Tag Archives: Longshore Club Park

Friday Flashback #155

In early 1960, the town of Westport bought the failing private Longshore Beach & Country Club. The 169-acre property included a golf course, tennis courts, pools, marina, inn/restaurant, residential cabins, even 2 private roads.

Plus — why not? — a lighthouse.

The entire process — from concept to approval from the Board of Finance and (unanimously!) the RTM — took just 18 days.  Town officials put together a $1.9 million package, then earned approval from the Board of Finance and RTM.  The latter vote was 38-0. 

Five years later, the Westport Town Crier published a remarkable aerial photo of what was then the still-novel town-owned country club.

(Aerial photo/Robert Lentini)

Moving counter-clockwise from the center, you can see the old tennis court locker rooms, and adjacent wooden bathhouses (though you can’t see how dark they were, or smell their decades-old musty odor); the original Longshore Sailing School; several cabanas by the old pool — and, partially hidden by trees next to the marina, the circular lighthouse.

It was always a source of fascination for kids, and admiration by adults.

The lighthouse survived one demolition attempt in the late ’60s or early ’70s. Eventually — when the entrance to the pool area was modernized — it was torn down.

Here’s what we miss:

(Photo courtesy of Peter Barlow)

(Hat tip: Fred Cantor)

Friday Flashback #106

Another summer is nearly over. Kids no longer crowd the Longshore pool. A few older swimmers do their final laps, before it’s closed for the season.

Which makes this a great time to look back at the days when there was an actual high dive there.

Marie Corridon jumps off the Longshore high diving board in 1946. It was a private club then — but the high dive remained for years after 1960, when the town of Westport bought the property. (Photo courtesy of James Corridon)

It was imposing. Jumping off was a test of courage. It kept the lifeguards on their toes too.

When was the last time you saw a sight like this?

A True Pro Leaves Longshore

It was a tiny moment. But it changed John Cooper’s life.

When he was 11 years old, dragged to a tag sale, he spotted some golf clubs, and a pot of used balls.

He bought them. But he had no idea how to play, so he got an instructional book.

Instantly, Cooper was hooked.

He hit 800 golf balls a day. He went out before school and after, to the Burr Farms Elementary School field (conveniently located behind his Blackberry Lane house). When it was dark or the weather was bad, he hit balls into a net in his parents’ garage.

A year later on Long Island, Cooper won his first tournament.

At 13 he attended Arnold Palmer’s golf camp — and met his idol. Cooper’s passion for the sport grew even stronger.

Though barely a teenager, he had 2 jobs. He washed dishes at the Inn at Longshore, and caddied on the adjacent golf course. Dave Reynolds — who lived in an old house next to the 2nd tee — helped Cooper learn the game.

The Longshore golf course -- where John Coopepr learned the game. (Photo by Dan Murdoch, via LongshoreGolf.com)

The Longshore golf course — where John Coopepr learned to play. (Photo by Dan Murdoch, via LongshoreGolf.com)

He became a 2-year captain of the Staples High School golf team — and an All-American. As a junior in 1975, he helped coach Joe Folino’s squad win the state championship.

Cooper earned a partial scholarship to the University of Tampa. He captained that team too, and roomed with Brian Claar. Cooper had convinced his fellow Stapleite to go there, instead of his original plan to ski at the University of Connecticut.

In 1986, Claar was named Rookie of the Year on the PGA tour.

Cooper turned pro in 1980. After 2 years on the mini-tour circuit — and the realization that he would not make a living as a player — he turned to his true golf passion: teaching.

He came back to Westport. From 1980-83 he served as assistant pro to the legendary George Buck. He then was an assistant at clubs elsewhere in Connecticut, and Florida.

Buck died in the summer of 1991. Cooper applied for the position, went through the interview process, was offered the job — but declined. He did not think he could make a living with the terms offered.

After negotiating a better contract, he signed. There were early glitches — he walked into a shell of a building with no golf carts and electrical problems — but the past 25 years have been wonderful.

Fore! John Cooper in action.

John Cooper in action.

Over 5,000 junior golfers have gone through Cooper’s program. One — Larry Tedesco — qualified for the US Open. Cooper gave Willard Scott a golf lesson at Longshore — televised live on “The Today Show.”

He was named the Northeast Teacher of the Year, and honored by the Sportsmen of Westport.

Along the way the pro has helped wounded soldiers learn golf, through Project HOPE. He’s also raised money for Folds of Honor (supporting families of injured and fallen soldiers), and the Bridgeport Rescue League. He also created a scholarship for Staples student-athletes on the boys and girls golf teams.

Cooper is very proud that just a few months ago he earned the PGA’s highest designation: Master Professional. The organization has asked him to mentor other teaching pros — including the head professional at TPC Sawgrass.

John Cooper (right) with Paul Taylor, former director of golf at Longshore. John and Parks and Recreation Department head Stuart McCarthy won this golf cart in a closest-to-pin competition at the Met PGA Pro-Am in New Rochelle. Cooper donated it to the town.

John Cooper (right) with Paul Taylor, former director of golf at Longshore. John and Parks and Recreation Department head Stuart McCarthy won this golf cart in a closest-to-pin competition at the Met PGA Pro-Am in New Rochelle. Cooper donated it to the town.

But every course has its rough. While most of Cooper’s contracts were for 5 years, his most recent ran for only 2. This fall, the Parks and Recreation Department put out an RFP. Though he was notified on December 8 that the town wanted him to stay — and he very much wanted to — he felt there were “too many caveats” in the arrangement.

His rent runs to six figures. “I don’t think I could make a living, paying my 12 employees,” Cooper says.

For one thing, a bunker renovation project next spring will render a few holes unavailable until late June.

That — along with the fact that his income is always affected by weather and course conditions — caused him to reject the offer.

“I survived when the greens died a few years ago,” Cooper says. “I’m just getting out of debt now. I can’t risk taking that chance again.”

He’s leaving with nothing but fond feelings — and great memories — of his quarter century at Longshore.

The course closed December 11, so he could not thank golfers personally for all their support over the years. “I’ve made many close friends,” Cooper says. “I’ll truly miss everyone. I wouldn’t trade a thing for this 25-year journey.”

John Cooper and his sons.

John Cooper and his sons.

He also thanks his employees “who stood with me,” and the “wonderful people at the Parks and Rec Department. They were great to work with.”

But of all the fantastic things that happened at Longshore, the best was meeting his former wife. Together, they had 2 “wonderful” kids: Dobson, a Staples junior, and Shane, a freshman at Fairfield Country Day School.

Cooper looks forward to spending more time with them.

“Life is good,” Cooper says.

And how good is it that — several decades ago — he spotted that set of clubs and used golf balls at a tag sale that everyone else has long since forgotten?

 

 

Here’s Looking At You, Longshore!

A few years ago — very quietly — the entrance to the Longshore pool and tennis courts was renovated and upgraded.

What had been a shabby, neglected piece of the park is now a warm, welcoming space.

Alert “06880” reader/longtime Longshore fan Fred Cantor took this image the other day. The entryway frames the park — and Fred’s shot frames it beautifully.

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

Have You Seen These Guys?

We’ve all passed by Longshore — thousands of times.

But how often do we notice the twin globes flanking the entrance?

Longshore entrance

And if we do, have we ever noticed the tiny little guys hidden behind each globe?

I sure hadn’t.

Look closely at the photo above.

Here’s a closer view, from another angle:

Longshore entrance

There must be a story about this, somewhere. If you know it, click “Comments” below.

Tree Warden’s Report: Old And Dangerous Longshore Trees Must Go

Last month, First Selectman Jim Marpe directed tree warden Bruce Lindsay to report on the condition of the 15 trees slated for removal along the entryway to Longshore.

Today, the tree warden delivered his report.

Among the key findings:

The 11 Tulip Poplars and 4 Norway Maples are 50 to 80 years old. The trees have been cared for extensively over the years. The warden’s initial decision to post the trees for removal was based on observation and tree knowledge.

“The Tulip is not recommended for street use, and is extremely susceptible to drought and a variety of diseases,” Lindsay wrote. “It is best found in forests in a thicket of protected stands of diverse species….It does not respond well to salt and is known to deteriorate from drought and sunscald.”

The Tulips have reached the end of their life spans. They have reached their maximum heights and widths. They also show “the characteristics of drought, salt abuse, wind and storm damage, road side or urban abuses such as: soil and root compaction, salt and snow pileups, bark damage from being repeated nailed and stapled…these trees have become highly defective.”

Tulips at Longshore. The captions in the report describe (clockwise from upper left): compromised branch structure; extensive pruning due to breaks/decay; massive bark rot sloughing off in sections; weak canopy and leaf cover.

Tulips at Longshore. The captions in the report describe (clockwise from upper left): compromised branch structure; extensive pruning due to breaks/decay; massive bark rot sloughing off in sections; weak canopy and leaf cover.

Lindsay said that the Maples have several rotting sections. There are extensive hollow sections, indicating interior rot and water damage. They also exhibit a condition called “co-dominance,” creating a likelihood of breaking from wind shear.

The Maples have also reached their maturity. They too are at the end of their natural lifespan. They have a tendency to choke out all plant life and grass below them, and “create numerous problems along streets when dropping weak wood and debris.”

While the allee landscape design of the entrance to Longshore is “pleasant and gives a tremendous visual as the trees are generally uniform in specie and represent a serene view,” the fault of the allee principle is that the same species or similar trees were all planted at the same time.

“Had the species been diversified and newer trees been planted in the same line over a course of time, perhaps the hardship of this final removal” would not be so difficult, Lindsay wrote.

The warden praised the Parks and Recreation Department’s planning for the removal of the trees, begun 25 years ago. The new trees are growing in balance, and because they are further from the roadway, they enjoy enhanced root growth and reduced salt exposure from snow removal. They also are safer for walkers and joggers.

The more than 75 newer trees in the entrance represent “careful planning, culture and the next generation of roadway-framing trees to enhance the entry for several decades to come.” The mix of oaks, maples, zelkova, beech and sycamore will enhance the allee.

Photos of the Norway Maples in the report show (clockwise from upper left): rot and decay; open hollows; weak crotches, and one entire side of the tree dead.

Photos of the Norway Maples in the report show (clockwise from upper left): rot and decay; open hollows; weak crotches, and one entire side of the tree dead.

Lindsay said he posted the removal of the 15 trees at the end of December to allow for removal during the period of lowest use of Longshore. The tree removal service will use a crane, several trucks and numerous employees — work that is best performed when the ground is frozen or covered in snow.

In summary, Lindsay wrote, Parks and Rec has “made great efforts in recreating the allee along the roadway. The removal is not going to eliminate the tree lined effect…The grand trees at Longshore Club Park represent a period of iconic splendor and significance but they are failing and the new trees are in place to recoup the same effect for generations to come. The decision to remove these fifteen trees was not one made in haste.”

As tree warden — with “primary duty to see that all town owned roads and grounds allow safe passage” — Lindsay affirms that the trees in question are in “extremely poor health and decline, are of poor species” and are in danger of falling or losing limbs.

Because of their hazards, he said they must be removed.

To read the full report, click here.

Lindsay and Parks and Recreation Director Stuart McCarthy will hold a public information session at 9 a.m. this Saturday (January 11) at Longshore to explain the decision to remove the 15 trees. The public is invited to attend. The session will include walking a portion of the park. Dress accordingly. 

With Apologies To John Greenleaf Whittier…

…Gary Abshire sent these words, and this photo, to “06880”:

“Cut, if you must, this old gray head,
But spare your county’s trees,” he said.

Longshore trees -- courtesy Greg Abshire

Longshore Tree Removal: Too Much? Too Soon?

Today — the 1st day of winter — the weather is hardly “frightful.” In fact, it’s fantastic.

Plenty of people flocked to Longshore on this beautiful solstice. As they jogged or biked, they noticed that 14 trees lining the entrance are tagged for removal.

According to a notice from the tree warden — dated December 19 — the trees will be taken down within 10 days, unless the public appeals to stop the process.

The notices give Westporters 10 days to contact the tree warden.

The notices give Westporters 10 days to contact the tree warden.

Westporters seem surprised.

They shouldn’t be.

On September 19, I posted a story about this. Called “New Life For Old Trees,” it read:

The trees lining the entrance to Longshore are handsome and stately.

They’re also old. And dangerous.

The Parks and Recreation Department, with the consent of the tree warden, has identified approximately 15 trees that are the last of the originals along the entry road. They’re identified by their poor shape, and the condition of their crowns.

These trees have reached — or will soon — the end of their useful lives. The crowns are sparse and misshaped, as a result of deterioration and falling dead wood over many years. Large branches have fallen — threatening golfers, drivers, bicyclists and joggers — and the trees themselves may topple in high winds.

Trees tagged for removal today.

Trees tagged for removal today.

Nearly 20 years ago, Parks and Rec realized what was coming “down the road.” They planted a new strand of trees, further back along both sides of the entrance. Now mature, they create a visual row of trunks and shade. When the 15 oldest trees — which also crowd and shade the new trees — are cut, the new ones will benefit.

Parks and Rec — and the Westport Tree Board – understand the love many Westporters have for trees. (Until they fall on your property.) Thanks to the new trees, there will be no real visual impact after removal.

And the department and board hope the old trees will have a 2nd life.

I asked “06880” readers to suggest new ideas for the old trees. Only 6 readers responded.

Whether it was the beginning of a new school year, the start of autumn or whatever, I don’t know. But the story did not stir the reaction I thought it would.

Now the removal of the trees is becoming reality. A number of readers have emailed me about it. RTM chair Eileen Flug received 2 calls in the past 15 minutes.

A summer view of the Longshore entrance road.

A summer view of the Longshore entrance road.

Earlier this morning, “06880” reader Marcia Falk wrote “06880”:

I have not seen any article about this decision posted by the town or in the local news.

These trees significantly enhance the beauty of Longshore Park. They are irreplaceable in the short term.  All of us know the havoc and damage which the severe storms have wrought upon our local environment, and it is possible that the decision to remove these trees is justified.  However, before such a dramatic and irretrievable act is completed,  the public should be given full disclosure as to reasons behind the warden’s decision.

Longshore Park is one of Westport’s most important,  beautiful, and adored environmental resources. Anything that is done on such a major scale should be publicly announced and explained.  Most local people are so busy that they have no time to visit the park and are unaware of the situation and the threat to the park.

The removal of these trees will drastically alter the landscape of Longshore Park.  Before these trees are removed I believe it is the responsibility of the town to explain why they ALL have to removed, and if so, what are the plans to replant for the future?

Larry Silver loves photographing the Longshore entry drive. This photo is from 1979.

Larry Silver loves photographing the Longshore entry drive. This photo is from 1979.

I sent Marcia a link to my September 19 story. She replied:

If all these trees are in the poor condition their removal makes sense.  However, I seriously doubt that ALL the trees have to come down at once and there is no immediate emergency.

Furthermore, it is not only unreasonable, but bordering on deceptive, that the tree warden announces his decision during the major holiday week.  Although the warden may be abiding by the law, he is not  fulfilling the purpose of the law enabling citizens the right to be informed within a timely manner.  By posting this at the height of the Christmas holiday,  it appears that the tree warden wishes to avoid input from the residents who love the park.  This is not the way a public employee who is hired to serve the needs of the town should treat our citizens.

We should insist that the removal of the tree posting be withdrawn and re-released on January 2nd for the benefit of community disclosure.

There it stands.

Whether the trees also remain standing — well, that remains to be seen.

New Life For Old Trees?

The trees lining the entrance to Longshore are handsome and stately.

They’re also old. And dangerous.

The Parks and Recreation Department, with the consent of the tree warden, has identified approximately 15 trees that are the last of the originals along the entry road. They’re identified by their poor shape, and the condition of their crowns.

These trees have reached — or will soon — the end of their useful lives. The crowns are sparse and misshaped, as a result of deterioration and falling dead wood over many years. Large branches have fallen — threatening golfers, drivers, bicyclists and joggers — and the trees themselves may topple in high winds.

The trees lining the Longshore entrance have a long history -- and are now old.

The trees lining the Longshore entrance have a long history — and are now old.

Nearly 20 years ago, Parks and Rec realized what was coming “down the road.” They planted a new strand of trees, further back along both sides of the entrance. Now mature, they create a visual row of trunks and shade. When the 15 oldest trees — which also crowd and shade the new trees — are cut, the new ones will benefit.

Parks and Rec — and the Westport Tree Board — understand the love many Westporters have for trees. (Until they fall on your property.) Thanks to the new trees, there will be no real visual impact after removal.

And the department and board hope the old trees will have a 2nd life.

That’s where “06880” comes in. If you’ve got an idea on how to “repurpose” those 15 trees, click “Comments.” Artists? Furniture makers (Todd Austin, perhaps)? Let’s hear your thoughts.

WARNING: There is no guarantee that the trees are in good enough shape for anything.

Longshore trees frame this wedding photo by Victoria Souza.

Longshore trees frame this wedding photo by Victoria Souza.

Halfway Home

When groundbreaking was held Wednesday for the new Halfway House at Longshore, it marked the end of a long campaign.

And the start of a new organization that could impact much more than just golf here in Westport.

This week’s ceremonial shoveling was the result of a team effort that raised private funds and developed construction plans. The building came in on time and way under budget thanks to leaders Fred Hunter and Mark Holod; donations of time, material and money from Westporters; a major gift in Cliff Ross’ name, and a tournament organized by Skip Lane and the Haberstroh “boys” (Chuck and Steve).

Longshore golfers will soon have a halfway house worthy of the course -- and the entire park.

The umbrella organization — Friends of Westport Parks & Recreation — is a non-profit that encourages tax-exempt private donations for a public purpose. With its 1st project nearly complete, the Friends group is now looking for other projects through which private individuals or groups can improve the town’s recreational opportunities and infrastructure.

No word yet on what those projects might be — a new ramp for kayaks and canoes? A bone for the Winslow dogs? A new clubhouse at Longshore?

But with over 2 dozen parks and athletic complexes around town — each with its own constituencies and concerns — there should be no lack of ideas.

What’s yours? Click “Comments” to give our Friends some friendly input.

(In other golf news, the Longshore course opens today. Tomorrow morning, the Longshore Men’s Golf Association sponsors its annual course cleanup day. Golfers, their kids, the Staples golf team — all put in a few hours to spiff up one of Westport’s crown jewels.)

Breaking ground on Wednesday (from left): Mark Holod, Katherine Ross, Jeff Mayer, Janis Collins, Fred Hunter, John Cooper.