Tag Archives: Senior Center

[OPINION] Good News — And Not So Good — At Baron’s South

Alert “06880” reader, historian and preservation advocate Morley Boyd writes:

In April, I raised environmental and safety concerns about the appearance of a large pile of fill at Baron’s South. The mysterious mound, estimated at roughly 5,500 yards, was discovered in what had once been a meadow dotted with mature trees.

Upon closer inspection I noticed that material in the mound included asphalt, jagged shards of metal, tires, pieces of what appeared to be asbestos cement pipe, plastic containers and the shattered remains of a toilet.

Earlier this spring, Morley Boyd photographed debris in the fill behind the Senior Center.

While erosion prevention netting had been placed across one side of the mound, gullies had formed anyway, and the entire top was exposed. Runoff was visibly headed to drains connected to nearby Deadman’s Brook, a tributary of the Saugatuck River.

Runoff from the fill heads toward Deadman’s Brook.

After learning that the fill had been excavated from a nearby construction site associated with the now completed Senior Center expansion project, I wondered what else might be in the fill. Had it been tested? And why was it there in the first place?

First, I reached out to those whose homes abut the park to see what they knew. After learning the homeowners had been told by the Senior Center project manager that the giant mound was permanent, I made private inquiries about the fill with town officials.

The site of the fill (just south of the Senior Center) is shown by a red arrow (bottom) in this Google aerial image.

When that inquiry went unanswered, the story appeared on “06880.” Shortly thereafter, in reaction to public outcry, the town retained the services of Steve Edwards, recently retired director of public works. He was charged with having the fill professionally tested for the presence of toxic substances.

My concerns proved valid. The recently released toxicology report indicates that the material contains DDT, traces of petroleum byproducts, and a level of arsenic that exceeds state standards for human exposure.

Because of the toxicology report and public pressure, the town has now agreed to remove all of contaminated fill (ideally within the next few months, according to the current director of public works), and restore the meadow to its previous condition.

Morley Boyd says that 6 feet of fill was dumped into the meadow near the Senior Center. (Photo/Morley Boyd)

At Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, town officials said the tree warden has prepared a replanting plan for the site, including new trees.

In the meantime, residents hope that the toxic pile, which remains fully exposed in the midst of a public park, will be cordoned off to safeguard the health and safety of visitors.

On the whole, this is good news. The town deserves credit for taking responsibility. Still, a number of unanswered questions remain — notably, why did this happen?

The approved site plan for the construction project did not permit the area in question to be disturbed, and the project’s contract included a specific line item for hauling away any excess fill.

Further, many question the wisdom of the town’s proposed plan for reusing the contaminated fill: a parking lot project at the Greens Farms railroad station.

Although the toxicology report — consistent with state guidelines — recommends that the contaminated fill be buried beneath several feet of clean fill if it is to be moved and reused, there is an apparent regulatory conflict.

While state standards for the use of fill are more relaxed, Westport’s are quite stringent. They specifically do not allow the use of fill containing “petroleum based products or materials.”

Since the Baron’s South fill has been shown to contain — in addition to other toxins — chunks of asphalt, it remains unclear how the town can use the fill at the Greens Farms train station and also comply with its own regulations.

If there is any doubt as to whether or not this contaminated fill can be safely remediated for reuse in a public space, wouldn’t the wisest solution be to just dispose of it at a proper facility?

Whatever ultimately happens to the toxic fill, the good news is that a quiet corner of Westport’s “Central Park” will soon return to its natural state. And that’s in large part due to the vigilance and concern of the “06880” community.

Senior Center Expansion Moves Forward

With support from a wide range of town officials, the Westport/Weston Clergy Association and — most importantly — longtime residents, the Board of Finance last night unanimously approved $3.975 million to expand the Senior Center.

Dozens of Westporters had written in praise of the project. Finance members seemed moved by the broad support — particularly the emails and letters (many of them handwritten) from men and women who have lived here for decades.

The expansion will add 8,362 square feet to the Imperial Road facility, and add 27 parking spots.

Construction could begin in the fall of 2018.

A rendering of the proposed Senior Center building.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

A recent post highlighting one former Westporter’s disillusionment with what his former hometown lit a (predictable) fire in the “06880” comments section.

In response, someone who grew up here in the 1960s — then returned to Westport 10 years ago to live — offered these thoughts on positive changes in over the decades.

For example:

Staples.  “What a magnificent facility this is now,” the writer says.  “It reminds me of a modern college complex.  And while going to classes back in the ’60s via outdoor walkways was great on beautiful fall and spring days, it was a pain in the neck in the winter and during downpours.

The fieldhouse and pool, the returnee adds, represent much-improved athletic facilities.  They’re used often, by people of all ages.

The Staples High School of yesteryear looked nothing like this.

Levitt Pavilion.  “We had nothing like this growing up.  A true cultural and entertainment jewel.”

Toquet Hall.  “There was no teen center when we grew up,” the “06880” reader notes.

Senior Center.  “Was there anything like this back in the day?”  No way.

Library.  The writer says there is “absolutely no comparison between the old cramped Post Road building and the current location.  Besides the far greater offering of books and periodicals, the present-day library is much more of a community center in so many ways.  The hours are also much more extensive now.”

The Library looks a lot different from its previous, cramped quarters.

Speaking of hours, stores are open far longer than in the past.  This is a function of the repeal of Connecticut’s blue laws, but it’s a change for the better, the reader says.

Restaurants offer a “much greater choice today (and I’m sure most people would add, a great choice of high quality).”

Longshore, including the building housing the tennis pro shop, lockers and food concession, is “a beautifully designed gateway to that section of the club, far superior to the prior run-down building.”  Much of the rest of Longshore — the pool, inn, golf course and marina — is also vastly improved.

The person who responded served up this challenge:  “If you’ve got a Westport connection going back at least 20 years, what else is better now?”

I’ll start it off:  We never had local blogs 🙂

To add your own thoughts, click the “Comments” link.