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Tag Archives: Sherwood Island State Park
And I thought no one from Westport ever goes to Sherwood Island!
It took Brandon Malin just 3 minutes — and 8 other alert “06880” readers not much longer — to identify last week’s photo challenge as the model airplane field at Connecticut’s 1st state park. (Click here for the image.)
Seems the 232-acre facility — including the “runway” — is not as unknown as I thought.
At least not to Brandon, Matt Murray, Linda Amos, Seth Schachter, Seth Braunstein, Jonathan Maddock, Golda Villa, Rick Benson and Don Jacobs.
Seth Schachter’s a 2-fer. He nailed last week’s photo challenge — and is the photographer of this one:
If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.
Yesterday’s post about LandTech’s plan to save the Eno Foundation building generated plenty of comments.
Some referenced the handsome waterfront estate directly across Saugatuck Avenue. Owned by Foundation founder William Phelps Eno — the father of modern-day traffic devices like stop signs, pedestrian crosswalks and 1-way streets — it was one of the most majestic mansions in Westport.
Yet as several commenters noted, it met an inglorious end.
Here — with research help from alert “06880” reader/amateur historian/ace realtor Mary Palmieri Gai — is the back story.
According to a January 7, 1996 New York Times story, Eno’s estate commanded a sweeping view of the mouth of the Saugatuck River and Long Island Sound. However, the 119-year-old, 15,000-square foot, 32-room 1877 Colonial Revival — featuring an inside hall with 8 fluted columns, a ballroom with an octagonal entryway, built-in organ, and bathrooms tiled in marble — had been unoccupied for 9 years. In wretched condition, it was being offered for a bargain price.
The only caveat: “Cash and carry. You buy it, you move it.”
Oh, yeah: It could not fit under the nearby railroad bridge. So it would have to be put on a barge — all 200 feet of it — and floated down the Sound.
Over the following months the Maritime Center, Anthony Quinn and Diana Ross all expressed interest. But the $500,000 moving cost — and $1.7 million price tag for restoration — scared them off.
The Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation tried to shop the mansion for use as a museum, B&B or inn.
Sherwood Island State Park was interested too. On November 19, 1996, the Times noted that thanks to loans, gifts and pledges, the Eno mansion would be floated 2 miles away, to Sherwood Island State Park.
Sitting on land donated by the state, it would be open to the public for exhibits about Connecticut’s historic homes, as well as conferences and celebrations. The top floors would be used as offices by non-profit preservation and environmental groups.
A house mover was hired. He planned a system of pulleys to tug the house to the barge. At Sherwood Island, huge dollies would pull it a mile inland. The process would take 3 months.
But, the Times reported 2 months later, the State Department of Environmental Protection reversed its initial approval. After 200 people signed a petition opposing the move, the DEP acknowledged there were too many questions about the impact on wetlands and wildlife.
And that was that. Eventually, the house was demolished. The land was subdivided into five 1-acre lots.
Today there is nothing left of William Phelps Eno’s estate. Fortunately — thanks to LandTech — his Foundation across the street will not meet the same fate.
Oh yeah: According to Westport architectural historian Morley Boyd, some of the house’s elaborate interior was salvaged by volunteers.
“Those materials did hard time in a trailer upstate,” he says. “But the last I knew, they were being woven into the restoration of another structure by the same architect.”
Yesterday’s post on Sherwood Island reminded Westporters to think about the gem of a state park that sits squarely in our town.
It spurred alert “06880” readers Jim Goodrich and Luisa Francouer to wander over and visit. (There’s no entry fee this time of year!)
They admired the broad beach, the vistas across the Sherwood Mill Pond and Long Island Sound, and the woods and walking paths.
But they were surprised to see these sights:
I guess no part of Westport is immune from bad parking.
As a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission, Steve Axthelm helps oversee our beaches, marinas, athletic facilities, pocket parks — and of course, Longshore. He’s justly proud of the many active and passive recreational opportunities Westport offers.
Yesterday he wandered over to a different facility. Sherwood Island is owned by the state — in fact, it’s Connecticut’s 1st state park — but it encompasses 232 acres of prime Westport beachfront, grasses, hills and trees.
It’s a gem many Westporters never think about. Yet it’s a wondrous spot, every day of the year.
And right now, it’s free!
An alert “06880” reader writes:
On Sunday I attended my first “Out of the Darkness” event. Over 550 people went to Sherwood Island, for an important cause: raising awareness of, and preventing, suicide.
Suicide is the 4th leading cause of death in adults, and the 2nd leading cause in children.
Over the past year here, many of us have been affected by the loss of someone we know, by their own hand. Included in this list is a teenager, and a police officer.
After the recent suicides in Westport, I was impacted personally and strongly. I suffer from deep depressive episodes, during which I cannot see through the dark forest.
My episodes last 1 to 2 weeks at a time. But the severity increased over the last few years. Finally I could not take the pain and suffering any longer.
A couple of months ago, I attempted suicide, by overdosing on medication. I landed in the hospital. Fortunately, I survived.
Many do not.
It’s hard to deal with the reality that I tried to kill myself. The reason I did not succeed is because someone saw the signs, and called 911. That saved my life.
Fast forward several weeks. I stood with hundreds of other people here in Westport, shining a light on this important cause.
Everyone was there for a different reason. Some lost loved ones to suicide; others lost friends or colleagues. Some suffer with depression, and need the support of those around them.
Some actually attempted suicide, but survived.
You may be aware of someone right now in your life who is suffering, and in so much pain that they want to take their own life.
Be the voice! #stopsuicide
Ask. Call. Help. Support. Love.
You could say that Sherwood Island made
lemons lemonade out of lemonade lemons.
A better analogy would be: The state park’s admirers and friends made foie gras out of goose poop.
Less than 2 weeks ago, “06880” published alert reader Ellen Bowen’s complaint that the 9/11 Living Memorial there — Connecticut’s tribute to state residents lost on that tragic day 15 years ago — was an unkempt disgrace.
Very quickly, several things happened.
Tony Palmer — owner of T. Palmer Landscaping and Anthony’s Nursery and Garden Center, both in Westport — donated a 3-man crew. Working gratis for 2 days, they weeded, pruned rose bushes, cleaned and helped the overworked, under-budgeted park staff get the memorial in tip-top shape.
Tony returned this week, with a mission. He made sure that everything was perfect for today’s 5:30 p.m. ceremony.
Other volunteers turned out yesterday, to weed, clear and prune a large garden bed that visitors pass on their way to the memorial.
Bowen’s story also brought attention to Friends of Sherwood Island. The non-profit does important, seldom-noticed work everywhere in the park. Its annual fundraiser — ShoreFest — is set for 6 p.m. tomorrow.
Local businesses and individuals rushed to offer goods and services for the silent auction.
In addition, a major donation — for ongoing plantings — was made to the Friends’ tree committee.
It’s easy for Westporters to overlook Sherwood Island. Residents may not realize Connecticut’s oldest state park is also home to our 9/11 memorial — and a robust organization that serves the entire 220-acre property.
Thanks to Ellen Bowen’s alert, more Westporters now do.
And many are doing whatever they can to help make Sherwood Island sparkle.
The other day, “06880” reader Ellen Bowen complained about the unkempt, goose-drop-filled state of the 9/11 Living Memorial at Sherwood Island State Park.
Yesterday, Friends of Sherwood Island State Park co-president Liz-Ann Koos said:
First, it is very important that you understand some facts about birds nests. If house sparrows are making nests in the indoor memorial, they can be removed, even while they are building their nests. They are one of the few bird species not protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
A volunteer Friends member (and dedicated birder) will check and remove whatever nests are in the 9/11 Memorial area now. However, if a protected bird such as a swallow built a nest, nothing can be done until after the birds leave the nests. Most migratory birds have left their nests by now.
Second, please understand that controlling the Canadian geese is impossible. No one, including the Town of Westport, can remove every goose dropping..
Third, the Sherwood Island supervisor and his staff work hard to keep the Park looking its best, in spite of the many visitors leaving garbage all over the grounds and not using dumpsters. You are correct that the responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of the 9/11 Memorial is indeed part of the staff’s responsibilities. Rest assured it will be in order for the September 8 (5:30 p.m.) service.
However, I am sure that you have been reading about the huge budget cuts impacting the size of the staff and other matters relevant to your concerns, which brings me to my last point.
One of the reasons for the founding of Friends of Sherwood Island State Park was to supply assistance to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection in the form of advocacy, volunteers, and funds (through memberships, donations, fundraising projects and events). We need concerned people like yourself to join our ranks to produce positive changes and support for our beautiful Sherwood Island State Park, where state budget dollars fall short.
Please consider buying a ticket or two for our upcoming ShoreFest in the Pavilion (strikingly reconstructed including solar-heated year-round restrooms, with your tax dollars) on Friday September 9 (6 to 9 p.m.). Proceeds from the silent auction will be specifically targeted for our 100 Trees for 100 Years Project, aimed at replacing and maintaining trees and shrubs that were devastated in major storms.
Please go to our website (www.friendsofsherwoodisland.org) to learn about joining Friends, or purchasing tickets for ShoreFest (where you will have an opportunity to discuss your concerns with the park supervisor, State legislators who have adopted the park, and our board and other Friends).
Please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to know more.
“06880” reader Ellen Bowen recently visited Sherwood Island State Park. She was stunned at the condition of the state’s official 9/11 memorial. Among the Connecticut residents honored there are several Westporters.
With the 15th anniversary of that tragic day near, Ellen writes:
Imagine my surprise and disgust to find the plaques covered with goose poop, and the walkways and grassy areas (including near the water fountain and picnic area) overrun and filled with weeds. The condition was disgusting. And I paid $9 to park.
I am appalled and saddened that a beautiful and contemplative place remembering the victims and heroes who lost their lives that day has become an embarrassment to our town and the state of Connecticut. I will share some of the pictures I took with the Friends of Sherwood Island, local and state government officials, and anyone else I can think of.
I hope they clean it up in time for the governor and 9/11 families’ visit, and the memorial service, on September 8. But I sincerely hope they consider maintaining the memorial on a year-round basis, and not just “for show.”
Sherwood Island — Connecticut’s 1st state park — covers 234 acres of Westport’s finest beaches, wetlands and woodlands.
But — except for some very dedicated Friends of Sherwood Island members, and a few folks who make it their own special playground — it might as well be in Westport, Massachusetts. Or Westport, New Zealand.
The isolation cuts both ways. I bet the only bit of Westport that 99% of all visitors know is the brief stretch of the Connector that gets them to and from I-95. The other 1% are people who miss the ramp, and end up mistakenly on the Post Road.
If Matthew Mandell has his way, that will change.
As executive director of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce, he’s all about promoting local businesses. He sees 500,000 people get off I-95 each year, with the sole aim of visiting Sherwood Island.
But how to get those potential customers to see Westport?
This week, 40,000 copies of a handsome brochure will be delivered to Sherwood Island. The tri-fold includes a brief history of the park; a detailed map, showing fishing and model aircraft areas; the Nature Center and 9/11 Memorial, bathrooms and more. QR codes take users to a map of Westport, and the Chamber’s restaurant and visitor guides. Park-goers will see there’s far more here than just a highway interchange.
The brochures — produced in conjunction with Friends group — will be distributed free. Ads — from Earthplace, realtors, a college counselor, bank and McDonald’s (“only 2 miles from the beach!”) — cover the cost.
Westport Downtown Merchants Association president Randy Herbertson did the graphics gratis.
Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection loves the concept. Now they want other communities with state parks to produce their own maps.
It’s a win-win: great for local merchants, and for visitors looking to do more than just drive in and out.
Who knows? If it’s successful, maybe the Chamber can do another map next year — for all the out-of-towners who have discovered Compo Beach.