Compo Beach, 6:30 this morning:
Hurry! Don’t be late!
And, at 7 a.m.:
Tomorrow is the 3rd of July. Cue the fireworks!
“06880” readers are great at crowd-sourcing Memorial Day photos. Dozens come in. It’s a great way to see the parade, through many different eyes.
Let’s do the same tomorrow. As you get ready for the fireworks — picnicking, painting faces red-white-and-blue, playing with sparklers, claiming huge swaths of sand and tables at 6:30 a.m. — send your photos (email: email@example.com). Deadline: 10 p.m. Please include brief identification if needed, and of course your own name.
I’ll post some (not all!) tomorrow.
Be creative! We want special photos, for our special day. Just one request: Go easy on the fireworks photos. No offense, but unless you’re a real pro they all look the same.
Moments after the sun rises tomorrow, someone will send me a photo like this:
I’m not sure who these people are, who think that reserving massive swaths of sand — or long picnic tables, with “You Cannot Reserve Tables” plastered prominently on them — is cool.
Well, actually I do. They’re all named Dick.
Don’t be like Dick. If you want a prime spot, pick a little bit of it. And have someone stay there all day. You can even hire some kid — yours, or someone else’s — to do it.
If the situation gets even more out of hand than it recently has — and it’s gotten grosser and greedier every year for the past few — we might want to consider the Shore & Country Club solution.
It’s private — but a prime viewing site for Norwalk’s fireworks (also July 3). Alert “06880” reader David Loffredo forwarded an email, from the club to members.
In late June, members who wanted a picnic table for fireworks day could click a link, to enter a drawing. They could request marina or beachhouse side, or covered or uncovered — but nothing was guaranteed.
Winners were selected randomly, and assigned a random table. Each table will be labeled with the member’s name.
What a great idea! We could auction off not only South Beach tables but prime spots of sand, from the cannons to the Soundview jetty.
It could even be a fundraiser for PAL (or Parks & Rec, for beach improvements): $5 to enter. If you don’t pay, you can’t play…
Better yet: a raffle! Tables and plots of sand could be clearly marked online; click on one, and bid. Just think how much that would raise 🙂
But here’s the best idea of all — and we can do it tomorrow.
Confiscate any unattended stuff, and charge Dick and his friends to get it back.
If it’s not claimed by, say, 6 p.m.: Sell it to whoever wants it.
Some of those tents, beach chairs, tables, coolers, portable grills — and the food in them — are pretty pricey. They could fund an entirely new bathroom!
Sure, Westport is filled with families with school-age children. They may not all have come from Manhattan or Brooklyn, though most did.
But they’re not the only Westporters. Many more people grew up here, stayed or returned, and still live here even after their own kids have grown.
Those folks remember another group of Westporters: the parents of the boys and girls they knew back then. Those men and women are now in their late 80s and 90s.
They too still live here. But many of their sons and daughters do not.
One 60-something resident looks up to that “Greatest Generation.” (And they earned the title not just for helping win World War II. After moving here, they poured their energy and talents into making Westport a great place for us to grow up in too.)
That man — who asked for anonymity — has taken it upon himself to invite some of those older Westporters out for dinner.
They often live alone. Most no longer drive.
He and his wife always pick them up. They head to Pane e Bene, Horizon, Rizzuto’s, Rive Bistro — nice, friendly places with good food.
They have a leisurely meal. They reminisce about old Westport, discuss current events (locally and around the globe). They talk about their own kids (who, in the case of the older folks, are the host’s contemporaries).
“I remember the first time I made enough money to take my parents out to dinner,” the man says.
“It was a rite of passage — and a not insignificant way to say ‘thanks’ at that young time in my career.” Both his parents have since died.
Now he enjoys spending quality time with his parents’ old friends and acquaintances.
“It’s so much fun. I’ve known these people all my life. They were the mentors of my youth.”
He adds, “They are as sharp as ever! And the battles we have over paying the bill are hilarious!”
So much of Westport sparkles.
Our transformed library. Compo Beach, from the playground and pavilion to the new South Beach walkway and grills. Longshore. Staples High School. The Saugatuck River. From Harbor Road to Beachside Avenue, Sherwood Mill Pond to Mahackeno, this is a truly remarkable town.
Our website, however, sucked.
Last updated in 2011 — after 2 previous equally grim versions — it was an ugly, bloated mess. Typography, layout, massive text and lack of photos — all that wouldn’t have been so bad, if you could easily find what you were looking for.
But you could not.
Happily, as of today Westport’s official website is as crisp, clear and clean as so many of our other wonders.
Don’t believe me? Click here!
The new site was more than 2 years in the making. First Selectman Jim Marpe appointed a Website Redevelopment Steering Committee, including town staff and residents with expertise in technology, design, economic development and community interests.
They worked with Granicus, a company that specializes in website services for local governments.
Since the 2011 version debuted, users have migrated from desktops to mobile devices. The new website, all agreed, had to be mobile-friendly.
In addition, town operations director Sara Harris says, users needed quicker access to information.
One key feature of the new design is a better search bar. The former “mega-menu” has been cleaned up and streamlined.
The committee used Google Analytics to rearrange the “How do I…?” section. The most popular requests — regarding, for example, beach passes, railroad parking permits, town maps, employment opportunities, open bids and bid results, and videos of town meetings — are given the most prominence.
A one-click “Popular Services” section makes it easier to pay taxes, register for programs, and get meeting agendas and minutes.
News is more prominently displayed on the home page.
There are more photos too, showing (of course) Westport at its best and most beautiful.
An “Economic Opportunity” page is aimed at anyone considering opening a business or relocating here. The goal, Harris says, is to show the town’s great quality of life, and support of business.
The site now offers a 1-click link to subscribe to some (or all!) town notifications: emergency alerts, meeting information, news, you name it.
And — this is very, very cool — the Town Charter, plus every ordinance and regulation (including Planning & Zoning, the Conservation Commission, and Parks & Recreation Commission) are all available on one page.
As often happens, after the 2011 website went live certain sections lay dormant. Now, every department has a designated content manager. They’re trained on how to keep their own pages fresh and updated — and respond to users’ evolving needs.
As part of the project, volunteers with marketing and design backgrounds — including graphic artist Miggs Burroughs; advertising creative director Rob Feakins; brand innovation principal and Westport Downtown Merchants Association president Randy Herbertson, and marketer Jamie Klein — worked to refresh the town’s “brand identity.”
They eventually settled on a new logo. Designed by Samantha Cotton — who grew up in and now works here — it suggests open space, the movement of water or sails, and “open warmth and refreshing coolness.”
After a month of testing by the committee and town staffers, the new website went live yesterday.
Harris says, “We’re confident that users will be happy with the experience. We think it represents the town very well.”
She invites residents — and everyone else — to test-drive the new website. The URL is the same: www.westportct.gov.
What do you think? Click “Comments” here.
And/or email the town directly: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Of course, you can also do it from the site itself. Nearly every page has a “feedback” button.
It’s simple. It’s easy.
And that’s the whole idea behind the refreshing new website refresh.
It’s not the weightiest question ever — nothing like, say, what came before the Big Bang, or who killed JFK.
But it sure puzzles me. Why — when there are perfectly good sidewalks — do so many Westporters choose instead to walk in the road?
North Avenue. South Compo. Long Lots. You name it: If there’s a sidewalk, most people won’t use it.
Sometimes they’re on the opposite side (walking incorrectly, with traffic). Sometimes they’re on the same side as the sidewalk. Yet they ignore it — or worse yet, treat it with contempt. Like, screw you, sidewalk. I’m not going walk on you.
For a long time I thought that was my pet peeve. But I have company.
The other day, alert “06880”reader/former Staples High School classmate, and — most importantly for this story, retired Westport Police detective — Dave Eason emailed me.
He had just gotten home after running errands. No one was on the sidewalks — but he saw plenty of folks on the roads.
Turns out, we’re not the only ones aggravated by this. Dave sent along Connecticut General Statute 14-300c (a). It says:
No pedestrian shall walk along and upon a roadway where a sidewalk adjacent to such roadway is provided and the use thereof is practicable.
I don’t imagine this is Chief Foti Koskinas’ top enforcement priority. Nor should it be.
But here’s your warning, streetwalkers: The law is on our side.
Sidewalks are there on the side too. Use them!
Since 2003, Westport PAL has awarded over $400,000 in college scholarships.
In the past few years they’ve donated $153,000 to the Field of Dreams turf field project, $49,000 to Westport Baseball and Softball, $23,000 to Special Olympics, $15,000 to the Compo Beach playground, and hundreds of thousands of dollars more to many worthy, kid-related causes.
Each year, they help sponsor the 4th of July* fireworks. They are allowed to sell a maximum of 2,000 Compo Beach parking passes. The cost — $35 per vehicle — has not risen in years.
Last year, they sold fewer than 1,900. Yet an estimated 15,000 party-goers thronged the beach, for the best community event of the year.
You do the math.
Westport PAL was organized in 1948. A few years later, they started the fireworks tradition.
It takes a ton of work. The volunteer organization partners with the Westport Police, Fire and Parks and Recreation Departments; EMS; Fireworks by Grucci — and many others — to make the event a smash.
About 20 years ago, PAL offered to hand it over to the town. First Selectwoman Diane Farrell said thanks, but no thanks.
The fireworks is PAL’s biggest fundraiser of the year. Proceeds help run programs in football, lacrosse, basketball, wrestling, cheerleading, rugby and track. They impact thousands of boys and girls each year.
In addition to the recipients of PAL money listed earlier, recent donations include $24,000 for health and wellness programs, $20,000 for lights at Staples High School, $5,000 for wrestling mats, $2,000 for a WWPT-FM Wrecker Radio tent, thousands to Staples’ Gridiron Club — the list goes on and on.
The fireworks is a true community effort. Melissa & Doug — the internationally highly regarded, locally owned children’s toy company — generously covers the cost of the actual pyrotechnics each year. (Grucci offers 3 levels. Westport’s is the top-tier.)
But PAL picks up other costs: the barge ($15,000 a day). The Cobra marching band, with Sapphire dancers. The Nassau County bomb squad. Food and drinks for police, fire and Parks and Rec workers (beyond what Jersey Mike’s provides). This year, PAL is even springing for a new barge mooring.
PAL president Ned Batlin, and past president/current vice president Sam Arciola, are both Staples grads. They grew up going to the fireworks — and playing PAL sports.
They want Westporters to know: Those $35 parking passes are not a ripoff.
They’re a bargain.
Last year’s non-sellout — despite the packed beach — was part of a trend. Some fireworks-goers arrive by Uber. Others park — as far away as the Children’s Community Development Center on Hillspoint Road — and walk in.
Of course, there are people like the homeowner on Soundview Drive. Like many neighbors, he throws a huge fireworks bash every year.
But he also buys 30 parking passes, and gives them to guests. He wants to support PAL; he doesn’t want friends to freeload.
“One of our longtime executive directors, PJ Romano, used to say, ‘It’s all about the kids,'” Batlin says.
“PAL — and the fireworks — is all about local police and citizens who really care about the town, and everyone in it. We want to keep doing what we’re doing. But if we don’t sell out, it really handcuffs our ability to help.”
That’s the back story too few people know. So pony up, Westporters. PAL needs you to buy those fireworks parking passes.
They’re available at the Parks & Rec office in Longshore (opposite the golf pro shop) during business hours, and 24/7 at police headquarters (50 Jesup Road). You can pay by cash or check (“Westport PAL”).
If — er, when — they sell out, you can buy a pass to park at Longshore. Dattco donates buses, which shuttle back and forth to the beach from 5:45 to 11 p.m.
With a police escort.
*Okay, the 3rd of July. You know what I mean.
Seen at Wakeman Field:
If you’re going to ignore the sign, at least park a few yards away. That way you can at least “pretend” you didn’t see it.
Construction is finished. Plumbing is installed. Toilet paper is stocked.
Starting tomorrow, the new bathrooms at Compo Beach’s South Beach are good to “go.”
Countless folks will sigh with relief, as they relieve themselves just a few steps across the also-new, already-well-used, keep-pedestrians-and-strollers-off-the-road walkway.
See you there!
If you’re reading this, you’re part of the great “06880” online community.
Which means you’re invited to our 6th annual “blog party.”
The date is Thursday, July 18. We’ll gather at 6 p.m. at Compo Beach — specifically, alcohol-is-okay South Beach, by the trees (the opposite end from the cannons).
Bring your own food, beverages (no glass bottles, though!), beach chairs and blankets.
The first 5 years were great successes. They were true community gatherings– chances to meet and mingle with the diverse “06880” community (both online and real). It’s fun, un-fancy, and free (unless you don’t have a sticker — but even then, we’ll try to arrange rides).
This year’s blog party will be better than ever. And here’s a special feature: a new bathroom has just been built, a few steps across the road.
You may recall reading about it on “06880.”