Tag Archives: Westport Parks & Recreation Department

Oystercatcher Alert: Save Our Beach Birds!

“06880” readers know Carolyn Doan for her gorgeous photos of the Fresh Market ospreys. For years she has documented their arrival, their food-gathering forays, the births of their chicks, and their time here.

Today she turns her attention to another beautiful bird. Carolyn writes:

For the past 2 years the American oystercatchers and piping plovers have lost their nests at Compo Beach. This is despite the area being roped off for protection.

Predation has been the main culprit in losing nests and chicks. Fish crows, gulls and canines are all serious threats. Human activity and trash left on the beach attracts predators, drawing them to the protected area on the beach.

An American oystercatcher and chick at Compo Beach, in 2021. Sadly, the young bird did not survive. 

After losing another nest earlier this season, the oystercatcher pair is back. Last night, they were incubating at least one egg.

The Audubon Alliance for Coastal Shorebirds has made every effort to protect these endangered birds. These include marked areas of the beach, large signs and metal cage-like structures placed over nests to assure that eggs are protected. Westport Parks & Recreation Department has been a huge help too.

This weekend and afterward, the American oystercatchers need our help. Please keep dogs off the beach. Canine footprints found in the area could be the result of foxes or coyotes, but of course there should be no dogs on the beach this time of year any way.

Female oystercatcher incubating at Compo.

Also, please stay away from the protected area near the cannons. The most sensitive area is closest to the shoreline where the birds are incubating, so please don’t walk that stretch of beach near the water. This flushes the birds off the nest, and makes it vulnerable to predators.

Please pick up trash and throw it away. Better yet, bring it with you.

On Friday night there was a lot of food and trash left at the beach. Fish hawks and gulls flocked to the area.

Compo Beach trash, last night. (Photos/Carolyn Doan)

And please: no drones. The birds chase them, and risk being injured.

This is their second attempt this season. Let’s help them out!

Roundup: Winslow Park, Hillspoint Road, Social Media …

What’s going on at Winslow Park?

Construction vehicles and materials are parked on the north side, by Compo Road North near East Main Street.

But no work is being done at the dog park. It’s a staging area for Burns Construction, the contractor for a sewage collection system project nearby.

The company will lay 10,000 feet of pipe, to serve 121 properties on Evergreen Parkway, Tamarac Lane, Lone Pine Lane, Gorham Avenue, Brookside Drive, and a small section of Compo North.

Because it’s a dense neighborhood with many children — and to avoid impacting residents — Burns and the town’s Public Works Department asked Parks & Rec for permission to use Winslow Park as a staging area.

(Photo/Nancy Vener)

Burns is stripping the topsoil, to avoid muddying the area. They’ll fence the section in too.

Their contract runs through December 28. However, the Engineering Department’s Bryan Thompson says, the work may not take that long.

When they’re done, Burns will full restore the area, including hydroseeding.

Signs will go up soon in the area, warning of construction vehicles entering the roadway.

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“06880” has reported on the recent work done — after 3 years — on the (too)-large house being built to replace Positano restaurant, at 233 Hillspoint Road.

As Don Bergmann points out, it’s still not quite right. He writes: “The Blight Board gave the owner … 2 weeks to remove [not lower. as ‘06880’ reported] the chimney and cupola, by March 23.

“The minutes, in draft form, of the Blight Prevention Board meeting on March 9, make this very clear.  The removal of both items was to have occurred by March 23. The draft minutes are on the town website for meetings.”

The chimney at 233 Hillspoint Road must come down completely. (Photo/Matt Murray)

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At 7:15 yesterday morning, the Westport Police Department responded to a residence on a report of a disturbing social media post.

The caller — a local student — felt concerned about going to school, based on the post.

Officers immediately identified the source of the post. Working with the School Resource Officer and Detective Bureau, they identified the person responsible.

Officers went to each school until they located the responsible party. By 8 a.m., they determined that there was no threat.

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Looking for a way to celebrate Earth Day?

The Parks & Recreation Department is sponsoring a “Clean Up Westport” event that Saturday (April 22).

Letters have been sent to more than 2 dozen civic organizations, asking for help.

Groups should call Parks & Rec (203-341-5091) before April 14, specifying the time and site of their effort. The town will then collect bagged garbage from each spot.

But you don’t have to be part of any pre-set location. Anyone can clean up any litter, anywhere in town.

Free trash bags are available at the Parks & Rec office by the Longshore first tee on April 20, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. There’s a limit of 6 bags per organization, and they must be requested by April 19.

Westport is a mess. Do your part on Earth Day (or any day, really). (Photo/Lou Weinberg)

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There were 2 sure signs of spring yesterday at Compo Beach:

Sand grooming equipment, and a kite.

Another springtime reminder: Starting Saturday (April 1), dogs are not allowed anywhere on the beach.

(Photo/Lauri Weiser)

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“What’s Next in Weston” — the Y’s Men of Westport and Weston bi-weekly podcast — continues today.

It’s Part 2 of a discussion with 1st Selectwoman Sam Nestor of the the town’s grand list, mill rate, home values, and how it all relates to real estate taxes.

Click below to see:

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Did you know there is only one zoo in Connecticut?

That it’s 99 years old, features 350 animals, and is just a few miles away in Bridgeport?

The Y’s Women learned all about the Beardsley Zoo, at a presentation by curators of education Jim Knox and Carolyn Rinaldi.

They described saving species from extinction, and the reintroduction of wild species into the state and beyond.

Beardsley Zoo’s Jim Knox, at the Y’s Women meeting.

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Bassist Rich Zurkowski and his guitarist daughter Chloe bring their instruments — and voices — to this week’s Jazz at the Post.

There are 2 shows this Thursday (March 30), at 7:30 and 8:45 p.m. (VFW Joseph J. Clinton Post 399). Dinner service begins at 7.

They’re joined by pianist Jesse Gribbon, drummer Eric Kalb and saxophonist Greg “The Jazz Rabbi” Wall. Reservations are highly recommended: JazzatthePost@gmail.com.

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Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities — the Norwalk-based non-profit founded by former Westporter Jane Ross — has grown into an important, influential organization. They educate and empower parents of children with learning and attention differences

Like many groups, they rely on annual benefits for funding. This year’s gala —  “Minds in Bloom: Cultivating Growth for Kids with Learning Differences — is set for April 20, at Darien’s Woodway Country Club,

The evening includes a cocktail reception, dinner, and silent and live auctions.

Tickets are $250 per person, $2,500 per table; click here to purchase. For sponsorships, call Ross: 203-216-3196. For more information, click here.

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Longtime Westport teacher and devout Catholic mother and wife Mary Murphy died peacefully earlier this month in Trumbull, surrounded by her family. She was 91.

The Medford, Massachusetts native spent her life devoted to her faith, family and friends.

She served as eucharistic minister, Bible study leader and volunteer in her parishes. Mary also volunteered at CRIS radio. and taught English as a second language at the Mercy Learning Center.

Her family says, “Through hard times and happy times, Mary stayed true to her husband, family, friends and herself. She was a devoted wife to Ed for 39 years, raising their family and then caring for Ed until his death in 1993.

“As the central figure of her large family, Mary was present at just about all her children’s, grandchildren’s and great-grandchildren’s sporting events, school activities, concerts, graduations and parties. Our family was blessed to experience Mary’s love, light, wisdom, compassion and inner strength. She was a role model for all of us on how to ‘do it right’.”

Mary graduated from Regis College, and obtained her master’s degree in education from Fairfield University. She worked for the Westport Public Schools as a foreign language teacher for 25 years.

Mary passionately followed the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team, and the Boston Red Sox. She loved to travel, read, and play bridge and golf.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated this Saturday (March 25, 10 a.m., Church of the Assumption). Interment will follow in Willowbrook Cemetery.

Relatives and friends may greet the family on Friday (March 24, 4 to 7 p.m., Abriola Parkview Funeral Home, 419 White Plains Road, Trumbull).

Mary is survived by her children Ed (Carol) of Windham, New Hampshire, Ken (Pam) of Epping, New Hampshire, Kevin (Janet) of Sacramento, Sharon of Torrington, Maureen Burdick of Trumbull, and Terri Matsen (Eric) of LaGrange, Kentucky; daughter-in-law Kate Murphy of Newburyport, Massachusetts; grandchildren Kahley Apostolou (Mike); Erin, John and Brian Murphy; Peter, Edward and Mary Grace Burdick; Conor, Nolan, Bridget and Jack Matsen; Jillian and Shane Murphy (Marisa), and great-grandchildren Logan Burdick, and Lyla and Mason Apostolou; brothers John V. Gibbons Jr. of North Kingston, Rhode Island and Robert Gibbons of Mirror Lake, New Hampshire, and several nieces and nephews.

Mary was predeceased by her husband Ed, son Dennis, grandson Christopher Stephen Murphy Burdick, son-in-law Carl Burdick, and sister Claire Gibbons Boyle.

In lieu of flowers, contributions in her memory may be made to Down’s Syndrome of Louisville, 5001 South Hurstbourne Pkwy, Louisville, KY 40291 or Wigglewow, 10529 Watterson Trail, Louisville, KY 40299 (a natural dog biscuit company and retail center committed to providing disabled adults with supportive, purposeful employment opportunities).

Mary Murphy

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It’s not often we run a “sky” image as our “Westport … Naturally” feature.

But it’s not often a photographer captures both the moon and Venus in the same shot.

The other day, Andrew Colabella did — framed by Saugatuck:

(Photo/Andrew Colabella)

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And finally … in honor of the Earth Day town-wide cleanup (story above):

“06880” is your hyper-local blog. We’re a non-profit (click here for more info about our work). We rely on reader donations. Thank you!

Woodman Does Not Spare Longshore Trees

The Longshore Capital Improvement Plan — including pickleball courts; a new golf clubhouse; renovations to the tennis courts, pool and playground, and more — will take 10 years to complete. 

If it’s approved by the appropriate town bodies, funded, and not altered along the way.

Of more immediate concern are Longshore’s trees. 

Alert reader Clarence Hayes writes:

I am perplexed by the seemingly random cutting of trees at Longshore Park this winter.

Virtually all of them were healthy. When I examined the cut trunks, there are no signs of disease. They were not interfering with the road.

Some seemed entirely gratuitous exercises in tree mutilation, in which main branches I knew to be fully healthy were cut off for at best someone’s idea of symmetry, in locations where no people or traffic go.

I know that at least a couple were selected by Westport’s tree warden, since there were notices posted on the trees saying the warden had condemned the tree. All of them appear to be on Longshore park property, which leads me to conclude that all of them were based on the tree warden decision, or if not the warden, then the Parks & Recreation Department.

There are several cuts of 150-plus-year-old trees just off the golf course parking lot that are not near anything. It is bizarre why they were cut.

“06880” emailed Parks & Recreation Department director Jen Fava, and tree warden Ben Sykas, for comments. Neither replied.

(“06880 keeps an eye on trees — and the rest of Westport. Please click here to help support our work. Thank you!)

[UPDATE] Longshore Plan Ready For Parks & Rec Vote

This story has been updated, to include a correct rendering of the proposed new golf clubhouse. The previous image did not show the location near the 1st tee.

When the Parks & Recreation Commission meets on Thursday (March 2, 7:30 p.m., Town Hall), they’ll vote on a long-awaited Capital Improvement Plan for Longshore.

A much-derided idea of turning the entrance into a 2-way road has been scrapped.

But many other elements presented earlier — including a new golf clubhouse; pickleball courts; relocation of the maintenance facility to the brush dump; improvements to the platform tennis and tennis area, pool and playground, plus construction of shoreline and pedestrian paths — are in the plan.

Changes will be coming to Longshore.

Parks & Recreation Department staff has approved the recommendation. It’s the culmination of work done by the Stantec consulting firm. Beginning in January 2022, they held meetings with 14 user groups and town departments; conducted a community survey; held 5 open houses; sent out a second survey, and held several public meetings.

Parks & Rec calls the plan “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make improvements to connectivity, pedestrian and vehicular circulation, safety, functionality, support of uses, accessibility, aesthetics, capacity, ease of use, and recreation opportunities for an increasingly diverse population of park enthusiasts.”

Among the specifics:

A new golf clubhouse by the 1st tee will provide:

  • Restrooms and locker rooms for golfers, and restrooms for other park users
  • A pro shop
  • Indoor instruction and club fit
  • Golfer check-in and payment location
  • Practice green
  • Golf cart paddock area
  • Grill room and patio.

The golf plan includes a clubhouse and golf cart storage (orange), and pedestrian paths (dotted lines).

The current pools are outdated. The improvement plan will include a zero entry pool and splash pad. The redesign will capture water views currently blocked by mechanical systems.

Playground replacement and redesign will separate it from the Sailing School congestion, and improve safety.

Realigning the platform tennis and tennis area will move the platform tennis courts closer to parking, add up to 12 parking spaces, and allow for the possible installation of a bubble in the future.

Plans show changes to the racquets are (blue), the relocated playground (pink), and the pool complex.

Relocating the parks maintenance facility to the brush dump will:

  • Remove an eyesore from a high-use area
  • Create space for platform tennis
  • Reduce maintenance vehicular traffic within the park
  • Add up to 30 parking spaces.

A new traffic circle will improve vehicular circulation, especially for drivers unfamiliar with Longshore, and improve usability of the Cuttings Lane loop road.

Modifications and changes could be made during the design phase.

The Parks & Rec Department recommends a timeline beginning with the “much-needed” pickleball and platform tennis facilities to be built first.

“While we understand the golf community has been waiting for a longer period of time,” officials say, “the golf operations can continue to function while the other uses do not have facilities available to meet the demand.”

The improvement plan is projected to take 10 years. The projected cost is $47,099,000.

Remembering Joey Arciola

Westport native and longtime, well-respected Parks & Recreation Department employee Joseph “Joey” Arciola died peacefully on February 14. He was 52 years old.

Joey came from a long line of family members who served the town of Westport, as Public Works employees, police officers, firefighters and teachers.

Joey was retired from Parks & Rec, where he started his career as dock master at the age of 19. He worked his way to foreman for the department.

Joey Arciola

Joey was an avid sailor, hiker and camper. He loved Cockenoe Island. He was a passionate sports fan who never missed a Yankees, New York Rangers or Dallas Cowboys game.

His family says: “Joey devoted himself to his friends and family with unwavering commitment, love and loyalty. Throughout his life, he prided himself on making everyone around him a better person as well.”

Joey is survived by his parents, Sam Arciola Jr. and Jo Ann (Austin) Arciola, brother Sam Arciola III (Kelly), nephews Sam Arciola IV and Dominic Arciola whom he adored and treasured, and many aunts, uncles and cousins.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Joey’s memory to Save the Sound.

Friends are welcome to attend a Mass of Christian Burial this Friday (February 24, 10 a.m., Assumption Church).

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Longtime friend Andrew Colabella adds a tribute to Joey. He writes:

Joey Arciola lived and loved like every day was his last day fearlessly. He was a man who lived life to the fullest.

Today, Joey would have been 53. Six days ago, Joey left the earth, after making an imprint on thousands of lives.

Joey grew up in Westport, with his wonderful brother Sam. His hardworking parents, Samuel and Joanne, who still live in the same house today, still happily married. They followed in the same footsteps as their father, serving Westport.

Their father worked at the sewage treatment plant. Sam recently retired from the Westport Police Department, with over 30 years of service. Joey started working for the town on the docks and marinas, eventually making his way to the Parks & Recreation maintanence division as a laborer.

Joey spent the next 20-plus years in that department shape the town’s athletic and recreational fields. His work partner was Joey Saviano (click here),

The 2 Joes could be seen riding around in Truck 100, a blue single cab long bed, checking on all their hard work. Joey was easy to spot, always in cargo shorts, sneakers, a Yankees ball cap with perfectly trimmed short hair, walking fast on the ball of his feet.

He never stopped moving, except to stop at Junior’s Hot Dog Stand. He’d sit at the counter having lunch with the other Westport local legends and celebrities. His cousin Jeff was behind the counter.

In 8 hours his crew of guys had the lines stripped, grass rolled and cut, PH soil levels balanced, sprinklers timed, baseball fields ready, beach raked, trash picked up, guardrails weed whacked, and equipment ready to go. It all fell under Joey.

The town was ready to go, for all to enjoy. His style of management was sincere, yet tough. He expected the work that day to be done. But if variables beyond our control prevented completion, Joey would either show up to pitch in and help, never afraid but excited to teach, or call before it was started so that no one’s time was wasted. Joey was resourceful, fast thinking and organized.

Joey was elected president of his union, AFSCME 1303-194. He fearlessly went head to head with any and all for fair wages, incentives, protecting pensions and benefits for his employees. Joey knew the value of his talented workers and colleagues, and how much family meant to him.

Joey Arciola, enjoying Cockenoe Island. (Photo courtesy of Linda Gilleran)

Joey had no kids, but was there every step of the way from the birth of his nephews Samuel and Dominic. Those independent and successful bright boys both graduated from Staples, and went on to the University of Alabama.

Joey’s extended family members all too were influenced by his strong determination to give all and be all. Hard work, dedication and loyalty runs in all their blood.

If he had not employed me in his department for 9 years seasonally as I juggled school full time, I am not sure where I would be today. Joey gave me a chance. He gave me life, an education, knowledge, strength, determination, laughter (a lot), honesty and integrity. But he was also a boss at the same time. Respect was given and returned.

So whether you are an Arciola or a Meier, a child or adult who played on any of our athletic and recreational fields in town, or visited the Saugatuck restaurants and bars, or if you were lucky enough to go to a Yankees game with Joey, his impact is eternal.

So as I write this, knowing I unfortunately will not see Joey tomorrow, or every other tomorrow for the remainder of my existence, the ripples of his fingerprint on earth in this town will remain for decades to come.

Roundup: Parks & Rec Programs, Real Estate Sales, Lost Keys ….

Spring must be close. Summer too!

Registration for Westport’s Parks & Recreation Department’s spring and summer program offerings begins online on March 10 (9 a.m.). Offerings will be viewable soon, at www.westportrecreation.com.

Department officials urge residents to log into their online account now, to verify family information. Once logged in, click “Manage Family Member” on the bottom right. Check that contact information is accurate. (In the personal information box, it is important to make sure that children’s grades reflect the current school year). Cell phone information will be used for class cancellations or location changes.

Address changes should be emailed to recreation@westportct.gov. Additional proof of Westport residency may be required.

Problems? Do not create another profile. Email recreation@westportct.gov or call 203-341-5152.

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Single-family real estate figures for January 2023 are down, compared to January ’22:

  • Unit sales: 19 (down 34.5%)
  • Median sales price: $1.65 million (down 25%)
  • Inventory: 82 (down 7.9%)
  • Days on market: 54 (down 33.3%)

(Hat tip: Meredith Cohen)

This home at 2 Owenoke Park is on the market for $8,950,000.

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Think your lost keys are gone for good?

Think again.

Residents who find keys often bring them to Westport Police Department headquarters. A plastic bin near the front desk currently holds several dozen keys.

And — this being Westport — plenty of them are for some very nice vehicles.

(Photo and hat tip/Seth Schachter)

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The health of the Compo Acres Shopping Center sycamore, at Post Road East and Compo Road South, is a constant concern to Westporters.

This morning, Bartlett Tree Experts provided some maintenance and love.

(Photo/Frank Rosen)

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Carl Addison Swanson continues his crusade for traffic safety. He writes:

“Due to a 53% increase in pedestrian deaths from 2009 to 2018 with 6,283 total nationally, Connecticut passed a new ‘crosswalk law’ which went into effect on October 1, 2021.

“Now, unless there is a traffic signal directing otherwise, a pedestrian always has the right of way at a crosswalk throughout the state. A pedestrian may merely raise their hand to signal any oncoming traffic that he or she is intending to cross the street. Drivers must yield.

“Thanks to the recent passage of SS4A Infrastructure bill and Representative Jim Himes, our Congressional 4th District will receive $450,000 to implement safety measures to insure, among other things, pedestrian safety.  We are the only district in the state to receive such funds.

“That said, a tour of the town shows little implementation of any safety measures. While yellow pedestrian warning signs are in place, they are often concealed by untrimmed tree branches.

“Recently a female driver yelled at a runner crossing North Avenue at Bedford Middle School, ‘There is no crossing guard at the crosswalk, so get out of my way!” She sped away, nearly hitting the runner.

“Westport has chosen to spend $200,000 on a study of 2 Cross Highway intersections, at North Avenue and Bayberry Lane. Where and when is our taxpayer money going to be utilized to insure our safety before someone is killed?

“We know stop signs and worthless solar speed limit monitors do not work, at least on North Avenue. So what is next? Little green men? We might start by educating the public, strict law enforcement and some real traffic lights.”

Slow down!

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Brien Buckman is the newest member of Westport’s Representative Town Meeting. The 33-year-old fills a vacancy in District 6, caused by the death of Cathy Talmadge.

He has lived in Westport since 2020. (Hat tip: Dick Lowenstein)

Brien Buckman

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If you’re an X Games fan, you know that Mac Forehand — a member of the 2022 Olympic US ski team — just won gold in big air at the competition in Aspen.

He did it in a big way:  with a perfect 50 score, landing a 2160 Cuban that wowed the crowd. He also won silver for slopestyle.

But you may not know that Mac is the son of 1976 Staples High School graduate Ray Forehand.

Mac also made history in 2019, winning the overall World Cup title in slopestyle at just 17 years old. It was his first full season on the World Cup circuit.

Mac grew up in Fairfield, and attended the Stratton Mountain Ski School.

If you knew Ray Forehand, you’ll notice the great resemblance in the video below. (Hat tip: Sam Febbraio)

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11-year-old Kathryn is paralyzed by social anxiety. She spends all her time in her basement with her 2 passions: Alfred Hitchcock and stop-motion animation. When a new neighbor moves in, will she be able to share her dream and make a new friend?

That’s the first offering of Westport Country Playhouse’s mobile unit — though this one will be the main stage. “Scaredy Kat Presents” runs for 1 performance only: Sunday, March 5, at 2 p.m. All tickets are $25. Click here to purchase, and for more information.

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It may be February, but the defending state champion Staples High School rugby team is heading outdoors.

They host their 3rd annual College Showcase & Combine this Saturday (February 11, noon to 4 p.m.). They expect 150 high school players — boys and girls — from the tri-state area, and representatives from over 50 college.

The 2-hour combine will be run by the 2 Major League Rugby teams in the area: the New England Free Jacks and reigning champs Rugby United New York.

The “showcase” portion takes place in the school cafeteria. Each college has a table; players and their parents can learn more about their academics and rugby programs.

Meanwhile, the Staples Rugby Club announces Little Barn as their “preferred restaurant partner.” They’ll hold several events there, beginning the weekend of March 11 (a viewing party for the Six Nations matches).

Little Barn will also be the site of post-match celebration, after Staples hosts a top-ranked club from Texas (March 11) and their first international friendly (vs. St. Andrews College of South Africa, April 15).

The state champion 2022 Staples High School rugby team. (Photo/Chloe DeAngelis)

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Westport Pride joins with the Department of Justice, FBI and Connecticut US Attorney’s office to explore hate crimes at the federal, state and local levels.

“United Against Hate” — a free training to inform LGBTQ+ community members and allies about those crimes, and how to respond, is set for March 28 (6 p.m., Westport Library; in-person and virtual).

The interactive program also involves the Westport and Norwalk police chiefs, and the Connecticut State Police’s Hate Crimes Unit.

The meeting is part of a national initiative, by all 94 US Attorneys offices. Click here for details on that program. Click here for details of the March 28 event.

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Native Westporter Scott Brodie sends along this striking image of his mother’s back yard on Burr Farms Road, for our “Westport … Naturally” feature:

(Photo/Scott Brodie)

He writes:

“My father built his house on a wooded lot at the north end of Burr Farms Road in 1954. The lots on the southern end of the road had been a working apple orchard and were mostly cleared, but the northern end had been allowed to return to woodlands, interspersed with the remains of low stone walls.

“My parents loved the idea of living ‘in the woods,’ and cut down as few trees as possible. Many decades later, the aerial images of the site on Google Maps and Google Earth show the house and garage nearly obscured by the foliage.

“But looking up at the sky through the treetops in winter, it is striking how the trees seem to ‘respect’ each other, with their elaborate branching patterns carefully avoiding contact with each other.

“This phenomenon, known as ‘crown shyness,’ is frequently observed in hardwood forests, but is not well understood. The trees seem to skillfully avoid encroaching on their neighbors’ space, but the mechanisms which mediate this avoidance remain unclear.”

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And finally … Charlie Thomas, a longtime member of the Drifters (and the Rock & Roll Hall Fame), died January 31 in Maryland. He was 85, and suffered from liver cancer.

Thomas was part of the group for over 60 years, from its hit-making time in the late 1950s to the version that toured until COVID struck.

Thomas mainly sang backup. But he took the lead on “Sweets for My Sweet” and “When My Little Girl Is Smiling.” Click here for a full obituary.

(Whatever your musical tastes, if you enjoy our daily musical offering, please click here to contribute to “06880.” Thank you!)

Down By The Riverside …

Westport parks get lots of love.

Big ones like Longshore and Winslow bustle with activity. Smaller ones like Grace Salmon on Imperial Avenue are visited often too, by ardent fans.

For decades though, Riverside Park was an afterthought.

Tucked away near the busy Riverside Avenue/Saugatuck Avenue fork, it was easy to overlook. Trees and brush covered the entrance. Parking was limited. Hardly anyone knew that — past the overgrowth and weeds — lay a magnificent view of the Saugatuck River.

Riverside Park, before improvements.

Now they do.

A Parks & Recreation Department project removed invasive species and a few trees. A new design created truly open space, plus a wooded area with rocks.

It’s inviting. It’s handicap accessible.

And — even driving by — it’s easy to see the beautiful river.

For a small spot, Riverside Park has a long history. In the 1950s, it was where contractors dumped rocks as I-95 was built nearby.

In the 1970s, the town bought the land. At some point, officials thought, the Saugatuck fire station would be relocated there.

That never happened. It became a little used, barely maintained, often overlooked ugly stepchild.

No longer.

One view of the “new” Riverside Park …

Parks & Rec director Jen Fava is proud of the transformation. In addition to the removal of invasives and improved vistas, it includes new plantings, a pollinator garden and rain garden.

The I-95-era rocks have been been moved, to create a more natural look and feel. Some have been repurposed for seating.

The project also adds picnic tables; a permeable surface stable enough for people with wheelchairs and walkers; a new parking lot, and an extended sidewalk on Riverside Avenue.

The cost of the new park was $436,000. The parking lot and sidewalk were another $74,000, funded through the Department of Public Works.

… and another …

As with any municipal project, it did not happen overnight. The department worked with its Parks Advisory Committee and SLR Consulting on the design. It was approved by the Parks & Recreation Commission and Board of Finance.

“It’s important get people right down to the water,” Fava says. “And if we’re doing the work, we should make it as accessible for as many people as possible.”

Work began this summer. It’s almost complete.

Fava says that many Westporters are already enjoying the “new” Riverside Park.

And, she promises, “it will look especially great this spring.”

(Every day, “06880” brings you news from every part of Westport. Please click here to support your hyper-local blog. Thank you!) 

… and a third. This one looks north.

Roundup: Father Chip, Mark Blake, Downtown …

The recent news that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis sent 50 Venezuelan migrants to Martha’s Vineyard had a Westport connection — and not just because Westporters know the island well.

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Edgartown helped lead the Vineyard response. The church provided shelter for 2 nights, and many meals.

That’s not unusual. St. Andrew’s already runs a winter shelter at the parish house, with cots, a large kitchen, showers and laundry.

The church’s minister is Rev. Vincent Seadale — though everyone on Martha’s Vineyard calls him Father Chip.

He was Chip at Staples High School too, where he was part of the Class of 1978. He was called to St. Andrew’s in 2009, after serving at the Church of the Redeemer in Jacksonville, Florida.

After Staples, Father Chip graduated from Colgate University and the University of Connecticut School of Law. He spent 16 years as an attorney, before graduating from Yale University Divinity  School in 2004.

Father Chip Seadale

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Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Services says:

“We, and every person who Crew Chief Mark Blake inspired, are heartbroken.

“After 61 years blessing our earth with his kindness, and over 30 years of compassionate, dedicate, and excellent service to our community, Mark passed away yesterday morning.

“An incredibly dedicated public servant and a widely respected EMT who always put the needs of others above his own, Mark leaves behind a legacy of not only thousands of lives saved on the ambulance, but countless more (for decades to come) as he educated and helped raise the future generations of EMS personnel through educational classes, state and regional programs, and as a mentor to many of our community’s emergency medical technicians.

“Always looking for a bright spot in the day, the background of this photo — a brilliant Compo Beach sunrise — was taken by Mark during one of the many sunrises he witnessed while serving the community on duty.”

Visitation is set for Monday (September 26, 4 to 8 p.m., Harding Funeral Home). A funeral Mass will be held Tuesday (September 27, 2 p.m., St. Matthew Church, Norwalk, followed by a graveside service at 3:30 p.m. at Willowbrook Cemetery.

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As plans for “Reconnecting the Riverfront” — the project to redesign parking and pedestrian areas downtown — move forward (a bit more quickly than Parker Harding traffic), the public is invited to participate.

A public survey is now open, Click here to begin.

A “visioning charrette and open house” is set for September 29 (7 to 9 p.m., Westport Library). Residents and stakeholders are encouraged to attend.

The Downtown Plan Implementation Committee is coordinating the project. with Langan Engineering and Environmental Services. The DPIC includes town department heads and residents. They hold public meetings on the 2nd Thursday of each month, at 8:30 a.m. Click here for details.

Screenshot from the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee.

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Compo’s South Beach at sunset was the setting yesterday evening, for a renewal of vows.

After 25 years of marriage, Dr. Lynn Wilson held his bride Nancy’s bouquet, as she read their words to each other. Justice of the Peace Rhona Lieberson was the officiant.

(Photo/Stacie Curran)

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Staples High Class of 2015 graduate Rachel Treisman has covered human interest stories around the royal funeral for NPR. She gained journalism experience while working for Inklings, the school newspaper — and then served as editor-in-chief of the Yale Daily News.

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Registration for Westport Parks & Recreation Department winter programs begins online at 9 a.m. on October 3.

Click here to view the offerings. Click here to begin registration.

If you are unable to log into your online account, email recreation@westportct.gov or call 203-341-5152.

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On February 29, 2020, the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and Westport Library sponsored another successful Supper & Soul dinner/concert.

A few days later, COVID clobbered the town.

The event was set to resume this past May. But the band got the virus, and had to cancel. The Chamber refunded all tickets.

Now, it’s full speed ahead.

The next Supper & Soul — the first in over 2 1/2 years — is set for Saturday, October 22. Cris Jacobs — who rocked the 2018 Blues Views & BBQ — brings his high energy to the Library Forum, following dinner at a variety of downtown restaurants.

One ticket entitles attendees to a 3-course meal at any of 11 eateries, plus the show, then a stop at any of the restaurants for happy hour-priced post-concert drinks.

Participating restaurants are 190 Main, Amis, Arezzo, Basso, Capuli, Da Tapas, Don Memo, Manna Toast, Spotted Horse, Goji (Wafu) and Walrus Alley. Dinner is 6 p.m.; the concert is at 8.

Tickets are $90 each for the dinner and concert. Concert-only tickets are $40. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

Cris Jacobs and his band.

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Westport Country Playhouse is launching a new mobile unit. It will travel to audiences, grades 6 to 10, for live theatrical performances.

Designed to be adaptable for any kind of space, including cafeterias, libraries and classrooms, the Playhouse Mobile Unit brings to schools a 45-minute, fully staged production with professional actors, sets, costumes and special effects.

The performance is followed by a Q&A with the actors. A study guide and curriculum are provided, with classroom activities and games.

Funding comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Town of Westport’s American Rescue Plan Act funding for the arts.

 The inaugural play — “Scaredy Kat Presents” — captures the joys and struggles of adolescence, while attempting to destigmatize anxiety and panic disorder. Bookings are underway, for performances beginning in January.

The Playhouse offers financial aid and payment plans, along with group sales and discounts for multiple performances in one day.

For more information, email education@westportplayhouse.org or call Kendall Driffin, education and community engagement associate: 203-571-1133.

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Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church is gearing up for a full season of musical events.

On Sunday October 9 (5 p.m.), noted English vocal ensemble VOCES8 stops by on their international tour. The program includes Renaissance, jazz and the American song book.

Tickets include a post-performance reception. Click here to purchase, and for more information.

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An opening reception for the new show at the George Billis Gallery is set for tomorrow (Thursday, September 22, 4 to 6:30 p.m., 180 Post Road East).

Featured artists include Glen Hacker, Chad Holliday, Karen O’Neil and Stephanie Reiter.

“Fervent Zeal” (Chad Holliday)

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Today’s interesting “Westport … Naturally” photo — of a woodpecker, at the Westport Community Gardens — comes courtesy of Peter Swift:

(Photo/Peter Swift)

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And finally … if you haven’t heard of Cris Jacobs — the star of next month’s Supper & Soul dinner/concert — click below.

Actually, click on if you have heard of Cris Jacobs, too!

(There is a lot going on in Westport — and “06880” covers it all. Please click here to support your hyper-local blog.)

Roundup: Water, Weeds, Lichen …

Online registration for fall Westport Parks & Recreation Department programs begins at 9 a.m. on Wednesday (September 7).

Among the events: traditional favorites like tennis clinics, Sports Squirts, IST football, Wakeman Town Farm and Skyhawks Sports Academy, and new ones: Future Wreckers’ basketball clinics, Next Generation skateboard clinics, Overtime Athletics Heads Up dodgeball and Kaboom Kickball.

Click here to search for programs (adult and youth). Click here to make sure your online account and family information is up to date. Click here to register.

Having trouble accessing your online account, or need an address change? Do not create another profile; call 203-341-5152 or email recreation@westportct.gov for help.

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A resident of Pequot Trail, off Sylvan Road North, writes:

“A house on our street has the greenest lawn in town, because they water it twice a day. Many neighbors have reported the house to Aquarion and the town, and placed notes in the mailbox. Yet the sprinklers keep running:=

 

“We’re curious about what happens in this situation, when someone blatantly ignores repeated notices about water usage/restrictions.”

We’re curious too.

Aquarion calls its water restrictions “mandatory.”

But its website says that residents “should” follow the twice-weekly (not twice-daily) schedule.

And its FAQ page answers a question about penalties for “violating the two-day mandatory irrigation schedule” this way:

Our main commitment is to educate the public about how they can use water more efficiently and sustainably; however, we can penalize violators, including shutting off their water, if their failure to follow the schedule impairs public resources.

Sounds as if “can” has not yet translated to “will.”

Perhaps the next step is to print this story out, and put it in the green lawn owner’s mailbox.

And then send a copy to Aquarion.

PS: This was the scene this morning, with several sprinklers going. Sunday is a legal watering day for house numbers ending in even numbers, or homes without numbers. The Pequot Trail home has an odd number:

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Meanwhile, Seth Schachter offers this sad photo for our continuing drought coverage.

It’s at the Turkey Hill North/Post Road intersection. He calls it “weeds need water too.”

(Photo/Seth Schachter)

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On the brighter environmental side:

Fran Taylor graduated from Staples High School in 1971. She’s lived for years in her native Kentucky, and loves it. But she remembers Westport fondly too. Fran writes:

“I love the Ned Dimes Marina photos on ‘06880.’ They bring back many memories of hanging out there regularly with a variety of friends.

“Imagine my surprise when I finally identified the name (Maritime Sunburst Lichen) of the yellow lichen creeping on to my back porch in Lexington — a thousand miles from any ‘maritime’ setting.

Maritime sunburst lichen, in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo/Fran Taylor)

“It looked familiar, but I couldn’t place where I’d seen it before. Cue Ned Dimes Marina — and just like that, so many memories came flooding back.

“Thanks to 06880 for keeping those precious memories, which trigger sights, sounds, smells and emotions, alive a half century later.”

And thank you, Fran. Please come visit whenever you can!

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The curtain rose officially last night for “4000 Miles.” The Westport Country Playhouse production stars Staples High School Class of 2013 graduate Clay Singer, and Fairfield resident Mia Dillon. The thought-provoking, rollercoaster-of-emotions show runs through September 4.

Last night’s curtain call, wit Clay Singer and Mia Dillon. (Photo/Dave Matlow)

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Jim White has lived or worked in Westport for 18 years.

His sister Kate White has no connection here, beyond knowing how much he loves this town.

But when Kate — a best-selling author, and former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan — was writing her 16th suspense novel, The Second Husband, she set it in Westport

Jim had a great time helping his sister with background research. Among the local spots mentioned: Terrain, Spotted Horse and the Whelk.

Surprise! Those are some of Jim’s favorite restaurants too.

“It’s an excellent read,” Jim praises. And, he adds proudly, “Not only is she an amazing writer and editor, but she recently gave the commencement address at Union College — where she received an honorary doctorate of letters.

“She was in the first class of women accepted at Union, and was part of their celebration of 50 years of being co-ed. She has been a great inspiration to me, and I am sure many others.”

Jim hopes to get Kate here for a book signing or discussion. In the meantime, click here to order.

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Hayden S. Cabral died suddenly but peacefully in his sleep on Thursday. He was 21 years old.

Hayden is survived by his father Kevin Cabral, his mother Dawn Loecher, step-mother Laura Cabral, brothers Logan and Payton, sisters Lianna and Hailey, aunt and godmother Susan Cabral-Hiltz, uncle Harry Hiltz, uncle and godfather Scott Loecher, grand-uncle Carlo and aunt Marcy Cabral, cousins and many great friends.

He was predeceased by his grandparents Joseph and Betty Cabral, and Janet and Robert Loecher.

Friends will be received at the Harding Funeral Home tomorrow  (Monday, August 29, 4 to 8 p.m.) A Funeral Mass will be held at Assumption Church on Tuesday (August 30, 1 p.m. Burial will follow at Willowbrook Cemetery.

Hayden Cabral

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” feature features a beautiful blue heron. Amy Schneider sighted it on the Saugatuck River, near the Levitt Pavilion.

(Photo/Amy Schneider)

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And finally … today is the 67th anniversary of the murder of Emmett Till. In 1955, the Black 14-yer-old was abducted, tortured and murdered in Mississippi. His brutal  death — and the decision by his mother to have an open casket, and a public funeral — helped galvanize the civil rights movement.

(“06880” is supported solely by readers. Please click here to contribute.)

Longshore Improvement Plan: “Tweak It. Don’t Overdo It.”

Tweak it. Spruce it up.

But don’t make major changes.

That’s the strong sentiment from a town-wide survey about the future of Longshore, says the woman in charge of overseeing any changes to the 168-acre park.

Jen Fava — Westport’s Parks & Recreation Department director — has looked at the results and comments of the springtime survey. Administered by landscape architect, planning and engineering firm Stantec as an early step in the Longshore Capital Improvement Plan, it drew 2,658 responses.

Longshore includes a golf course, tennis courts, marina, pools, and much, much more.

“The surprise was that there were not a lot of surprises,” Fava says.

“People said ‘Longshore is great. We love it.’ They don’t want to change too much. They just want it tweaked, to fit their needs.”

Of course, not every resident has the same needs. One person’s priority for pickleball may conflict with another’s desire for a golf clubhouse.

Golfers weighed in strongly for an actual clubhouse, with a pro shop, locker room and grill. The golf course itself will not be redesigned.

Longshore golf course. (Photo/Dave Dellinger)

Platform tennis players want 2 more courts, and a warming hut.

As for pickleball: 1,512 respondents want courts. 962 said no.

As expected, Fava says, survey respondents expressed a strong desire for the pools — and for keeping the current location, near Long Island Sound.

However, many asked for more shade there; a patio and picnic area, and renovated locker rooms.

Longshore pool (Photo/Pamela Einarsen)

There was a clear desire too for trails, paths and walkways throughout Longshore. “That fits in with national trends,” Fava says.

Stantec’s job now is to provide options. Fava calls it “laying out the jigsaw pieces.” Where, for example, would a golf clubhouse be constructed: on the site of the current ramshackle pro shop, or elsewhere? Should the current maintenance shed — right in the heart of the facility, near golf, tennis, the Inn and the pool parking lot — be moved? If so, where?

The driving range now occupies prime real estate, at the confluence of the Saugatuck River and Long Island Sound. A number of respondents would like to see that space available to more users. If so, what happens to that practice facility?

The survey asked several questions about parking. Most respondents rated it low on their concerns. “Perhaps we’ll look at a realignment of spaces, or better accessways,” Fava says.

Longshore’s E.R. Strait Marina (Photo/Marcia Falk)

Parks & Rec officials will go to the public this fall for more input. Then comes a detailed capital plan, with requests for specific items before town finance and land use commissions.

“We can’t give everyone everything,” Fava notes.

Moving forward, she says that she and other officials will keep in mind the main takeaway: “People said, ‘don’t overdevelop Longshore.’ We’ll keep its character, while meeting as many needs as possible.

“Longshore has very good bones. We just need to sculpt around it.”