Citizens’ generosity helped push New Canaan’s legislative body last week to approve taxpayer funding of projects that will enhance Waveny for two sets of park users.
Members of the Town Council in approving bond issuances of $50,000 and $70,000, respectively, to improve trails at the popular park and to create a fifth platform tennis court—an additional requested for several years—cited donations from two private groups as reasons to move forward.
Specifically, the Waveny Park Conservancy is matching dollar-for-dollar the town’s $50,000 investment in improving trails starting with those that run behind “the cornfields” (soon to become ‘Waveny Meadows’), and platform tennis users are contributing $35,000 upfront toward a fifth court.
“Those two projects are just a great example of how lucky we are to have the public and private combination of funds because without the private part of this, we would not be able to get this done,” Town Councilman Steve Karl said at the group’s regular meeting, held May 16 at Town Hall.
“With the trails, we are basically doubling the amount of money we are spending there, and in the case of the platform tennis court, it’s another $35,000 in. Both are assets for the town and i just think it’s a great town we live in.”
The Council voted 12-0 to approve a $257,500 bonding package that also includes safety fencing for the Waveny athletic field ($15,000), phase II of the Mead Park playground equipment replacement ($60,000), safety surfacing at Mead Park playground ($40,000), hardscaping at the Mead Park colonnade ($12,500) and Mead Park tennis walkways ($10,000).
Those voting included Karl as well as Chairman John Engel, Vice Chairmen Sven Englund and Rich Townsend, and Councilmen Jim Kucharczyk, Liz Donovan, Joe Palladino, Penny Young, Cristina A. Ross, Christa Kenin, Tom Butterworth and Mike Mauro.
Mauro said he agreed with Karl and that the private donations were a decisive factor in earning his support.
“I was really against appropriating these monies, approving funds for either the platform [court] or Waveny trail upgrade,” Mauro said. “I just think trying to find something to display some fiscal restraint is key. However, the fact is this is a unique community and the citizens are stepping up to contribute money I think it really is a tremendous amount of good faith shown to the town itself and so that is why i am persuaded to vote for it. Otherwise, I would not vote for something like this. I think it’s unnecessary, but given the fact that there is money coming in from the citizens, I am in.”
The fifth platform tennis court at Waveny—originally to be built out southward, toward Spencer’s Run, with whatever land consumed to be extended at the opposite end of the dog park—but in this case it in fact will be built toward the parking lot north of the paddle tennis courts, according to Parks & Recreation Commission Chair Sally Campbell. The need for a fifth court arose, in part, when slots for booking the heavily used courts increased from one hour to 90 minutes. It’s been part of the Recreation Department’s capital funding request for at least five years.
Engel said the Council did receive letters from platform tennis court players and said they were appreciated.
“If there is something in this budget that is important to you and you would like to send a letter, we appreciate it and it makes a big difference,” he said.
This portion of the Conservancy’s trails project ties in with its dramatic and widely anticipated improvements of the “cornfields” area in the southeastern corner of Waveny. A part historically of the cleared farmland that composed much of Waveny prior to the town’s acquisition of the land in 1967, the cornfields area had been a wildflower meadow largely left alone until several years ago, when it was leveled to serve as a staging ground for material dredged from Mead and Mill Ponds. Last year, a highly invasive grass called ‘phragmites’—stalks and root systems alike—were removed, and the entire area has been regraded and roto-tilled. It’s being reseeded as wildflower meadows, with panned enhancements that include trails, seating areas and wildlife lookouts.
Kucharczyk said the amount of money that’s being spent on projects “other than kids’ programs or playgrounds” comes to about “1 percent of the [New Canaan High School] fields project that was reviewed earlier tonight, so think it’s important that we keep in balance for the community that there are constituent citizens besides the kids in town that use our recreational facilities and we need to make investments for them, as well.”
[Editor’s Note: This article was updated with new information from Sally Campbell about plans for the additional platform tennis court.]