Twenty years ago, officials at Sherwood Island bulldozed all their dunes away. They wanted state park visitors to have an unimpeded Long Island Sound view, from the parking lot and concession stand.
It was not a great idea. It affected the coastal wildlife habitat, and lessened the shoreline’s resiliency to rising seas.
Five years ago, Friends of Sherwood Island board member Michele Sorensen wondered how her group could improve the dune habitat. Ecologist Juliana Barrett met Michele and then-park supervisor Jim Beschle on April 5, 2017. She said that to build out the dunes, they had to plant dominant grass before April 15, or after November 15.
That afternoon Michele ordered 800 American Beach Grass culms. She corraled up a small team of volunteers — including 2 grandchildren — to spend 4 days during Easter, planting.
Michele Sorensen, at the start of the dune restoration project.
The project has continued ever since.
Every year during Fairfield County Giving Day, the “Friends Garden Team” fundraises to buy plants, tools, signs and supplies. Michele provides a matching grant of up to $1,000. Last February’s effort was the best yet.
Westporter Bill Yaffa — whose company sells erosion control cloth — suggested using it at the park. An experimental sand patch had a 97% success rate (far better than the usual 60-85%). This spring the group will expand the areas they plant in sixfold, using jute cloth.
The dune restoration project, last August.
Since 2019 — when Michele became a University of Connecticut advanced master gardener — she has been assisted by nearly a dozen other master gardener graduates and interns from around Fairfield County, and local helpers like Westporter Lavinia Larsson and Barbara Dahm, now in her 80s.
Barbara’s connection with Sherwood Island dates back to when her parents brought breakfast, lunch and dinner, spending all day at the beach.
Current Staples High School sophomore Jackson Cregan and his father Johannes were key members of last November and April’s plantings too.
Jackson Cregan, hard at work.
Birds, butterflies and many other creatures have taken advantage of the restored dune habitat.
And no one has complained that they can’t see the shore from the parking lot or concession stand.
Friends Garden Team members Heather Williams (Westport Shellfish Commission) and Westporter Barrie Holmes, with hundreds of plantings.
Start time for the Representative Town Meeting’s special June 8 (Tuesday) meeting to reconsider the Planning & Zoning’s adoption of a new zoning district that would enable a 157-unit development on Hiawatha Lane has been pushed ahead to 7 p.m.
However, the RTM will not address the petition until 7:30 p.m.
The meeting will be livestreamed on www.westportct.gov, and shown on Optimum channel 79 and Frontier channel 6020. To attend by video, send an email to RTMcomments@westportct.gov; include your name and address, to receive participation details.
Emails may be sent before the meeting to RTMmailinglist@westportct.gov; this goes to all RTM members.
It’s called “CT Trails Day.” But Friends of Sherwood Island are actually sponsoring two days — today and tomorrow — of activities at Connecticut’s first state park.
Today, there’s a Wonder of Flight Interactive Air Show (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), featuring radio-controlled model planes, helicopters, gliders and drones, followed by a Butterfly Walk with Michele Sorenson (2 p.m.; meet at the Nature Center).
Tomorrow (Sunday), Louis Petig leads a Nature Walk at 1 p.m. along the Sound. It begins at the Nature Center, and includes birding locations, the Connecticut 9/11 memorial, model aircraft airport, trailheads, wetlands and a pine forest.
At last: There’s smooth sailing — well, driving — to the beach.
Just in time for this weekend’s 90-degree weather, Hillspoint Road has been repaved. Residents and beach-goers have been frustrated for weeks, after Aquarion’s work left the street rough and rutted.
Striping should begin next week, weather permitting.
RTM member Andrew Colabella credits teamwork with 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, Public Works director Peter Ratkiewich, RTM colleague Chris Tait, Joey’s by the Shore owner Hal Kravitz and resident Robin Tauck for helping move the project along.
Speaking of Tauck: The upscale guided tour and cruise company — based now in Wilton, but for many years a Westport operation, where many family members still live — will resume tour and river cruise operations in Europe, Africa and central America, beginning this month.
Some North America tours have already begun. Click here for details.
A limited audience saw Staples High’s first live musical performance of the school year last night.
Thunderstorms moved the first of 2 Pops Concerts was moved from the Levitt Pavilion to the auditorium. After a year of COVID, that hardly mattered.
A variety of choruses, orchestras and the freshman band entertained the socially distanced — but very grateful — crowd. Despite the masks, it was a sure sign that the district’s superb staff had shepherded through a very difficult year.
And that music makes us all truly alive.
The 2nd night of the Pops Concert — with other groups — is scheduled for tonight. All tickets have already been distributed.
Luke Rosenberg directs the Anima Cantorum.
Staples High School music instructors (from left): Luke Rosenberg, Candida Inanaco, Phil Giampietro, Carrie Mascaro, Jeri Muehleise. Innaco retires this year, after 36 years of teaching. (Photos/Dan Woog)
The Artists’ Collective celebrates Westport’s return to actual, live activities with 2 big events.
A pop-up art show opens in the Westport Country Playhouse barn June 12. It runs from 2 to 6 p.m. every day, through June 19. An artist’s talk on closing day begins at 4 p.m.
Participating artists include local favorites Lucienne Buckner, Miggs Burroughs, Elizabeth DeVoll, Charles Douthat, Susan Fehlinger, Noah Fox, Jen Greely, Toby Michaels, Nancy Moore, Mary Ann Neilson, Melissa Newman, Diane Pollack, Ellen Schiffman and Jahmane West.
The Collective’s very popular trunk show returns in the Westport Library’s lower parking lot: July 11 (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
What is the Artists’ Collective of Westport? Click below to learn more.
The return to indoor events came too late for the Westport Country Playhouse to stage its full summer productions.
But the venerable theater welcomes a series of special events, to support next year’s full reopening.
“Cabaret in the Robards” is 3 evenings of shows featuring Broadway talent, with music, song and comedy.
The first one — June 26 — is “An Evening with Brad Simmons and Tonya Pinkins.” She’s a Tony-winning Broadway veteran; he’s a famed music director and concert artist. They’ll combine for show favorites, contemporary covers, classics and more.
Staples High School students raise funds for many worthy projects. They thank their donors, work hard — but in their busy day-to-day worlds, never share the results of their efforts.
Jackson Cregan remembers.
The 9th grader loves Sherwood Island. After raising funds for Friends of Sherwood Island, he sent along this update:
“100% of your donations were used to purchase seagrass and jute erosion control cloth, trees and shrubs.
“In early April, I helped restore dunes. We planted 2,400 seagrass stems with 18 volunteers. In late April, we planted 125 trees and shrubs with 20 volunteers.
Jackson volunteers there nearly every week. He is learning from Michele Sorensen and other master gardeners. He helps with dune restoration, removing invasive species, tree planting, creating pollinator pathways, and maintenance.
Great work, Jackson! And thanks for letting all of us know what’s going on at our great state park.
Yesterday the former Staples High School and Little League World Series star’s current team — Duke University — won the ACC championship, 1-0 over NC State. It was the Blue Devils’ 4th ACC baseball title — but first in 60 years.
Knight — a 2-time state champion at Staples — batted .272, with 2 home runs, this year.
Memorial Day weekend’s rains meant a washout for many local businesses.
News12 sent a crew to Joey’s by the Shore. As expected, sales were slow. The popular deli/market had stocked up on supplies, expecting big crowds. But neighbors were stopping in. And the cameraman got some great shots, of Joey’s and Old Mill Beach.
And finally … B.J. Thomas died yesterday at his home near Dallas, of complications from lung cancer. He was 78.
Though best known for “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” — the song from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” which connected him forever with Westport’s Paul Newman and Weston’s Robert Redford — he had many other successes. Fifteen singles reached the Top 10, and he earned 5 Grammys.
I never liked “Raindrops.” But I sure did appreciate much of the rest of B.J. Thomas’ music. What a voice! (Click here for a full obituary.)
Do you know a person, business or organizations in Connecticut dedicated to environmental protection and sustainability?
Connecticut’s water utility wants to honor them, with an Aquarion Environmental Champion Award.
Winners will join previous honorees, including Sikorsky, Bigelow Tea, Pratt & Whitney, the Trust for Public Land and Pomperaug River Watershed Coalition.
Winners in the Adult, Non-Profit Organization, Large Business, Small Business, and Communications categories can select an environmental non-profit to receive a $2,500 grant. The winner of the Student category (grades 9-12) will receive a $1,000 award.
People with disabilities face many challenges. So do their siblings.
Abilis — the non-profit that helps hundreds of special needs families — holds a “Sibshops” workshop on May 19 (5 to 6:30 p.m., Zoom). It’s open to area children ages 10 to 14 whose brother or sister has a disability.
Sibshops are “high-spirited, fun workshops that combine recreation, discussion and information.” They provide safe spaces for siblings to share thoughts and feelings, while meeting others in similar circumstances and learning about the services their brother or sister receives. Click here to register. Questions? Email email@example.com.
Lauren Weisberger’s novel The Devil Wears Prada, offered a devastating view of fashion publishing. Her 6 books have sold over 13 million copies.
Her newest — Where the Grass is Green and the Girls are Pretty — goes on sale May 18. The night before (May 17, 7 p.m., Zoom), she’ll chat virtually with Westporter Jennifer Blankfein about her latest book, and the women — a TV anchor with everything, and her stay-at-home supermom sister — in it.
The conversation is sponsored by the Westport Library. Click here to register.
Yesterday’s “Shorefest on a Roll” — Friends of Sherwood Island’s reimagined, socially distanced annual fundraiser — was different than the usual lobsterfest.
It was also wonderful, fun, and made even better by spectacular weather.
Board members Cece Saunders and Steve Axthelm produced the clever, all-ages event. Riding in cars through the 232-acre state park, families listened to a podcast while enjoying kites, disc golf, music, and getting a purple martin education.
At the last stop, they picked up lobster roll dinners, courtesy of Westfair Fish & Chips.
This Saturday, you can show off your new look. The Westport Downtown Merchants Association is sponsoring a Fall Fashion & Beauty Day.
Merchandise will be displayed on sidewalks — meaning there’s plenty of room to walk around in stores too. And despite the name, all downtown merchants — not just fashion and beauty retailers — are invited to participate.
All of Main Street, Elm Street and Church Lane will be closed from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Local merchants not on those streets are being offered spots, so there’s plenty to see and do. Of course, masks and social distancing rules apply!
World peace comes to Westport.
That’s the name of the next MoCA Westport exhibit. It opens October 8.
Works in the show reflect “the culture of identity, and the divided and fractured political climate of America’s past and present.” The multi-media exhibit includes photography, sculpture, video, site-specific installations, works on paper, and protest art.
The group show features local and world-renowned artists, highlighting contemporary media culture, the criminal justice system, and the relationship between science and religion.
Westporters include illustrators Tracy Sugarman and Naiad Einsel, and photographers Spencer Platt and Richard Frank
Local politicians, and experts on climate change and the media, will be featured in panels throughout the exhibition. It runs through January 17.
As the 2020 census continues, Westport’s self-response rate is 76.2%. That’s well above the rate for the state of Connecticut: 69.4%. (The figures include responses from all known addresses.)
Officials urge anyone who has not completed the census to do so. Census data informs how billions of dollars in federal funds are distributed for health clinics, school lunch programs, disaster recovery initiatives, and other critical programs and services for the next 10 years.
Click here to complete the census response. Click here to see Westport’s response rate. (Hat tip: Peter Gold)
Bloodroot has done the same for nearly half a century more.
The Bridgeport feminist vegetarian restaurant/bookstore — opened in the 1970s by Westporters Noel Furie and Selma Miriam, nurtured by ever since and still run by the indefatigable women — is the subject of a new documentary.
“Bloodroot” premieres Sunday, September 20 (7 p.m.). The film will be shown at the Imperial Avenue parking lot — home to the Remarkable Theater and its partner for this showing, the Westport Farmers’ Market.
The film — about feminism as well as food — is an homage to Furie and Miriam, says WFM executive director Lori Cochran-Dougall. They are longtime supporters of the market, and a mentor to its director. Click here for tickets.
Three local restaurants are offering tailgating options for the documentary.
Terrain’s $50 box for 2 people includes tomato salad, kale falafel and blackberry pie. Click here for ordering information.
Manna Toast’s offering ($20 for 2) includes choice of toast, salad, rosemary popcorn and iced tea. Click here to order.
Kawa Ni’s dinner ($60 plus tax and 3% kitchen share, for 2) includes tsukemono, shaved broccoli miso goma, tomato tofu pockets and a bun bowl. Call 203-557-8775 to order by 4 p.m. on September 18.
(Form left): Noel Furie and Selma Miriam, Bloodroot founders.
Speaking of food: Friends of Sherwood Island — members of the organization with that name, and those who merely love Connecticut’s 1st state park, a 236-acre gem hidden right on the Westport coast — are invited to an important fundraiser.
Shorefest on a Roll rolls out Sunday, September 20. Guests will enjoy a rolling tour of the park, accompanied by a podcast describing its fascinating history and its many features — plus a “lobster roll to go” feast.
The event includes a field of whirligigs, exotic kites, disc golf exhibitions, musical performances and model plane flyovers at the park airfield, all while cruising the loop at 10 miles an hour.
The only stop is near the end of the tour to pick up hot or cold lobster roll dinners. The entire loop takes 12 minutes.
Click here for tickets. Proceeds support Friends’ efforts, including the newly renovated Nature Center, tree planting, maintenance of the vast purple martin colony, and the 9/11 Memorial.
The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce held out as long as they could. But the 5th Annual Westport Dog Festival — set for October 4, after being rescheduled from May — has been canceled.
That’s the second major event — following Slice of Saugatuck — shelved by the Chamber, due to the coronavirus.
But they’re running concerts both weekends. Terrapin: The Grateful Dead Experience performs tonight, in a sold-out show. Two other shows are slated for October 2 and 3. Tickets go on sale next week. For more information, click here.
And finally … as we remember 9/11:
Comments Off on Roundup: Census, Bloodroot, Shorefest, More
Many know Old Mill; most know Burying (or is it Burial?) Hill Beach. Unless you live on Saugatuck Shores, you’re probably unaware of Canal Beach.
Of course we’re also blessed with Sherwood Island, the beautiful state park on Long Island Sound between Burying Hill and Old Mill.
But Alvord Beach? Who ever heard of that?
It was news to me too when Amy Schneider sent a photo of it. Turns out that’s the official name of “East Beach” — the section of Sherwood Island closest to (and separated only by a channel from) Burying Hill. (Click here to see.)
“Where is Alvord Beach?” was last week’s question, accompanying Amy’s photo.
Jonathan Maddock and Jalna Jaeger correctly identified the image as Sherwood Island. But only Chris Swan knew the exact location there.
How did Chris — one of the state park’s biggest fans — have the answer?
Alert “06880” reader Claudia Schattman has a secret.
It’s one she wishes more people knew about. She writes:
Many Westporters have heard of it, but very few venture across the connector and wander into Sherwood Island State Park (which is now free to all Connecticut residents with a car registered in the state). Those of us in the know, though, warmly refer to Sherwood Island as the “hidden jewel of Westport.”
The park offers 238 acres of beach, wetlands and woodlands. It is home to the 9/11 Living Memorial. On a clear day, you can see the New York City skyline.
Sherwood Island is a place where tantalizing aromas of spices and herb from barbecues mix with the hum of many languages. It’s filled with children laughing and playing, friends walking and talking, and everyone enjoying this beautiful spot.
Sherwood Island scene
Now Westporters have another incentive to visit Sherwood Island. The Friends of Sherwood Island are holding their annual fundraiser — Shorefest — on Friday, September 7 (6-9 p.m., at the pavilion).
Westfair Fish & Chips is catering. Liz Gabriel and Pete Muller provide live music. The silent auction includes a behind-the-scenes tour of Copps Island Oysters, Broadway tickets to “Beautiful,” and a dinner cruise aboard a 30-foot Bahama sailboat.
All proceeds support the Sherwood Island Nature Center, summer internships for students, and Friends’ projects to help maintain and enhance the park’s unique environment and habitat. A donation opportunity is available to restore trees lost to storms and aging, in the West Beach Grove area.
Visitors to the Sherwood Island pavilion know Claudia Schattman’s artwork.
Now her many fans can do more than admire her next project. They can donate funds — not to her “tree” mosaic-in-the-making, but to help plant them.
Friends of Sherwood Island is sponsoring a “100 Trees for 100 Years” drive. The goal is to help purchase trees, shrubs and grasses to replace the dozens of mature trees lost to Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, and mitigate significant habitat loss.
The mosaic is a collection of plates, teapots, stained glass and knickknacks Schattman collected at tag sales, flea markets, even local beaches.
Donor names will be placed around the perimeter (minimum donation: $275). To donate, click here.
You could say that Sherwood Island made lemons lemonade out of lemonade lemons.
A better analogy would be: The state park’s admirers and friends made foie gras out of goose poop.
Less than 2 weeks ago, “06880” published alert reader Ellen Bowen’s complaint that the 9/11 Living Memorial there — Connecticut’s tribute to state residents lost on that tragic day 15 years ago — was an unkempt disgrace.
Very quickly, several things happened.
Tony Palmer — owner of T. Palmer Landscaping and Anthony’s Nursery and Garden Center, both in Westport — donated a 3-man crew. Working gratis for 2 days, they weeded, pruned rose bushes, cleaned and helped the overworked, under-budgeted park staff get the memorial in tip-top shape.
Other volunteers turned out yesterday, to weed, clear and prune a large garden bed that visitors pass on their way to the memorial.
The garden bed on the way to the Sherwood Island 9/11 memorial.
Bowen’s story also brought attention to Friends of Sherwood Island. The non-profit does important, seldom-noticed work everywhere in the park. Its annual fundraiser — ShoreFest — is set for 6 p.m. tomorrow.
Local businesses and individuals rushed to offer goods and services for the silent auction.
In addition, a major donation — for ongoing plantings — was made to the Friends’ tree committee.
It’s easy for Westporters to overlook Sherwood Island. Residents may not realize Connecticut’s oldest state park is also home to our 9/11 memorial — and a robust organization that serves the entire 220-acre property.
Thanks to Ellen Bowen’s alert, more Westporters now do.
And many are doing whatever they can to help make Sherwood Island sparkle.
Click here to help support “06880” via credit card or PayPal. Any amount is welcome — and appreciated! Reader contributions keep this blog going. (Alternate methods: Please send a check to: Dan Woog, 301 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880. Or use Venmo: @DanWoog06880. Or Zelle: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!)