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Tag Archives: Sherwood Island State Park
Westport has made the New York Times again.
This time, it’s in an opinion column by Andrew W. Kahrl. He’s a professor of history and African-American studies at the University of Virginia, and the author of “Free the Beaches: The Story of Ned Coll and the Battle for America’s Most Exclusive Shoreline.”
But his reference to our town is not from the 1960s and ’70s, when Greenwich and other suburban towns famously excluded non-residents from their shores.
Writing yesterday in a piece titled “Who Will Get to Swim This Summer?” — with the subhead “History is repeating itself as pools, beaches and clubs open — but mostly for the privileged few” — he says:
In the summer of 1929, residents of the town of Westport along Connecticut’s Gold Coast reported a “new menace” threatening the health and safety of their community: New Yorkers fleeing the squalid, scorching city and flocking to a new state beach located on neighboring Sherwood Island. Because it was state-owned land, all the residents could do, one reporter noted, was “to make access as difficult as possible.” Which they did.
Westport officials hired a contractor to dredge a creek and flood the road connecting the state beach to the mainland. The move, one state official said, “will effectively prevent visitors from reaching the state property.” Westport officials insisted that they were simply seeking to eliminate a mosquito breeding ground — but as another state official remarked, “the real object is to keep the people off state property.”
The people in question were the “unwashed masses” from neighboring cities: the blacks, Jews, Italians and others denied membership to country clubs, who had few options for summertime relief. As America slipped deeper into the Great Depression, the nation’s swelling homeless population was added to the list. A state park, one resident decried, “would be an invitation to the scum.” Sherwood Island, another bemoaned, “looks like a gypsy camp and new tents are being erected every day.”
While Westport’s residents privately fumed over the park’s impact on the area’s property values, in public hearings they claimed to be concerned solely about the park’s purportedly unsanitary conditions. It was no coincidence that during these same years, several towns along Connecticut’s Gold Coast first adopted ordinances restricting access to town beaches and other places of outdoor recreation to residents only.
Westport has followed the lead of many municipalities in the tri-state area in banning out-of-towners — wherever they live — from parking at local beaches.
Public health experts agree that so long as people take precautions, outdoor activities are not only safe but also necessary for coping with the stress of the pandemic. But the exclusionary tactics of privileged communities and cost-cutting measures of underresourced ones this summer will force many Americans to suffer inside or seek out unsupervised, potentially dangerous bodies of water to cool off. And it’s not hard to imagine that pools and beaches with restricted access could become flash points of conflict with law enforcement officials, endangering black and brown youth.
It’s simple, really. Our ability to find relief from the heat, and to enjoy time outdoors this summer, should not be determined by where we live and the social and economic advantages we enjoy.
(To read the full New York Times column, click here.)
The good news during the coronavirus crisis— and it’s a stretch, to be sure — is that Westporters have discovered Sherwood Island State Park.
The closure of Compo Beach in the early days of the pandemic forced a number of serenity-seeking residents to the 235-acre gem. It’s easy to miss, and most folks here have. But if you head just a few yards beyond the I-95 Exit 18 on-ramps, you’ll find many wonders: a broad beach, woods, marshes, walking and biking paths, wildlife, a Nature Center, Connecticut’s 9/11 memorial, and much more..
Including a semi-overgrown, tree-lined spot leading to … last week’s Photo Challenge.
Located on the north end of the park, near Compo Cove and Old Mill, it was once the entrance to the Sherwood family farm and “mansion.” There’s not much to see there now, other than nature at its finest. (Click here for the photo; click here for a fascinating history of the park, and the land around it.)
But Susan Thomsen, Andrew Colabella, Nancy Axthelm, Rich Stein, Jalna Jaeger, Susan Schmidt, Moira Eick and Stacie Curran all knew exactly what Mary Sikorski’s image showed.
You can see it too. It’s there for us all at Sherwood Island — and it’s free. All you need is a Connecticut license plate. What are you waiting for?!
And don’t wait to answer this week’s Photo Challenge. If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.
Four beaches, six scenes:
COVID-19 Roundup: Staples Class of 2020; Sherwood Island; Dr. Scott Gottlieb; Ron’s Barber Shop; More
It’s increasingly unlikely that Staples High School seniors will have a traditional graduation. That includes everything from caps and gowns, to coming together as a class in the final weeks, reveling in each other’s achievements.
To stay connected and celebrate, a group of seniors created an Instagram account (@shsgrads2020). Everyone in the Class of 2020 is invited to direct message a baby picture, and post-graduate plans.
The admins will create a post, with information about what’s ahead and congratulations on their decision.
Seniors can also send any major achievements from this year — awards, accomplishments, whatever.
COVID-19 has taken away many things. But it can’t stop the spirit of Staples’ soon-to-be graduates!
Sherwood Island was busy yesterday — so busy that rangers turned people away. It was reopened later in the afternoon.
Most people practiced social distancing. Two state parks — Kent Falls and Seaside in Waterford — have already been closed, because of overuse and lack of social distancing.
This morning, Amy Schneider spotted members of the National Guard based in Connecticut, and representatives of the estate Department of Public Health, handing out essential equipment to nursing homes and emergency workers:
Meanwhile, the Compo Beach area was busy yesterday, with runners, walkers and joggers along South Compo, Hillspoint and Soundview. The sand itself wsa empty. Many people — though not all — practiced social distancing.
Over in Fairfield, Sasco Creek Beach closed weeks ago. However, a number of people yesterday broke the yellow caution tape, and parked there. Police cleared them out.
Several times in the past few weeks, Westporter/former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb has appeared on Sunday morning talk shows.
Yesterday — newly appointed to President Trump’s Opening Our Country Council — he and publishing executive/former presidential candidate Steve Forbes appeared on the Ben Shapiro Show.
The hour-long “Sunday Special” format allowed Gottlieb to speak in depth about consequences of the lockdown, the risk of returning to work, the effectiveness of testing and contact tracing, how asymptomatic carriers affect others, and more.
Click below to view:
Ron Provenzano is the lively, talkative and very popular owner of a Westport barber shop, in the space previously occupied by Sally’s Place.
He’s the father of 6 — including newborn twins — and great friend to many. His shop is closed by the pandemic. He was unable to get a small business loan before that program’s funds ran out.
Currently, he’s $18,000 behind in rent. A GoFundMe page has been started to help Ron. Click here to donate.
Kim Penwell spotted this on the I-95 overpass, at the Sherwood Island Connector:
You’re never too old for Kermit.
He knows the importance of staying healthy. Rachel Halperin keeps him at home, reminding her constantly to be safe and stay positive.
And finally … back in 1967, Jim Morrison predicted the future:
BONUS WESTPORT CONNECTION: The back cover of the Doors’ “Strange Days” — released just 4 days after they played at Staples High School — featured model Zazel Wilde. She grew up across the street from me here, and had graduated from Staples a few years before. She’s on the left below, obviously.