Hot, humid weather drove hundreds of Westporters to Compo Beach yesterday.
And yes, they were nearly all Westporters. No day passes are being sold.
In an added effort to keep crowds to a COVID-safe number, Parks & Recreation officials closed (and patrolled) the dropoff (aka Uber) area across from the Soundview parking lot …
… and erected barricades along Soundview Drive.
They even put stanchions in front of the pumping station at the Longshore exit, near the Minute Man monument. Savvy folks have been parking there for a while.
Police also ticketed cars parked illegally on side streets.
Meanwhile — very quietly — Parks & Rec has re-opened the very popular playground.
They also returned a few (well distanced) tables to the two pavilions.
Westporters wasted no time going back to their old habit of dumping all their stuff all over the place, then leaving …
… and at South Beach, where Parks & Rec added a few picnic tables and even grills, Westporters quickly returned to the pre-pandemic ritual of completely ignoring the signs saying “Tables Are Not Reservable” — on each table! — and reserving them.
Posted onJuly 25, 2020|Comments Off on Roundup: Compo Playground; Comet; Art; PAL; More
The latest reopening is a big one: the Compo Beach playground.
Everyone — except those under 2 — must wear a mask. Social distancing must be observed.
Other than that: Have fun!
The Neowise comet got plenty of publicity when it first arrived.
It’s still visible — all the way through August 15. In fact, says Elyse Heise — who took the great photo below, at Saugatuck Elementary School — it just hit peak brightness yesterday.
The view tonight should be as bright as the day this past week, when she took this shot.
(Photo/Elyse Heise Photography)
Three downtown galleries — Amy Simon, Pop’TArt and Sorelle — are sponsoring an art walk this Thursday (July 30, 5 to 8 p.m.). There’s live music and refreshments (masks required, of course).
If this one goes well, more are planned for future Thursdays.
Amy Simon Fine Art
For decades — and very quietly — Westport PAL has impacted thousands of lives.
In addition to organizing 10 sports for 2,000 kids each year, supporting Staples High School sports, helping with field enhancements, organizing the 4th of July fireworks and Main Street Halloween parade, PAL awards college scholarships. Since 2003, they’ve handed out $400,000 in aid.
Their fundraisers are low-key. Unfortunately, their biggest — the fireworks — was canceled this year.
But the 58th annual Chief Samuel Luciano Golf Tournament is still on. Set for September 14 at Longshore, it’s more important — and fun — than ever. Click here to register, and for more details.
In these tough COVID times, EnergizeCT has expanded their rebates and incentives. The popular — and free — Home Energy Solutions program helps state residents save on bills by reducing waste.
Virtual visits (“pre-assessments”) offer a look into a home’s energy efficiency situation, so experts can make suggestions and explain how the rebates work.
There is no co-pay, regardless of how the home is heated. And the insulation rebate rate is now $2.20 per square foot — more than twice the previous $1 rate.
For more information, click here or call 877-947-3873.
This week’s #FridayFlowers — courtesy, as always, of the Westport Garden Club — adorn the entrance to Longshore.
And finally … play ball! Baseball is back! There’s new grass on the field …
Comments Off on Roundup: Compo Playground; Comet; Art; PAL; More
First of all, thank you to all our Westport residents for your cooperation during these unprecedented times.
Many of you have self-isolated in order to flatten the curve and curb the spread of COVID-19. I appreciate your actions.
Unfortunately, we believe you will need to do even more for the foreseeable future. Given the early spring-like weather, many of you have taken advantage of our beautiful Compo Beach and have congregated there.
We must remind you that congregating, even outdoors, in small or large groups, is contradictory to the advice of our Health Department leadership.
As a practical matter, we cannot close the entire access to Compo Beach. However, we will be closing the playground at Compo Beach and the parking lots at Compo Beach and Burying Hill beach until further notice.
Whether you are using the beaches or just trying to get out of the house for a while, please do everything you can to practice social distancing and self-isolation.
Together we can minimize the impact of this terrible virus on our community. We have to work together and use common sense. Thank you in advance for your cooperation in these difficult times.
You can still go to Compo Beach. But the playground and parking lot are closed. (Photo/John Videler for Videler Photography)
Westport does not have a nickname. But if we did, we might be called “The Land of Lawsuits.”
Westporters like to sue. The town won a lawsuit to prohibit construction of a nuclear power plant on Cockenoe Island (yay!). Neighbors lost a suit to prohibit construction of the Compo Beach playground (yay!).
Neighbors also threatened to prohibit Positano restaurant from putting a few tables on an outdoor patio near Old Mill Beach. As a result, the restaurant moved. A private home now rises in its place (boo!).
Lost in the mists of time is another lawsuit. In 1985, 64 residents of Bridge Street and nearby roads sued to prevent the conversion of what was then Saugatuck Elementary School into multi-unit housing.
Three years later, a settlement was reached. The agreement limited the project to 36 owner-occupied, age-restricted units.
(Photo courtesy of SmartMLS Inc.)
Today, The Saugatuck is a true success story. One of Westport’s most affordable residences lies a short walk from thriving Saugatuck Center and train station, and not much further from Compo Beach.
The attractively renovated red brick building graces Bridge Street between South Compo and Imperial Avenue.
Residents have formed a tight-knit, active community. It’s hard to imagine the neighborhood without it, in fact.
None of that could have been predicted in 1984. Westport’s school population was declining. Burr Farms Elementary was torn down. Hillspoint Elementary turned into daycare. Bedford El became Town Hall. Greens Farms Elementary School housed the Westport Arts Center.
When the lawsuit was settled, plans were drawn up to convert the school that generations of Saugatuck residents attended. It dated back to the early 20th century, when the original wooden building was called the Bridge Street School.
It took several years, but 17 1-bedroom and 19 2-bedroom apartments were built in what were once classrooms, the library and auditorium. Because Saugatuck had been a classic elementary school, each unit features large windows and high ceilings.
Units at The Saugatuck feature large windows.
Those surroundings are familiar to at least one current resident — and several others in the past. They attended Saugatuck El as kids. Living there now is very different — but also quite familiar.
Joe Veno has lived in The Saugatuck for more than 20 years. As a youngster, he walked to the school from his Franklin Street home. He played basketball in the playground — now a parking lot — and baseball in what is now a quiet back yard.
The Saugatuck is a cooperative. The Town of Westport owns the land, and holds a 99-year lease on the property. But the Cooperative owns the building.
Members must be at last 62 years old (at least one, in the case of married couples), able to live independently, and their income must be below the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority’s guidelines for homeowners at 80% of area median income. Importantly, there are no limits or restrictions on assets.
To ensure affordability, the resale price is linked to the average increase in income for individuals living in the area.
Three units are currently for sale. A 2-bedroom, 1 bath apartment is listed at $222,282; 2 1-bedroom units have listing prices of $179,800 and $168,300. (Inquiries can be directed to the property manager: 203-226-1570.)
Those are far below other Westport prices, because of the original affordable housing prices implemented in the 1990s, and the strict resale cap/formula that limits how high prices can climb.
A view of The Saugatuck’s back yard.
A cooperative’s rules are are more stringent than in a condo, particularly in areas like rentals. Saugatuck units must be their owner’s primary residence.
One of the great perks of The Saugatuck is Shaun Cullen, a part-time super.
Residents include longtime Westporters who have downsized, and no longer want the responsibilities of a home and yard.
Other residents have moved to The Saugatuck from elsewhere, to be close to their children and grandchildren in Westport.
Most Saugatuck residents are retired, from careers including Wall Street, Madison Avenue, refuse collection and tile installation. At least 2 — an accountant and a contractor — are currently working.
The vibe is friendly. Neighbors chat easily, in the community room, mail room and hallways.
The cooperative is governed by an executive board. They and other residents organize a variety of activities: movie nights, supper at the beach, a jazz keyboardist and Labor Day picnic.
A recent party in the community room.
It’s hard to imagine Westport today without the Compo Beach playground — or to visualize the town, had a nuclear power plant been built on Cockenoe.
It’s just as hard to imagine what Bridge Street would be like without The Saugatuck. How great that the neighbors who sued more than 30 years ago cooperated in a settlement that led to a co-op.
FUN FACTS: 1) During the Depression, the WPA commissioned Westport artist Robert Lambdin to paint a 7-foot high, 20-foot long mural: “Pageant of Juvenile Literature.” For years, it hung just inside the main entrance to Saugatuck Elementary School.
In 1992, when the town finally began to convert the old Saugatuck El to senior housing, the mural was slated for demolition.
A group of art-lovers — including Mollie Donovan, Eve Potts and Judy Gault Sterling — set out to save the work. Within a month they raised $40,000. That was enough to remove the mural, conserve it, and reinstall it at its new home: The Westport Library.
It stayed there for more than 2 decades. When the transformation project was announced, and a suitable spot could not be found for the work, Westport arts curator Kathy Motes Bennewitz and members of the Westport Public Art Collection searched for a large wall, with plenty of foot traffic.
They — with architect Scott Springer — found it, at Staples High School. Now, the enormous, eye-catching mural hangs proudly near the auditorium lobby, just a few feet from the Staples library.
2) When Saugatuck was an elementary school, Pete Seeger — at the time, blacklisted as a folk singer — performed on its auditorium stage.
The weather was great in 1989, when during one glorious late April weekend hundreds of volunteers — including many from the Westport Young Woman’s League — constructed the Compo Beach playground.
The weather will not be great this evening, when veterans of that wonderful project (and anyone else who worked on subsequent maintenance days, plus their kids, and all other Westporters who enjoy a good party) planned to celebrate the playground’s 30th anniversary.
So the event is postponed to tomorrow (Saturday, April 27). All are invited to South Beach (the area nearest the cannons).
It’s BYO food and drinks.
And don’t forget that old souvenir t-shirt you’ve held on to for all these years.
If you moved to Westport after 1989, you’ve enjoyed the Compo Beach playground without a second thought.
It’s fun, creative, intricate — everything parents want for their kids.
Plus the water, Joey’s and bathrooms are all a few steps away.
There’s no place like the Compo Beach playground for kids (and their parents.)
If you were here that fateful year though, you know that the playground did not just magically appear.
It was designed by children (with help from famed playground architect Robert Leathers).
It was built by 1,500 volunteers, of all ages. They hauled wheelbarrows, cut wood, hammered nails and poured cement. It was a true town undertaking.
Yet none of it would have happened without a huge legal battle.
(Of course whether you moved to Westport in 1959, 1989 or 2019, you know this is a litigious town.)
Playground opponents — no, that’s not an oxymoron — feared a ruined beach vista. They worried the swings and ladders would be a magnet for out-of-towners, or taken over by beer-drinking, pot-smoking, sex-having teenagers.
The playground controversy brought the first — and only — death threat of 1st selectman Marty Hauhuth’s tenure.
Anti-playground activists obtained a court injunction. (They were not playing around.)
As soon as it was lifted, construction began. It was a magical weekend.
The playground quickly became one of Westport’s prime attractions. It did not ruin the view; it enhanced it. And the only problem now is that on beautiful days, too many people use it.
The Compo Beach playground is popular many months of the year.
It also became apparent that the playground not only did not ruin property values; it enhanced them.
Opponents changed their views. I know, because a year or two after it was built, I saw one of the most vocal critics romping there with what I assumed were his grandchildren. (If they weren’t, that’s a whole other issue.)
Which brings us to this Friday (April 26). The 30th anniversary of construction of the Compo Beach playground will take place just to the right of the cannons. (Not the playground? Hmmmm…)
It starts at 6:30 p.m. All Westporters are invited to this BYO picnic. If you were there in 1989, you’ve got a special invitation: Haul out an old t-shirt. Bring a commemorative hammer.
And everyone: Don’t forget beer and wine.
Which is why — now that I think about it — the party is just to the right of the cannons, not the playground.
(Pass the word far and wide. Remember: Bring your own food and drink. Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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