Tag Archives: Westport Parks and Recreation Commission

Compo Beach Palm Tree Returns!

Last June, Westporters thrilled to the sudden appearance of a palm tree at — of all places — Compo Beach.

It was all a big — and very cool — mystery.

The next day, “06880” uncovered the story. Butch Izzo — whose Izzo’s Landscaping has a contract to plant trees around Westport — donated the palm. It replaced a different species that had died on South Beach, between the kayak launch and Ned Dimes Marina.

Parks and Recreation was not amused. But the public was. Quickly, Parks and Rec embraced — metaphorically, anyway — the unusual tree. It remained there, loved and admired and frequently photographed, until it was removed for the winter.

Now it’s back.

Or at least, a different palm tree is.

Butch Izzo and his crew planted it this morning.

The 2018 palm tree.

It’s there — presumably — for the season.

Last year, the palm tree was fun.

Now it’s a tradition.

(Hat tip: Tom Leyden)

Westport Beach Prices Rise — And Fall

Wednesday’s decision to raise annual beach sticker and daily parking fees at Westport’s 3 beaches — Compo, Old Mill and Burying Hill — drew plenty of praise. It rankled others — particularly Westonites. (Click here; then scroll down for comments.)

But — as alert “06880” reader and Weston resident Mary McGee notes — a 4th “Westport beach” becomes entirely free this summer.

It’s Sherwood Island State Park.

Last fall, state officials eliminated the parking fee for Connecticut residents at most state parks. (Sherwood Island’s was $9 on weekdays, $13 on weekends.) It’s been replaced by a $10 charge, added to the Department of Motor Vehicles registrations we pay every 2 years.

Shewood Island State Park: 232 acres of prime real estate, right here in Westport. And admission is free!

It sounds like a dumb move, for a state reeling from a budget crisis. But officials estimate the change will raise $16 million more annually for our state parks.

Out-of-state residents will still pay a daily fee at Sherwood Island. Last year it was $15 on weekdays, $22 on weekends.

So why did so many out-of-staters pay more for Compo Beach last summer — and will probably do so again this year?

Alcohol.

It’s permitted on South Beach — but banned throughout Sherwood Island.

Maybe we should be thankful, after all, for the huge increase in Uber dropoffs and pickups.

Unsung Heroes #20

Many Westporters know them only if there’s a problem.

Compo overcrowded? Call the Parks and Recreation Commission.

Issue with your new deck? Call the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Aquarion building a huge water tower nearby? Call your RTM member.

“They” are the men and women who volunteer for our town boards and commissions. In addition to the above, there’s the Board of Finance, Board of Education, Planning and Zoning Commission and more.

(Photo by Cathy Zuraw/Connecticut Post)

They spend countless hours reading reports, fielding emails and phone calls, and attending meetings (and meetings and meetings).

They get criticized for taking stands, taking votes, and not taking votes.

They even put up (and take down) their own road signs.

And they do it for no pay.

Zero. Nada.

That’s why they’re called volunteers.

They seldom get thanked. Even during election season, we seldom think of the enormous sacrifices our volunteer town officials make to make Westport the wonderful place it is.

That’s why everyone who runs for public office — Democrats, Republicans and independents; men and women; lawyers, business executives, stay-at-home parents and retirees; winners and losers — are this week’s Unsung Heroes.

You’ve got our “vote” of thanks!

(Want to nominate your own Unsung Hero? Email dwoog@optonline.net)

 

The Palm Tree Lives!

When I posted yesterday’s photo of a palm tree that appeared suddenly last Friday at Compo Beach near Ned Dimes Marina, I thought it was just a cute little piece.

More than a dozen readers responded. Most loved it.

Charlie Haberstroh did not. The chair of Westport’s Parks and Recreation Commission commented:

Just to be clear, it was not planted by the Parks and Rec Department nor was it by the Tree Warden. Hopefully, whoever planted it will remove it and save the tree.

Boo!

One view of the palm tree … (Photo/Jaime Bairaktaris)

When I heard the back story (Butchie Izzo planted it as a replacement for a tree that died) — and posted it this morning — I figured folks would be amused.

Very quickly, over 40 “06880” readers added their thoughts. All of them love the palm tree. It’s fun; it’s quirky; it was done by a great guy, with a huge Westport heart.

Haberstroh heard you.

… and another. (Photo/Randy Christophersen)

A few minutes ago, he wrote:

Since the tree is a replacement for a tree originally planted with town authorization, we have decided to let the palm tree stand. It will replaced by Butchie by contract in the fall. Enjoy!

Yay!

Score one for Westport.

For Butchie Izzo.

And for our friends on the Parks and Rec Commission, who will hopefully enjoy our special palm tree with the rest of us, all summer long.

Compo Pavilion Closed; New Roof Ahead

The Compo Beach pavilion — the brick structure next to the bathhouses and Joey’s by the Shore, popular with picnickers, people-watchers and photographers — is off-limits for a few days.

Westport’s Parks and Recreation Commission heeded the report of consultant Jim DeStefano that damage to the pavilion — from age and storms — made it unsafe.

It’s been blocked off with security tape. On Monday, work begins on a new roof. It’s expected to take 5 days — just in time for the surge of July 4th weekend beachgoers.

The Compo Beach pavilion roof is a favorite home for seagulls…

“We’re sensitive that the pavilion is in a historic district,” says Parks and Rec Commission chair Charlie Haberstroh.

He noted that there will be no changes to the structure itself. The roof was last replaced in 1988.

“We’re being very careful not to touch any walls,” Haberstroh says.

Parks and Rec may provide canopies or umbrellas for shade during the project.

Joey’s (and the lockers and restrooms) will remain open throughout.

… and a favorite too of photographers, who love to frame shots through it. (Photo/Susan Woog Wagner)

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)

Baron’s South Quietly Makes News

It hasn’t gotten much publicity.

Then again — except for when plans are announced for a project like elderly housing — most Westporters tend to overlook Baron’s South.

But advocates for keeping the 23-acre hilly and heavily wooded property just a few steps from downtown Westport in its natural state got a big boost last week.

Since her appointment last summer, Parks and Recreation director Jen Fava has been quietly analyzing and assessing land her department oversees.

Now, Parks and Rec hopes to upgrade the trails crisscrossing Baron’s South. They’re accessible from Imperial Avenue and South Compo Road, from dawn to dusk — though few Westporters know they’re there, let alone open.

A path in Baron's South. (Photo/Judy James)

A path in Baron’s South. (Photo/Judy James)

The Parks and Rec Commission unanimously approved $75,000, to pay for upgrades suggested by Fava. However, she noted, the cost could be as low as $25,000. Most of the work will involve trees.

A private group — Friends of Baron’s South — has played a key role in cleaning up the property.

It’s a true town gem. And — very quietly, and unobtrusively — it’s about to get even more attractive.

Ready To Renovate Longshore?

The Compo Beach Site Improvement Committee is fading away, in our rear view mirrors.

Up ahead: renovating Longshore.

The Parks and Recreation Commission — and plenty of Longshore users — have talked for a while about improving the 169-acre park. The crowded area around the 1st tee — with its ramshackle golf pro shop, landfill driving range, helter-skelter parking and dumpster near the Inn — is one area ripe for improvement.

Marina parking, and the maintenance shed sitting smack in the center of things, are other places worthy of examination.

Longshore -- one of Westport's crown jewels -- includes a golf course, tennis courts, marina, pools, and much, much more.

Longshore — one of Westport’s crown jewels — includes a golf course, tennis courts, marina, pools, and much, much more.

Then there are usage questions. Do we need more paddle courts? Do the pool and skating rink work well? You get the idea.

The 2015-16 town budget includes money for a study of Longshore — something similar to what the town did with Compo, says Parks and Recreation Commission chair Charlie Haberstroh.

He hopes to organize a committee later this year. “It probably won’t be quite as comprehensive as Compo,” he says. “We’re not talking about building a clubhouse in the middle of the golf course. But we should start the planning process now.”

Several constituent groups are already gearing up to be heard. In an email to current and former members, the Longshore Men’s Golf Association board floated the idea of a small new clubhouse — with locker rooms, a pro shop, and an upstairs grill room — taking advantage of water views.

There will be plenty more discussion ahead. That’s a given — this is Westport.

The Inn at Longshore is a major attraction at the park. It sublets space to a restaurant -- but right now that space is empty.

The Inn at Longshore is a major attraction at the park. It sublets space to a restaurant — but right now that space is empty.

Meanwhile, a more pressing Parks and Rec concern — as well as for many diners and drinkers — is the status of Longshore’s restaurant/bar.

 Splash closed several months ago. Though Inn at Longshore lessee Rory Tagert’s lease requires him to run a restaurant, time is running out for this summer. The Inn is reported to be close to an agreement with a new sub-tenant. But permits — including liquor licenses — take time to obtain. A new operator would most likely want to make renovations too.

Bottom line: You may be bringing your own food and drinks to Longshore for a while.

And when you do, you’ll have time to chew over the Next Big Issue in town: Longshore 2.0.

The Future Of Westport: Don’t Say You Weren’t Asked

With 2 major planning projects underway — for downtown and the beach — town officials are urging Westporters to make their wishes known.

Sure, you can click on the “Comments” section of “06880.” But nothing beats showing up in public, and opening your mouth.

The Downtown Steering Committee holds a “charrette” this weekend (September 20-21) at Town Hall. Satellite events are set for other downtown locations too.

your-downtown-logoCharrettes are collaborative work sessions in which design professionals, residents, merchants, municipal experts and others discuss and draft solutions to address specific opportunities and challenges.

This weekend’s charrettes follow a kickoff event on Monday. A couple dozen people heard about, and saw visuals of:

  • A park-like walkway along Parker Harding Plaza, with a footbridge leading to the former Save the Children property on Wilton Road.
  • A new 2-story retail shopping center between the relocated Kemper-Gunn House on Elm Street, and Brooks Corner — effectively hiding the Baldwin parking lot.
  • A redesign that cuts Jesup Green in half. All parking would face Matsu Sushi; half of the current lot becomes an expanded green from the river to the police lot (with gazebo and paths). At the top of the green is a new “community arts space.”
  • An area in front of the current Y will force Church Lane traffic heading to Main Street to turn onto the Post Road first.
  • New buildings on the Imperial Avenue upper parking lot.
  • Possible relocation of the police department, and construction of — yes — a new retail shopping complex.
The west side of the Saugatuck River is also part of the new downtown plan. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer for DowntownWestportCT.com)

The west side of the Saugatuck River is also part of the new downtown plan. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer for DowntownWestportCT.com)

The charrette begins this Saturday at 8:30 a.m., at Town Hall. A “walking tour” of downtown follows at 9 a.m. From 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m.  back at Town Hall, there are work sessions, panels and discussions. From 3:30-6 p.m., “open studio workstations” allow discussions with experts about specific ideas and plans.

Sunday features more open studio exhibits and workstations (9:30 a.m.-1 p.m.), followed by a closing presentation (1:30-3 p.m.).

JP Vellotti — a longtime Westporter who attended Monday’s kickoff — says, “This is our chance to define how we want our downtown to look, and how we interact with that space.”

The charrette will also include a special aerial video of downtown, produced by Staples freshman Rick Eason. For more information on the charrette, click on www.downtownwestportct.com.

Rick Eason's video shows downtown from an angle never before seen.

Rick Eason’s video shows downtown from an angle never before seen.

Then, on Monday, September 29 (7:30 p.m., Town Hall auditorium), the Compo Beach Site Improvement Committee presents its recommended draft master plan to the Parks and Recreation Commission. Public comment is invited.

The Commission will make formal recommendations to the committee at a future public meeting. “It is important that the commissioners have sufficient time to digest the recommendations of the committee and the public input,” says Parks & Rec Commission chair Charlie Haberstroh.

The full draft of the master plan is available at www.compobeach2.com.

Both downtown and the beach are important, and vital, parts of Westport. The changes to one (or both) may be large (or small).

How close they come to what you want may depend on how clearly (and strongly) you (and your neighbors) express yourselves.

Help Wanted!

You know all those town boards you kind of, sort of, occasionally half think about?

Like the Flood and Erosion Control Board, Historic District Commission, Parks and Recreation Commission, Public Site and Building Commission, Sherwood Mill Pond Advisory Committee and Tree Board?

Well, they don’t just fall out of the sky and control floods, oversee teardowns and keep the mill pond algae-free.

People do that. People like committee members.

If you're on the Tree Board, you can help determine the future look of Main Street.

If you’re on the Tree Board, you can help determine the future look of Main Street.

And right now, First Selectman Gordon Joseloff is looking for people to appoint to those boards. (And others, though the press release I’m about to quote from did not name them.)

“Nothing is more fulfilling than being able to serve our community as a volunteer,” Joseloff said. (That gives you some indication of how much you’ll get paid.)

“Hundreds of Westporters already give their time in so many ways to the town, but there is always a need for new faces.”

Terms range from 1 to 4 years. Some are for regular members; others are for alternates.

Details about the various bodies can be found here.

And hey. If you don’t find a board or commission that excites you, you can always run for 1st selectman. There’s a vacancy there soon, too.