Category Archives: Environment

Daphne’s Gift

Dogs are quick to make friends. A sniff here, a wag of a tail there, then a tiny poodle and huge Rottweiler head happily into the woods.

Dog owners are a friendly breed too. The folks who are led by their pets to the paths and benches of Winslow Park form their own tight community. As Fido and Fifi romp, their parents bond.

So it was nice to see this big box — and accompanying note — the other day there:

The flyer said that Daphne — a golden — had died a few days earlier, from injuries in an accident. She was a month shy of 3 years old.

Her owner Carrie wrote:

Daphne was such a joy and full of love. This park was her home away from home. Winslow was her happy place and the community of people and dogs here were part of her family….She befriended any dog that was willing to play and chase. Daphne was a friend to all and always had a smile on her face.

Carrie will miss her daily walks with Daphne. But, Carrie said, a box of tennis balls had been delivered just before Daphne died. Her dog “couldn’t wait to get her paws on them. She would want her friends to have them.”

There they were: tons of tennis balls for the taking.

Carrie concluded: “Hug your fur babies a little extra for me today.”

(Hat tip: Lindsey Blavais)

RIP, Palm Tree

Maybe it went south for the winter?

(Photo/Giulia Maiolo)

Photo Challenge #150

Compo Road South is home to 2 beautiful town-owned properties.

Everyone knows Baron’s South. A few “06880” readers thought last week’s photo showed rocks and woods on that land a few steps from downtown, once owned by perfume mogul Walter Langer von Langendorff.

Nope. As Leigh Gage, Alec Head and Jamie Walsh knew, it was Haskins Preserve — the much-lesser-known gem on Green Acre Lane, off South Compo. It’s just as lovely as Baron’s South, and easier to access. Click here for the back story; click here for Wendy Cusick’s photo.

Equally rustic is this sign, commemorating Westport’s founding as a town. In fact, it looks like it dates all the way back to 1835. If you know where in Westport you’d see it, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)

Pic Of the Day #206

Nyala Farm (Photo/Dave Dellinger)

Jenny Hampe’s Journey

At Staples, Jenny Hampe was a disciple of Jim Wheeler. The popular art teacher advised her against art school though, warning, “It will ruin you.”

So after graduating in 1983, Jenny headed to New York University — for film.

Young Jenny Hampe.

In her senior year she moved to Kentucky, to study with Mike Skop — Wheeler’s own mentor.

“That’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done,” Jenny says. She dropped out of NYU, and — she thought — left Westport and the East Coast behind.

She was drawn to “very remote, windswept, lonely, cold, isolated northern places, for philosophical retreats.” Jenny says.

She lived on the northwest coast of Scotland, and an island off Maine. Every once in a while though, she returned home. When she did, Soup’s On — the friendly, funky Main Street restaurant — always welcomed her back with work.

During one of those interludes, she met a customer wearing a Norwegian sweater. He lived in Weston, but was a legit Scandinavian. They fell in love, went to Norway, got married at Norfield Church, and moved back to his home country.

He went to organic farming school. They found a farm on a fjord. Accessible only by boat, there was sun less than 6 months a year. The nearest village was over 5 miles away.

The fjord farm.

It was quite a place. UNESCO named it a World Heritage Site. National Geographic called it one of the most beautiful spots on earth. “We were there in the wilderness,” Jenny says.

The 2 suburbanites with a small flock of sheep, some wild boars and chickens learned as they lived. Soon, Jenny had a child.

Their 2 1/2 years on the fjord farm ended when her husband got in a fistfight with their 75-year-old neighbor.

Jenny found an island for sale, elsewhere in Norway. With a loan from Westport Bank & Trust, they bought it. They lived there for 7 1/2 more years. She had 2 more babies.

There were Jersey cows, 75 sheep, pigs, turkeys, chickens and rabbits. Like the other farm, this one had minimal electricity and plumbing.

“It was another amazing chapter,” Jenny recalls.

Jenny Hampe loved her farm life.

She got divorced, and married another Norwegian. Soon, Jenny was living on her 3rd farm. It lacked road access, electricity and running water.

She was there for another 10 years. She had her 4th child there too.

Jenny Hampe with her “kids” — human and animal.

Then she had a midlife crisis. “It’s a complex story,” she says. “I was homesick for my homeland.”

Which is why Jenny now lives in … Brooklyn.

She’s an artist there, working in collage and textiles. (She learned that craft while sewing her own and her family’s clothes in Norway). She also makes memory jugs.

Jenny Hampe today.

And 4 days a week, she commutes to Westport. She’s got “an amazing job” here, as an estate gardener.

“It’s confusing to some people,” she admits. “I dress in wooden shoes and aprons, with dresses down to my ankles. But I’m a New Yorker.”

She looks back with gratitude on her life tending goats and making cheese. But, she realizes, “New York was always in my blood. And Westport is my home.”

Her 4 children — now in their teens and 20s — spent last summer with her. They all shared a 1-bedroom Brooklyn apartment.

“They love New York too,” she says.

So what does she make of all this?

“My life is exciting,” she concludes. “I’m a Jenny of all trades.”

Free Sherwood Island!

Overlooked in the blizzard of news following the passage of our state’s last-in-the-nation budget is this:

Starting January 1, Connecticut residents will no longer pay for admission to 24 state parks and 3 state forests.

It’s covered through a new Department of Motor Vehicles charge: $10, paid every 2 years.

If you’re like me, and fail to see a connection between the DMV and the Department of Environmental and Energy Protection, look at the bottom line: The new charge will raise $16 million of the $18 million needed for annual operation of the parks.

Fees collected will be kept separate from Connecticut’s general fund.

Shewood Island State Park: 232 acres of prime real estate, right here in Westport.

What does that mean for Westport?

For one thing, Sherwood Island — the often-overlooked 232-acre gem right inside our borders — might get a few more town visitors.

For another, I’m sure someone will suggest that the solution to our Compo Beach crowds is to shunt more out-of-towners to the state park.

Of course, free admission applies only to Connecticut residents. Whether at Sherwood Island or Compo, New Yorkers still have to pay.

Pic Of The Day #202

Lillian Wadsworth Arboretum, just before Earthplace. (Photo/Amy Schneider)

Pic Of The Day #200

Fishing off Ford Road (Photo/Richard Wiese)

New Look For An Old Parking Lot

For years, high bushes hid the smaller Compo Beach parking area — once called the “out of town” lot — from nearby Soundview Avenue, and the sand beyond.

Yesterday those bushes were removed. In their place: dune grass.

Alert “o6880” photographer Matt Murray was there. He shows us the new look:

Aquarion Water Towers: P&Z Member Responds

On Monday, Chip Stephens saw an “06880” post announcing that 1st selectman candidates Jim Marpe and Melissa Kane would meet with North Avenue residents concerned about Aquarion’s plan to build 2 water tanks on North Avenue.

As he read it, the Planning & Zoning Commission member saw red.

In an email to “06880,” Stephens responds:

The North Avenue water tanks are not a campaign issue. To say they are shows little respect for the hard work to date addressing needs and concerns, and no attention to facts.

The P&Z spent 4 months reviewing and working on this. We came to our conclusion based on facts from Aquarion, neighbors and public safety officials. For example:

The current steel tank dates back to the 1950s. That was before Staples High School was built on North Avenue, back when we hosted Nike missiles in town, and before many large housing developments — including the the current tank’s neighbors — were built. Homes are now bigger, and there are  more of them. Multifamily housing complexes did not exist then. They do now, and they are increasing.

The current tank is way past its freshness date. Steel rusts, and degrades. The tank needs to be replaced. That is a given.

The Aquarion water tank, during recent pump station construction.

As part of a gravity feed system,, the tank needs to be at its current elevation or higher. Different locations, including Bayberry or Bedford Middle School, were looked at. But that would entail new piping, and other neighbors being offended.

All the numbers calculated in the needed capacity were scrutinized, revised, reviewed and argued over. The fire chief, water experts and all other experts agreed that with Westport’s growth and larger schools, businesses and multi-family complexes, and the safety of Westport, these volumes of water must be served.

Westport’s water come from Fairfield. The needs are ours. Norwalk has its own water authority, not linked to Aquarion. Weston has no public water (which is scary, with failing wells and tainted quality).

Any decision by P&Z could be overturned by the state utility regulators, and most likely would have been if the application was denied. Water utilities are required to work with towns, but ultimately have broad power to locate their resources. Phone, electricity, rail all do what they want, with no requirement to listed to affected neighbors (though sometimes they do).

The neighbors have valid and pressing concerns. They got much attention from Aquarion, with multiple meetings. Many of their issues were heard. Not all were fully addressed — but Aquarion did try to accommodate higher plantings, color of tanks, very slight lowering of height, and promises to consider traffic and noise better than the previous pump project.

Remember, this is a public utility. Relocation, reworking and/or rebuilding the distribution system pipes and pumps — or any other major change — would involve major costs. These would be carried by Westport public water users, resulting in significantly higher water bills. And good luck finding that location with high enough elevation, and where all neighbors welcome the tanks with love and understanding for the greater good.

P&Z and local officials tried to hard to do our best, working with the parties. Regulatory, financial and logistical issues are hard to fight. And when it comes to the water system, there is no way to alter the laws of gravity and physics.