Photo above: Aerial view of the plots in the Westport Community Gardens, adjacent to Long Lots Elementary School on Hyde Lane. Below: A group portrait of the community gardeners, who represent more than 100 local households. / Contributed photos

WESTPORT — Westport Community Gardens, facing an uncertain future as town officials prepare to decide on the scope of the Long Lots Elementary School project, has won national recognition for its “environmental stewardship.”

The 20-year-old gardens on Hyde Lane, adjacent to the Long Lots campus, was the winner of the “Sustainability” category of the 2023 “Best Community Garden”competition sponsored by the American Community Garden Association.

The association, which has ties to 2,100 community gardens across the United States and Canada, seeks to “build community by increasing and enhancing community gardening and greening,” according to the group’s website. Those gardens range from from family allotments to tiny pollinator pocket parks, from school gardens to urban farms, the nonprofit says.

The Sustainability award for the Westport gardens “recognizes a community garden group leading environmental stewardship efforts in the care of their garden and the environment.” 

Flourishing flowers and vibrant vegetables will be among the natural attractions visitors to the Westport Community Gardens can see — and paint or photograph — on Aug. 5.
Scenes at the Westport Community Gardens.

The Westport gardens will be among those receiving awards at the ACGA’s annual conference Friday in Houston, Texas.

“We have a lot to be proud of,” Lou Weinberg, chairman of the Westport Community Gardens, said in a statement.

“Over the 20 years we have been in existence, we have created a truly unique and special place. Everyone deserves credit for this. The Town of Westport, the Parks and Recreation Department, the Public Works Department, dozens of local, state and national organizations and hundreds of town residents who have spent over 100,000 volunteer hours building the Westport Community Gardens and the Long Lots Preserve,” he said.

The gardens, however, have been at the center of a months-long controversy as town officials review options to renovate or replace aging Lots Lots School. Several of the scenarios under consideration could modify, move or plow under the gardens.

The gardeners, representing more than 100 local households, have argued their case for preserving the community plots before several town boards and commissions, as well in the press and social media.

Officials, however, have declined to commit to a plan that would preserve the gardens, responding that the school project must balance the interests of other stakeholders as well, from Long Lots students and parents, to education officials and town fiscal authorities, to Hyde Lane neighbors and athletic field advocates.

A decision on the future of the Long Lots project is expected soon, with another meeting scheduled today (Thursday, Sept. 28) by the Long Lots Building Committee. The meeting will take place at 6 p.m. in Town Hall Room 201.