Editor's Note: This letter to the editor was submitted by Iain Bruce, president of Family Y Board of Directors, Rosemary Halstead, past board president and capital campaign co-chair and Robert Bowman, board member and capital campaign co-chair. It was written in response to published Tuesday.
When the last of the legal challenges regarding the new Family Y were dismissed in January, we were encouraged to hear from many who had opposed the project a sense that “the fight” was over, that it was time for our community to move forward with optimism and shared purpose, to unite in order to “build what matters,” rather than continue to divide and distract with spurious arguments, fear mongering and false information.
Regrettably, Amy Ancel is not among these positive and forward-looking voices.
In her recent , Ms. Ancel imagines “an environmental disaster of epic proportions if the Y were allowed to begin building their new facility at Mahackeno, ran out of money and couldn’t finish the project.” She bases this fantasy not on any facts relating to our Family Y but on the entirely different facts, history and financial situation of an unrelated nonprofit in a different community.
First, let us address Ms. Ancel’s fanciful statement, “They would have already cut down thousands of trees, carved away an entire hillside along the Merritt Parkway, and torn apart the property on the banks of the Saugatuck River and Poplar Plains Brook.”
To suggest that we would ravage our property at Mahackeno is bizarre. As a matter of public record, construction of the new Family Y facility will leave nearly 80% of the 32-acre site unchanged. Most of the property will continue to be managed and enjoyed as open space for recreational use by our members, with limited public access. In total, about 700 trees will be removed and replaced by nearly 500 trees and more than 1,000 shrubs.
Given our long-standing and oft-expressed resolve to create a cost-effective, sustainable facility with minimal impact on such a beautiful setting, it was clear that the best location for the new building was the northeast corner of the property, bordered by the Merritt Parkway. Kevin Smith, a partner at Robert A.M. Stern Architects and a resident of Westport, has designed a functionally elegant, environmentally sensitive building set along and within the southern-facing hillside, which not only helped minimize its footprint and energy use, it also opened up a magnificent vista of the Saugatuck River as it flows into Lees Pond.
Founded by local philanthropist Edward T. Bedford in 1923, the Family Y is a nonprofit charitable organization governed by a volunteer board of directors, all of whom live in and are active in our community. Our mission is to enrich the entire community by developing and nurturing the potential of its children, promoting healthy living and fostering a sense of social responsibility. Last year, the Y provided nearly $500,000 in community support, making available free or reduced-cost memberships, child-care subsidies and camp scholarships to hundreds of local families. We partner with dozens of local charities and governmental agencies to help support those in need in our community.
As Family Y directors and trustees, we are committed to ensuring that we will achieve our shared vision of creating a new Y facility that will allow us to continue our historic mission to help all members of our community lead healthier lives. We fully understand the fiduciary responsibility each of us accepted when we agreed to join the Board. We are all committed to running a financially responsible and sustainable enterprise. If we cannot afford to build our new home, we will not build it. It’s as simple as that.
We are now halfway toward our goal of raising the necessary funds. Just as important, we have the steadfast commitment and proven capabilities of community leaders who know a thing or two about Some of them spoke publicly and passionately last week on the front steps of the Bedford Building about their support for the Y’s mission and its fundraising campaign.
People like Bill Mitchell, Sam Gault and Robin Tauck -- members of longstanding Westport and Weston families and very successful multi-generational family-run enterprises -- are confident that there is sufficient financial support for a new Y in our community. We gladly put our faith in their words and their deeds, rather than in the dire and dubious predictions of naysayers.
There’s a lot of work to do, but we are building something that matters. We are creating more jobs, a stronger economy and a brighter future for our community. We are building for a better Westport, to meet the needs of our children, families and seniors, now and for the next 100 years.
President, Family Y Board of Directors
Past Board President and Capital Campaign Co-Chair
Board Member, Capital Campaign Co-Chair