Tag Archives: Compo Beach

Happy Birthday, Finding Westport!

Finding Westport turns 2 years old today. The website for local businesses and services — which includes a comprehensive what’s-up list during the pandemic — is the brainchild of Jillian Elder.

Yesterday she ran around town celebrating. She brought a pineapple — hey, why not? — and visited businesses and other sites, hoping her photos would bring smiles.

She’ll post the shots on social media throughout today. Here’s a preview.

Smile!

Bedford Square

Train station

Compo Beach cannons

Compo Beach lifeguard stand (Photos/Jillian Elder)

Beach Alert: Closures Expected; No Drop-Offs Allowed

1st Selectman Jim Marpe says:

Due to the extreme heat forecast for this weekend, increased vehicular and pedestrian traffic is anticipated at Westport beaches.

In an abundance of caution and to insure public health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the beach reaches a capacity where it is deemed impossible to maintain social distancing, it will be closed to additional beachgoers. S

Signage at key intersections on local roadways will inform drivers if the beach is closed, and traffic will be diverted from the area. Drop-offs will not be allowed.

These types of crowded conditions start from mid to late mornings. We advise residents who wish to spend the day at the beach to arrive before 10 a.m.

The beach may re-open mid to late afternoon, provided safer conditions relative to crowds and social distancing are observed at that time.

The goal is for everyone to enjoy Compo — and obey the rules. (Photo/Tom Cook)

The town will make every effort to inform residents of conditions throughout the day via the Town of Westport and Parks and Recreation Department website home pages, and the Town and Parks and Rec Facebook pages.

At Compo Beach you are reminded to wear masks on the boardwalk, using the restrooms or sidewalks, or any other time when you are unable to maintain a 6- foot distance from others.

Your cooperation, patience and understanding with the town staff and police who will enforce and maintain traffic and crowd control during these unprecedented times is appreciated.

I have utmost confidence that town health and safety officials have only the best interests of residents and guests in mind when making difficult decisions. I also know that Westporters understand and accept the gravity of the current health crisis. I am grateful that we are at a point where our town amenities may be open and thriving. But now more than ever, we must enjoy them in a safe and responsible manner while respecting our family, neighbors and friends.

Pics Of The Day #1185

Clouds near Ned Dimes Marina … (Photo/Michael Tomashefsky)

… and the marina itself … (Photo/Michael Tomashefsky)

… and Old Mill Beach … (Photo/Jim St. Andre)

… and out to Compo Cove … (Photo/Jim St. Andre)

… and colorful Compo (Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

4 Months In: Pandemic Reflections

It’s mid-July. We’re now 4 months  — 1/3 of a year — into a world we never imagined in those innocent days of late winter.

When Westport schools suddenly closed on March 11, we were told “2 weeks.” That stretched into mid-April. Finally, the inevitable announcement: School was done for the rest of the year.

We’d already endured a lot. A “super-spreader” party landed Westport in the national spotlight. On the first nice weekend, hundreds headed to Compo. Within hours, town officials closed the beaches.

We foraged for toilet paper, figured out how to find curbside food, watched our hair grow.

Jeera Thai, downtown across from Design Within Reach, was an early adopter of curbside dining.

Those early days seem like a thousand years ago. The time before the pandemic — say, March 10 — belongs to another universe.

But this is the town, the country and the planet we inhabit now. Four months in to our new (ab)normal, here are a few thoughts.

My nephew and his wife had a child last week. What is it like to be born at a time when everyone a baby meets wears a mask? How can he make sense of the world without seeing smiling faces admiring his every move? And it’s not just newborns I worry about. The longer we all must wear masks, the harder it is for any of us to make the human connections so vital to all our lives.

Momentous world events shape the young generations that live through them. The Depression, for example, scarred people forever. For decades, men and women who now had plenty of money ate everything on their plate, because they still worried where their next meal would come from. They turned off lights in empty rooms, to “save electricity.” It’s too early to know how the pandemic will etch itself into the brains of young people, but I can’t imagine they’ll have a positive, adventurous view of the world.

On the other hand, it’s been fun watching so many families embrace the outdoors. They walk together, all over. Teenagers who seldom exercised took up running. Bikes were hauled up from the basement. The town is reopening now, but I still see more outdoor activity than ever.

. (Photo/Anna Kretsch)

I was impressed too by the number of teenagers who used their time away from school productively. I suggested to the players in our Staples High School soccer program that they try new activities. I expected eye-rolling. What I got was a number who learned how to cook, play guitar or write code.

We held weekly Zoom calls with our returning players. A couple of weeks ago, I asked what they have learned about themselves. The results were insightful — and inspiring. “I learned I need structure in my life. I wasn’t happy just sleeping until noon,” one said. “I had a great time with my siblings,” another noted. “I learned not to be afraid of spending time alone,” said a third. “I realized I really like myself!”

No one knows yet what the fall sports season will look like (or if there will be one). But when I return to the soccer field (whenever that is), I know I will be a different coach than before. I already feel things shifting. Little things that used to drive me up a wall — a referee’s call, or canceling a training session at the threat of rain that does not come — will no longer seem worrisome. Our players, and the joy they get from the sport, will become more important than ever.

With so many new rules and regulations, meanwhile, will many old ones seem insignificant? Does it really matter if, in the winter, dogs are unleashed on one part of the beach and not another? Or if, during the summer, we have bottles and cans at Compo?

As for the beach: One unintended consequence of the pandemic is that Westporters discovered Sherwood Island. The 232-acre gem — with walking trails, wildlife, a Nature Center and the state’s 9/11 memorial — has sat right there, virtually unnoticed by most of us, for decades. The secret is out now. And did I mention that for anyone with a Connecticut license plate, it’s free?!

Sherwood Island (Photo/Roseann Spengler)

Until the Y reopened for swimming, I spent an hour or two every day biking. It was great exercise, and with little traffic on the roads, I no longer feared for my life. My goal — which I did not meet — was to ride up and down every side street in town. There are lots of them! (Nearly every one ends in a cul-de-sac.) And boy, are our roads in terrible condition. Soundview Drive is smooth and newly paved. Everywhere else — well, I had a new reason to fear for my life.

From the start, we knew some restaurants would not survive. It’s so sad to think of those we’ve lost, like Da Pietro’s, Tavern on Main and Le Penguin. And Chez 180: The patisserie across from Jeera Thai opened just a few days before the coronavirus hit. Everyone raved about it. The doors are shut now; new furnishings and gleaming cases sit forlorn and empty. The timing could not have been worse.

Closings like those have made us realize the importance of so many (mostly non-Westporters) to our lives. Restaurant cooks; the folks who stock shelves and work registers at CVS, Walgreens, Stop & Shop and Trader Joe’s; mail carriers, and FedEx and UPS deliver persons. There are literally thousands of others. Some lost work; others worked harder than others. Until March, we pretty much saw through and past them. Now we understand that they’re the men and women who make Westport go.

Volunteers also make Westport go. Many organizations lost fundraisers this year: A Better Chance. The Westport Woman’s Club. Sunrise Rotary. They do so much good for our town. They have not complained at all — but I’m surprised so little attention has been paid to their collateral damage.

A few days ago, I went inside Staples High School. Even in summer, it usually bustles with activity. The emptiness this time was overwhelming. A school without people is not really a school.

That same day, I saw a Dattco bus. I have no idea why it was on the road, or where it was going. But it made me wish — almost — that once again I could be stuck behind it, creeping along as it stops every 5 yards to serve one eager, backpacked (and unmasked) child at a time.

Minutes after the second plane struck the 9/11 tower — when it was clear the US was under attack — I had one overpowering thought: Our world has just changed forever. I did not know how — who could have imagined the effects on our airports, immigration system and political process? — but there is a clear, defining line. There was life before 9/11, and life after.

I had the same thought in the early days of the pandemic. Since then, that realization has become a reality. Once again, I am not sure what life post-pandemic will look like. But everything — from daily school bus rides and summers at Compo, to the way my 2-week-old great-nephew relates to his parents, peers and the entire planet — will be different.

Those are my admittedly random, very personal thoughts. What have you learned — about yourself, our town, the world — since March 11? Click “Comments” below.

 

Pic Of The Day #1178

Parker Harding walkway (Photo/Harrison Gordon)

Pics Of The Day #1177

Serene scenes at Compo Beach … (Photo/Katherine Bruan)

… and the jetty … (Photo/Lauri Weiser)

… and Sherwood Mill Pond … (Photo/Ed Simek)

… and back at Compo, at night (Photo/Tom Leyden)

Pics Of The Day: Special Rain Clouds & Rainbow Edition

For the 2nd straight day, rain clouds gathered over Westport this afternoon …

(Photo/Stephanie Mastocciolo)

(Photo/Matt Murray)

(Photo/Katherine Ross)

… and then the rains came …

(Photo/Ellen Wentworth)

followed by (of course) a (double) rainbow!

(Photo/Seth Goltzer)

(Photo/Chris Tait)

(Photo/Janine Scotti)

(Photo/Jeanine Esposito)

Even I-95 looks great! (Photo/Seth Goltzer)

Lifeguards Return To Beaches Tomorrow

It took a few weeks longer than usual.

But this morning, lifeguard chairs were back at Compo Beach.

(Photo/Kathie Motes Bennewitz)

Soon — in a scene very familiar to former Compo guard Kathie Motes Bennewitz, who watched with joy and gratitude — training took place.

The only difference between now and years past was the face masks.

(Photo/Kathie Motes Bennewitz)

(Photo/Karen Como)

Starting tomorrow (Wednesday, July 1), lifeguards will staff Compo and Burying Hill beaches from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

Everyone into the water!

(Photo/Amy Schneider)

Beach Access Back In The News

Westport has made the New York Times again.

This time, it’s in an opinion column by Andrew W. Kahrl. He’s a professor of history and African-American studies at the University of Virginia, and the author of “Free the Beaches: The Story of Ned Coll and the Battle for America’s Most Exclusive Shoreline.

But his reference to our town is not from the 1960s and ’70s, when Greenwich and other suburban towns famously excluded non-residents from their shores.

Writing yesterday in a piece titled “Who Will Get to Swim This Summer?” — with the subhead “History is repeating itself as pools, beaches and clubs open — but mostly for the privileged few” — he says:

In the summer of 1929, residents of the town of Westport along Connecticut’s Gold Coast reported a “new menace” threatening the health and safety of their community: New Yorkers fleeing the squalid, scorching city and flocking to a new state beach located on neighboring Sherwood Island. Because it was state-owned land, all the residents could do, one reporter noted, was “to make access as difficult as possible.” Which they did.

Westport officials hired a contractor to dredge a creek and flood the road connecting the state beach to the mainland. The move, one state official said, “will effectively prevent visitors from reaching the state property.” Westport officials insisted that they were simply seeking to eliminate a mosquito breeding ground — but as another state official remarked, “the real object is to keep the people off state property.”

Shewood Island State Park: 232 acres of prime real estate, right here in Westport.

The people in question were the “unwashed masses” from neighboring cities: the blacks, Jews, Italians and others denied membership to country clubs, who had few options for summertime relief. As America slipped deeper into the Great Depression, the nation’s swelling homeless population was added to the list. A state park, one resident decried, “would be an invitation to the scum.” Sherwood Island, another bemoaned, “looks like a gypsy camp and new tents are being erected every day.”

While Westport’s residents privately fumed over the park’s impact on the area’s property values, in public hearings they claimed to be concerned solely about the park’s purportedly unsanitary conditions. It was no coincidence that during these same years, several towns along Connecticut’s Gold Coast first adopted ordinances restricting access to town beaches and other places of outdoor recreation to residents only.

Westport has followed the lead of many municipalities in the tri-state area in banning out-of-towners — wherever they live — from parking at local beaches.

(Photo/Dan Woog)

Kahrl concludes:

Public health experts agree that so long as people take precautions, outdoor activities are not only safe but also necessary for coping with the stress of the pandemic. But the exclusionary tactics of privileged communities and cost-cutting measures of underresourced ones this summer will force many Americans to suffer inside or seek out unsupervised, potentially dangerous bodies of water to cool off. And it’s not hard to imagine that pools and beaches with restricted access could become flash points of conflict with law enforcement officials, endangering black and brown youth.

It’s simple, really. Our ability to find relief from the heat, and to enjoy time outdoors this summer, should not be determined by where we live and the social and economic advantages we enjoy.

(To read the full New York Times column, click here.)

Roundup: Sea Kayak; Scream; Piping Plovers; More


When DownUnder went down under last fall, Saugatuck lost a special business. And recreation-seekers lost a Riverside (Avenue and description) site for kayak and paddle board rentals.

The space has been filled. The new tenant is … Sea Kayak Connecticut.

After 10 years in Wilton — using trailers to serve the state launch site across the river under I-95, as well as a state pond — owner David McPherson has moved to the visible and very active spot next to Saugatuck Sweets.

Sea Kayak offers rentals (single and double kayaks, stand up paddle boards); gear; instruction — and tours (Saugatuck River and Westport coast, sunset, full moon, and private outings).

Click here for more information.


This weekend’s Remarkable Theater films — “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Caddyshack” — sold out the Imperial Avenue parking lot.

This Thursday (July 2), the pop-up drive-in shifts from comedy to horror. “Scream” hits the big screen.

Parking begins at 7:45 a.m. The pre-show is on at 8:30; the movie starts at sunset (8:45-ish). Tickets go on sale Tuesday at 12:01 a.m. Click here to purchase, and for more information.

PS: The Remarkable Theater hopes to show 2 more films each week, throughout the summer. That’s contingent on Board of Selectmen approval.


Peter Green reports:

While many residents have enjoyed watching the Compo Beach American oystercatcher chicks grow into juvenile birds, the federally endangered piping plover pair have taken turns sitting on their 3 eggs

Until yesterday! Hatching occurred early in the morning. This is the the first time piping plovers have successfully bred, nested and fledged chicks at Compo Beach.

Visitors should tread carefully. The young chicks — which look like cotton balls with legs — are easy to miss. The tiny birds will forage for food on the beach.

Thanks to the town of Westport for helping Beth Amendola from Audubon Connecticut with this success story.

(Photo/Peter Green)


And finally … Bob Dylan released another album this month. He’s had an astonishing career (and a Nobel Prize to show for it).

But hardly anything compares to this 1963 masterpiece. It’s just as fitting today as 57 years ago — when he sang it with Joan Baez at the memorable August March on Washington, just minutes before Martin Luther King proclaimed “I have a dream …”

There are too many great versions of this song to select just one. So take your pick. Or listen to them all.