About one year after a similar citizen-led effort at Mead Park stalled for lack of funds, a New Canaan woman on Wednesday night proposed to town officials that bocce courts be installed at Irwin.
Liz Orteig told members of the Parks & Recreation Commission at their regular meeting that creating a place for the popular game would speak to New Canaan’s significant Italian heritage and that those opposed to the concept may be won over by a unique design.
“I have actually talked to some of the Garden Club ladies—they seem very resistant to the idea,” Orteig said at the meeting, held in Lapham Community Center.
“I would like a bocce court and I also thought that I could possibly get the Garden Club ladies on board by proposing that they design something very, very unique and special because they are really into the landscape and if we make a real feature out of it, they may be able to be persuaded. That is my whole contention. And then allow them to design it because they are the stewards of the landscape there as opposed to just a plain recreational facility, which I think they would resist.”
The New Canaan Garden Club was not represented at the meeting. The 1909-established organization for the past dozen years, backed by an endowment, has taken a lead in beautifying and improving Irwin Park grounds, often in collaboration with the New Canaan Department of Public Works.
The idea of installing bocce courts in New Canaan emerged in September 2015, when a pair of town residents—John Buzzeo and Len Paglialunga—came forward with the idea of putting a pair near Lapham Community Center. They soon switched their proposed location to the former horseshoe pits at Mead, beyond Gamble’s right-field fence. Parks & Recreation approved that plan last May, but within a few months a call went out to the community to help with funding, and nothing has happened since.
Recreation Director Steve Benko said the town did receive a few donations for the courts and those funds are in a “special projects” account dedicated for the purpose. He urged Orteig to contact Paglialunga.
“He needs a dynamo like you to get him going,” Benko said with a smile.
Orteig said she would like to work toward raising money for the project and passed around printouts that appeared to show bocce court-like areas dressed up with meticulous plantings and other landscaping.
“If we come up with a really nice proposal we may be able to come up with some support for it,” Orteig said.
Commission Chair Sally Campbell on hearing her idea said at first that it would be most prudent to “talk off-committee, because there is a lot we have to go through.”
Campbell later said: “Irwin may be problematic” due to restrictions on its use.
Orteig said she would “work on the Garden Club ladies, because I think everything needs to be negotiated.”