For what it’s worth Troubled waters at city beaches
What are the biggest problems facing Stamford residents? You tell me. Please. Over-development of luxury apartment buildings? Day-long rush-hour traffic? Overcrowded schools? Failure of the city to do virtually any paving this summer despite the atrocious condition of so many streets? The huge number of out-of-towners on the city’s beaches and soccer fields? Infringement by developers on historic neighborhoods such as Springdale and parts of the South End? Stamford has a lot going for it, but quality of life is definitely not one of the city establishment’s main concerns. It’s refreshing that some residents are beginning to fight back in some neighborhoods and declare enough is enough.
How much has Stamford changed? During the first 200 feet or so of a walk along the shore at a crowded West Beach recently, I heard about four languages being spoken, none of them English or Spanish. Who would have ever thought, say about 25 years ago, that Stamford would become a multilingual city? Reflecting Stamford’s ever-increasing population growth, West Beach, the city’s smallest, has become more crowded than ever, to the chagrin of many longtime beach-goers, and less attractive with the inexplicable destruction of virtually all of its 50 or so trees and a boardwalk that was never replaced after Hurricane Sandy.
Rescues by lifeguards at Stamford beaches are rare, mainly because of the relatively calm waters, but an unusual one occurred Wednesday afternoon at Cummings Beach when 17-year-old lifeguard Sam DeNey of New Canaan saw a 21-year-old man jump off the fishing pier at the western end of the beach and then struggle in the water about 100 feet from shore. With a rescue tube around his neck, DeNey quickly swam out to grab the man and pull him to safety. After hugging the young lifeguard, the man hurriedly left the beach, apparently none the worse for his foolhardy leap. “I was in a lifeguard chair about 100 yards away when I saw a huge splash near the pier,” DeNey told me Thursday. “When I got to him he was in a vertical position and panicking, but I was able to get the tube in place and get him to shore.” DeNey, who was hired a month ago to replace one of the lifeguards who returned to college, said, “I asked him why he jumped, but he didn’t give me an answer.”
Speaking of beaches, why do I feel Mayor David Martin is not a beach-goer and has no conception of how conditions at Cummings Park in particular have deteriorated? If he did, he’d realize the parks system needs more than the two park police officers to patrol its three largest parks, Cummings, Cove Island and Scalzi. How does he reconcile that inadequate number of officers when Stamford had eight park police officers when the city had half the population.
As if the city’s parks aren’t having enough problems with overcrowding and blaring music from inconsiderate louts, another annoyance is the invasion of hundreds of Canada geese. Kevin Murray, the parks and facilities manager for the city, says the best solution is to use border collies trained to herd sheep. They shoo thousands of the geese in parks, beaches and golf courses in Fairfield and Westchester counties, including Greenwich, Norwalk and Westport. Stamford, surprise, can’t afford the $18,200 cost, Kevin Murray said. The dogs have been used to drive away hundreds of Canada geese from Sterling Farms Golf Course in Stamford along with courses in Greenwich and Norwalk. “The border collies are very safe and very effective and do not attack the geese but use herding tactics, and we’d love to use them, but our proposal to do so was turned down for financial reasons,” Murray told me this week. The border collies are typically rented from the Wilton-based company Geese Relief. “We provide trained staff people who handle the dogs and establish a close bond with them, which is necessary,” said Chris Santopietro, the company’s president.
Once again, Stamford has gone through a summer without a men’s baseball league, the only large city in the state without one. I find it hard to understand when I see young men in Stamford playing the far less challenging game of slow-pitch softball where every batter can tee off on a slowly thrown pitch and virtually no one strikes out. (Conversely, young women on the high school and college levels play the far more challenging game of fast-pitch softball). That means that once a Stamford baseball player finishes as an American Legion player at 19, he no longer can play baseball in the city. That contrasts with a time when Stamford had three competitive “hardball” leagues whose players included Bobby Valentine and Maurice “Mo” Vaughn of Norwalk, both of whom made it to the big leagues. It could well be why Stamford has produced only one career major leaguer in Valentine and does not have a single player in the minors, whereas it had quite a few when baseball thrived in the city.
Jack Cavanaugh, a Stamford native and resident, is an Advocate columnist, a longtime print and broadcast reporter, sportswriter and the author of six books .He can be reached at email@example.com.