The formal opening Tuesday of Cliff's Place, the new halfway house at midpoint on the town's Longshore Golf Course, marked the realization of a nearly decade-old dream. It replaces a former halfway house that burned to the ground in 2003.

The late Cliff Ross, an avid golfer, suggested the following year that something should be done to replace the destroyed facility and sketched an initial design for a new halfway house. A committee -- the 9th and ½ Hole -- was then formed to raise the $200,000 necessary to make the project a reality.

Standing near the entrance of the new structure, Westport Parks and Recreation Director Stuart McCarthy welcomed a gathering of some 40 people -- friends, supporters, planners and town officials. He called the occasion "a great day" as he turned the dedication proceedings over to First Selectman Gordon Joseloff. He talked about the process and many people that helped push the project through, remarking especially about the successful collaboration of public and private resources.

Mark Holod, the chairman of the 9th & ½ Hole Committee, began his remarks with the declaration, "Well, it's done!" calling the event a "happy one" as well as a "labor of love."

He had particular thanks for Janice Collins, of the Parks & Recreation Commission, for her "never-say-die attitude."

For Ross' widow, Kathy, the moment was an emotional one. With her children, Cooper and Rebecca, an aunt, several cousins and many friends gathered about her, she said, "It's such a beautiful little place. Congratulations to everyone for getting the project done. Cliff would have been so happy. To dedicate this as Cliff's Place gives our family such a sense of pride. Longshore was his home away from home."

Ross died in 2011 after a three-year battle with cancer.

The facility is about 900-square-feet and features men's and women's restrooms, a full-service kitchen and a dining area, which will be managed by Joey Romeo, who runs the Joey's by the Shore concession at Compo Beach. Notably, the menu includes the Cliffburger, a hamburger adorned with bacon, avocado, lettuce and tomato. It is dedicated in Cliff Ross' honor, just the style of burger he used to enjoy.

"The avocado is particularly appropriate," Rebecca Ross said, smiling as she reflected on memories of her late father.