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Westport Open Space Eyed As Possible Site For New Firehouse

This town-owned lot, adjacent to Wesptort's Riverside Park, is being considered as a possible location to build a new Saugatuck firehouse.
This town-owned lot, adjacent to Wesptort's Riverside Park, is being considered as a possible location to build a new Saugatuck firehouse. Photo Credit: Contributed

WESTPORT, Conn. – A piece of town-owned open space adjacent to Westport’s Riverside Park is being considered as a possible location for a new Saugatuck firehouse—and residents who live in that neighborhood are not happy about it.

After hearing the news, about 30 neighbors joined forces to form Preserve Saugatuck , a group rallying a petition against the idea. More than 200 people have signed the petition so far.

“If the town makes the decision to put a firehouse in that location, they’d be taking away park and waterfront space, forever,” said Cherry Lane resident and Preserve Saugatuck member Jacob Axel. “Public waterfront open space is rare—once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. That’s not something you get back.”

Located on Riverside Avenue, Riverside Park sits on the west bank of the Saugatuck River. Axel said it’s a place residents go to enjoy picnics, hikes and neighborhood get-togethers, including an annual Easter egg hunt. It’s also a place residents go to sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery, he said.

The piece of land being considered for the firehouse is the adjacent lot located at 427 Riverside Ave. The lot is connected to the park by walking paths, and residents consider the space to be part of the park, Axel said.

While Axel said Preserve Saugatuck is pro-fire department, the lot next to the park is not the right spot for a firehouse. Instead, the group believes it should be preserved and enhanced for public enjoyment, using private donations.

“There’s enormous opportunity to develop this into something everyone, kids and adults, can enjoy,” Axel said.

Aside from the green space argument, Axel said it wouldn’t make sense to move the firehouse from one flood zone to another. The current Saugatuck firehouse, located on Riverside Avenue between Bridge Square and Saugatuck Center, experienced flooding during Hurricane Sandy.  However, the lot next to the park is also in a flood zone, Axel said.

“I can tell you from personal experience, that whole field was flooded during Sandy,” he said. “Why would we want to build a life saving service in a place where they would be vulnerable during an emergency? It doesn’t make sense.”

The Representative Town Meeting's Long Range Planning Committee will discuss the idea Wednesday night during a public meeting. The meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Room 201 of Town Hall, 110 Myrtle Ave. Anyone interested in the proposal is encouraged to attend.

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