By Gretchen Webster

WESTPORT — A Parks and Recreation Commission meeting was cancelled at the last minute Thursday night when technical problems scuttled the online session.

The meeting, which had already been rescheduled once, was expected to draw members of the public upset about the location of new pickleball courts planned at Longshore Club Park, and also members of the Westport Community Gardens concerned that construction plans for Long Lots Elementary School and its athletic field could destroy the 20-year-old gardens.

“We are having technical problems and will need to reschedule so the public will have access. Apologies,” commission member Elaine Whitney said in a text to the Westport Journal about 20 minutes after the meeting had been scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

About five minutes later, she confirmed that the meeting would not go forward.

“We were unable to resolve the technical issue so we are not meeting,” she said in a second text. “The town clerk will send a notice of the cancellation and the plan to reschedule first thing tomorrow morning.”

The parks meeting was planned as a continuation of a Sept. 20 session cut short by a medical emergency. At that meeting, more than 20 community gardeners turned out to ask why the Parks and Recreation Department had not taken steps to protect the gardens or at least provide information about the town’s use of athletic fields. They were particularly interested in an inventory of field usage that Parks and Recreation Director Jennifer Fava was preparing at the time.

One of those likely to have spoken at Thursday’s meeting was Irmi Streidt, who has protested proposed installation of six pickleball courts in Longshore Club Park near her home because of the noise the sport is known to generate. She voiced her concerns in two letters to the editor published by the Westport Journal on Sept. 24 and on Oct 4.

Ironically, she also complained in the Oct. 4 letter that holding a virtual meeting Thursday would be “technologically very inconvenient for many people, especially older citizens,” and instead should be postponed and held in person.

“In terms of Longshore planning, this meeting is a very CRITICAL POINT … The residents of Longshore are still waiting to have the pickleball fields relocated to another location in this 170-acre Longshore Park or another location in town,” Streidt said in the letter.

In the September letter, she challenged the Parks and Recreation Commission and its leadership for a “lack of transparency” in handling issues related to both the Longshore project and the Community Gardens.

Freelance writer Gretchen Webster, a Fairfield County journalist and journalism teacher for many years, was editor of the Fairfield Minuteman newspaper for 10 years and teaches journalism at Southern Connecticut State University.