Docking At WestPort
Editor’s note: In the last year, we’ve been covering how the north end of Brunswick County is growing, and how municipal and county services, and the businesses, are growing along with the population. We decided to take a closer look into some of the communities, and the people of WestPort were kind enough to sit down with us one night and tell us about their neighborhood and why they love it so much.
A large part of the the growth in Brunswick County is all the new developments popping up. Whether you call these areas subdivisions or developments, or some other name, the residents of WestPort call it community, and they call it home.
WestPort is part of the Town of Leland, nestled in next to Mallory Creek on N.C. 133.
Like many people in Brunswick County, residents in WestPort come from many places. Some are retired, and some are raising young families. So what makes people choose WestPort? The community boasts 436 housing units now, and residents say they like that it’s in a quieter section of Leland, close to Wilmington, that landscaping is included in the affordable HOA dues, and that they love the overall look of the community with its brick houses and large lots.
WestPort also boasts kind of a landmark in that part of the county— it’s the one with the stately Mariner, sometimes called The Captain, at the entrance.
Teri Meeks is President of the Home Owners Association (HOA) in WestPort, and like many of the people drawn to the community, she appreciates the look of the community, and the feeling she gets as she pulls in off N.C. 133 and drives past the Mariner.
“For me, your home is supposed to be your sanctuary,” she said. “Life out there is rough and stormy. He represents the port and home, where it is safe.”
WestPort has a monthly newsletter, full of pictures and details about upcoming social gatherings, as well as the more everyday information about using the community center or pool. Rob Riedinger moved to WestPort at the suggestion of his sister and brother-in-law, who already lived there. Riedinger puts together the newsletter, and he is regularly volun-told to serve on committees and lend his voice to man the mic at social gatherings, but it seems he wouldn’t have it any other way. He said he’s also taken “a zillion” pictures of the Mariner. Details about how the Mariner, sculpted by Kirsten Kokkin, came to be at the entrance are a bit sparse. Some say the Mariner is looking east, out from WestPort. Others say that when the trees across the road were shorter, maybe you could see to the water. But however he came to drop anchor at the entrance, residents have embraced him as part of life at WestPort.
“He gets decorated,” Meeks said. “He likes the holidays.” She explained that for Memorial Day, the Mariner donned flags and flag sunglasses.
Meeks and Riedinger are just two of the many volunteers that head up one of the active committees. The HOA has volunteers who oversee financial operations (including a reserve fund) for upkeep and maintenance of the common areas, and who serve on committees for the pool, clubhouse, grounds, and events.
Recently retired HOA President John Cunningham spent seven years on the Board, and said that though getting involved has its challenges, it was a great way to preserve quality of life in the community.
And in Westport, there is no shortage of opportunities for people to get out and meet their neighbors or participate in activities. During the pandemic, when events were halted, Events Committee co-chairman Betty Hagopian said that some neighbors put their chairs out in yards at a healthy distance just so they could still get together; they also regularly hosted food trucks. Scheduled events include a newcomers potluck, Hulu lessons followed by a luau, water aerobics, a ladies night out, picnics and bocce ball in the park, cards and bingo. Hagopian said the community also does a Christmas fundraiser for area elementary school students and one for veterans in November.
“This community is so generous,” she said.
Communications Committee chairman Jan McGowan (Riedinger’s sister) has lived in Westport since 2006. She also chairs the Clubhouse Committee, and said she loves knowing that the community’s gathering place is something they can all be proud of.
For all their various reasons for moving to WestPort — from San Diego, Long Island, Raleigh, New York City and Orchard Park, NY — they share a common feeling about their neighbors.
“The people here are amazing,” Hagopian said. “We have made so many real friends who we socialize with all the time.”
Meeks said that at the pool, everyone knows each other’s names. Her son and his family have also moved into the neighborhood, but that even before they did, people knew the names of her grandchildren.
“The people. They walk, they ride bikes,” she said. “We have a house that I named the puppy club. The guy doesn’t even have a dog. They all stop and he has dog treats in his garage and they all sit around and talk. It is the coolest thing.”