Tag Archives: Earthplace

Pic Of The Day #236

Wild black vultures look through the window of Earthplace’s Animal Hall workroom. The vultures are beginning to migrate, and have been seen in groups of 30 or more on the grounds. Staff members have seen Earthplace’s rescued vultures try to share their food with the wild ones. (Photo/Jaime Bairaktaris)

Green Your Home; Save The Planet!

Westporters care about the environment.

But many of our homes are older — real energy wasters. Even newer homes are not as energy efficient as we might think. All of us can learn more about saving energy.

A golden opportunity comes this Thursday (November 30, 7 p.m., Earthplace). Westport architects Howard Lathrop and John Rountree, and Greentek Consulting founder David Mann, will talk about building a “net zero” home for little — or no — additional cost. They’ll also discuss how to renovate a home, or replace an appliance, without breaking the bank.

“Greening Your Home: Sustainable Energy Saving Solutions” is sponsored by Earthplace, Westport’s Green Task Force and the Westport Library. It’s one more step on the road to making our town “net zero” by 2050.

This energy efficient house could be less expensive than you think.

Double Rainbow — Triple Views

Seen around Westport late this afternoon:

Above downtown … (Photo/Alexandra Rappaport)

… at the Earthplace After School Enrichment Program … (Photo/Jaime Bairaktaris)

… and of course Compo Beach. (Photo/Seth Goltzer)

Selectmen Candidates Debate Environmental Issues Tonight

Do you have questions about Westport’s “Net Zero by 2050” goal? Would you  like more people (as in, anyone) to adhere to our “no idling” regulation? Are you concerned about future water quality (and quantity)? What would you like to see done with builders who clear-cut every tree before throwing up houses on steroids?

1st and 2nd selectman candidates will be asked those questions — and many more — at a special “environmental debate” tonight. Jim Marpe, Jennifer Tooker, Melissa Kane, Rob Simmelkjaer, John Suggs and TJ Elgin will discuss Westport’s environmental issues, policies and plans.

Co-sponsored with Westport’s Green Task Force, it’s set for 7 p.m. at Earthplace.

Questions can be submitted in advance by email: gtf@westportct.gov.

 

An Evergreen Grows In Westport

First, it was natural land: wooded, a bit wet.

Then it was cleared for farming. Eventually, nature took over again.

Stone walls show that this wooded land was used long ago for farming.

In 1959, Lillian Wadsworth sold 12 acres to the town of Westport — for $1. The year before, she’d given 62 acres to the fledgling Mid-Fairfield County Youth Museum. The organization later changed its name — first to the Nature Center, then to Earthplace.

A philanthropist, artist and sculptor, Wadsworth was active in the Westport Garden Club, Westport Library, and various preservation and horticutural organizations. 

The Board of Education considered the site — bordered by Stonybrook Road and Woodside Lane — for a school. Residents of the quiet neighborhood objected.

Eventually, the town designated the 12 acres for passive recreation.

The Lillian Wadsworth Arboretum is called “Stony Brook Rd property” on this Google Maps Earth view. Earthplace is at top.

About 20 years ago, the town explored selling the site to a developer. Nearby resident Dick Fincher and town attorney Stan Atwood helped scuttle that plan.

In 2009, a micro-burst felled hundreds of trees. They sat, rotting, for several years.

In 2014 Fincher and Lou Mall got 1st Selectman Jim Marpe interested in the site. When tree warden Bruce Lindsay saw it, he immediately recognized its potential.

With a $50,000 urban forestry grant — and hundreds of volunteer hours — a few trails were cut. Fincher and neighbor John Howe played key roles, and saved a beautiful Norway maple.

Dick Fincher, at the entrance to the Wadsworth Arboretum (corner of Stoneybrook Road and Woodside Lane).

A Norway maple at the Wadsworth Arboretum. The teepee nearby was built by students.

Since then, volunteer restoration efforts have continued. The land was given an official name: The Lillian Wadsworth Arboretum.

Now Fincher and Stein — both members of Westport’s Tree Board — are kicking the project into high gear. The Board has formed a non-profit — Westport Evergreen — to solicit foundation, corporate, civic group and individual funding to manage, maintain and improve open spaces throughout town.

The start of the Eloise Ray trail, on Stonybrook Road. Eloise Ray was a noted landscape architect.

In addition to the Wadsworth Arboretum, Westport Evergreen has done preliminary work at Baron’s South, the 32-acre wooded site between South Compo and Imperial Avenue.

So far, 40% of the Wadsworth site work has been completed. Dangerous deadfalls and invasives were removed; a trail plan has been established, and several trails added. Specimen vegetation has been planted, signage installed, and benches and tables were made by Stein from salvaged wood.

Dick Stein made this bench from salvaged wood. Lou Mall invited fellow RTM members here for a picnic.

Clearing the massive amount of underbrush is “not a job for amateurs,” says Dick Fincher.

Dick Fincher stands on a bridge built earlier this summer by Lou Mall, Dick Stein and tree warden Bruce Lindsay.

Dead creepers line a Wadswworth Arboretum trail.

Still ahead: a visitors’ information kiosk, 3- or 4-car parking area, and path along the Stonybrook perimeter.

A visitors’ kiosk will be built here. All the wood comes from the Wadsworth Arboretum site.

Westport Evergreen hopes to organize work days with groups like the Boys Scouts, Staples’ Service League of Boys, and Rotary and garden clubs.

One of the trails already cut at the Wadsworth Arboretum. Many have been created by students.

Last year, several Staples senior interns and members of Mike Aitkenhead’s environmental studies classes worked at the Arboretum.

Westport Evergreen seeks contributions to the general fund, or for planting a tree or purchasing a bench. Email blindsay@westportct.gov, or write Lillian Wadsworth Arboretum, c/o Tree Warden, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT 06880.

When funding is completed, this rock will bear a plaque saying “Lillian Wadsworth Arboretum.”

In the meantime, wander over to the Lillian Wadsworth Arboretum. It’s open 365 days a year.

And it’s free.

That’s priceless.

Finding The UN At Earthplace Camp

Every jUNe Day, Westport hosts hundreds of guests from around the world.

As you walk along Compo Beach, you hear dozens of languages.

For Jaime Bairaktaris, his “Westport United Nations” moment comes at Earthplace.

The 2016 Staples High School graduate has worked for several seasons as an Earthplace summer counselor. Previously, he was a camper there himself.

Every year, Jaime is impressed at the number of international visiting campers. They come from China, Spain, Germany, Singapore, England and everywhere else. They’re all ages too.

He and the kids climb trees, run through the brook, build stick shelters, have mud fights, swim and canoe down the Saugatuck River.

“No matter where they’re from, we all realize the nature sanctuary doesn’t have a language,” Jaime says.

Last week was extra special. In his group of 5 youngsters, only 1 — Andres — was from Westport.

Andres’ cousin is from Chile. Sofie lives in New York. Liv and Adam come from Paris.

The world comes to Earthplace. On the right is camp co-director Becky Newman.

Jaime relied on “Spanish for Dummies,” “French for Dummies” and Google Translate. He’d switch in mid-sentence from one language to another, without missing a beat.

But, he says, “these kids, without fail, form a connection. They communicate with each other. They start to play. They figure out how to work together.”

As always, children adapt — often better than their parents. One family signed up for just one day at camp. By the afternoon their child was talking excitedly about tomorrow. The parents quickly enrolled for the whole week.

“Our goal is to get them to a level where they’re comfortable and feel safe, by simply showing them they have nothing to worry about — that we don’t have words in English to describe the things we’ll be doing, so it doesn’t matter anyway,” Jaime explains.

The children quickly surpass that basic level of comfort. They mimic his voice, words and hand motions, especially as he counts down from 3 or tells them to quiet down.

“We use handshakes, fist bumps, pinky swears, hugs and a lot of facial expression when we need to explain something,” Jaime says. There are also plenty of high fives, smiles and Charades.

If things get confusing they laugh, grab his iPhone for Google Translate — then laugh some more at the “universal” emojis.

Once, Jaime pointed to words on his phone to show a young boy that they were going to a pond. His sister yelled at Jaime — in French — that he could not yet read. “Whoops!” Jaime laughs.

The Earthplace camp gang. (Photos/Jaime Bairaktaris)

For the counselor, the interactions between campers are his favorite parts.

“There’s nothing better than watching 6-year-olds sit down, build a perfect Lego house — sharing pieces, adjusting them — and then realize after 10 minutes that they didn’t even know they spoke different languages,” he says.

“Most kids truly have no clue there’s a language barrier. And when they do, they just keep playing.”

Some things need no talking. One child extends a hand to another, as they climb a tree. Together, they run over to show Jaime a frog they’ve caught.

“I think something of major importance happens here,” Jaime notes.

“In a world where screen time and organization is so prevalent, nature still teaches us how to be just human beings before we become students, athletes or artists.”

Earthplace’s “unscheduled” schedule is “whatever we want it to be. And whatever it turns out to be, we’re okay with. It’s a level playing field that binds them together, by making them equals.

“If an adult goes into the woods and sees a dead log, we see a dead log. They see a seesaw, and build one. Instead of watching a video about how tadpoles transform into frogs, they catch them — and see what’s happening.

“They can’t bury their head in their phone or rely on a computer to socialize. It’s all done outside, by themselves, and it works out just fine.”

Jaime loves that the Earthplace camp celebrates getting outside, and going with the flow.

And, he emphasizes, “we don’t even need to speak the same language when we do it. At the end of the day, we’re the same people.”

There are no words to describe how great that is.

Pic Of The Day #81

Earthplace campers enjoy today’s downpour. (Photo/Jaime Bairaktaris)

SLOBs Take Over Westport

If you drove around Westport today, you may have noticed an unusual number of high school boys weeding, planting, mulching, painting, cleaning and picking up garbage.

What a bunch of SLOBs.

That’s the great acronym for Staples’ Service League Of Boys. One of the most popular clubs at the high school, it’s a way for boys — and their parents — to join together in community service.

Today — during the group’s 8th annual Service Sunday — SLOBs contributed over 600 hours of work. They also donated $5,000 in supplies and goods, to get their work done.

Staples seniors Brendan Massoud, Thomas Moy and Elliott Poulley (rear) work at Earthplace.

Among the job sites: Wakeman Town Farm, Camp Mahackeno, Earthplace, A Better Chance of Westport Glendarcy House, Staples High and the Bridgeport Community Garden.

More SLOBs action this time at Wakeman Town Farm — from today’s Service Sunday.

Meanwhile, inside Staples, SLOBs created a library for the K-8 Luiz Munoz Marin School in Bridgeport. Members contributed over 800 books, which they catalogued today.

They also assembled healthy snack bags for Read School students. For some youngsters, that’s much of the food they eat on weekends.

SLOB’s service day is big. But the boys do plenty throughout the year too. Since September they’ve volunteered at over 70 community events, here and in neighboring towns — providing over 3,800 hours of service.

Our SLOBs are pretty neat!

Service League of Boys members and parents pose for a photo. Soon it was back to work.

Happy GreenDay!

Looking for a way to welcome spring, honor the environment, and do cool, important things with family and friends?

You’re in luck!

GreenDay is this Saturday (April 29). In just 5 years, the event — created by Staples High School’s Club Green — has become a low-key but very fun Westport-wide celebration.

You can choose from:

8:30-10 a.m. Clean-up Greens Farms train station and Riverside Park. Both events are sponsored by the Westport Beautification Committee.

10 a.m. Family Trail Run at Earthplace. Trail run/walk options for all ages and abilities, from a 100-yard dash to 2 miles. Cost: $25 per adult, $15 per child, $75 maximum. Proceeds benefit Earthplace’s community education programs.

10 a.m. Tour Westport’s wastewater treatment plantSee how sewage turns into clean water. Location: 4 Elaine Road, off Compo Road South, between I-95 and the railroad tracks.

11 a.m.-3 p.m. Fun and learning with nature at EarthplaceEarthplace naturalists, Wakeman Town Farm animals, Westport Library storytellers and the new Lillian Wadsworth Arboretum join forces. Experience and explore the natural world through hands-on science activities, and nature arts and crafts. Cost: $5/person.

12-3 p.m. Westport Tree Board gives away native saplings at Earthplace. Members will also direct visitors on tours of the Arboretum, and conduct a free raffle. The winner receives a wooden bench, handmade from black locust wood harvested on the property by Tree Board member Dick Stein.

2 p.m. Rally for the environment at Earthplace. Bring or make your own signs (materials provided), to celebrate science and nature.

3 p.m. Hydroponics at the Westport Library. Watch a hydroponic system being built. Learn how it helps grow a healthy food system.

Get your green on!

(For more GreenDay information, click here.)

Earthplace “Wish List” Aids Animals After Fire

Firefighters saved nearly 50 animals during last Friday’s Earthplace fire. The only loss was a gray tree frog.

However, the popular nature and environmental center needs a number of items, ranging from a rabbit house and terrarium to falconry anklets and animal care products.

The public can help. Click here for a full “wish list.”

In other Earthplace fire news, officials have determined the cause: spontaneous combustion involving a linseed oil-soaked rag, left after refinishing work the previous day.