Tag Archives: Westport Parks and Rec

Longshore Lighthouse: The Back Story

For decades, no one thought about the Longshore lighthouse.

Yesterday, I published a photo of it as part of “06880’s” Friday Flashback series.

I had no idea that Westporters Dick Stein and Tracy Hinson had just offered an oil painting of that same scene to the town, as a gift.

Dick told official curator Kathie Motes Bennewitz that he found the painting behind an upstairs desk at last year’s Red Barn tag sale. Owner Tommy Nistico asked Dick if he knew where the lighthouse had been located. Dick remembered it instantly from  his youth.

The painting — by artist Harriet Horowitz, who moved from Westport in 1972 — was dusty and dirty. But Dick bought it, hoping it would one day hang in the Parks and Recreation Department office — at Longshore.

He had it cleaned and lightly repaired. Now he’s given it to the town.

Longshore lighthouse painting by Harriet Horowitz

That’s a great story. But there’s one more part.

According to alert “06880” reader Peter Barlow — who sent the lighthouse photo along for the “Friday Flashback” — in the late 1960s a popular Parks and Recreation Commission official ordered the demolition of the lighthouse.

Years later, he admitted it had been a mistake.

The commission member’s name?

Lou Nistico — father uncle of Red Barn owner Tom Nistico, who sold the lighthouse painting to Dick Stein.

It’s Not Yet Memorial Day…

…but the illegal Compo Beach table-reservers are already out in force.

Compo Beach - saving tables

Sure, the sign is there.

But I’m sure a clever lawyer could point out that these are not South Beach “Rules”; they are  “R les.”

And it’s not reserving of tables that’s prohibited, but “ables.”

Have a great cookout!


May Day! May Day!

It’s May 1, so that means one thing:

Compo Beach is open.

Well, it’s always open. But as of today, you need a sticker.

Early this morning, trusty Parks and Rec employees Theresa Cuseo and Don Nazzaro were at the entrance, making sure people had emblems (and did not have dogs).

May 1 beach

But watch where you walk. Parks and Rec’s great crew has not yet completed its cleanup from yesterday’s monsoon.

Photos/Chip Stephens

Photos/Chip Stephens

Right now it’s foggy and damp. But skies will clear this afternoon, and the temperature will reach 70.

With the weather we’ve had, many folks haven’t thought about beach stickers. To order online, click here.


Town May Outsource Longshore Golf Course Maintenance

The town’s Request for Proposal (RFP) to redevelop the Gunn House — the 1885 Queen Anne house at 35 Church Lane, soon to give way to the new Bedford Square development — has gotten plenty of publicity.

But another RFP is equally intriguing.

Westport is also soliciting proposals for professional turf and grounds maintenance of the Longshore golf course.

The Longshore golf course. (Photo by Dan Murdoch, via LongshoreGolf.com)

The Longshore golf course. (Photo by Dan Murdoch, via LongshoreGolf.com)

The official notice — posted today — says:

The contractor will be assuming maintenance services historically performed by town personnel. The contractor will report to the town’s Director of Parks and Recreation and work cooperatively with the Head Golf Pro, as is customary for a public golf course.

According to Parks and Rec director Stuart McCarthy, his department and the Golf Advisory Committee have discussed this move for “a couple of years.”

Professional maintenance contractors are “a trend in the industry,” McCarthy says.

“It’s logical to investigate this. Particularly with the issues the course had last year, it makes sense.”

A view of the Longshore course, courtesy of Golf Digest.

A view of the Longshore course, courtesy of Golf Digest.

McCarthy says the RFP is posted with 3 goals: “maintain the course at the highest quality possible; maintain it as efficiently as possible from a cost standpoint, and look at long-term costs too.”

He stresses that the RFP does not mean a professional maintenance contractor must be hired. “We want to explore our options,” the Parks and Rec director says. “We need to investigate all possible opportunities.”

The bid is due June 19. The contract is for a 3-year period, beginning January 1, 2014.

(Click here to view the official Request for Proposal.)

About Those Beach Benches…

In November — a couple of weeks after Hurricane Sandy — “06880” reader Fran White and  her son Michael went to Compo  Beach.

They noticed their memorial bench dedicated to David — Fran’s husband and Michael’s dad, who was killed in a bicycle accident several years ago — was gone from its usual spot, just over the wall from the cannons.

David White's original bench by the cannon, just before Christmas 2011.

David White’s original bench by the cannons, just before Christmas 2011.

A number of benches — tossed and upended by the wind and storm surge — had been stored near the skate park. But David’s was not one of them.

Fran called Parks & Rec. She was told the department knew of the missing benches and plaques.

“They were still dealing with damage from Sandy, and weren’t far enough along to think about replacing and repairing benches,” Fran says. “So we pretty much came to terms with its loss, and made up adventure stories about where it might be. The loss of homes for many seemed far more important.”

Last week, a friend of the Whites went down to Compo, for a final walk on the beach before moving. She spotted a group of benches, near Joey’s. David’s plaque was there — not on its original wooden bench, but an older fiberglass one.

David White's plaque, now on a different bench at a different site.

David White’s plaque, now on a different bench at a different site.

Fran has faith that — with everything else on Parks & Rec’s plate — it will be able to sort everything out by summer. They have a site map for the benches.

Parks & Rec knows the importance of the benches to donors, and honorees. They know how popular the benches are with beachgoers too, who may seek out certain benches because of the plaques — or may never read them, but just like sitting in certain spots.

Sandy left a big mess at the beach. Our town is still cleaning up from it.

One day, David White — and all the others — will be back where they belong.

Chabad To The Rescue

When Sandy slammed into Compo Beach Monday night, the playground took a direct hit.

Tons of sand covered one of the most popular places for kids, even in fall and winter.

Cleaning a playground is low on the town’s priority list. So when Chabad of Westport Rabbi Yehuda Kantor offered the services of his Hebrew School class wherever it was needed, Parks and Rec director Stuart McCarthy mentioned the playground.

Starting at 10 this morning, 60 children and parents worked as ferociously to restore the site as Sandy had to wreck it.

Rabbi Yehuda Kantor (left) and some of his Chabad helpers.

Tim Burke from Parks and Rec supervised the effort. Pete Romano supplied a trailer filled with shovels and other tools.

Thanks to the great Chabad/Parks and Rec/Pete Romano partnership, the “play” is already back in playground.

Pete Romano supplied a trailer filled with tons of tools. (Photos by Avi Kaner)

Fresh From The Farm

The folks running Wakeman Town Farm are finishing their fundraising drive.

But they’re not letting grass produce grow under their feet.  They’re also busy organizing upcoming events — all the way through the summer.

Weekend gardening workshops for adults will start “sooner rather than later.”

In November Erin Ostreicher, a rising star in the world of flower arranging, hosts a Thanksgiving Centerpiece workshop.  Events include cornucopias, hollowing out pumpkins to fill with flowers, spilling over with gourds and flowers, and more.

December brings a wreath-making workshop, with perhaps a holiday tea and tree trimming event.

Wakeman Town Farm will soon hum with activity.

Looking further ahead, a summer “Junior Farmer Camp” for kindergarteners through 2nd graders (called “Homesteaders”) will include animal husbandry (aka collecting eggs from nesting boxes, plus feeding chickens, bunnies and goats); tending a garden, harvesting veggies and turning them into delicious snacks, and making crafts from whatever the Homesteaders grow.

The camp’s 3rd through 5th graders will do all of the above activities, along with a more intensive botany/animal biology curriculum.  They’ll start plants from seed; do succession planting, harvesting and trellising, and enjoy arts and crafts that are age appropriate for this “more mature” set.

Middle school “apprentices” start before the summer.  Youngsters sign up for the full year (as an after-school activity), with the option of staying on throughout the summer.  They’ll learn about farming from seed to harvest — and all things in between.

High school internships — including the special last-quarter-of school senior internship program — will also continue.

Parks and Rec is promoting many of the Town Farm activities.

Who says there’s nothing new under the sun?

Stuart McCarthy’s Summer

For many Westporters, the end of Labor Day weekend is bittersweet.  Summer is “officially” over.

Stuart McCarthy calls it — only partly in jest — the best day of the year.

At 6 p.m. the lifeguards leave for the last time.  Finally, the veteran Parks and Recreation director can stop worrying about the safety of thousands of beachgoers.  When the sun sets that Monday, McCarthy will relax for the first time since May.

It’s been quite a summer.  The weather has been spectacular — until this coming weekend, anyway.  The beaches were packed.  And — with the notable exception of a parking lot-rage attendant-shoving incident during the fireworks — it’s been a remarkably incident-free season.

Compo has been “as busy as it’s ever been,” McCarthy says.  He’s seen a noticeable uptick in non-resident parking.  Other non-residents take the train to Saugatuck, then ride taxis — or walk.

Over the past few years, McCarthy notes, there’s been a change in the way people use the beach.  Gone are the days when you slathered on coconut oil, and baked in the sun for hours.

“People now come in stages,” the parks director says.  There’s far greater use of the picnic area, athletic facilities, playground and pavilion.

Not to mention bikers, joggers, strollers and dogs (on leashes, of course).

More folks come at night, too.  “What better place is there than South Beach during a beautiful sunset?” McCarthy asks.  “There’s a lot of people, food, action.”

Big crowds can mean big headaches.  A major part of the beach staff’s job is keeping problems to a minimum.

Back in the day, Parks and Rec employees were called “security.”  Now, they’re “guest services.”

The change is far more than cosmetic.

“The edge is off the way our employees interact with people,” McCarthy says.  “The first rule we follow now is:  See if you can figure out how to say ‘yes.'”

There is constant activity on Compo Beach.

McCarthy knows that some beachgoers would like stronger enforcement of regulations like no alcohol on the main beach, and no glass bottles everywhere.

“Our staff does not have enforcement capabilities,” he says.  “We can’t give out tickets.  So we say, very nicely, ‘please don’t do that.’  We ask for cooperation.  Sometimes it’s effective, sometimes not.”

But, McCarthy notes, “people go to the beach to have fun.  We try to create a fun environment, so long as what they do does not negatively impact other people.”

McCarthy is proud of his “guest services” staff.  Many return year after year, bringing continuity and experience.

Lifeguards too are in the guest services business.  They pick up litter, resolve conflicts before they escalate, and help create a positive, friendly environment.

The job of a Parks and Rec director includes collecting fireworks tickets — and doing some guest services work himself.

“For years we always said ‘no’ to things like playing ball on the beach, skimboarding and boogie boards,” McCarthy says.  “The reason was because maybe one person complained.

“Now we say those things are okay — so long as people don’t go crazy.  And our employees use discretion, to make sure no one gets close to crazy.”

Dan DeVito — who manages guest services, lifeguards and the marina staff — has helped set the positive tone, McCarthy says.  DeVito’s assistant, Lee Halpern, is also “tremendous.”

Crucial contributions come too from the maintenance staff.  Trash crews work 7 days a week.  On the busiest days, collection continues for 12 hours.

The most impressive maintenance job of all begins immediately after the fireworks, as soon as the huge crowd leaves.  By early morning — a few hours later — the beach is as pristine as on opening day.

With its pop-up tents, babble of languages and dawn-to-way-past-dusk action, Compo is “more welcoming” than in the past, McCarthy says.

“I love that it’s busy,” he adds.  “A huge variety of people use it in a huge variety of ways.”

And — much as he likes what he sees every day during the summer — after Labor Day, they’re on their own.

Just When You Think You’ve Seen Everything…

On Tuesday, alert “06880” reader Linda and her husband were enjoying another spectacular Compo evening.

They were at the west (far) end of South Beach, just to the right of the jetty with 2 trees, having drinks and gazing out at Cockenoe Island.

Suddenly, a 20-something woman drove her Jeep onto the beach to the left of the trees — and parked almost on the jetty.  Linda, her husband and other beach-goers stared in amazement as the woman sat in her car, enjoying the view.

The wide-frame view.

Several minutes later, 2 female Parks and Rec employees arrived.  They told her she couldn’t be there.

No problem!

She backed up, turned around — and immediately turned left onto the one-way road, racing around to enjoy the harbor view across from Owenoke.

Parks and Rec were still on the case.  They told Very Important Jeep Woman that she could have hurt a driver, jogger, walker or biker on her wrong-way jaunt.

As if on cue, moments later 2 grandparents and their young granddaughter — in a stroller — strolled around the corner.

The driver reacted as only she could.  She screamed at the Parks and Rec employees.

Her argument?  She hadn’t done anything wrong.

Linda — and everyone else on the beach, except Herself — watched, flabbergasted.

But, Linda says, “I was delighted at how well the 2 Parks and Rec girls were on the job.”

If the first jetty doesn't work, drive the wrong way to another nice spot.

Beach Bans

A recent “06880” post on stone walls generated 90 comments (and counting).

This one could surpass that.

The Parks & Rec Department has announced 2 measures intended to make Compo more enjoyable for the majority of beach-goers.

It will enrage a minority of them.

  • The existing alcohol regulations — it’s permitted only on South Beach, and glass bottles are prohibited everywhere — will come under renewed enforcement.
  • Folks attending the July 4th 2nd fireworks are requested not to reserve spots.  In the past few years — and not only for the fireworks — this practice has evolved from placing a tablecloth on a desirable picnic table, to roping off broad swaths of sand with official-looking yellow tape.

Is this a long-needed move to civilize the beach?

An odious intrusion by the nanny state into our inalienable right to do whatever we want, wherever we want to?

Is 1 idea reasonable, the other cockeyed?

If there are 2 things “06880” readers share, it’s a love of the beach, and the willingness to express opinions.

Let ’em rip.