Like the blind men and the elephant, everyone had a different way of describing last week’s Photo Challenge.
Was it a pedestrian walkway? A viewing pier? A boardwalk?
Was it near Parker Harding Plaza or Gorham Island? Or over the Saugatuck River?
It was actually all of those things. Larry Untermeyer’s image showed the wooden structure that juts out from Parker Harding Plaza — near Gorham Island — offering pedestrians a great view of the river (including wildlife like nesting swans, and their cygnets).
It’s right next to the star sculpture that Howard Munce once designed — as a fundraiser for the STAR organization — behind what was then Oscar’s (now Rye Ridge Deli. Click here to see.
Elaine Marino, Fred Cantor, Hallie Cirino, Rich Stein, Andrew Colabella, Lynn Untermeyer Miller, Michael Calise and Tom Risch all knew that — however you describe it — it’s one of Westport’s downtown gems.
Readers may have different ways of describing this week’s Photo Challenge, too. If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.
American oystercatchers — and many other birds — will do anything to protect their young. (Photo/Tina Green)
He unearthed some fascinating facts. For example, The Spruce says:
When drones are flown too close to rookeries or bird nests, the noise and unfamiliar presence of a drone could drive adult birds away. This can lead to neglect or abandonment of vulnerable eggs and chicks, reducing the breeding success of sensitive bird populations.
Some birds, particularly raptors, are very territorial about their nesting areas, and if drones are perceived to be a threat, the birds may attack the remote vehicles. This diverts the parent birds from caring for their hatchlings, foraging or otherwise tending to their own survival needs. Birds that attack drones could also be injured by moving blades or other parts of the equipment.
Birds that congregate on leks for courtship displays can be particularly sensitive to disturbances, and if a drone appears to be a flying predator, the birds may scatter prematurely. This can drastically impact their ability to find suitable mates, and if the lek is not revisited, it may take generations for birds to find and begin using another suitable site with the same success.
If a drone disturbs a foraging bird, the bird may abandon a good food source and be forced to seek less abundant or nutritious resources. This type of disruption can have a catastrophic impact on overall bird populations, as malnourished birds do not breed as successfully or raise as many healthy chicks.
Hold that drone!
Drones are banned from Connecticut Audubon Society sanctuaries. Click here for details.
Meanwhile, longtime Westporter Elaine Marino worries about the Saugatuck River “sludge” she sees lapping at the corner of Parker Harding Plaza, near the pedestrian bridge and “Starfish” sculpture behind Rye Ridge Deli.
Elaine says: “It appears to be composed of plant material (algae, grasses, reeds), oils of some type and some trash. I am concerned because I saw ducks swimming near the sludge.”
Parker Harding “sludge” (Photo/Elaine Marino)
“I would be happy to use a pool leaf skimmer net and try to remove as much as I can, if that is advisable. Do ‘06880’ readers have any thoughts? I want to make sure I do the right thing.”
If you’ve got ideas for Elaine, click “Comments” below. If the answer is “go for it,” she will!
The Main Street Christmas tree is starting to look a lot more Christmas-y.
Annette Norton — the owner of Savvy + Grace, whose front door is just steps away — is personalizing ornaments for the handsome tree. (Knowing Annette, I guarantee: They’re beautiful.)
But there’s more to this story than ornaments on a tree. Annette is working with the Ralphola Taylor Charity, a YMCA community center that serves low-income Bridgeport children. They earn points for good behavior during after-school activities — and then redeem those points at the center’s Holiday Store by buying presents for their families.
In return for purchasing a gift for the Ralphola Taylor Charity, Annette will personalize a white dove ornament with the donor’s name, and hang it on the tree.
Gifts can be bought 3 ways:
At Savvy + Grace (next to the former Tavern on Main restaurant)
Online (at checkout, just choose free delivery to the charity)
Purchase something from any other local store, then drop it off at Savvy + Grace. What a great way to support all Westport merchants, and kids in Bridgeport.
Donations are accepted now through December 7. Let’s fill that tree — and the Ralphola Taylor Charity Holiday Shop! shelves!
Main Street Christmas tree.
It’s a common — and natural — occurrence, though not often so late in the season.
When bunker form large schools they deprive themselves of oxygen, and suffocate.
Dozens of dead fish have been spotted recently, at Compo Beach and Grace Salmon Park. Here was the scene yesterday, at Parker Harding Plaza:
And finally … the Grand Ole Opry debuted on this date in 1925, as a “barn dance” broadcast on WSM. 95 years later, it’s the longest running radio broadcast in American history.
Uncle Jimmy Thompson was the first performer on that first show. He was 77 years old — so the recording below shows someone born 13 years before the Civil War began. Talk about American Roots music!
65 people commented. Thoughtfully, insightfully and civilly, they offered suggestions.
Your flood of reactions got me thinking.
As a native Westporter — someone who remembers the Remarkable Book Shop, Klein’s department store, the African Room, World Affairs Center, movie theaters, Mark’s Place music club, Oscar’s, Dorain’s Drug Store — I know the kind of life that can pulse on Main Street.
A classic 1960s Main Street photo.
But I also realize that we can’t simply wish for that kind of street again. The world is far different today.
For a long time, I thought a few tweaks would bring downtown back to life. I nodded as stakeholders assured me that once the flood-proofing and renovation projects were done, and empty storefronts filled up again, all would be well again.
After reading the comments, and talking to a broad array of sharp, committed Westporters, I no longer believe that’s true.
Main Street is no longer — and perhaps never again will be — our “main street.” It’s simply a short stretch off the Post Road near the Saugatuck River. It’s lined with commercial buildings, connecting one side of town with another.
To think of it as our “main street” is to live in the 20th century — or even the 19th.
Main Street — particularly the business district — is not very long. You can barely see it here, in Larry Untermeyer’s aerial shot.
But boy, does it have potential.
The problem is, “potential” implies re-imagining the future. And re-designing the present.
We can’t simply tweak the Post Road. We need to (almost) blow it up, and start again.
The possibilities are endless.
Main Street could be a car-less, pedestrian-friendly piazza/promenade lined with trees, tables and benches; upscale and family restaurants and cafes, including outside dining (with space heaters for winter); food carts and artists’ kiosks; independent businesses like a general store, bookstore and ice cream shop (joining the special Savvy + Grace-type places already there).
It could be filled with cultural and arts events; food festivals, and something at Christmas; music on weekends, plus waterfront access, with paddleboat and kayak rentals. In the winter, we could flood part of it for a skating rink.
And more: The Farmers’ Market could relocate there. We could add offices for non-profits, and co-working spaces. Apartments could be build on 2nd and 3rd floors.
This was Main Street, during the 2014 Art About Town festival.
Downtown is at an inflection point.
The decisions we make now are as important as the ones we made 70 years ago. That’s when town officials decided — and citizens agreed — to fill in the Saugatuck River, behind the stores on the west side of Main Street.
The result — a parking lot named for selectman Emerson Parker and Daybreak Nursery owner Evan Harding — may have been the right idea then.
But today we need a new downtown. And the change can’t be incremental. It must be big, bright and bold.
Bigger, brighter and bolder, even, than Parker Harding Plaza was then.
The time for consultants is past. They, and the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee, have generated some good ideas. Now we must seize the initiative.
Who is “we”?
All of us. Everyone in Westport. We all have a stake in a vibrant, exciting, innovative, walkable, livable, enjoyable downtown. A downtown that will draw us all in again — and many others, from around the area.
Our town already offers so much: excellent schools, the transformed library, beaches, Longshore, Levitt Pavilion, Senior Center, Playhouse, Wakeman Town Farm, YMCA, Earthplace and tons more.
We often take these jewels for granted. For too long, we’ve taken the idea that Main Street “must” be a shopping-only street for granted too.
Look at the river. Look at Church Lane. Look at Main Street. Imagine the possibilities. (Drone photo by John Videler/Videler Photography)
I said it before: Downtown is at an inflection point. We have the opportunity to create something truly dynamic and visionary.
How do we do it?
Let’s start with a town meeting (of course, in the Library Forum). Let’s talk about the most exciting new Main Street we can imagine. Then let’s figure out how to make it happen.
Emerson Parker and Evan Harding were great civic volunteers. But look at their sorry legacy.
This is our chance to leave a legacy, for at least the next 70 years.
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