Longtime residents and Westport Preservation Alliance founders Morley Boyd, Wendy Crowther, Helen Garten and John F. Suggs are passionate about honoring and saving Westport’s historic structures and open spaces. Over the years they’ve served on many town commissions and committees
Though Baron’s South — the town-owned property between South Compo Road and Imperial Avenue, not far from the Post Road and downtown — has always been on their radar screen, they are now very worried about its future. They write:
What should we do with Baron’s South?
This question has haunted the wooded, hilly, 22-acre parcel in the heart of town since we acquired it in 1999.
In 2016 it was zoned as passive open space. Shortly thereafter, an extensive tree removal project took place, and a landscape plan was commissioned but never finalized. Since then, the town has largely ignored the property.
As a result, Baron’s South is rarely visited by the public. The weeds are taller than the deer, and the former pathways are disappearing behind encroaching overgrowth.
In fact, many Westporters don’t even know where Baron’s South is.
Now the Planning & Zoning Commission is considering rezoning swaths of the property for active, organized recreation. This could mean bocce courts, swimming pools, even new buildings.
These are worthy ventures. But aren’t there already plenty of places in Westport to get active? And wasn’t the goal of the “open space” designation to permanently preserve and conserve this unique, centrally located piece of green infrastructure so that all Westporters could enjoy its quiet and natural beauty?
There’s no doubt that Baron’s South needs an infusion of energy. But why isn’t harnessing passive energy the goal?
Let’s form a town and citizen-driven cooperative to direct resources and passive energy toward the restoration and conservation of this incredibly special property. With the guidance of local environmental organizations like Earthplace, Wakeman Town Farm and Sustainable Westport, let’s engage children, parents and grandparents to work side by side to gradually remove debris and invasive plants, install beneficial native plants and trees, create pollinator meadows, improve the park’s many entrances, and build pervious paths to lead us to its interior rooms.
Along the way, we and our kids can learn to notice and appreciate the park’s wildlife and beneficial insects, rather than fear them. We can learn the value of native plantings, water conservation, biodiversity, and sustainability. We can come to understand the negative impacts of monocultures, climate change, pesticides and herbicides.
Passive open space requires active management and attention. Re-committing ourselves to this goal is the change that is needed.
As anyone who has ever done yardwork or gardening knows, the work can be as physically challenging as any ball game and as meditative as yoga. Bring your energy, your calm, your curiosity, your children and your save-the-planet sensibilities to bear on this great park.
Let’s save Baron’s South for a better good — the good that comes from quiet places, thoughtful passive-use planning, hard work, and the wisdom of Mother Nature.
The next meeting of the Zoning Regulation Revision Subcommittee takes place via Zoom at noon tomorrow (Tuesday, July 27). The public can participate. To get the Zoom link, call 203-341-1076 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Want to learn more about Baron’s South? Click here for stories from the “06880” archives.)