Category Archives: Environment

Roundup: Smart Switch; Water Tanks; Panera Bread; More


Chris Scherban is quite bright. He was Staples High School’s 2017 salutatorian; he’s now at Georgia Tech. He’s a veteran of many Westport Maker Faires.

He and 2 friends have just launched a smart home startup, called Theory. With it, anyone — including numbskulls — can make any light switch (indoors or out) smart. Chris’ switch goes on top of existing one — no tools needed. It works via an app, and an adhesive strip.

Theory can be controlled through iOS, Android, Alexa, Google Assistant, even his new website. 

Now they just have to bring it to market.

A few minutes ago, they launched a Kickstarter campaign. The goal is $45,000. To help, click here.

Chris Scherban


Site work has begun on the North Avenue water tanks. A row of old trees has been taken down, offering a few of the decades-old tank that few have ever seen.

As part of the agreement with neighbors, Aquarion will eventually provide extensive landscape restoration.

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)


When the Westport Panera location looked closed — and any mention of it vanished from their website — Bitsy Higgins reached out to their “customer care” team.

This morning, they emailed her:

Thanks for your patience the West port location will reopen on 7/7/2020. Please let me know if you have any additional questions. Have a great day!”

That’s tomorrow. And the news will ensure that many Westporters (or “West porters”) have a great day.

The Panera Bread near the Southport line.


Westport was awash in red, white and blue this holiday weekend.

There was this too, at a home near downtown: a reminder of another color that is an important part of the fabric of America. (Hat tip: Hannah Spencer)


And finally … 22 years ago today — July 6, 1998 — Roy Rogers died of heart failure. He was 86 years old.

 

Pics Of The Day #1173

One gull at Burying Hill Beach … (Photo/Amy Schneider)

… and a flock (Photo/Lou Weinberg)

Ellen Landowne: Who Is That Masked Woman?

Now that everyone– and by “everyone” I mean normal, non-selfish boneheads — understands the importance of wearing masks, Westport Masks is busier than ever.

For many weeks the ad hoc group has made masks, then donated them to front line personnel and those in need. Recipients include Westport’s Public Works, Parks & Recreation and highway departments; Westport Post Office; elderly residents through Westport’s Department of Human Services; Open Door Shelter in Norwalk; Food Rescue US; Thomas Merton Family Center in Bridgeport; Stamford Hospice, Norwalk Hospital and more.

Dozens of folks cut, sew and deliver. But all involved agree, one volunteer truly stands out.

Ellen Landowne heard about Westport Masks in March through “06880,” and was one of the first to step forward.

Since then she has been a core team member. She’s made masks for many — including seniors — and raised funds for food pantries (through sales to the public, at $12 each).

Pretty good for anyone. Particularly for someone who — like Ellen — is 85 years young.

Ellen Landowne, at her 1942 Singer machine. It once belonged to her mother. She still uses it for all her sewing needs.

Ellen came to Westport in 1967 with her husband Bob Landowne. They were married for 59 years, until his death in 2017. Their 3 children — Deborah, Steve and Judy — all graduated from Staples High School.

After graduating from Mount Holyoke College and then New York-Presbyterian Columbia University Medical Center, Ellen became a registered nurse. She stopped working when her children were in school.

In what she calls her “second, ‘unpaid’ career,” Ellen got involved with the Girl Scouts. Funding came from 8 United Ways. She volunteered with the Westport-Weston group as a “foot soldier,” then joined the board. Eventually, she was named United Way of Westport and Weston’s first female president.

Ellen also served on the board of the Mid-Fairfield Child Guidance Center.

And at age 55, she received her private pilot certificate. She flew with Bob as far as Florida and Ontario.

Ellen Landowne, pilot.

The masks Ellen and her fellow volunteers make have 2 layers of 100% cotton.  They’re washable, with a filter pocket for added protection. They have neck ties too, so they can be worn all the time.

Masks can be ordered at $12 each through westportmasks@yahoo.com. All proceeds go to local food pantries, and to purchase supplies for more masks.

Volunteers are always needed. Organizers say: “If you have a working sewing machine, can sew in a straight line and can follow a pattern, we could use your help. Fabric cutting is also greatly appreciated.” Email westportmasks@yahoo.com.

Their next project: In preparation for return to school, the group is making children’s masks for families who cannot afford disposable ones.

(Hat tip: Virginia Jaffe)

Roundup: Library Reopens; Craig Melvin; Dirty Dancing; Yankee Doodle Fair; More


The reimagined Westport Library was a spectacular success. For a few months, it was packed with users, jammed with events, pulsing with energy.

Then COVID-19 struck.

But 4 months after it closed, the library is poised to reopen. The big date is Monday, July 13.

Limited services begin, weekdays (2 to 6 p.m.) and Saturdays (12 to 4 p.m.). Only 100 people — including staff — will be allowed in the building at any time.

Masks are required. The only entrance is the main one (upper parking lot). The only exit is through the café.

The café and store are not open. Conference and meeting rooms will also be closed. Computer access will be limited to the Express stations.

Curbside pickup services continues weekdays (10 a.m. to 1 p.m.).

The library will extend loan periods, but fines will accrue for materials not returned within the loan periods.

The library will continue to offer virtual programs and services, while phasing in the full reopening of the building.


During these disconnected times, Dave Briggs — former CNN, NBC Sports and Fox anchor (and proud Westporter) — has conducted a series of Instagram Live interviews with interesting residents.

Folks like 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, restaurant owner Bill Taibe and former NFL quarterback/ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky talk about the town, the pandemic, and answer questions from followers.

Today’s guest (Thursday, July 2) is Craig Melvin. The NBC “Today” host has been square in the middle of both the COVID and racial unrest stories.

Just follow @westportmagazine on Instagram, and click on the “Live” tab at the top of their feed at 4:30 for a fascinating chat. It will be reposted later by Dave (@davebriggstv).

Craig Melvin


There are no fireworks at Compo Beach to celebrate the 4th. BUT … there is a great movie at Westport’s own drive-in!

The Remarkable Theater shows “Dirty Dancing” at the Imperial Avenue parking lot. The classic summer romance/dance film begins at 8:45 p.m. on Saturday (the 4th). The lot opens at 7:45, and pre-film content starts at 8:15.

Tickets are $50 per car. Click here to purchase.

It’s a great movie. Even if it’s not “Independence Day,” or “Born on the 4th of July.”


COVID knocked out this year’s Yankee Doodle Fair. But the annual Westport Woman’s Club fundraiser has been around for a century. It will be back next year.

And if you want your Fair fix, check out this video shot last year by interns from Fourth Row Films. It premiered last week, at the Remarkable Theater’s opening night drive-in movie benefit for the WWC.

if you’re inspired by the video — or just want to help provide much-needed funds for the Woman’s Club community grants, scholarships, food pantry and other great causes — click here.


Want to win the war on invasive weeds?

That’s the topic of the next “Pollinator Series” online presentation from Wakeman Town Farm.

This Monday (July 6, 7-8 p.m.), University of Connecticut advanced master gardener Alice Ely will spotlight a guide to invasives, developed by WTF’s 2020 senior class interns.

Click here to register. Registrants will be emailed a Zoom link the day of the talk. Everyone gets a free guide to the area’s worst weeds too.


Missed the benefit cabaret that Staples High School senior Jamie Mann organized for Obi Ndefo — the actor/inspiration/friend who lost both legs when hit by a drunk driver?

Here’s your chance. Just click below. The sound is not great at the start, but it gets better. The performances, back story and messages are well worth it!


And finally … another fun summertime classic.

Pic Of The Day #1170

They were here long before we were (Photo/Lauri Weiser)

Roundup: Le Penguin; Bears; Racial Inequality; Mullett; More


This sad announcement was posted to social media yesterday:

“It is with enormous sadness that we must announce the closing of Le Penguin in Westport.

“We hope you have enjoyed our food, our staff, our style and our sense of humor. We, Anshu & Antoine, are very proud of what we created. We are very proud of the relationships we have made, of the numerous smiles of gratitude we received from satisfied customers. We thank you for sharing your lives with us. In the meantime, come see us at Le Penguin in Greenwich and Le Fat Poodle in Old Greenwich.” (Hat tip: Johanna Rossi)


There were several bear sightings yesterday, in the northern part of Westport. A bear cub and large young male bear were observed, acting normally.

According to the Westport Police Deparment, black bears are increasingly common in Connecticut. They note: “Bears have an incredible sense of smell.  To prevent luring them towards your property, secure your garbage in sturdy covered containers in a garage or outbuilding.

“Residents who compost should do so responsibly. Do not throw meat scraps or greasy, oily or sweet materials in your compost pile. Clean greasy grills after each use, refrain from leaving pet food outdoors, and remove bird feeders from your property for the summer. Keep your eye on pets and small children playing outside.

“Use caution and do not approach the bear. The mere presence of a bear does not necessitate its removal. If left alone and given an avenue for escape, the bear will usually wander back into more secluded areas. For more information on bears, click here.

In 2013, Cablevision News 12 aired this shot of a black bear in Westport.


If you’re like me, you would love a Long Island Sound sunset cruise. But you don’t own a boat.

No problem!

A generous Wakeman Town Farm supporter is offering a private excursion, as a fundraiser in these tough non-profit times.

The winner will enjoy “libations and lobster rolls” on a “luxe 43-foot Intrepid.”

Silent bidding is today only; it ends at midnight. The minimum bid is $350. Click here (or email wakemantownfarm@gmail.com). Include your name — and good luck!


JoyRide is a full-service spin studio.

Today (Tuesday, June 30, 5 p.m.), they host the first installment of their speaker series on racial inequality. It’s called “Teachers Raise Your Hands.”

Guests are Alli Frank and Asha Youmans, authors of Tiny Imperfections. The Black woman from Seattle and white woman from rural Washington use their stories from in and out of the classroom to encourage us all to actively seek out difference, and find our inner teacher.

Click here to register — and to ask questions of the authors.

Asha Youmans and Alli Frank.


Hey, Mullett fans!

The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and Westport Library are teaming up for the next Supper & Soul event (Saturday, July 11, 8 p.m.).

It’s a livestream concert with ’80s tribute band Mullet. They specialize in classic Van Halen, Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Journey and Poison songs — and look the part.

“What a perfect opportunity to have some friends over for an 80’s hair metal party,” says Chamber director Matthew Mandell.

“This socially distant version of the popular Supper & Soul event supports local restaurants while giving everyone an entertaining evening.”

“Attendees” are encouraged to order takeout from local restaurants, and eat home for the show.

To find out more and to order tickets (just $10.80!) for Stay Home & Soul, click here.

Mullett


The deadline to renew railroad station parking permits is exxtended to July 15. Renewals can be done 4 ways: click here, by mail (50 Jesup Road, Westport, CT 06880) or at the box outside Police Department headquarters.

People on the wait list are required to update their information annually. Use the link above.

For more information, click here. Questions? Call 203-341-6052.

Railroad station parking has not looked like this for a while.


And finally … The groundbreaking 1937 song “Strange Fruit” compares the victims of lynchings to the fruit of trees. It’s been recorded by artists ranging from Nina Simone and UB40 to Sioxsie and the Banshees, but Billie Holiday’s is perhaps the most famous.

Though her label, Columbia, refused to record it — fearful of the reaction of Southern record store owners and its own radio network, CBS — they allowed her to release it on the Commodore jazz label. It sold a million copies — more than any other Billie Holiday song.

However, the song helped cause her demise. It enraged the director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, who used his men to frame her. Click here for details about the song, and what it meant to her and her career.

David Pogue’s CritterCam

David Pogue is an Emmy-winning tech writer (Yahoo, New York Times, Scientific American) and TV correspondent (“CBS Sunday Morning,” PBS “Nova Science Now”).

David Pogue at work in Westport, long before the coronavirus.

Yet in many ways he’s just another Westport homeowner. Every once in a while he tosses food scraps onto the yard. He figures some hungry critters will appreciate them.

Every morning, they’re gone.

His inquisitive mind wonders: Who — or what — eats them so promptly?

With a bit of time during the lockdown, he finally indulged his curiosity. On Amazon he discovered motion-triggered night-vision cameras (aka trail cameras).

The other night, he set one up. To test his visitors’ intelligence, Pogue put some corn cob pieces and stale bread under a mixing bowl, held down with a piece of slate.

The next morning he retrieved the memory card from the camera. He was amazed by both the number and variety of creatures who stopped by. He had no idea most of them lived nearby.

Being David Pogue, he edited the 12 species into a montage. Click below (if you dare):

Pogue says, “I’m aware that it’s not a great idea to leave food out for wild animals. Human food is ‘junk food’ for them, and we also don’t want them to become dependent.

“‘06880’ readers can rest assured that our food-tossing is an occasional experiment, not a regular practice.”

Pogue also knows that many Westporters are alarmed to see wildlife in their midst.

“I guess I’m a little different that way,” he says.

“I’m thrilled to know that despite our intrusion into their territory, so many native species still thrive, with their own active routines, as we lie asleep at night.”

Roundup: Actual Plovers; Herons; More


I goofed! I ran a photo of an American oystercatcher yesterday, instead of the piping plover born at Compo’s South Beach. I’m an idiot.

Here is the correct photo, by Tina Green:


So how was your jUNe Day weekend? As colorful as the flags? As relaxing as these herons cormorants?

(Photo/Lori Levine)


And finally … the lifeguards will be back at Compo. Summer is here. Even with masks and physical distancing — beach, baby!

 

Pics Of The Day #1168

Flower power at Compo Beach … (Photo/Lee Scharfstein)

… and Saugatuck Shores (Photo/Les Dinkin)

Roundup: Sea Kayak; Scream; Piping Plovers; More


When DownUnder went down under last fall, Saugatuck lost a special business. And recreation-seekers lost a Riverside (Avenue and description) site for kayak and paddle board rentals.

The space has been filled. The new tenant is … Sea Kayak Connecticut.

After 10 years in Wilton — using trailers to serve the state launch site across the river under I-95, as well as a state pond — owner David McPherson has moved to the visible and very active spot next to Saugatuck Sweets.

Sea Kayak offers rentals (single and double kayaks, stand up paddle boards); gear; instruction — and tours (Saugatuck River and Westport coast, sunset, full moon, and private outings).

Click here for more information.


This weekend’s Remarkable Theater films — “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Caddyshack” — sold out the Imperial Avenue parking lot.

This Thursday (July 2), the pop-up drive-in shifts from comedy to horror. “Scream” hits the big screen.

Parking begins at 7:45 a.m. The pre-show is on at 8:30; the movie starts at sunset (8:45-ish). Tickets go on sale Tuesday at 12:01 a.m. Click here to purchase, and for more information.

PS: The Remarkable Theater hopes to show 2 more films each week, throughout the summer. That’s contingent on Board of Selectmen approval.


Peter Green reports:

While many residents have enjoyed watching the Compo Beach American oystercatcher chicks grow into juvenile birds, the federally endangered piping plover pair have taken turns sitting on their 3 eggs

Until yesterday! Hatching occurred early in the morning. This is the the first time piping plovers have successfully bred, nested and fledged chicks at Compo Beach.

Visitors should tread carefully. The young chicks — which look like cotton balls with legs — are easy to miss. The tiny birds will forage for food on the beach.

Thanks to the town of Westport for helping Beth Amendola from Audubon Connecticut with this success story.

(Photo/Peter Green)


And finally … Bob Dylan released another album this month. He’s had an astonishing career (and a Nobel Prize to show for it).

But hardly anything compares to this 1963 masterpiece. It’s just as fitting today as 57 years ago — when he sang it with Joan Baez at the memorable August March on Washington, just minutes before Martin Luther King proclaimed “I have a dream …”

There are too many great versions of this song to select just one. So take your pick. Or listen to them all.