Shared Stewardship at Greenwich Point

By: Chris Franco

I’m often asked what has been the best thing for my wife Rachel and me about working with the Greenwich Point Conservancy over the past sixteen years. Is it the fascinating restorations by the GPC of the historic buildings themselves, or maybe hosting the “Beach Ball,” which is the GPC’s annual fundraiser that has become a hallmark of summers in Greenwich? My answer is always that by far the most meaningful thing for us has been the opportunity to work with scores of dedicated friends, colleagues and neighbors, all of whom relish their role as stewards of our spectacularly beautiful Greenwich Point. Rachel and I have made more friends than we can count, and we’ve been inspired by so many talented people who have taught us so much. What a blessing this shared stewardship has been!

“Tod’s Point” is the crown jewel of the Greenwich park system, and over the past 75 years, since the Town acquired it, our residents have worked tirelessly and with great dedication to conserve its natural beauty, and to shape it to become an amazing resource for our residents. Of course, much credit goes to the Town and the dedicated staff of the Parks Department who work to maintain all of our parks, and Greenwich Point in particular. However, private stewardship organizations have played a significant role at Greenwich Point. In the early days, the Greenwich Point Committee, founded by Helen Binney Kitchel, was the main private stewardship organization caring for Greenwich Point. This organization evolved to become the Friends of Greenwich Point, which for decades has taken the lead in protecting and enhancing the naturalist elements at Greenwich Point. And since 2003, the Greenwich Point Conservancy has taken the lead in restoring and preserving the historic buildings and other elements, which have added a whole new dimension to our appreciation and enjoyment of the Point. Collectively, these stewardship organizations have made a profound difference in the conservation and beautification of our beloved town beach.

Less well known, however, is that there are many other organizations and groups that make amazing contributions to our collective enjoyment of Greenwich Point. After the GPC completed the restoration of the Innis Arden Cottage in 2011, the Bruce Museum began operating the Seaside Center. The Seaside Center, which operated in the Old Barn prior to its move to the Cottage, has been a favorite of generations of Greenwich children. The Floren Family Environmental Center is also located at the Innis Arden Cottage, and the Floren Center has become a favorite site for lectures, meetings and other events sponsored by local civic and cultural organizations. The Greenwich Shellfish Commission is also a major stakeholder at the Innis Arden Cottage, and in addition to the important work it does in our local shellfish beds, the Shellfish Commission has brought UCONN’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology to the Cottage, which adds an impressive level of environmental scholarship and work taking place at Greenwich Point.

The creation of the Gateway Gardens by the GPC, in 2015, resulted in several happy new collaborations. The Green Fingers Garden Club worked with the GPC and landscaper/ designer Peter Grunow to design and underwrite the cost of these gardens, which are located around and between the Innis Arden Cottage and the Old Barn, which houses the Sue H Baker Pavilion. The gorgeous Gateway Gardens are weeded and maintained during the season by members of the Old Greenwich Garden Club, who have recently been joined in their service by the Riverside Garden Club. The Gateway Gardens are watered by an irrigation system provided by Summer Rain, which donates its services each year. On the far side of the Point, the Knollwood Garden Club has maintained the Seaside Gardens, hidden away in a beautiful walled garden up the hill above the Chimes Building. Throughout Greenwich Point, Greenwich Green and Clean undertakes many activities toward its beautification, such as beach “clean ups” and maintaining and weeding the dunes and other important areas.

Since the Sue H Baker Pavilion was completed in 2015, with its wonderful waterfront dining deck, the GPC has collaborated with Abilis, whose clients have worked to maintain and clean the dining deck and its beautiful teak furniture, enhancing the dining experience at this very popular facility. Over by the Chimes building, the Old Greenwich Yacht Club runs a first-class yacht club and also sponsors the Greenwich Community Sailing programs in the Chimes Building. For decades, this terrific organization has been teaching children and adults the joys of sailing, and also rents kayaks and sailboats for the enjoyment of residents. Regarding the historic musical “chimes” in the tower of the Chimes Building, which are almost 120 years old, a dedicated local group informally known as the “Chimes Winders” have maintained the musical chimes, repairing them when needed. More recently the Emily Catherine Fedorko Foundation has partnered with the GPC to restore and upgrade the musical chimes so that they will be preserved and will continue to serenade Greenwich residents for the next hundred years.

In addition to the organizations focused on stewardship of Greenwich Point itself, many wonderful organizations organize and host enriching activities there enjoyed by our residents. Several include the Greenwich Historical Society, which each year hosts the Greenwich Founders’ Day ceremony at the Point, as well as a summer “History Bicycle Tour” around the Point. Threads and Treads, a local retail establishment owned by Mickey Yardis, sponsors numerous popular foot races and recreational activities as well.

This is only a partial list of the many organizations that contribute to making Greenwich Point such an amazing resource for our town. What a privilege it has been for Rachel and me to get to know and work with the people behind these dynamic groups!

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