Category Archives: Places

Daffodil Mile In Bloom

It’s been a long, hard winter. Sometimes this feels not like April 21, but January 111th.

Don’t tell that to the daffodils. Willowbrook’s famed “Daffodil Mile” is now in full bloom.

That’s great news for the thousands of drivers who pass the Main Street cemetery every day — and the many more bikers, joggers and walkers who wait patiently for the display.

Over the past 10 years, families and friends of Willowbrook’s “residents” (aka dead people) have donated 35,000 bulbs. Each year the line of yellow flowers grows.

Next year, 10,000 more bulbs will be planted.

And in the coming months, cemetery trustees will release details on a new cherry blossom mall.

PS: The cool weather is good for one thing. This year, the daffodils will bloom longer than usual.

(For more information, click here for the Willowbrook Cemetery website.)

We’re Not Sure What’s Right. But This Is Definitely Wrong.

It’s a never-ending debate: Green’s Farms (with an apostrophe) or Greens Farms (without)?

There’s even a sign that says Greensfarms.

But everyone agrees there was more than 1 farm.

Except this, on the Post Road near South Turkey Hill:

 

Vani Court’s New Buddy

Alert “06880” reader Jonathan Greenfield loves Westport. These days, he loves it just a little bit more. He writes:

The residents of Vani Court exemplify the absolute best in neighborly values. They truly reflect all that’s wonderful in Westport.

That quiet street off South Compo — which still consists of many post-war Capes built for returning veterans in the 1940s — is where my rescue dog Buddy Holly ended up 2 days in a row after he pushed his way past my daughter, and through an open door.

My 9-year-old son gave chase. I grabbed a leash and ran to the car, as my 4-year-old daughter pointed the way.

I tried to obey the South Compo speed limit, but panic set in. My son and dog were nowhere to be found.

Buddy, at the beach.

We often include Vani Court on our daily walks. Maybe Buddy was there!

As I turned onto the road, I saw a commotion.

My son arrived out of nowhere — on a bike, which he’d gone home to retrieve. I got out of my car, and learned that 2 drivers had seen my son running along the road. They offered him a ride, to help. He declined, saying he could not get in a stranger’s car!

At the same time, residents on  Vani Court had come outside with their own dogs and treats, hoping to nab Buddy. He darted from one dog to the next, having a great time.

Tim Luciano came close to nabbing him. James McLaughlin tried to lure Buddy into his backyard.

The chase became exhausting. But when Jesse Daignault appeared with his dog Milo, Buddy took interest. With lightning fast hands, Jesse grabbed Buddy’s collar.

Victory! Jonathan Greenfield with Buddy, on Vani Court.

But Buddy was just getting started.

The next day — just as my youngest was leaving for preschool — Buddy pushed her aside. He was ready for another adventure.

This time I took a different approach. I followed him calmly, so I wouldn’t chase him away. He headed back to Vani Court.

Dan and Kelly Merton were out with their golden retrievers. Like a magnet, Buddy went to them. Another mini-circus developed.

Eventually Buddy headed back to our house. He wouldn’t come in though. My wife followed him back to Vani Court.

Soon, I got a text from my wife. Iris said, “Got him!” Melissa Wilson had come out with her dog. She and James McLaughlin lured Buddy into her backyard.

As soon as I got home, I called an invisible fence company. I’m also setting up dates to continue Buddy’s training, so he can run with us and be safely off leash.

We are extremely thankful for everyone who helped. Vani Court is such a special place.

It’s not just the charm of the postwar Capes. It’s the people. They so easily express what it’s like to be neighbors. Thank you!

Buddy, back home with Zach Greenfield.

Scenes From A “Storm”

Compo Beach jetty (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

Nyala Farm, earlier today (Photo/Amy Schneider)

From Photo Challenge To Challenging Photo

Exactly 1 week ago, the William “Doc” Skurlick Saugatuck River Trout Management Area sign was our featured Photo Challenge:

(Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)

Now that top part of the sign is history.

It was demolished in Friday’s nor’easter.

(Photo/Chip Stephens)

The good news: The rest of the Ford Road site is fine.

Photo Challenge #166

I guess everyone knew who William “Doc” Skerlick was but me.

Betsy P. Kahn’s photo challenge last week showed a sign honoring the guy. I’d never heard of him — or seen the sign.

But tons of alert “06880” readers knew it hangs at the Saugatuck Trout Management Area on Ford Road. And most of those readers knew who Doc was too.

Michael Calise, David Sampson, Fred Cantor, Jill Turner Odice, Jonathan McClure, Peter Hirst, Mark Saboslai, Bill Blaufuss and Jeff Lea nailed it. Many added interesting details. (Click here for the photo and all responses.)

The best background info came from Peter Hirst (who got it from Dick Alley’s blog). Here is everything you need to know about Doc:

Doc fished both fresh and salt water, kept a daily journal on each and every trip and kept and froze many of his fish. He would fish trout from the beginning of every season until Memorial Day and then switch to another species. He had a goal of a designated number of snapper blues every late summer and early fall, and would end up cooking them for one or more of the many organizations he belonged to. Doc belonged to the Westport Striped Bass Club, Westport Fish & Game, Newtown Fish & Game, Trout Unlimited and many more and seldom missed a meeting. He would drive up to Hartford on any conservation issue.

Doc loved Country music and played a mean harmonica. He traveled to many music festivals and was popular among other attendee’s.

Doc was most of all a teacher. He loved teaching kids how to fish, especially those who ventured into the fly-fishing area which eventually bore his name. He tied flies and made lures and had displays of many of his creations which he was happy to show and talk about wherever anyone made a request.

For even more on Doc, click here.

This week’s challenge has nothing to do with fly fishing. But if you know where in Westport you’d see it, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

 

 

A Year Of Notable Trees

Westport has many notable trees.

We also have 63 Notable Trees.

The capital letter difference is that those dozens of maples, birches, cedars, oaks and more are officially listed on a state database. Some are on public property; others on private land.

Established in 1985 by the Connecticut Botanical SocietyConnecticut College Arboretum and Connecticut Urban Forest Council, the database offers an excellent way to maintain and honor our state’s arboreal heritage. Trees qualify through a 3-point formula: chest circumference, crown spread and height.

But Westport has gone even further.

Tree warden Bruce Lindsay created a “Notable Trees of Westport” calendar. He collected gorgeous photos of our town’s most Notable Trees — including a few that are not on the official list, but could be — and compiled them into a handsome booklet, for wall or desk.

The cover of the calendar shows trees outside Town Hall.

Images include a black cherry at Birchwood Country Club, the oft-endangered sycamore at the corner of South Compo and the Post Road, a cherry blossom on the Gaults’ South Compo property, a white oak at the top of the Kings Highway Elementary School athletic fields, a copper beech at Longshore and a sweetgum at Winslow Park.

It’s a fundraiser. Money raised from sales of the $20 calendar supports healthcare for mature trees in town by the tree warden, and Westport Evergreen, a nonprofit that manages, maintains and improves open space throughout town. Its primary focus is the Wadsworth Arboretum and Baron’s South, and our many pocket parks.

A Norway maple at the Wadsworth Arboretum.

Lindsay’s work builds on Don Snook’s in the 1990s, continued now by Dick Stein of the town tree board.

Just the other day, Lindsay found a rare turkey oak on Harvey Weinstein’s recently sold Beachside Avenue property.

And, Lindsay says, a woman asked if she could “sponsor” a white oak on Jesup Green. Her $250 contribution will pay for spraying, soil work, fertilizing and crown repair.

The calendars are available at two Town Hall offices: the tree warden (Room 206) and Public Works (Room 210). For more information, contact Bruce Lindsay directly: email blindsay@westportct.gov, or call 203-341-1134.

This white oak at Kings Highway Elementary School is featured in Westport’s Notable Trees calendar.

Snow Scenes

Nearly everyone in Westport is gone. It’s a holiday weekend, and the start of the schools’ winter break.

For the few folks left in town, yesterday’s snowfall was perfect. A few inches of heavy white stuff fell at night. There was little traffic, no major events to disrupt.

When we woke up this morning, the storm had moved on. The sun was bright, the snow already melting.

It was beautiful — and, hopefully, fleeting. By midweek, temperatures are expected to hit 65.

So how are things in Cabo, Antigua, or wherever else you all are today?

One view of Nyala Farm …

,,, and another.

Burying Hill Beach

One view of Longshore …

… and another. (All photos/Larry Untermeyer)

 

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.

Westport Beach Prices Rise — And Fall

Wednesday’s decision to raise annual beach sticker and daily parking fees at Westport’s 3 beaches — Compo, Old Mill and Burying Hill — drew plenty of praise. It rankled others — particularly Westonites. (Click here; then scroll down for comments.)

But — as alert “06880” reader and Weston resident Mary McGee notes — a 4th “Westport beach” becomes entirely free this summer.

It’s Sherwood Island State Park.

Last fall, state officials eliminated the parking fee for Connecticut residents at most state parks. (Sherwood Island’s was $9 on weekdays, $13 on weekends.) It’s been replaced by a $10 charge, added to the Department of Motor Vehicles registrations we pay every 2 years.

Shewood Island State Park: 232 acres of prime real estate, right here in Westport. And admission is free!

It sounds like a dumb move, for a state reeling from a budget crisis. But officials estimate the change will raise $16 million more annually for our state parks.

Out-of-state residents will still pay a daily fee at Sherwood Island. Last year it was $15 on weekdays, $22 on weekends.

So why did so many out-of-staters pay more for Compo Beach last summer — and will probably do so again this year?

Alcohol.

It’s permitted on South Beach — but banned throughout Sherwood Island.

Maybe we should be thankful, after all, for the huge increase in Uber dropoffs and pickups.