posting hit the Photo Challenge sweet spot.

It was indeed a challenge. Most guesses were wrong (and all over the Westport map). A few were right.

It impelled readers to provide thoughts on the back story too. Along the way, we traveled back in (and learned about) our town’s history.

Frank Rosen’s image of an abandoned brick and rock structure deep in some woods was not taken at Baron’s South, Nash’s Pond, Post Road West near Kings Highway South, or either the Evergreen Avenue, Willowbrook or Wilton Road/Kings Highway cemetery.

The correct answer: Newman Poses Preserve off Bayberry Lane. Specifically, it’s past a dilapidated bridge, near the river. (Click here to see.) 

Was it an ice house? A cow tunnel? Something to do with an onion farm?

We still don’t know.

But we do know that Janis Wasserman and Kathie Bennewitz both correctly identified whatever it is correctly. They know their open spaces!

This week’s Photo Challenge was taken last month, during our only snowfall this winter.

If you know where in Westport you’d see this sad, ineffective fence, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Lou Weinberg)

Roundup: School Reopening, Seed Exchange, Leadership, More

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Westport’s elementary and middle school open for full in-person on February 1.

A new Westport Public Schools website offers information on the transition. it includes details on schedules, specials, health and safety, lunch and recess, mitigation and hygiene strategies, classroom cohorts, special education, transportation, technology and more.

Click here for the elementary school page. Click here for the middle school page.

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Talented Westport photographer Ted Horowitz posted this photo to his Instagram this morning:

He took the shot years ago at sunrise, in the Lincoln Memorial.

“In the silence of dawn, with golden light reflecting on the statue, the  the sense of gravity and majesty was overwhelming,” he says.

“It was a hopeful moment, as morning light poured in and a  day dawned once again. I felt that this image was appropriate for today, as we seeking relief from the past 4 years, and are hopeful for the new day which is about to begin.”

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Next Thursday (January 28) is National Seed Exchange Day.

Stumped for a celebration? Head to the Westport Farmers’ Market. It’s (no coincidence) their annual seed exchange.

People can bring seeds saved from their gardens — or take home a few saved by others.

WFM farmers will donate seeds from their favorite crops for the community to try at home. All seeds except invasive species are welcome, but the market urges people to bring and take home heirloom or organic varieties. (Click here for a list of invasive plants.)

Heirloom seeds are critical to reclaiming the food system. They’re open-pollinated plants passed down from generation to generation, without human intervention or manipulation. They taste better, are more nutritious, and help protect plant diversity.

“Collecting, sharing, and growing seeds saved by our very own shoppers, farmers and vendors – especially heirloom varieties – involves the community personally in the promotion of local food and flora,” says Farmers’ Market executive director Lori Cochran-Dougall.

“This year more than ever we want to seed the year with love and health.”

The seed exchange runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. — or until all seeds are shared —  on January 28th at Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center, 7 Sylvan Avenue.

Experts will be on hand to informally discuss the importance of seed saving.

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Yesterday’s mention of Capuli — the new restaurant in the old Westport Pizzeria location across from Bank of America — may have left the impression that it’s a pizza place.

It’s not.

The California-Mediterranean fusion menu — filled with healthy options — includes appetizers like chimichurri shrimp skewers and grilled octopus, and entrees like eggplant polenta Napoleon, pansotti, classic New York steak and California hamburger.

Click here for the mouth-watering lunch and dinner menus.

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Mike Hayes is a 20-year veteran of the Navy SEALs, with service in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. He had defense policy and strategy roles in the Bush and Obama administrations.

He’s got a master’s in public policy from Harvard, and is the author of an inspirational book, “Never Enough.”

Hayes is also a Westporter. And on February 4 (7 p.m.), he’ll share his thoughts on leadership with former Westport Library trustee Maggie Mudd.

He’ll talk about how decisions get made, particularly under duress; crisis management, conflict resolution and more. Leadership lessons are applicable to every walk of life, Mudd notes.

Click here to register for the free virtual program.

Mike Hayes

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And finally (and I do mean “finally”) …

Roundup: Human Behavior, More

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A reader writes:

“I am curious about something I started seeing for a few weeks ago around Longshore: poop bags, tied up nicely, set upon a wall or sitting on the edge of the road.

“I can’t understand why dog walkers would spend the time to bring the bag and properly scoop it up, only to leave it sitting for others to look at or step on.

“Today on a short walk I saw at least 5 of these bags. Can someone help me understand what is going on, and why people think it’s okay to leave this trash all around?”

That’s like trying to understand why, after more than 60 court cases were thrown out (often by Republican judges), people still think an election decided by more than 7 million votes was rigged.

You can keep wondering. But you’re wasting your time.

(Photo/Lorraine Palumbo)

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And finally … there is no better way to celebrate and honor Martin Luther King Day than with Sam Cooke’s soaring anthem.

It may sound strange. But after all that’s happened in America, I still have a dream. I still believe a change is gonna come.

 

Change In The Air At Saugatuck Rowing Club

You’d think the Saugatuck Rowing Club‘s biggest COVID concern is its regattas.

Sure, races are held outdoors. But rowers are packed tightly together. They breathe heavily. The cox shouts.

The coronavirus did impact competitors. All 2020 regattas were canceled. Junior rowers are still not allowed to practice until at least January 19.

But fewer than 20% of Saugatuck Rowing Club members actually row. Most adults join for the state-of-the-art fitness center (and social activities).

Saugatuck Rowing Club (Drone photo/Ward French)

So when SRC opened up again in June, one of the most important issues was air quality and circulation in the weight and cardio room.

Which led the club to something most rowers and coaches never think about: ionization.

After diligent research, SRC installed “needlepoint bipolar ionization” —a technology used in hospitals, airline terminals and office headquarters around the country that deactivates airborne bacteria and viruses by up to 99%, while reducing allergens and mold — in their 9 HVAC systems.

They overhauled their infrastructure, making the entire building — including the restaurant — as safe as possible. 

Ionization work at the Saugatuck Rowing Club fitness center.

The $12,000 job was completed in November.

“You can’t put a price on safety,” says director of marketing, membership and events Diana Kuen. “It was important to do more than just open windows and hope for the best.”

That’s not all. Owner Howard Winklevoss took advantage of the downtime to replace the entire back wall with floor-to-ceiling glass doors, creating a sweeping view of the river.

New full-length windows in the Regatta Room.

He’s adding a full-service café, and replacing the carpet with (cleaner) hardwood floors.

A big party is planned — as soon as large crowds can gather again.

Meanwhile, a new app allows the club to monitor usage (only 12 people are allowed on the gym floor at a time), and trace contacts. (As much fitness training as possible is still done outdoors.)

Outdoor workouts, at the Saugatuck Rowing Club.

A special website allows members to take classes from home (Zoom or livestream), or in person. There are over 100 group fitness videos in the library.

Because only 4 junior rowers are allowed on site at a time, the club lent 70 indoor rowing machines to those who did not already have them. They’re continuing winter training via Zoom, 5 times a week for 2 1/2 hours a day

Meanwhile, Kuen continues to coach the breast cancer survivors (“Survive-OARS“) 3 days a week.

The pandemic has not slowed them — or any other member — down.

And when they work out inside, they are grateful to do so surrounded by newly ionized air.

(To learn more about the ionization technology, email SRC general manager Scott Armstrong: sarmstrong@saugatuckrowing.com.)

Roundup: Sunrise, Open Space, Super Bowl, More

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It’s not a quiet day in America.

Politicians debate the future of the president — and our democracy. More than 200,000 people will be diagnosed with COVID-19 today. Another 4,000 will die.

But in Westport, we woke up to this scene today.

(Photo/Michael Tomashefsky)

There is beauty all around us. We are so fortunate to not look far to find it.

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The property between Clapboard Hill Road and Morningside Drive South is one of the last big pieces of private open space left in Westport.

A new house is under construction there. This week, excavation began in the middle of the field.

No building or subdivision plans have been filed, so this might be work to improve the water table, drain the wetlands or otherwise tend to the fill there.

“06880” will follow up when we find out for sure.

(Photo/Nicholas Eisenberger)

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Before he became CBS News chief homeland security and justice correspondent, a 3-time Emmy Award winner and the author of a book on police and the Black community, Jeff Pegues was an All-FCIAC running back on the Staples High School football team.

So he’s got some skin in the game when he interviews James Brown, host of  CBS’ “The NFL Today” and Showtime’s “Inside the NFL,” on January 27 (7 p.m.).

The free virtual program — sponsored by the Westport Library — will preview the Super Bowl, with intriguing insights and analysis. Click here to register.

James Brown and Jeff Pegues.

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And finally … on this date in 1968, Johnny Cash performed his now-famous concert at Folsom Prisom.

COVID Vaccine: Am I Eligible? How Do I Register?

1st Selectman Jim Marpe and the Westport Weston Health District pass along important information about the COVID-19 vaccine:

Right now, only people eligible under Phase 1a or 1b may register for the vaccine. Click here for the form to register with the Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS).

Phase 1a includes:

  • Healthcare Personnel: All paid and unpaid personnel serving in healthcare settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients of infectious materials.
  • Long Term Care Facility Residents: Adults who reside in facilities that provide a range of services, including medical and personal care, to persons who are unable to live independently.
  • First Responders at risk of exposure to COVID-19 through their response to medical emergencies, such as emergency medical technicians, police officers, and firefighters.

Phase 1b includes:

  • Individuals 75 and older (proof of age required at the clinic).
  • NOTE: The state Department of Public Health is still finalizing its definition of Phase 1b eligible residents.

To register (see above), full name, date of birth, zip code, occupation (including “retired”), and email address are required.

The information entered will only be used for purposes of scheduling a vaccination and will remain confidential.

Once submitted, a confirmation email will be sent from the Department of Public health/VAMS, followed by another email that approves or denies the registration.

Approved registrants may then register in VAMS and select a vaccination appointment.

Every individual must have a unique email to be registered and vaccinated. Someone using their personal email to register an elderly parent may not be able to register or be vaccinated using that same email. The Westport Department of Human Services’ vaccination helpline (203-341-5037) can help.

VAMS is the only way right now for an individual not in a congregate setting to register for and receive the vaccination in Connecticut.

This is a state program. Westport residents do not need to be vaccinated in Westport. VAMS may suggest vaccination appointments in nearby communities based on the supply of available vaccinations.

(For more Connecticut vaccine information, click here.)

Remembering Elise Maclay

Elise Maclay — a poet, writer, foodie, elegant dresser and accomplished traveler — died peacefully January 5, in her Westport home by Long Island Sound. She was 95.

She spent her final days looking over the water, surrounded by family and with a photo of her beloved husband David at her side.

Elise attended the College of William & Mary on a full scholarship. She majored in English, graduated Phi Beta Kappa, and served as class poet until her death.

Elise had a successful early career in the heady Mad men days of advertising. She commuted to New York from Connecticut with 2 small children at home, gracefully navigating the mandatory 3-martini lunches in an otherwise male world.

She wrote copy for the prestigious BMW account — and once posed as the model for an ad she created, when the talent did not show up.

Elise Maclay

Elise’s poetry appeared in publications like Nature magazine. Her “Walk Softly” is often quoted by nature lovers.

She wrote 2 books of prose poems, and collaborated on 5 other books with artist Bev Doolittle.

Elise’s poetry, and interest in Native American, wildlife and nature themes, complements Doolittle’s “camouflage” art.

Elise sourced fine food locally, long before chefs used cilantro and kale. A carnivore, she enjoyed great food robustly. Her culinary taste and writing gifts led to another career. For over 25 years she was Connecticut Magazine’s food critic. She captured tastes, ambiance and the personalities and dreams of chefs.

The number of exquisite meals delivered to her home in recent months is a testament to the loyalty and gratitude of many chefs, young and old, whom she discovered and celebrated.

But her true passion was travel — preferably adventures to far and exotic locales — with her husband. She hiked Machu Picchu, explored the Himalayas and climbed Mt. Kenya in a blizzard.

She, her niece LeeLee and dear friend Fi explored the Caribbean islands, Italy and Portugal as recently as last February.

Closer to home, she was a beloved presence at her family’s summer home on Cape Cod. She walked the beaches, swam, read by the fire, and regaled generations of family and friends with adventures and cherished memories.

Her spirit is carried on by her son Gary Gibbs, his wife Kaija and their 4 children; stepson Bill Maclay, his wife Alex, and their 2 sons; stepson David Maclay Jr., his wife Juliet and their 2 sons; cousn Joyce Haun, and an extended network of neighbors, chefs and friends from all walks of life.

She was predeceased by her husband David, son Brian Gibbs and stepdaughter Sherry Maclay.

Elise would want all to know David’s final words, quoting Tennessee Williams: “Make voyages. Attempt them. There’s nothing else.”

Memorials will be held post-COVID in Westport and Chatham, Massachusetts.

Donations in Elise’s name may be made to the CT Hospitality Employee Relief Fund or Save the Sound.

(Hat tip: Judith Hart)

Marpe Offers Vaccine Update

First Selctman Jim Marpe urges all Westporters to be vaccinated against COVID-19 “as soon as possible.” However, the timetable for doing so is not yet clear.

He says:

Currently, Westport’s long-term care facility residents and staff, and Emergency Medical Service personnel are eligible for and have been receiving the vaccination per state Department of Health guidelines for Phase 1a of the rollout. This includes personnel and staff from the Westport Weston Health District, school nurses, and Police, Fire and Emergency Medical Services Departments.

According to Governor Lamont, Phases 1b and 1c are expected to be completed between January and May. The state has not yet finalized who will be eligible for vaccination during these phases.

A nurse prepares an injection of the influenza vaccine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston in 2013.

By June, it is anticipated that Connecticut will move into Phase 2, and the vaccine will be provided to the general population.  At that point, it is expected that the vaccine will be available through medical providers, CVS and Walgreens pharmacies, and clinics.

Once the criteria for vaccination is met, whether based upon age, health status or employment category, Westporters are encouraged to schedule an appointment for vaccination. We expect that the scheduling processes and technology for the general public will be made available as subsequent vaccination phases are announced.

Although current vaccines do not contain the virus that causes COVID-19, there is a possibility that the virus may be contracted from another source. People may remain asymptomatic and contagious even after vaccination.

As a result, the town will continue observing COVID-19 protocols (wearing a face mask, physical distancing, routine deep sanitization, etc.) until it is deemed safe to discontinue those practices.

For more information oon Connecticut’s vaccination program, click here.

Roundup: Teardowns, Trees, Tony La Russa, More


Yesterday’s Roundup noted the upcoming demolition of 14 Hillandale Road — writer A.E. Hotchner’s longtime home — as part of the construction of Authors Way, a new 4-house subdivision.

Developer Rick Benson says that while the Historic District Commission permit allows teardown any time after Monday (January 11), the final Planning & Zoning Commission hearing is next Thursday (January 14). It’s unlikely, he says, that demolition work will start for a few weeks.

He notes that the house lacks a satisfactory foundation; has no full cellar, first floor bathroom, insulation or central HV/AC system, and has rusted 1920 iron windows.

In addition, Benson says, it lands in the setbacks of the new lot layouts.

14 Hillandale Road


Also slated to be torn down: 27 Gorham Avenue. The home was built in 1933.

27 Gorham Avenue (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)


David Meth writes:

“On Wednesday night, to take a break from the dull routine of daily life and obscene anxiety of politics and pandemic, and actually run away from the assault of the news, a friend and I decided to go out for a delicious pizza at Ignazio’s next to the Sherwood Diner.

“It made the day, because it reminded us of the importance of a pizza and conversation, a glass of beer or wine, a burger at the diner, cup of coffee at the local café … just getting together and talking to one another without devices and electronic interruptions is so wonderfully refreshing and important—and how much we miss the tradition and sense of community of just being with friends, even strangers, to remember who we are as people.”

Remember normal life?


Residents of the Punch Bowl/Gault Park area have noticed a number of trees cut down recently — and others marked with the tape that means their end is near too.

Town tree warden Bruce Lindsay says it’s part of Eversource’s effort to target high-risk trees that could topple in a storm. Many are slender white pines.

The neighborhood bordered by Cross Highway and Weston Road suffered severe damage — including extended power outages — during August’s Tropical Storm Isaias.

Eversource analyzes circuit by circuit performance, then targets the circuits or portions with the most tree-related outages. They then identify trees needing trimming or removal.

Trees account for up to 90% of all outages in Eversource’s system.

(Photo/Joyce Backman)

Tony La Russa is coming to the Westport Library

Well, not really. It’s a livestream, and it’s not likely the Major League Baseball Hall of Famer will be talking from the Westport Library studio.

But he’ll be joined by a good friend — longtime Westporter Steve Parrish — and the Library is sponsoring the event. So — even thought fans can join from anywhere in the world — it does count as “ours.”

The event is set for Tuesday, January 26 (7 p.m.). La Russa will chat about his World Series victories, tell classic baseball stories, and describe his role as new manager of the Chicago White Sox.

Click here to register for the free program.

Tony La Russa


And finally … the War of 1812 roared back in the news this week. That’s the last time — until Wednesday — that the US Capitol suffered a significant breach from opponents of democracy.

On this day in 1815, the last major engagement of that war ended. American forces defeated the British in the bloody Battle of New Orleans.

Andrew Jackson and a ragtag group of frontiersmen, slaves, Indians and pirates held off, then inflicted tremendous damage on a much larger and better trained British force intent on capturing the important port.

In just over 30 minutes, the Americans suffered 60 casualties — and killed 2,000 British.

Jackson became a national hero, and set out on a path to the presidency. However, the battle was for naught. The Treaty of Ghent, ending the war, had been signed 18 days earlier. Word had not yet reached the US from Europe.

Roundup: Community Gathering, Authors Way, Car Heist, More


In response to yesterday’s assault on the US Capitol by a mob, Temple Israel Senior Rabbi Michael Friedman writes:

“Where the rule of law reigns, Jews have flourished. Where lawlessness spreads, we have suffered.

“Similarly, the ancient sage Rabbi Joshua ben Levi taught: ‘Great is peace… if the Holy One had not given peace to the world, sword and beast would devour up the whole world.’

“The Jewish community of Fairfield County will gather tonight (Thursday, January 7, 7 to 7:30 p.m.) online to find comfort in the strength of our community, and to offer prayers for our nation and prayers for peace.”

Click here to register for the webinar.


“Authors Way” is the name of a new subdivision of 4 homes, planned at #14 Hillandale Road.

That’s a nod to Westport’s many famous writers — including A.E. Hotchner. The novelist/playwright/biographer — known for his books about friends like Ernest Hemingway and Paul Newman (with whom he founded the Newman’s Own philanthropy) — died last February. He was 102, and had lived more than half his life — 67 years — here.

His property included a large house. Built in 1928, it was originally part of a 40-acre estate, including a long allée.

Plans call for the homes to be built on 1-acre plots, between Wakeman Road and Ellery Lane. Hotchner’s home — with high ceilings and large rooms — may be torn down as early as Monday (January 11). An application for demolition was made before the Historic District Commission on July 15. They upheld a 180-day delay.

14 Hillandale Road


Police report that at 9:04 a.m. yesterday, the driver of a BMW was pumping gas at the Post Road Exxon station by South Maple Avenue.

A male jumped in and drove off, at a high rate of speed.

GPS tracked the vehicle. West Haven officers tried to pull the driver over. After striking several vehicles in heavy traffic, he finally stopped.

As one of the 2 occupants was taken into custody, the other entered a patrol car. He slammed it into reverse, striking several officer.

The cruiser became disabled after being driven through a nearby cemetery. The second suspect — like the first, a juvenile — was apprehended without further incident.

Westport police remind all motorists to secure their vehicles, even when stepping out for a moment.

For a video of the apprehension of the suspects, click here.


Congressman Jim Himes says:

As part of the recent COVID relief package, qualifying individuals will receive an Economic Impact Payment of up to $600, and up to $600 per dependent child under the age of 17. You can check the status of your EIP by clicking here.

Individuals who make an annual income of $75,000 for an individual and $150,000 for a household will receive the full $600. EIPs will be reduced by $5 for every $100 of annual income above $75,000 for individual and $150,000 for household. To receive an EIP, you must have a work-eligible Social Security Number. Click here for additional information, including information on new provisions on eligibility for U.S. citizens who file their taxes jointly with a non-citizen.

Some eligible individuals and families did not receive their initial Economic Impact Payment. The IRS is instructing these Americans to claim their payment when they file their 2020 taxes in 2021. Eligible individuals can claim the so-called “Recovery Rebate Credit” on their 2020 Form 1040 or 1040-SR.

Many people, including recent college graduates, may be eligible to do so. Taxpayers whose incomes fell in 2020 from 2019 can also claim a credit on their 2020 federal income tax return for the difference between the amount they are entitled to under the law and the amount they received as an advanced payment.

For more information, click here.


Beginning Monday (January 11), the yard waste site at 180 Bayberry Lane will begin reduced winter hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon.

Regular hours resume March 8.

Christmas trees will continue to be accepted from Westport residents during winter hours.

Yard waste at 180 Bayberry Lane.

The Parks & Recreation Department has introduced a “Winter Wonderland Walking Challenge.”

Residents are invited to walk, jog or run a distance of their choice, and track their progress.

It runs now through March 31. To register, click here.

Go for it! (Photo/Rowene Weems)


And finally … on this day of outrage, mourning and reflection, we can also be uplifted by Phil Ochs’ stirring anthem.

Here is a land full of power and glory
Beauty that words cannot recall
Oh her power shall rest on the strength of her freedom
Her glory shall rest on us all (on us all).