Tag Archives: Deb Howland-Murray

Winslow Park Plea: Dirt Bikers, Clean Up After Yourselves!

Deb Howland-Murray calls herself “a portrait artist who benefited tremendously from growing up in Westport’s artistic environment. After a sojourn for college and adventures, I returned to Westport. I have lived here for the past 35 years.” 

She writes:

Each spring people pour out of their houses and into nature, shedding months of cold the way a snake sheds its skin.

This year brings new significance to this outdoor migration: a heightened longing for beauty and distraction in the spring of COVID-19.

Maybe that’s why so many people flock to Winslow Park. They come not only to walk dogs, but to enjoy its 28 acres of sunny fields and dense woods. They are parents with children riding scooters and bikes, joggers, couples sitting in conversation on the park’s benches, and teenagers anxious to try their skills on the dirt bike jumps in one of the forested, trail-laced sections of the park.

The Winslow Park dirt bike course. (Photo/Deb Howland-Murray)

Winslow is a treasure. Now more than ever, it’s a breath of fresh air literally and figuratively. I’ve watched it come to life this spring, delighted in April’s little purple flowers, the massive trees leafing out in May, the fields that now read yellow with buttercups.

These are such a sharp contrast to the trash, broken glass and empty vape boxes carpeting the dirt bike section of the park.

Vape boxes litter the dirt bike area. (Photo/Deb Howland-Murray)

I like to watch the teenagers barreling down the course’s steep hill and becoming airborne on the ascent. But it saddens me that the fun is coupled with such disrespect for the surrounding environment, one that’s dotted with wonderful examples of human creativity as well as natural beauty.

The dirt bike course was created by enterprising teenagers, and adjacent to it there is a remarkable lean-to someone made from large branches. Next to the lean-to, a picnic table waits invitingly in the shade. I’ve seen people meditating there.

But who would want to stop there now? Who could bring their small children to play among the empty cans and vape boxes? Which paw will be the first to be sliced by glass shards? When will an unknowing puppy be drawn to the scent of food on a snack wrapper and make the unfortunate mistake of swallowing it?

Trash left on tables. The lean-to is in the back. (Photo/Deb Howland-Murray)

Don’t get me wrong. I love teenagers; I raised 5 of them. An avid skier and hunter-jumper rider, I’m all for the excitement of speed and the joy of flying through the air. I want the kids to have fun in the park. They seem like good kids, wearing their helmets and respectfully keeping a physical distance when they meet others on the trails. They’re polite.

I’m happy that they have a safe, outdoor place to congregate in small numbers at such a difficult and disappointing time to be a teenager. And I’m not interested in passing judgment on what they might or might not be drinking or smoking. That’s up to their parents.

But speaking directly to you, young people: Nature is not your trash can. The park is there for all to enjoy. Now especially, we need to add what we can to each other’s enjoyment.

The Winslow Park lean-to. (Photo/Tracy Porosoff)

Please, kiddos: Create whatever mess you want in your rooms – I certainly did. Just bring a bag with you to the park, collect your garbage and drop it in the trash cans when you exit.

We dog owners do the same. Believe me, collecting your garbage is not nearly as gross as what we are collecting and ferrying to those cans! But what if we didn’t? What if the area you enjoy was full of the kind of waste no one wants to step in?

So, c’mon. Litter-ally, place your drop in the massive bucket of consideration we need right now. It’s not too much to ask.

Quad-Town, Bipartisan Effort Aims For Accurate Census

Among other things, the decennial national census is used to apportion seats in the US House of Representatives.

After the 2000 count, Connecticut lost one of our seats. We’d been at 6 since 1930; now we’re down to 5.

The census is also used to allocate funds for programs like Head Start, food stamps and other social service projects. As well, it provides the most accurate picture of exactly who lives where — information that’s important for businesses, scientists, sociologists and many others to know.

The census begins next year. And — if a coalition of civic-minded volunteers in lower Fairfield County has its way — it will provide a very accurate count of at least this small slice of America.

“Norwalk to Bridgeport” is a non-partisan effort. Several Westporters are involved, as are men and women in Fairfield, and the 2 cities bracketing them.

The other day, one of them talked about their work.

Deb Howland-Murray graduated from Staples in 1968. She moved away after college, but has lived here for the last 34 years. An illustrator, portrait artist and diversity educator, she’s active in a variety of arts groups.

She’s politically active. But, she says, Norwalk to Bridgeport transcends party lines. She and co-chair Sandy Lefkowitz helped organize this group to bring local citizens of many stripes together, in a cause that affects everyone.

The goal is simple: spread the word, so as many people in the area answer census questions as possible.

To do so, they’ve done things like organize a September 17 training session in Bridgeport. Attendees will learn how to make presentations about the census. Then they’ll go out into their communities — to churches, schools, civic clubs, etc. — and do just that.

Deb Howland-Murray

Norwalk to Bridgeport is also compiling lists of local organizations they can reach out to, to pass the census word. They’re creating a calendar of events, so they can attend and pass out information there.

The US Census Bureau has printed materials. But, Deb says, it’s not quite user-friendly. She and her fellow volunteers are creating a 1-page handout, with graphics.

Bridgeport and Norwalk already have “Complete Count” committees — local groups working to ensure an accurate census. Westport and Fairfield do not.

“There’s a lot of suspicion about the census,” Deb says, noting the recent controversy about asking a citizenship question next year. “What’s going on in Washington is happening there. Here, we just want to provide accurate information. All we want is get people counted. We don’t care about their politics.”

Historically, she says, “the more diverse the community, the lower the participation. That hurts those communities. They need funding that comes from accurate counts. We need accurate representation. The census affects everyone.”