Dear Westport administration, Board of Education, Long Lots Building Committee, Board of Finance and RTM members:

Westport has a long and enviable history of navigating competing interests. It has been one of the hallmarks of our success as a community. 

Many of us remember the controversy over the proposal to use Winslow Park as a place for people to walk dogs. The opponents were offended and thought it was frivolous. Tensions were high. The Parks Commission found a compromise that benefited everyone. Winslow Park is now one of Westport’s often heralded assets and the envy of other towns. Ask Weston residents about their proposed dog park where bad feelings have festered for years.

Others of us remember the proposal to build a playground at Compo Beach, which initially caused a ruckus, but which was resolved by town leaders to everyone’s satisfaction.

The conflict between the Westport Community Gardens and the temporary sports field is another opportunity for us to continue our legacy of collaboration and compromise.

Admittedly, I am very much in favor of keeping the garden intact. For me, the community garden transcends the mere cultivation of crops; it fosters a sense of community that is indispensable in today’s increasingly disconnected world.

That is not to say I dismiss the need for a temporary sports field. Recreational sports activities are integral part of a healthy community.

Finding a middle ground that honors both the garden and the sports field may be challenging, but it is achievable. The garden proponents have offered a compelling argument that the garden should not be perceived as an obstacle to recreation but rather a supplement to it in a different form with generational diversity. The recent email sent out to the administration and RTM members speaks to this in great detail.   

This is a moment that calls for creative solutions and a willingness to look beyond the surface of what seems at first to be a binary choice. It should not be a question of “either/or,” but rather a challenge to the ingenuity of Westport’s leaders. 

Hopefully, the administration can demonstrate, once again, that harmony and progress are not mutually exclusive but can thrive hand in hand.

Ken Bernhard