Two years ago, Patty Haberstroh was diagnosed with ALS.
She did not take the news lying down.
Neither did her family.
Together they embarked on the #ALSPepperChallenge. Across the country, people — from national celebrities like Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley and Dan Le Batard to local ones like the Staples High School principal and first selectman — ate habaneros and jalapeños, raising nearly a million dollars to fight what is also called Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
In addition, 2 of Patty’s sons — Chuck and Steve — joined the IAmALS advisory board.
This morning, they rose early. With their friends — current and former Westporters Chris Aitkin, Matt Cook, Ben Erwin, Chris Kenyon, Steve O’Dell, Stacy Rosenthal and Raffi Tokatlian — they joined 150 others as IAmALS “took over” nearly a dozen billboards in Times Square.
Steve and Chuck Haberstroh, helping change the world for their mom.
Their messages brought attention to the fight — and spread the message that ALS research can also unlock critical breakthroughs for diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.
Some of the messages were hopeful. Some were educational. Some were defiant.
All are crucial.
Bad weather kept Patty Haberstroh from attending the Times Square event this morning. Her husband — Parks & Recreation Commission chair Charlie Haberstroh — and daughter Kim watched the livestream at home. So did their son Tom, in Charlotte, North Carolina with his family.
Westporters got their first look at the “new” Compo Beach last Saturday — the most beautiful day of the holiday weekend.
It passed with flying colors.
Residents raved about the new entrance pattern, easing traffic into the beach; the sign by the Minute Man noting that the limit of daily parking permits had been reached; the new lot for daily parkers; the updated pavilion, and enormous new seating area next to Joey’s; the spiffy new bathrooms, and the Mobi-Mat allowing easy access to the water for people with walkers, in wheelchairs or pushing strollers.
There were smiles all around, and grateful praise for the Parks and Recreation Commission.
The new pavilion, near Joey’s by the Shore. (Photo/Carmine Picarello)
The only frowns were on the faces of folks told they could not toss a football or frisbee on the beach.
For decades, rules prohibited those kinds of activities on the sand. In recent years, lifeguards have turned a blind eye.
This weekend however, they were enforced strongly.
I asked Parks & Rec chair Charlie Haberstroh for a comment. He said:
These rules are not new. At Parks & Rec Commission meetings during the winter and spring we updated and clarified some of the rules.
It is clear from the fact that it is the Parks and RecreationCommission that all commissioners are in favor of recreation and increased physical activity. At the same time, we held many meetings on how to improve Compo Beach and deal with the perceived overcrowding evident in 2017.
I hope all residents and non-residents appreciate all the positive changes we made. One change was better enforcement of existing rules and regulations. We also knew we would have pushback from folks at the beach who were not aware of the rules.
Specifically about throwing a football/frisbee etc. at the beach: After discussion with Parks & Rec director Jen Fava, together we have decided to designate at least 2 areas at Compo — tentatively one in front of the volleyball area, and one on the north end of East Beach for throwing footballs, frisbees and the like.
The department will make the final determination of locations. They will have movable boundaries, depending on how crowded the beach is. Parks & Rec personnel and the police department officers on duty will continue to educate folks on the rules.
The Commission will review the rules, and the 2018 summer experience, at a fall meeting, and make permanent changes then. We will continue to tweak things as appropriate and within the rules.
We are committed to making Compo enjoyable to all, within existing rules. If anyone has issues with any aspect of the Compo Beach, please contact me at email@example.com, or text or call me at 203-515-2064.
The Haberstroh family’s #ALSPepperChallenge has spread all over the country.
But right here in Westport, it’s bearing particular fruit.
The latest group to raise money for research into the devastating disease — in honor of Department of Human Services program specialist Patty Haberstroh — is Wakeman Town Farm.
Challenged by Parks & Rec — whose commission chairman is Patty’s husband, Charlie — Liz Milwe and Christy Colasurdo decided to be creative.
Taking her cue from “Rapper’s Delight,” Christy wrote lyrics. Corey Thomas — WTF’s talented steward — showed his versatility as the rapper.
The video was filmed yesterday at the farm, after their annual team retreat. It’s already been viewed over 450 times on Instagram, and 400 times on Facebook.
Wakeman Town Farm was not the only organization in town taking the hot pepper challenge yesterday. Staples High School’s boys basketball team did the same — and were inspired by a visit from both Patty and Steve Haberstroh, a former Wrecker hoops star (and Patty and Charlie’s son).
Haberstroh noted that Jon Walker — a 1988 Staples grad, and another famed Wrecker basketball player — died last year of ALS.
Coach Colin Devine (far left) and members of the Staples High School boys basketball team take the #ALSPepperChallenge yesterday.
The Haberstrohs’ challenge has raised nearly $220,000 so far. That includes a $100,000 anonymous donation. Another $250,000 anonymous pledge is expected this week.
(Click here for the Haberstrohs’ hot pepper challenge donation page.)
An “06880” story on Wednesday about a hot Westport topic — crowds at Compo Beach, and what appears to be an increase in out-of-town cars — drew dozens of comments.
Many readers wanted statistics on the number of passes sold, how many times the parking lot has been closed, and related issues.
This morning, they’ve got an official response.
Charlie Haberstroh just emailed this statement. He says:
Compo Beach is one of Westport’s most treasured assets, and has been a key priority for our Parks & Recreation Commission. There have recently been concerns and recommendations expressed in the media as well as political emails sent to Westport residents. We of course welcome all ideas to improve Compo Beach. As the chairman of the Parks & Recreation Commission, I would like to share some facts and my thoughts with the community.
The 4th of July and Labor Day weekends have historically seen a surge in visits to Compo Beach. However, an unexpected surge occurred this past Sunday, July 30. We did limit the sale of daily parking passes on that day from 2:30 to 4 p.m., consistent with our policy when the available spaces at Compo Beach reach 75. No resident beach emblem holders were turned away – only those attempting to purchase a daily pass.
While these surges are rare occurrences, we will consider policy modifications to address those instances including limits to the number of daily passes sold, and pre-purchase options to reduce wait time at the beach entrance.
To avoid any misunderstandings on the Soundview lot, it is only available to emblem holders, not daily pass holders. It has been this way since the 1980s.
Compo Bech is many things, to many people. (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)
As we do every fall, the Parks & Recreation Department conducts a full review after the beach season concludes and presents policy and fee recommendations to the Commission and board of selectmen. Westport charges $30 per day on weekdays and $50 on weekends, consistent with neighboring communities. Norwalk’s Calf Pasture Beach charges $25 on weekdays and $30 on weekends. Fairfield’s Jennings Beach charges $20 on weekdays and $50 on weekends. Darien’s Weed Beach charges $40 every day. Doubling the daily parking fees, as some have proposed, could dramatically restrict access to our beach for lower income guests, and may not reflect Westport’s values as an inclusive, welcoming community.
Our Commission’s efforts have made Compo Beach an even more attractive destination for Westporters and visitors alike. The popular new east beach walkway provides safe access for everyone including those with strollers, wheelchairs and mobility issues, enabling them to travel from the pavilion to the cannons. We resurfaced the basketball courts and created new pickleball courts. The east beach parking lot has been repaved and we are currently making improvements to the Soundview parking lot. The dredging of Compo Basin improves safety and the boating experience.
This fall, the Compo Beach pavilion gets a new roof. (Photo/Katherine Bruan)
We are also pursuing a number of other Compo Beach initiatives. This fall we will commence renovations to the bathhouse and pavilion, including upgrading the bathrooms and roofs to make them more attractive and safe. We are examining options to extend the beach walkway and build permanent accessible bathrooms in the South Beach area, as well as upgrading the skateboard park. We are also evaluating moving the entrance hut further back to help reduce wait time on surge days and allow residents with emblems to bypass the lines. We continue to explore how technology can improve the beach entrance process for our resident beach emblem holders as well as visitors.
I encourage residents to share their ideas directly with me. I will share your thoughts with the Parks & Recreation Department and Commission. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
A few days ago, “06880” described the lack of activity at Pearl of Longshore — the restaurant that will eventually replace Splash.
Charlie Haberstroh — who, among many volunteer activities, has been asked by 1st Selectman Jim Marpe to serve as liaison between his office and the restaurant and Inn — reports that the new owners of Pearl are going through a long permitting process. The building is old, with many outstanding issues.
Work is being done now on the basement. The hope is to begin above-ground work soon.
Haberstroh assures Westporters that Pearl will open well before next summer. It will be fully operational in time for a much-needed, and hopefully successful, addition to our town’s waterside dining attractions.
The new Pearl of Longshore restaurant — and a new patio bar? — will be open next summer.
The Compo Beach Site Improvement Committee is fading away, in our rear view mirrors.
Up ahead: renovating Longshore.
The Parks and Recreation Commission — and plenty of Longshore users — have talked for a while about improving the 169-acre park. The crowded area around the 1st tee — with its ramshackle golf pro shop, landfill driving range, helter-skelter parking and dumpster near the Inn — is one area ripe for improvement.
Marina parking, and the maintenance shed sitting smack in the center of things, are other places worthy of examination.
Longshore — one of Westport’s crown jewels — includes a golf course, tennis courts, marina, pools, and much, much more.
Then there are usage questions. Do we need more paddle courts? Do the pool and skating rink work well? You get the idea.
The 2015-16 town budget includes money for a study of Longshore — something similar to what the town did with Compo, says Parks and Recreation Commission chair Charlie Haberstroh.
He hopes to organize a committee later this year. “It probably won’t be quite as comprehensive as Compo,” he says. “We’re not talking about building a clubhouse in the middle of the golf course. But we should start the planning process now.”
Several constituent groups are already gearing up to be heard. In an email to current and former members, the Longshore Men’s Golf Association board floated the idea of a small new clubhouse — with locker rooms, a pro shop, and an upstairs grill room — taking advantage of water views.
There will be plenty more discussion ahead. That’s a given — this is Westport.
The Inn at Longshore is a major attraction at the park. It sublets space to a restaurant — but right now that space is empty.
Meanwhile, a more pressing Parks and Rec concern — as well as for many diners and drinkers — is the status of Longshore’s restaurant/bar.
Splash closed several months ago. Though Inn at Longshore lessee Rory Tagert’s lease requires him to run a restaurant, time is running out for this summer. The Inn is reported to be close to an agreement with a new sub-tenant. But permits — including liquor licenses — take time to obtain. A new operator would most likely want to make renovations too.
Bottom line: You may be bringing your own food and drinks to Longshore for a while.
And when you do, you’ll have time to chew over the Next Big Issue in town: Longshore 2.0.
A large crowd flooded into Town Hall tonight. A number of Westporters were ready to fight for parts of Compo Beach they believed were threatened: parking on South Beach. Keeping grassy spaces. The skate park.
What they got was Kumbaya.
Parks and Recreation Commission chair Charlie Haberstroh introduced 7 recommendations. None were earth-shattering. All seemed to come directly from raucous town meetings last year.
The basic theme: Less is more.
Here they are:
1. No changes to South Beach and eastern area parking.
“We heard the message loud and clear,” Haberstroh said. “It’s important to keep parking near the beach.” He noted that commissioners had parked near the proposed spaces away from the beach, and realized the view was not the same.
No changes will be made to South Beach parking. (Photo/Laurey Tussing)
2. No changes to vehicular traffic flow.
The Compo Beach Site Improvement Committee had recommended moving the entrance to across from Bradley Street. Haberstroh said no changes would be made.
Parks and Rec director Stuart McCarthy noted that traffic flow — and safety issues — are the #1 priority for his department. After he spoke, Haberstroh agreed that fixing the current entrance (though not relocating it) could be addressed outside of the master plan.
3. Create separate pedestrian paths separate from vehicular traffic.
Haberstroh noted that, as a new grandfather, he feels vulnerable pushing a stroller. Other commissioners added that beach usage has changed; more people are walking than ever before. Extending the boardwalk to the cannons, and on to South Beach, is one way to help ease danger.
Compo Beach: a town jewel, beloved by all. Pedestrians don’t always have it easy, however.
4. Constructing new bathhouses.
The current brick bathhouses were badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy. A new structure would meet — or exceed — FEMA flood regulations.
5. Adding restrooms on South Beach. But no pavilion. New facilities are sorely needed — 2 or 3 “fixtures” per men’s, women’s and family bathrooms, to use the polite term. But there would be no other structures. “They take on a life of their own,” Haberstroh said.
6. Renovating the skate park, including possible partial private funding. This is also a recommendation that came directly from the fall meeting. The commissioners heard many Westport youngsters loud and clear.
7. Resurfacing the basketball courts. That’s a slam dunk.
A few minutes after 8 p.m., public comment began.
There were no catcalls, boos, cheers, whistles or shouts.
Now the commission is ready for next steps. A hearing is set for for Tuesday, March 31 (7:30 pm, Town Hall auditorium). The meeting will include public comment.
Parks and Rec chair Charlie Haberstroh says, “The Commission is anxious to move forward and make recommendations to the First Selectman, so the town can implement appropriate improvements to one of Westport’s most popular recreational facilities.”
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