Tag Archives: Steve Axthelm

Steve Axthelm: Build The Skate Park!

Steve Axthelm is one of those unheralded, overlooked, under- (as in “non-“) paid volunteers who make Westport what it is.

He served for many years on the Parks & Recreation Commission, and the board of Westport Baseball & Softball. His goal was to give everyone an opportunity to play sports, have fun, and enjoy Westport’s amenities.

Two weeks ago — when the sale of his house closed — Steve resigned from both posts. He and his wife Laura headed to North Carolina.

Steve Axthelm, with his skatebaords.

Here’s his final message to Parks & Rec — and to the town he’s loved, and given so much to:

“It has been an honor to serve on the Westport Parks & Recreation Commission. I’m proud of what we have accomplished together, and think we have been an example of a group that puts serving the community over politics or personal desires.

“I’m especially pleased with what we were able to accomplish at Compo Beach, especially the walkways and the bathroom on South Beach to provide accessibility and enjoyment to all. The stewardship and improvement of the town’s parks and sports facilities has been steadfast. Thanks go to Charlie Haberstroh and my fellow commissioners, and to Jen Fava and her team for outstanding work over the years.

“One regret: we did not get the skate park done. It is severely outdated, and an eyesore at Compo. No other sports group has to use such a poor facility in Westport.

The Compo Beach skate park.

“A beautiful concrete skatepark will be an enhancement to Compo and a boon to a robust skateboarding community. Skate Camp counselor Gabriel Dick and Skate Camp director James Bowles will rally the skateboarding community for fundraising.

James Bowles and Gabe Dick, at a rally 8 years ago to save the Compo skate park.

“In the past skateboarding was an afterthought, and participants were sometimes characterized as misfits (hmmm, I was a skateboarder when I was a grommet, inventing gnarly moves to grind the dinosaurs). It is simply a great sport in which to hone athleticism and creativity. And now it is an Olympic Sport.

“Our skateboarders and our town deserve this. Let’s get it built!

Skate park at a beach.

Westport Softball Honors “Ax”

Baseball is big in Westport. Our Little League team reached the national championship. Staples has won state titles. All around town, are diamonds are forever filled.

Fast-pitch softball may not get as much publicity. But it’s thriving too.

There is a dedicated softball community, and a decorated history as well.

Last, night, Steve Axthelm — one of its driving forces for more than 2 decades — was honored.

The site was appropriate: Meyer Field. It’s named for Bill Meyer — the father of Westport softball — and Axthelm has picked up where Meyer left off.

Axthelm — who is also a member of Westport’s Parks & Recreation Commission — has spent more than 20 years as head of Westport Softball. He was honored at a ceremony before the Little League Majors championship game, complete with a sign that will hang next to the many championship banners won under his leadership.

Steve Axthelm, at last night’s ceremony. He’s joined by Staples High School varsity softball players (from left) Sophia Alfero, Grace Alfero, Ally Schwartz and Ava Vincini.

Axthelm was introduced to competitive softball like many Westport dads: through his children. But unlike many parent volunteers, he did not stop when his kids’ playing days were over. He continued to lead the program, advocatint for funding and access on behalf of Westport’s youth softball players.

His efforts resulted in 7 district, 2 divisional, 4 sectional and 4 state championships.

Some of the players from those dominant youth teams led Staples to a successful season this year, advancing to the FCIAC semifinals and the state quarterfinals. They fell to archrivals Fairfield Ludlowe in both tournaments.

Axthelm says, “I’m proud to have run a program dedicated to 2 sometimes conflicting missions: give girls the skills to compete at a high level and prepare them to play at Staples (in a few cases, beyond), while also keep as many girls as possible, regardless of skill level, until they age out.

“Studies have shown that girls involved in youth sports are less likely to engage in risky behavior as they grow up. We designed the program to give every girl the confidence to play and enjoy it.”

“Ax” and his wife are headed south for a warm weather retirement. But every June — as Westport begins another softball title run — he’ll be thinking of the town where for so many years, he made his indelible mark.

(Hat tip: Rob Simmelkjaer)

Steve Axthelm’s Good Walk, Unspoiled

The Longshore golf course is closed. But on Sunday, Parks & Recreation Commission member Steve Axthelm played it anyway.

Well, sort of. Here’s his story:

I walked 18 at Longshore today.

Got out of my car by the pro shop (3 spaces away from anyone) in late afternoon, and headed to the first tee. It was becoming overcast and breezy but not cold, still beautiful with the smell of spring.

Steve Axthelm

I felt really good. Bag was light as a feather. Took a few practice swings, set my feet, thought about what the golf gurus say: Envision the shot, see the shot you want to make.

Pivoted the torso on the back swing, left arm straight, weight balanced as I turned. Swung through with rhythm and grace.

Finished high. 240 down the middle in the fairway, and I’m a 220 guy off the tee all over the place!

So I walked deliberately up the fairway. (I love the short grass. Why is it so hard to find?)

Next swing was good but just short of the green. Chipped in from 20 feet! And that’s how the round went. Fairway after fairway. Every approach or chip in the hole for birdie, except #4 which I eagled. I never imagined a round like this until I imagined it today!

Shot a 51, which is usually my 9 hole score. When I turned the corner at 18, there was a huge crowd of socially distanced fans cheering and waving. I holed the chip, grateful that I never violated the “stay off the greens” current Longshore policy.

The Longshore golf course was very unspoiled on Sunday. (Photo/Steve Axthelm)

I skipped the COVID-19th hole and went home to pour a dram of Glenfiddich. I can only imagine having a day like this at Longshore again. But if I do, I will yell “fore!” if you get within 25 yards of me.

So to my friends I say: Walk 18. See the shot. The course is closed to the game — but not to your imagination.

Stay safe. Stay well. Stay the hell away from each other.

Stephen Axthelm
Parks, Recreation & Imagination Commission

Hidden In Plain Sight

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!

sherwood-island-overhanging-tree-steve-axthelm

sherwood-island-view-of-mill-pond-steve-axthelm

sherwood-island-path-steve-axthelm

sherwood-island-woods-steve-axthelm

(Photos/Steve Axthelm)

(Photos/Steve Axthelm)

Firing Up Westport Volunteers

If you’re like many Connecticut residents, when you hear of wildfires in the West you think, “What a shame.”

Then — if you’re like me — you move on to news of the next catastrophe.

Michael Kronick and Robert Yost are doing more. Much more.

Robert Yost

Robert Yost

The pair — members of the Westport Fire Department — are actually fighting those fires.

They’re part of a 20-member Connecticut crew that’s battling the Black Fire in Idaho.

This is Yost’s 1st volunteer effort. Kronick, meanwhile, has served in the Western US several times, most recently last year in Northern California.

And that’s the key: It’s all volunteer. Westport’s firefighters are using their own vacation and time off to help save land and homes — and risking their own lives to do so.

Alert “06880” reader Steve Axthelm think that’s crazy.

“These 2 men are very courageous and generous,” he says.

Michael Kronick“But don’t you think we as a town and community ought to sponsor them — at least in part — so they don’t have to use vacation or personal time to help out there? Wouldn’t it be a fair and appropriate contribution to the needs of our fellow Americans?”

It would indeed. If you’ve got an idea of how to make that happen, click “Comments” below.

Michael Kronick and Robert Yost are doing plenty. Helping them is the least we can do.

Gone Fishin’

You don’t always see a kid — or anyone, for that matter — fishing in the Compo Beach boat basin.

Nor do you usually see — these days — a kid fishing anywhere.

But alert “06880” reader Steve Axthelm saw this scene earlier today:

Compo Beach boat basin - January 2, 2016 - Steve Axthelm

Maybe someone’s New Year’s resolution was to put down electronic devices, and get outside more.

Or maybe the fish were just biting.