Tag Archives: Westport Parks and Recreation Department

Shock Waves: Joey’s Out As Beach Concessionaire

For over 30 years, one of the joys of Compo Beach has been Joey’s by the Shore.

Joey Romeo has been more than just a concessionaire. He’s developed the most extensive menu of any beach food shack anywhere (he’s also sold beach towels, chairs, hoodies and more). He’s opened on spring weekends long before the official beach season, and been there on fall weekends long after the summer crowds have gone.

Joey Romeo, in a typical pose.

He’s the friendliest guy you’ll know, with a great, hard-working staff of (this is a rarity) Westport kids. He makes sure they’re polite, efficient, and that they keep the area spotless.

So it was a shock to learn from Parks and Recreation director Jennifer Fava just moments ago that Joey’s By The Shore will no longer operate the concession at Compo Beach — or the others at the Longshore Pavilion and Longshore halfway house — effective immediately.

Fava says, “Regrettably, Mr. Romeo has advised us that he will not pay the full rent due in 2019 under his lease, nor is he willing to fulfill his remaining 3 years under the lease. We have made every effort to negotiate mutually acceptable terms, but we have not reached an agreement with him.”

(Photo/Amy Schneider)

First Selectman, Jim Marpe added, “We appreciate the many years of service Joey has provided to the community, especially at Compo Beach, providing food for our beachgoers and jobs for some of our young adults. We will be working to get a new concessionaire in place to meet the needs of our residents and users.”

I’ve reached out to Joey for comment. Anecdotally, I’ve heard (though not from Joey) that last year — in the aftermath of new, heftier fees for Westonites and other out-of-towners, and a limit on the number of daily passes sold — was a tough one for him.

I’ll follow up when I hear back. In the meantime, here’s a tip of the Compo cap to Joey Romeo, and all his staff, for their 31 years of loyal, loving service to Westport.

Pickleballers: Beach Bathrooms Don’t Pass The Smell Test

By many measures (though not the weather), this has been a wonderful summer.

Parks and Recreation’s Compo Beach-calming plans minimized crowds, and maximized cleanliness. Innovations like the Mobi-Mat and reworking the entrance road drew raves.

A few more ideas are in the works. A walkway — similar to the one built last year between the pavilion and cannons — is set for South Beach. Bathrooms will replace port-o-potties nearby.

“Nearby” means close to the pickleball area. Constructed a few years ago, the courts have seen steadily increased use.

Compo Beach pickleball courts. Existing bathrooms are far in the background.

Recently, players put down their paddles, picked up pens, and protested Parks and Rec’s plans.

In letters to 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, Parks and Recreation Department director Jen Fava and Parks and Recreation Commission chair Charlie Haberstroh, the pickleballers cite several concerns:

  • The new bathrooms “will block both the lovely views and welcoming air flow/breeze”
  • They’ll “most likely result in unwelcoming smells (sewage related, disinfectant, etc.)”
  • “Staring at the back of a bathroom is not anyone’s idea of a good time.”

One writer argues that moving the location “just 50 feet over would make a huge difference to the 100+ pickleball players in town (with more joining the sport every day!)”

Granted, this is a first world problem. Billions of citizens around the globe have no access to sanitation of any kind — let alone pickleball courts.

But it’s a reflection of the love Westporters have for Compo Beach that the location of new bathrooms creates such a you-know-what storm.

One More Place To Party At The Beach

You can’t reserve tables in the Compo Beach pavilion.

But — starting immediately — you can reserve that cool little space (formerly storage) recently carved out between the brick pavilion and Joey’s.

In a low-key announcement, Parks and Rec says they’re “excited to offer a new PARTY RENTAL space.”

(Note: they never say exactly where it is — beyond “on east beach and conveniently located next to Joey’s by the Shore.” I’m assuming it’s here:

Staples High School sophomores in the party space next to Joey’s last night. They did not have to rent it.

The email continues:

This picnic area holds a maximum of 60 people, and can be rented out from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or 4 p.m. until sunset, or even all day to meet your party needs! This is a great location for your children’s parties or family gatherings! Joey’s will be happy to assist in your catering needs!

There are a few rules:

You must apply no later than 72 hours before the event. Applications are first-come, first-served. The permit fee is $50 (plus a refundable $100 security/clean-up deposit).

Guests without parking stickers must pay the regular daily fees. Businesses and non-profits can rent the space Mondays through Thursdays, and are allowed up to 15 parking waivers.

No alcohol, glass, candles or tiki torches. No amplified music either.

Oh, yeah: “Food and catering trucks are not allowed. Catered food must be purchased from Joey’s by the  Shore.”

Joey Romeo can handle all your catering needs.

Does that mean you can’t bring any food in? Picnics? Pizza from Romanacci? What exactly is “catered” food?

It shouldn’t matter. Joey’s is great, easy to work with, and can provide whatever you need.

This is the second specially defined party space at Compo. For years, anyone could rent the clubhouse at Ned Dimes Marina for $275 (though most Westporters don’t know that).

So enjoy your next party at the new space “conveniently located next to Joey’s.”

And if you’ve got a better name for the spot, click “Comments” below.

(Hat tip: Johanna Rossi)

Andrew Colabella Grades The Fireworks: A+

Andrew Colabella is a lifelong Westporter. The 2007 Staples High School graduate worked for the town as a seasonal employee from 2004 to 2014.

Today he’s an RTM representative. Inspired by last night’s 62nd annual PAL fireworks, he writes:

This year’s fireworks were far better than last year’s.

Lasting 28 minutes, introducing shapes, emojis, the letters “USA” and a great big finale, Grucci — a 6th generation family with an expertise in pyrotechnics — gets an A+.

(Photo/Ted Horowitz)

Westport PAL quickly shut down a couple of vendors selling toy machine guns. Other vendors sold toys that lit up, cool hats and other stuff.  Most importantly they brought back Michelle Pauker to the national anthem. She gave us chills that lasted into the fireworks. Another A+.

Parks and Recreation, from guest services and clean-up crew to their supervisors opening the gate 30 minutes earlier than expected (causing little to no traffic), left patrons and visitors beyond ecstatic.

Parking was fantastic. With 200 passes left unsold, foot travelers were copious. Carmen Roda, Rick Giunta, Jen Fava and Ed Frawley were on the ball, making entry and exit smooth. Their enthusiastic, hardworking crew of employees worked nonstop all morning, afternoon and into the night, to help everyone enjoy the show. Guest Services also get an A+.

Parks and Rec operations supervisor Dan DeVito helped out by collecting fireworks tickets in the Soundview lot. The process was quick and easy.

Police, fire, emergency services and mutual aid from other towns — including bomb-sniffing dog and officers patrolling on foot, bike and car — ensured that all was quiet. Another A+.

Trumbull and Norwalk were among the towns providing support last night.

Compo Beach lifeguards, dressed in their finest reds, offered first aid. Injuries were simple and few. A dozen missing children were returned to their parents. One husband was reported missing by his wife. Jonathan was found. (Sorry Jonathan 😂) A+ again.

Joey’s by the Shore employees were on target with their meals and services. Cleanliness was stellar. I can still taste the food. 😋 A+!

Kids hung out behind the lifeguard shack and mingled, carrying out typical mischievous (and safe) behavior.

Unfortunately there was some confusion about patrons reserving tables and leaving them unoccupied (that’s a big no).

One other negataive: After the sand and dust settled and everyone left, the trash and litter left behind on the beach was greater than last year. There were more water bottles, beach chairs, plastic toys and vendors’ specials, food wrappers, tinfoil, Ziploc bags and other garbage than last year.

As I drove around last night, observing crews working into the night, house parties rocked the neighborhood. Young kids in love walked with people they just met, catching a glimpse of the red moon together on a bench, or leaving a party wandering into the darkness to find what may or may not become the next unplanned adventure — it all reminded me how this is my last 4th of July in my 20s.

(Photo/Suzanne Sherman Propp)

I’m no longer young and able to enjoy these things I once did. Yet I find myself at the lifeguard shack every year, greeting old faces, familiar friends, new people, surrounded by lifeguards and guest services colleagues and first responders who I stand by so proudly.

It’s hard to face. I’m getting older, and I am not ready for it. But I’ve loved Westport since I was young enough to remember, and fall harder for this town every day.

Last night I got to see families and friends enjoy the fireworks as much as I do. And everyone got a kick out of my outfit, which I proudly wear every year.

Andrew Colabella celebrates the holiday.

 

Parks & Rec To The Rescue!

Did you like this morning’s “06880” about the Spectacularly Entitled Westporters who reserved a prime spot in the shaded pavilion for tonight’s fireworks by taking over 2 tables with tarps — and slamming rocks down on them, for good measure?

Neither did the Parks and Recreation Department.

The rules are pretty clear: No reserving picnic tables.

That’s true every day. But especially the biggest day of the year.

And really especially when the heat and humidity hit 100.

So Parks & Rec swung into action.

Here was the same scene a few minutes ago:

(Photo/Jeff Seaver)

The Parks & Rec crew were last Wednesday’s Unsung Heroes.

After today, we should name the award for them permanently.

Unsung Hero #7

Tom Lowrie is Westport’s Mr. Pickleball.

The 89-year-old retired architect is the man who pushed the Parks and Recreation Department to create a court for the quickly growing sport at Compo Beach in 2015.

A member of the Parks & Rec Racquets Advisory Committee, he’s now advocating for courts at the Doubleday complex behind Saugatuck Elementary School too. He is proud to be Westport’s ambassador to the USA Pickleball Association.

Tom Lowrie posed for the Westport Library’s “I geek…” campaign with — of course — pickleball gear. (Photo/Pam Einarsen)

But pickleball is not Lowrie’s only passion.

A longtime volunteer since moving to Westport in 1966, he was a charter member of the Sunrise Rotary Club. He received Rotary’s Service Award, and serves as the group’s unofficial historian. Though nearly a nonagenarian, he can be seen at every Sunrise Rotary event, doing the thankless work that helps them raise and distribute tens of thousands of dollars for good causes.

Tom Lowrie and a duck — a promotion for the Westport Sunrise Rotary’s Great Duck Race.

Lowrie’s contributions to Westport buildings include converting the downtown firehouse to the former Westport YMCA fitness center, and modifications to the Masonic Temple at the corner of the Post Road and Imperial Avenue.

Lowrie is also a longtime Westport Weston Family YMCA member. He’s also active with the Y’s Men. His pickleball and other activities — like golf at Longshore — help him say in great shape.

A Pittsburgh native, he graduated from Princeton University in 1950. He served in the Navy, earned his graduate degree from the Columbia University School of Architecture, and began working for Philip Johnson.

Lowrie married Jean Sammons. They raised 2 children here: Dave and Anne.

Most “06880” readers who know him will not believe Tom Lowrie is 89 years old. But all will agree he is a worthy honoree as this week’s “06880” Unsung Hero.

(Know of an unsung hero we should celebrate? Email details to dwoog@optonline.net)

In 2012, Tom Lowrie was runner-up in the Longshore Men’s Golf Association President’s Cup.

Compo Pavilion Roof: The Sequel

According to initial reports from Westport Parks and Recreation, the Compo Beach pavilion roof is being removed and replaced.

Like Republican promises about Obamacare however, that might not be exactly what’s happening — at least, right now.

In fact, this week the roof is only being removed.

For a while now, Parks and Recreation director Jen Fava has been on the Board of Finance July 5 agenda, to ask for funds for removing and replacing that roof.

However, when a consultant reported that the roof was structurally unsound, Parks and Rec decided to remove it ASAP.

That project began yesterday.

The Compo Beach pavilion — including the soon-to-be-removed roof.

Fava will still go before the moneymen next month. If approved, a new roof will be installed before next summer.

But for the rest of this season, the pavilion will be open to the sky. Unless, Fava says, another type of roof solution is found.

The rest of the structure — brick walls and cement floor — is not being worked on at all.

The roof removal is expected to be completed before the July 4th weekend crush.

Compo Palm Tree: The Back Story

Last Friday, a palm tree mysteriously appeared at Compo Beach.

Magically, it seemed, the spit of land at the far end of South Beach — jutting into Ned Dimes Marina — looked less like Westport, and more like Miami.

Yesterday’s story generated plenty of comments. It must have been a prank by graduating Staples seniors, someone said. There were a few palm trees for sale at Southport Nursery opposite Garelick and Herbs, another added.

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

Here’s what happened.

Bernard Izzo Jr. — “Butchie” — of Izzo’s Landscaping has a contract with the town to plant trees around Westport.

In the early spring he planted a tree at that location. Unfortunately, it did not survive.

Butchie felt that replanting the same tree now would not work. It might not survive the heat.

He decided to plant — at his own expense — the palm tree for the summer. This fall, he’d replace it with an appropriate tree.

However, the lighthearted gesture did not have Parks and Recreation Department approval.

So if you haven’t seen it, you better hurry. It will be gone soon.

… and another. (Photo/Randy Christophersen)

If A Tree Falls In Baron’s South, Does It Make A Sound?

It’s tough to take down trees here on public land without an uproar.

Westporters howled 3 years ago, when 15 tulip poplars and Norway maples lining the Longshore entrance road were slated for removal. There was a similar brouhaha when a number of Main Street trees were sacrificed for light poles.

But very quietly earlier this month, several dozen trees — not far from the center of downtown — were cut down. We’ve heard hardly a peep.

The key is that those latest trees were on the Baron’s South property. That’s the 22-acre site between Compo Road South and Imperial Avenue. We — well, the town — bought it in 1999. But we’ve never decided exactly how to use the land.

It’s magnificent: hilly, wild and filled with wildlife. It’s been minimally maintained, which suits some people fine. Others think it needs a bit more care.

Deep in the Baron's South property. This image was taken from Judy James' video.

Deep in the Baron’s South property. This image was taken from Judy James’ video.

Most Westporters have no idea it even exists. So the recent Parks & Recreation Department project — to clear overgrown brush, vines, tree branches and other debris, and (oh yeah) chop down a number of trees — hardly registered.

Of course, a few folks noticed.

Cut trees are hauled away from Baron's South.

Cut trees are hauled away from Baron’s South.

One “06880” reader emailed to say that when a friend “came upon such woodland carnage, he became so sick to his stomach he had to leave.” Both were appalled that such “clear-cutting” took place without any notice.

Others hailed the project.

Scott Smith wrote:

The property has fascinated me since moving to this part of town 20 years ago. I’ve hiked, biked and explored the place even before the town bought it.

These photos hardly capture the transformation of the overgrown and long neglected grounds, or the number of trees cleared from the landscape.

The new view at Baron's South, looking west. (Photo/Scott Smith)

The new view at Baron’s South, looking west…

The tree clearing has opened up views of the Baron’s old manor house from nearly every part of the park. I never realized the views it commanded from its hilltop setting. The new vistas from the high ground also reveal glimpses of downtown and the steeples of Assumption Church across the river, and Saugatuck Church on the other side of the Post Road.

The loss of so many (but certainly not all) shows how rugged and steep the site is; there are more than a few slopes and ravines that would make for double-diamond sled runs if the town would ever allow it, which they won’t.

... looking east ...

… looking east …

On the flat land closer to Imperial and near the Senior Center is a small nursery of trees and shrubs packed in deep beds of tree mulch. I suspect tree warden Bruce Lindsay has a well thought-out re-landscaping plan.

Can’t wait to see how this most hidden of the town-owned jewels shapes up this spring. It’s definitely going to be a huge change.

It already is. Whether that change is positive or negative is up for debate.

By the small group of people who even know it happened.

... and looking north. (Photos/Scott Smith)

… and looking north. (Photos/Scott Smith)

 

A True Pro Leaves Longshore

It was a tiny moment. But it changed John Cooper’s life.

When he was 11 years old, dragged to a tag sale, he spotted some golf clubs, and a pot of used balls.

He bought them. But he had no idea how to play, so he got an instructional book.

Instantly, Cooper was hooked.

He hit 800 golf balls a day. He went out before school and after, to the Burr Farms Elementary School field (conveniently located behind his Blackberry Lane house). When it was dark or the weather was bad, he hit balls into a net in his parents’ garage.

A year later on Long Island, Cooper won his first tournament.

At 13 he attended Arnold Palmer’s golf camp — and met his idol. Cooper’s passion for the sport grew even stronger.

Though barely a teenager, he had 2 jobs. He washed dishes at the Inn at Longshore, and caddied on the adjacent golf course. Dave Reynolds — who lived in an old house next to the 2nd tee — helped Cooper learn the game.

The Longshore golf course -- where John Coopepr learned the game. (Photo by Dan Murdoch, via LongshoreGolf.com)

The Longshore golf course — where John Coopepr learned to play. (Photo by Dan Murdoch, via LongshoreGolf.com)

He became a 2-year captain of the Staples High School golf team — and an All-American. As a junior in 1975, he helped coach Joe Folino’s squad win the state championship.

Cooper earned a partial scholarship to the University of Tampa. He captained that team too, and roomed with Brian Claar. Cooper had convinced his fellow Stapleite to go there, instead of his original plan to ski at the University of Connecticut.

In 1986, Claar was named Rookie of the Year on the PGA tour.

Cooper turned pro in 1980. After 2 years on the mini-tour circuit — and the realization that he would not make a living as a player — he turned to his true golf passion: teaching.

He came back to Westport. From 1980-83 he served as assistant pro to the legendary George Buck. He then was an assistant at clubs elsewhere in Connecticut, and Florida.

Buck died in the summer of 1991. Cooper applied for the position, went through the interview process, was offered the job — but declined. He did not think he could make a living with the terms offered.

After negotiating a better contract, he signed. There were early glitches — he walked into a shell of a building with no golf carts and electrical problems — but the past 25 years have been wonderful.

Fore! John Cooper in action.

John Cooper in action.

Over 5,000 junior golfers have gone through Cooper’s program. One — Larry Tedesco — qualified for the US Open. Cooper gave Willard Scott a golf lesson at Longshore — televised live on “The Today Show.”

He was named the Northeast Teacher of the Year, and honored by the Sportsmen of Westport.

Along the way the pro has helped wounded soldiers learn golf, through Project HOPE. He’s also raised money for Folds of Honor (supporting families of injured and fallen soldiers), and the Bridgeport Rescue League. He also created a scholarship for Staples student-athletes on the boys and girls golf teams.

Cooper is very proud that just a few months ago he earned the PGA’s highest designation: Master Professional. The organization has asked him to mentor other teaching pros — including the head professional at TPC Sawgrass.

John Cooper (right) with Paul Taylor, former director of golf at Longshore. John and Parks and Recreation Department head Stuart McCarthy won this golf cart in a closest-to-pin competition at the Met PGA Pro-Am in New Rochelle. Cooper donated it to the town.

John Cooper (right) with Paul Taylor, former director of golf at Longshore. John and Parks and Recreation Department head Stuart McCarthy won this golf cart in a closest-to-pin competition at the Met PGA Pro-Am in New Rochelle. Cooper donated it to the town.

But every course has its rough. While most of Cooper’s contracts were for 5 years, his most recent ran for only 2. This fall, the Parks and Recreation Department put out an RFP. Though he was notified on December 8 that the town wanted him to stay — and he very much wanted to — he felt there were “too many caveats” in the arrangement.

His rent runs to six figures. “I don’t think I could make a living, paying my 12 employees,” Cooper says.

For one thing, a bunker renovation project next spring will render a few holes unavailable until late June.

That — along with the fact that his income is always affected by weather and course conditions — caused him to reject the offer.

“I survived when the greens died a few years ago,” Cooper says. “I’m just getting out of debt now. I can’t risk taking that chance again.”

He’s leaving with nothing but fond feelings — and great memories — of his quarter century at Longshore.

The course closed December 11, so he could not thank golfers personally for all their support over the years. “I’ve made many close friends,” Cooper says. “I’ll truly miss everyone. I wouldn’t trade a thing for this 25-year journey.”

John Cooper and his sons.

John Cooper and his sons.

He also thanks his employees “who stood with me,” and the “wonderful people at the Parks and Rec Department. They were great to work with.”

But of all the fantastic things that happened at Longshore, the best was meeting his former wife. Together, they had 2 “wonderful” kids: Dobson, a Staples junior, and Shane, a freshman at Fairfield Country Day School.

Cooper looks forward to spending more time with them.

“Life is good,” Cooper says.

And how good is it that — several decades ago — he spotted that set of clubs and used golf balls at a tag sale that everyone else has long since forgotten?