Tag Archives: Longshore Club Park

[OPINION] Longshore Survey Is Odd, Flawed

Scott Smith has taken the town’s “Longshore Community” survey. Like several other Westporters who commented on “06880,” he finds it focused too much on certain areas, not enough on others.

Scott — an ardent environmentalist, and a golfer — is not some Johnny-come-lately-to-Longshore. Over a decade ago, he chaired the 50th anniversary celebration of the town’s park purchase.

He writes:

I’ve taken the Longshore Club Park survey, and, frankly, I’m alarmed. With its odd insistence on parking and flooding issues, and in light of recent public comments about selling off precious riverfront property inside the park, the effort fairly shouts “hidden agenda.”

For starters, why was Stantec, a Canadian firm, hired to formulate the questions, and whose interests do they serve? And why was any discussion of the fate of Longshore Inn largely omitted? Anyone who is familiar with Longshore operations knows the future of the public park is inextricably linked with the prospects for the property’s landmark inn, restaurant and banquet facility.

Inn at Longshore and 18th hole (Drone photo/John Videler for Videler Photography)

Then there’s the sorry history of the town’s ineptitude of managing our public assets, Longshore included. For all the talk of parking problems, know that for decades the town has hogged spots in the marina lot to warehouse trucks and other equipment, very little of which is actually used at Longshore. The town has long used and effectively trashed the green building next to the tennis courts. Once the starter shack for the golf course, why keep this prime property as a work shed? (The golf maintenance company has its own well-equipped facility in the middle of the course.) The town has also allowed the refuse dump in the middle of the park to sprawl into an unsightly mess of a dumping ground.

Like any lover of Longshore, I have my own ideas and dreams for this crown jewel of 06880. I can’t imagine Longshore without its pool complex, though surely the locker rooms could stand to be refurbished. And I’ve long argued for constructing a new, much-needed multi-purpose clubhouse, to serve not only golfers but all users of the park, including those who seek more access to Westport’s scenic waterfront.

I like the idea, long promoted by Sean Doyle and other golfers, to tear down the ramshackle golf building and situate the new clubhouse on the knoll between the two parking lots adjacent. With the state’s forthcoming dredging of the river, and the recently announced plans to add a ferry service from the envisioned “Hamlet at Saugatuck,” it makes perfect sense to add launch facilities for the growing numbers of kayakers, paddleboarders and other low-impact water enthusiasts seeking to enjoy the harbor and river.

And though I served on the Golf Advisory Committee for over a decade, I can see giving up the driving range, in favor or a coastline walking path and pollinator gardens, perhaps with an expansive “Himalayas”-style putting course for families. (I wouldn’t dream of building on the point, as who knows what toxic nightmares lurk under the surface of that onetime dump.) Heck, I’d even be willing to give the pickleballers a couple more courts, as long as they promise to shut up about their sport.

The point is, everybody has their own “what you oughta do” at Longshore. Starting that process with a guided, biased survey and lack of transparency is no way to begin the conversation.

(The Longshore Community Survey is available through June 14. Click here to see.)

Another view of Longshore.

Water, Water Everywhere …

There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

But a few homeowners inside Longshore Club Park enjoy free water.

I heard recently that the town — not individual property owners — inside Longshore paid certain water bills.

(If you don’t know — and not many people do — there are 3 roads, with a dozen or so homes, within Longshore. Vista Terrace, Waterside Terrace and Glen Drive form a semicircle. These beautiful, hidden lanes start near the 2nd tee, at the entrance road bend, and exit into the parking lot near the Parks & Recreation Department office.

(Rumor has it that when the town of Westport bought the property from a failing country club in 1960, they had no idea they were also buying the roads. It was not until after the closing, when 1st Selectman Herb Baldwin and his staff walked the land, that they realized exactly what they owned.)

Vista Terrace, Waterside Terrace and Glen Drive all begin off Julian Brodie Drive (the official name of the Longshore entrance road). (Screenshot courtesy of Google Maps)

I asked Public Works director Peter Ratkiewich about the arrangement. He says:

“When Longshore was purchased, there was one meter for the entire property, by the Compo South entrance.

“The water line into the park was actually a private main line. That remains the condition today.

“The meter was installed presumably when there was only one owner of the property, prior to the town purchasing it. Our understanding is that the owner periodically sold off lots within the property prior to the town’s purchase, perhaps to make ends meet.

“When the owner sold off lots, they simply extended laterals from their privately owned water main to the houses that were developed, but did not meter those laterals. When the town bought the property, it also bought the water system in it’s existing configuration .

“There is a compelling reason that the owner probably did not want to meter the new laterals. In Connecticut, if you own a private water main and then sell the water that comes from the private main, you become a water company, and are subject to regulation by the regulatory authority. If you give away the water for free, then you are not a water company.

“The only way to avoid becoming a water company would be to extend a new main from Compo South, before the meter, in to the individual properties that are getting unmetered water.

“This was an expensive proposition in the 1960s. It remains expensive today — way more expensive than paying for the unmetered water. It is probably the reason the former owner did not do it, and it is the reason the town hasn’t done it to date.

“At some point however, the town will have to replace the existing water main.  When that happens, the town main will be separated and a new Aquarion main will be extended to the private residences. Those residents getting unmetered water will then be connected to a metered lateral.”

Right now, Ratkiewich says, 5 or residences get unmetered water off the town main. How’s that for a selling point! (Even better for them: An aerial view of the roads shows several with swimming pools.)

Three more are on private wells. The cabins and Inn at Longshore are all fed off the town main too. However, the cost of water is built into their rent,

Photo Challenge #280

Once upon a time, there were weddings at Longshore.

Dozens of guests sat on folding chairs behind Pearl. Lovestruck couples exchanged vows, framed by Long Island Sound. The sun always shined.

That scene — without people, but evocative of those days — was last week’s Photo Challenge. Bobbie Herman, Stephen Pratt, Bill Kutik, Michael Calise, Cindy Zuckerbrod, Patti Brill, Antony Lantier, Cheryl Kritzer, Lynn Untermeyer Miller and Seth Braunstein all remembered the scene, captured nicely by photographer Leigh Gage. Click here to see.

This week’s Photo Challenge is colorful too. If you know where in Westport you’d see it, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Molly Alger)

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