“Living Shorelines” Offer Erosion Solution

Happy Earth Day!

How are you celebrating?

If you live near the water, you might think about creating a “living shoreline.”

Westporters have spent years dealing with coastal erosion. For reasons both natural (tides, hurricanes) and manmade (weather patterns due to climate change, construction of jetties and homes), we know that sands shift.

Many homeowners do what they can to counter Mother Nature. Some raise their houses, or move them back from the shore.

Others build walls. Sometimes they work well. Sometimes — even at the same time — they impact neighboring properties.

A nor’easter damaged this 1915 Compo Cove house. It’s weathered many storms — but construction on the cove has affected many erosion patterns. (Photo/Robin Tauck)

A living shoreline is one of those ancient ideas now gaining new interest.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, it’s built with natural materials like plants, sand, rock — even oyster shells. Unlike stone, concrete or wooden seawalls or similar structures — which are hostile to the growth of plants and animals — living shorelines grow over time.

They’re being built in various spots along the Eastern Seaboard. Bays, rivers and homes on the water are excellent sites.

“Living shorelines are both beautiful and practical,” the NOAA notes.

They add attractive, low-maintenance green space and focal points for people to gather. Their services to the environment … include purifying water, buffering floods, reducing erosion, storing carbon, and attracting wildlife to habitat.

Evidence shows that during major storms, a living, natural shoreline performs better than a hardened shoreline. People (and animals) who enjoy fishing will appreciate how it supports fish and other creatures.

They cost $1,000 to $5,000 per linear foot — less than “hard shorelines.”

Two examples of a living shoreline…

Permits are needed. However, living shorelines are covered by the Connecticut Coastal Management Act.

Bridgeport and Stratford currently support living shoreline projects on public land.

But living shorelines are also feasible on private property.

If you live on water and are looking for a way to celebrate Earth Day — and the earth, every day — click here for more information.

… and one more.

[OPINION] Transit Directors Seek Budget Restoration

Last month, the Board of Finance cut the Westport Transit District’s funding request. The WTD is preparing a restoration request for the Representative Town Meeting. Today, directors Marty Fox and Patsy Cimarosa lay out their case.

The Westport Transit District provides bus service with minibuses operated under subcontract with the Norwalk Transit District. It operates 7 commuter shuttle routes to and from the Saugatuck and Greens Farms rail stations, and provides daytime Door-to-Door transportation for seniors and residents with disabilities. (Information on these services, including routes, schedules and fares, can be found here: WestportTransit.org.)

Westport Transit budgeted about $575,000 in state funding for the commuter shuttles for the 2020 fiscal year starting in July. We requested an additional $238,000 from Westport to cover the remaining cost of the commuter shuttles not covered by fares.

A Westport Transit District shuttle rider.

On March 12, Westport’s Board of Finance cut the Town’s financial support for the commuter shuttles by $115,000, approximately half the Westport support necessary to operate the current shuttle routes for the coming fiscal year. (No changes were made to the Door-to-Door component of the WTD’s FY20 budget.)  The Board of Finance affirmed its decision to cut the commuter shuttle funding at its April 3 meeting.

Consistent with the provisions of the Town Charter, the Westport Transit District will ask the Representative Town Meeting to restore the $115,000 in town funding at the RTM’s May 6 meeting. Should the cut not be restored, it’s likely that most or all of the town’s commuter shuttle service would be eliminated by the end of the calendar year – and Westport would lose over $500,000 of state support for the commuter shuttles. (Door-to-Door services will not be affected.)

The Transit District’s April 3rd presentation to the Board of Finance sets out why we asked the Board of Finance to restore the $115,000 it cut from Westport’s funding of the commuter shuttles.

These are also the basis for the WTD’s request to the RTM to restore the full town funding of this community service. Among the reasons is the strong support for fully funding the commuter shuttles expressed by Westport residents in the 2018 townwide survey on Westport’s bus services, completed by 1,700 residents.

More detailed information about the Westport Transit District’s operations, current initiatives, and findings of the 2018 Town-wide survey can be found in the WTD’s March 12 presentation to the Board of Finance.

The RTM Transit Committee meets this Wednesday (April 24). The RTM Finance Committee meeting — when the budget restoration request will be discussed — is this Thursday (April 25).

Westport residents can make their opinion about the future of the commuter shuttles known by contacting RTM members at RTMMailingList@westportct.gov, and speaking at the May 6 RTM meeting.

 

Stop & Shop Strike Ends

Picket lines have ended. Parking lots will again be full.

As first reported by WestportNow, the Stop & Shop strike — involving 31,000 employees at stores in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island — is over. The walkout lasted 11 days.

The tentative 3-year deal — which still must be ratified by unions –includes increased pay, and continued health coverage and ongoing defined benefit pension benefits for eligible workers, Stop & Shop said.

Eva Amurri — And More — At Fashionably Westport

It’s taken a few years.

But now the stars have aligned. And today the Downtown Merchants Association announces its next new community event: Fashionably Westport.

On Thursday, May 16 downtown and Playhouse Square merchants will sponsor a great runway show in Christ & Holy Trinity Church’s Branson Hall. Entertainment includes DJ/Joyride spin instructor Mo Prestor, and comedian Leah Bonnema.

All models are local, including 2nd Selectman Jennifer Tooker, 3rd Selectman Melissa Kane, TV host/author/realtor Mar Jennings, and several kids.

The next day — Friday, May 17 — is filled with storewide happenings and promotions, including pop-ups, trunk shows and giveaways.

Over 30 downtown retailers and salons have signed on so far.

So has Eva Amurri Martino. The very popular lifetstyle influencer (and “Happily Eva After” blogger) hosts and emcees the fashion show.

Eva Amurri Martino

She’s an inspired choice. She, her husband Kyle Martino and their 2 young kids have just moved downtown. Part of the reason they bought where they did was the chance to renovate a beautiful, historic home.

Eva epitomizes the WDMA’s mission: finding ways to enhance and stimulate downtown.

She says, “As a mom raising my kids in downtown Westport — and a blogger who loves all things fashion AND party — I am thrilled to be participating in Fashionably Westport to support WDMA, the local merchants, and Project Return. I hope everyone comes out to party with us!”

“We’ve wanted an event like this for a while — something downtown that’s focused on and produced with the support of our merchants, that enhances the community and draws people in,” adds WDMA marketing and membershiip director Colleen Wiedmann.

The non-profit has sponsored several well-attended events already, like the Fine Arts Festival and Westoberfest.

Which is why a business like The Grapevine — the new liquor store in the old Crossroads Ace Hardware space — asked to be part of Fashionably Westport even before they opened officially earlier this month.

And it’s why Garelick & Herbs — neither of whose 2 Westport locations are downtown — is donating catering services.

Speaking of donating: The Downtown Merchants Association is giving part of their proceeds — including a raffle — to Project Return, the Homes with Hope program serving young homeless women.

It’s become fashionable lately to knock downtown Westport. Next month, Fashionably Westport will strut its very cool stuff.

(Click here for tickets to the May 16 fashion show, and for more information on   all of Fashionably Westport — including participating merchants.)

 

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Financial Reality Comes To Staples

A few years ago this month, I got a panicked text from a soccer player I’d coached at Staples High School.

He graduated from college the previous year. Now — less than a year into his first job — he said, “I owe thousands of dollars to the IRS. How come no one ever taught me about taxes at Staples??!!”

Sarah White

The chances I’ll receive a similar text are a lot lower today. Two-thirds of seniors take Personal Finance — a math department elective taught lovingly but toughly by Stacey Delmhorst, Jen Giudice, Lenny Klein and Sarah White.

And a couple of weeks ago, every senior took part in Staples’ first-ever Financial Reality Fair. They gave it high marks.

The event was part of a larger 4-hour “Real World” event. Students learned about substance abuse, sexual assault and reproductive health.

But the money shot involved money.

The idea came from the classes’ regular visits to Financial Reality Fairs at other schools. White and Klein asked each other, Why not do one at Staples?

White took the lead. Principal James D’Amico and the school’s Collaborative Team gave their blessings. But making it a reality took a ton of work.

Connecticut’s Credit Unions were the sponsors. They provided the curriculum, materials and a number of experts.

The Staples PTA provided a $4,000 Wrecker Mini-Grant. They also put out a call for (financially literate) volunteers. The response was tremendous — including members of Westport’s Board of Finance and Education. Students who had previously been to a Financial Reality Fair also volunteered.

Staples parent Margie Adler and senior Vaughan Picirillo-Sealey: volunteers at the Financial Reality Fair.

Students began the day by choosing a career. They could pick anything — business executive, doctor, lawyer, actor, financial analyst, pilot, military member, writer, teacher, whatever.

They were then given the starting salary (in Connecticut) for that job. Each student was also saddled with student loan debt. The amount owed depended on the years of education required for that profession. The longer they were in school, the higher their debt.

They were also assigned — randomly — a credit score.

Tables in the gym were marked with various real-life expenditures: Housing, Transportation, Food, Clothing.

Wait — food costs money?!

Those were mandatory. Others were optional: Nightlife, Fitness & Gym, Hair/Nails/Spa, Cell Phone, Cable/Internet, Pets, Travel.

By themselves, or — if they wished — with a “roommate,” students visited tables. There were many options. How often would they eat out? Did they want basic cable, or the platinum package? What kind of vacations would they take?

Staples seniors Ben Schwartz and Lefty Pendarakis discuss options with Financial Reality Fair volunteers.

They could choose one-off expenses too, like buying an Xbox. If they wanted to buy a car, fine — but they had to take out a credit union loan. (Hey, they were the sponsors!)

There was also a mandatory “wheel” to spin. It saddled them with unexpected costs (lost cell phone, broken leg) or extra funds (overtime pay, birthday gift).

The wheel of fortune. Or misfortune.

Each choice carried consequences. As the students quickly learned, each consequence led to others.

When they were done with their budget, each teenager met with a volunteer financial counselor. They had undergone training, to ask questions like, “Why did you make that decision?”

The final step: meeting with a financial counselor.

It was a very engaging — and educational — day.

The students were surprised at the effect of student debt on their budgets. They were even more amazed at the impact of credit scores.

“I had to pay more than my friend for the same truck!” one boy said, astonished.

Feedback was excellent. The soon-to-go-off-to-college-and-then-become-adults began seeing finances not as something provided by the Bank of Mom and Dad, but as actual living, changing realities.

It was a reality check for some. A wake-up call for others.

And for one — well, who knows?

“I realize I’m not ready for life,” the student said.

But he or she is a lot more ready than that former soccer player who texted me — panic-stricken — after his first encounter with the IRS.

Pic Of The Day #734

Sunny Daes is ready for spring — no bull! (Photo/Bob Mitchell)

Photo Challenge #225

Once upon a time, there was a thriving post office in Saugatuck.

A couple, actually. The first was at Desi’s Corner. Then it moved across Riverside Avenue, to the building now anchored by Bistro Du Soleil restaurant.

For a while the PO operated out of a pathetic little trailer, in the back of a Saugatuck Avenue parking lot.

It’s in fancier digs now — though not by much — at the corner of Franklin and Ketchum Streets.

The sign outside was last week’s Photo Challenge (click here to see). Martin Gitlin, Michael Calise, Molly Alger, Mark Jacobs and Moira Eick all knew the answer.

But what about the sign’s initials: “DBU”?

Do they stand for “Don’t Bother Using”? “Do Be Understanding”? “Definitely Bad Usefulness”?

Nope. According to Michael Calise, this is a “Post Office Box location only.” He thinks DBU stands for Destination Box Unit.

That makes sense, though it is not particularly grammatical. After all, a couple of miles away — at the cramped, main post office in Playhouse Square — there is a sign saying “No Dogs Allowed. Service Dogs Welcome.”

And so it goes. This week’s Photo Challenge is much more scenic. Click “Comments” below  if you know where in Westport you would see this:

(Photo/Tracy Porosoff)

Chris Knapp: The View From Notre-Dame

Chris Knapp graduated from Staples High School in 2002. He went on to Middlebury College, then earned an MFA in creative writing at the University of Virginia.

He now lives and writes in Paris. Two days after the devastating fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Paris Review published this insightful story of his. It begins:

In September 2016, police found a Peugeot with missing plates parked just steps away from Notre Dame; inside the car, they found seven cylinders of gas. The following week, four women—one of whom was carrying a letter declaring allegiance to ISIS and describing the planned attack as a deliberate act of terror and vengeance—were arrested and charged in connection with a plot to destroy the cathedral.

As it happened, the eldest of these four women, Ornella Gilligmann, a 39-year-old mother of three, had been a close acquaintance of my wife’s from childhood, for which reason these events became especially vivid in our minds. If the women hadn’t removed the license plates, we agreed, no one would have noticed the car, and the plot might have come off without a hitch.

Chris Knapp, in the 2002 Staples High School yearbook.

“Can you imagine if they got the Notre Dame,” my wife kept repeating. I understood this as a rhetorical question, posed in the same spirit we often invoked at the prospect of a Trump presidency: it was impossible precisely because it was too horrible to imagine.

The fire that nearly destroyed the eight-hundred-year-old cathedral on Monday (which French authorities are investigating as an accident) is not, of course, a catastrophe in the order of the 2016 election. But looking on from the banks of the Seine, it was hard not to experience the fire as a nontrivial data point on the timeline of a slow-motion apocalypse, which from a Western perspective stretches back (depending on whom you ask) to the 2016 elections, to the Brexit referendum, to 9/11, the paroxysms of the early twentieth century, to the intractable dependence on fossil fuels, to Napoleon’s campaigns in Europe, the Industrial Revolution and the Enlightenment—through all of which, the Notre Dame cathedral stood intact. What would it mean, at a time when civilization itself was starting to seem like a failed idea, for one of civilization’s signal achievements to burn to the ground.

When news of the fire reached me, at quarter past seven, I was at work in the seventh arrondissement, and it was not yet clear how extensive the damage would be. By the time I went outside, at eight o’clock, the spire had just collapsed, and on the Pont Royal a crowd had gathered in silence to watch the massive tongues of flame that rose in its place, high above the rooftops about a mile upstream. Along the right bank police had cordoned off the bridges onto the Île de la Cité; cars, buses, and trucks stood hopelessly gridlocked as a thickening stream of bikes, motorcycles, and electric scooters wove its way east, and foot-traffic overran the sidewalks and spilled into the street.

Fire consumes the Notre-Dame Cathedral.

The smell of smoke was distinct. Endless lines of police-personnel vans nudged their way along, and inside them fresh-faced young cops pressed their noses to the glass. More than a few times, I heard people around me, astonished by the magnitude and violence of the fire, ask each other in whispers whether this could be the work of terrorists, though officials had been quick to indicate that it appeared to be an accident. In front of Hôtel de Ville, closer to the cathedral, hundreds of people had crowded onto the various tiers of the large, rectangular fountain that flanks the square, so that it seemed almost as if bleachers had been set up for the express purpose of watching the cathedral burn.

Some of these people’s eyes were locked on the flames across the river; many of them held phones and cameras overhead, and many others were following the news on their screens. Some had their phones pinned to their heads, urgently describing what they could see and what they knew. Only a very few of them were crying: a man in paint-stained sneakers with his arms folded across his chest, perched on the saddle of a mountain bike, rocking himself back and forth; a woman in her twenties who let her boyfriend drag her by the hand through the crowd like a child, while she twisted herself backward in order to keep her eyes riveted to the glowing plumes of smoke. But almost without exception, their faces were graven in dismay, their mouths hung open, and their voices observed a general hush, creating a soothing walla from which could occasionally be distinguished a catch-all French expression of dismay: c’est pas possible.

Chris goes on to write about life in France, Catholicism, and explaining Paris to a Staples High friend. Click here to read the full story.

Chris was not the only Westporter to personally see the fire. 2009 Staples grad Rebekah Foley lives next to the cathedral. She was there from beginning to end, and gave a long interview to Sky News. Click below to see:

(Hat tip: Jeff Wieser)

Minute Man Race: The WYWL Back Story

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Which makes this a perfect opportunity to highlight the Westport Young Woman’s League’s $20,000 Super Grant recipient: the Rowan Center.

Formerly known as the Center for Sexual Assault Crisis and Counseling Education, the Stamford-based organization empowers clients to find strength, resilience and courage — while educating Fairfield County communities to help change social norms.

In Westport, the Rowan Center puts the WYWL’s grant toward programs in the elementary schools, and Staples High.

In addition, the Young Woman’s League is partnering with the Rowan Center and Westport Library to screen the documentary “Roll Red Roll” (Tuesday, April 30, 6:30 p.m., Christ & Holy Trinity Church). A panel discussion follows.

The film uncovers the “rape culture” in Steubenville, Ohio, brought to light at a high school football party. Teenage social media bullying ran rampant, as adults looked away.

The Rowan Center grant is just part of what the Westport Young Woman’s League does. Last year they gave over $80,000 to local and education-based charitable organization. Recipients include A Better Chance of Westport, the Bridgeport Rescue Mission, Caroline House, CLASP Homes, Homes with Hope, Family & Children’s Agency, Mercy Learning Center and Positive Directions.

But that money does not fall from the sky.

One of the WYWL’s major fundraising events is the Minute Man Race.

Actually, “races.” This year there are 10K and 5K runs, a 5K walk, and a Kids Fun Run with Kids Zone.

The 41st annual Minute Man Race is set for Sunday, April 28. It starts and ends at Compo Beach.

The start of a Minute Man race is always exciting.

It’s 4 decades old, but there are always new twists. For the first time this year, there’s a “corporate and small business team” category. The WYWL encourages local businesses to sign up and compete together, for a fun team-builder that helps good causes.

You’ve seen the signs. You know the Minute Man Race.

Now that you know the back story — where the money goes — there’s even more incentive to run. Or walk.

Or just donate and cheer.

(For more information on the Minute Man Race — including registration and sponsorships — click here.)

 

Pic Of The Day #733

Bumber sticker spotted (appropriately) at Old Mill Beach (Photo/Seth Schachter)