Category Archives: Environment

Farmers’ Market Serves Up Top Chef Battle

The Westport Farmers’ Market is 12 years old — and wildly popular.

Every Thursday from May through November throngs fill the Imperial Avenue parking lot, on a hunt for fresh produce, meat and fish, baked goods, even pizza, tacos and dog food.

But the Market always looks to add spice to its spices, herbs and more.

So — even though the Westport Farmers’ Market is a community celebration, not a competition — they’re introducing a Chef of the Market contest.

Starting this Thursday — and running once a month through the fall — 12 well-known names battle it out through an opening round, semifinals and finals. The winner will be, I guess, the chief chef.

The brainchild of board member — and no-slouch-himself chef Bill Taibe — works like this.

On the 3rd Thursday of each month, 3 chefs go head-to-head-to-head.

At 10 a.m., they get $20. They have 45 minutes to shop for ingredients, cook, and present their appetizer-size dish to the judges. PS: Electricity is not allowed.

In keeping with the fun theme, judges are randomly selected from any shopper who wants to participate.

In 2015, chefs prepared a recipe at the Westport Farmers’ Market. This year, they’ll compete against others. (Photo/Oliver Parini)

The first round runs through August. The winner of each group moves on to the semifinals, the 3rd Thursday in September.

Finals are set for “Fork it Over,” the Westport Farmers’ Market annual October fundraiser.

All chefs donate one $50 gift certificate from their restaurant. The winner gets every gift card — so he can enjoy his competitors’ meals yet not pay for them — along with other prizes.

The early chefs — particularly those tomorrow — have it tough. They can’t choose from flavorful snap peas, strawberries or squash. However, Taibe is sure they’ll do imaginative, tasty things with this month’s bounty, like radishes and kale.

Fresh produce is one of the Westport Farmer’s Market’s most popular attractions. Chefs competing in this year’s competition know exactly how to prepare it. But can they shop for it — and finish their dish — in just 45 minutes?

All 12 chefs gathered at the Market last week, to pick their dates out of a hat.

There was already smack talk — including between the chefs at Taibe’s own Whelk, Kawa Ni and Jesup Hall, all of whom are competing. Other Westport chefs represent The Cottage, OKO, Match Lobster Burger and Amis.

There’s chatter on social media too.

Starting Thursday, the rest of us can see where it all leads.

Let the Chef of the Market games begin!

Chef competitors include: May 24, Geoff Lazlo, Ben Freemole, Christian Wilki; (June 21) Matt Storch, Jeff Taibe, Adam Roytman; (July 19), Jonas/Brad, Anthony Kostelis, Anthony Rinaldi; (August 16) Nick Martschenko, Dan Sabia, Carlos Baez.

Pic Of The Day #399

Sharing water at Winslow Park. (Photo/Dan Woog)

A Ducky Rescue

Most Westport Fire Department press releases describe house blazes, motor vehicle extrications and hazardous waste clean-ups.

This one’s different. 

And one more reason why we love our firefighters:

 Earlier this evening, Westport Fire Department dispatchers received numerous calls for an animal rescue on I-95. A family of ducks had been observed trying to navigate I-95 at rush hour, resulting in 9 ducklings falling into a storm drain.

Rescue 3 and the shift commander responded to I-95 North to provide assistance, meeting up with state police troopers just prior to exit 17. A Department of Transportation Safety Patrol vehicle provided critical barrier protection for those working on the highway.

Removing the grate for the rescue.

Firefighters used a variety of hand tools, hydraulic rescue tools and metering equipment to gain access to the storm drain. Firefighter Andrew Ponticiello entered the storm drain via a ladder and patiently rescued all 9 of the ducklings, despite their reluctance to exit. This was his second animal rescue from a storm drain in as many days.

Firefighter Andrew Ponticiello, with his 9 ducklings.

As a reminder, if you are concerned about the welfare of any animal — particularly when the animals are on a highway or main road — call 911 and ask for assistance. The roads and highways are dangerous places to be. We want to make sure everyone goes home safely.

Photo Challenge #177

There are 2 types of Westporters: Those who love Sherwood Island, and those who have never been.

Those in the 1st group include Arthur Schoeller, Michele Carey-Moody, Vanessa Bradford, Chris Buckley, Fred Cantor, Lawrence Zlatkin, Mary Ann Batsell, Hope Hageman, Michael Brennecke, Linda Amos, Erik Østbye and Peter Ritchey. They had no trouble identifying last week’s photo challenge as the Nature Center, a crown jewels in our very own state park. (Click here for Brant Mozingo’s photo, and all guesses.)

If you’re in the 2nd group: too bad. You’re missing out on 232 beautiful acres. The beach is great; there’s tons of trails, plenty of nature, and lots to do.

Plus, it’s free for Connecticut residents! (Funds come from a $10 fee when you register your motor vehicle.)

So you have 2 choices:

  1. Drop whatever you’re doing, and go explore Sherwood Island
  2. Try to guess this week’s photo challenge. If you think you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Dan Woog)

 

Entitled Drivers Tackle New Targets

Take heart, handicapped people: You’re not alone!

For years, very entitled drivers have taken your parking spots.

Now there’s a competitor: spaces reserved for electric vehicles.

Never mind that you need these spots to charge your cars.

And forget that one reason for putting charging stations in accessible locations is to encourage more people to buy EVs.

There’s no excuse for this entitled parking.

And the driver definitely can’t say he couldn’t read the sign.

After all: This is the library.

(PS: The train station usually has fewer charging spots than vehicles wanting to charge. And often 2 or 3 of the 8 spots are taken by electric cars that are not plugged in — they probably have a full charge already. Just owning an EV doesn’t mean you can take those spaces!)

Doggone It! Dog Festival Is Postponed

It’s not the dog days of August. But predicted unsettled weather — including possible thunderstorms — has forced postponement of Westport’s Dog Festival.

Originally scheduled for this Sunday at Winslow Park, the new date is Sunday, May 27. The time is the same: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“It’s the prudent thing to do,” said Matthew Mandell, executive director of the sponsoring Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.

“The weather has really been tough the last few weeks. Besides, dogs don’t like thunder.”

This is the 2nd time in 3 years that the festival date was moved. The 2016 debut was postponed — yet still a great success.

Now let’s hope the 3rd time is the charm for Memorial Day. The last 2 parades were canceled, due to weather.

 

For more information about the Dog Festival go to http://www.westportwestonchamber.com/dogs

Naturally, Westport

On his short walk from home to the Green’s Farms railroad station today, Nico Eisenberger heard and saw lots of osprey action.

That’s normal along the estuary. He sometimes feels like he’s “living inside an osprey soundtrack.” Looking up though, he spotted a new nest.

(Photo/Nico Eisenberger)

In his nearly 5 years in Westport, he says, it’s never been there.

Nico is not sure if this is a new nesting pair of ospreys, or a new nest for an existing pair. Either way, he says, it’s very exciting.

Meanwhile, Mary Sikorski spotted this gorgeous heron on the Westport Library Riverwalk:

(Photo/Mary Sikorski)

The weather has not been great lately.

But mist and rain can never mask the beauty of Westport nature.

Pic Of The Day #394

Sherwood Island artist looks like a painting himself (Photo/Nicola Sharian)

Westport Historical Society Mystery Item #2

Over the next year, the Westport Historical Society is presenting “The History of Westport in 100 Objects.”

The exhibit changes every 2 weeks. Each time, there’s a new “mystery” item. The winner — chosen from all correct guesses — gets an item from the gift shop.

The 2nd object was this:

If you guessed “grain flail” — you’re right!

I’m not sure how many people did. But Eric Davré is the winner.

And if you’re wondering, a grain flail is

an agricultural tool used to separate grains from their husk. A flail is made from 2 or more large sticks attached by a short chain or strip of leather so it may swing down onto grain piles to thrash or beat out grain from the husk. Flails fell into disuse when the original combine harvester, pulled by horses, was invented. But flails have survived the test of time. In Minnesota, wild rice of the Ojibwe people can only be legally harvested from canoes using this method.

(For more information on the “100 Objects” exhibit, click here.)

[OPINION] Westport Deserves Better From Aquarion

The battle between Aquarion and North Avenue residents — over the proposed construction of 2 large water tanks — drags quietly on.

“06880” Robert Harrington provides this view of the ongoing battle:

Behind the scenes, things has been busy. Since December, we have been trying to gain a better understanding of the reasons for the increase in water capacity and work with Aquarion on a compromise for the proposed water tanks on North Avenue.

To date, we have not reached agreement. Aquarion has rejected our compromise plan, committing only to extra landscaping.

After a months-long campaign, North Avenue residents have removed road signs opposing the water tanks. They hope to foster a better relationship between Aquarion and the community.

Our plan proposed removing the 9-foot dome roof, and a modest 5-foot reduction to the planned 31-foot side walls. (The current tank side wall is 11 feet).

Piping upgrades alongside this project would deliver the fire department more fire flow and pressure than the current plan.

It is nearly impossible to shield 2 40-foot giant tanks. Last August, Aquarion’s CEO promised Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission that the tanks would be “fully shielded within a few short years.”  This will not be the case. Under our plan, two 25-foot tanks would be much easier to screen. Nowhere in Connecticut has anyone successfully screened 40-foot tanks.

Twin tanks in Trumbull are unscreened.

The 3-acre North Avenue site is very different from other Aquarion properties. They are typically located on 20 to 30-acre lots, surrounded by thick woodland.

The Westport project is currently on hold, pending an appeal at the state’s Public Utility Regulatory Authority. Yet neighbors may be denied an opportunity to present their arguments.

Limited talks with Aquarion are ongoing. However, Aquarion’s legal stance is to stop the neighbors by filing motions to block them.

The neighbors’ action group has an important message. 1,200 residents signed a petition requesting an independent water study, and lower tanks.

We support a major water infrastructure upgrade, but the new tanks need to fit better within the residential environment.

An aerial view shows the North Avenue Aquarion tank site, opposite Staples High School.

The problems are not just related to how they look.

During low usage periods, (i.e., during the fall/winter months), water will have to be drained off to prevent water quality issues. The tanks are too large.

More worrisome, 73% of Westport’s key fire hydrants will still have “deficient” fire flow and pressure.

11 of 15 test hydrants will not be compliant with Insurance Service Office standard. As the P&Z is sworn to uphold public interest and welfare in town, we have formally asked them to investigate this.

A peer review, paid for by Aquarion, cited both issues.

What the study did not highlight is the biggest single opportunity to increase our ISO rating: annual inspections of fire hydrants. Aquarion won’t commit to annual inspections. They should.

Bigger tanks alone cannot fix the problem. Piping upgrades are needed too. This is critical to properly protect Westport.  Aquarion’s own data shows this clearly.

Residents can get lower tanks. Fire Department can get significantly better fire flow. This costs money — although both tank and piping upgrades could be paid for over the life of this 50+ year project.

This appeal matters. Our voices should be heard. Aquarion is trying to ensure that doesn’t happen. Elected officials have our backs.

First Selectman Jim Marpe has written to PURA requesting our appeal be heard,

State elected officials have followed his lead. Senators Toni Boucher and Tony Hwang, and State Representatives Jonathan Steinberg and Gail Lavielle have written to PURA Secretary Katie Dykes that they support the rejection of Aquarion’s motion to dismiss.

Save Westport Now and the Coalition for Westport have shown strong support too.

Water quality issues, deficient hydrant data and a proper look at alternatives were not fully discussed at the P&Z.

Eversource/Aquarion, the state’s largest electric/water utility, need to rethink. Our plan would protect Westport and avoid going to PURA altogether — if agreement can be reached beforehand.

Westport deserves better.