Board of Finance Member: New Canaan Should Consider Charging Nonresidents Using Waveny Park

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A Board of Finance member said this week that if a substantial number of Waveny Park visitors are from out-of-town, as has been suggested, then New Canaan should consider charging them for entry.

The town should consider granting each New Canaan household two or three car passes to Waveny “and then, I don’t know, maybe at some point we charge for parking or something,” Amy Murphy Carroll said during a meeting of the Board’s Parks & Recreation Budget Subcommittee, held Monday via videoconference.

“Because it’s expensive to maintain and we have the Waveny Conservancy doing incredible things, we have the paths for doing all that stuff,” she said. “And I just think, you know, we do a lot of stuff in New Canaan that benefits people in a broader way and our taxpayers pay for it all. And I’m not trying to be exclusive, and to the extent that if we did something like this, I think it could go toward the Conservancy or toward [the Recreation Department] budget or something.”

The comments came while Murphy Carroll and two other finance board members, Michael Chen and Tom Schulte, reviewed Recreation Director Steve Benko’s proposed spending plan for fiscal year 2022 in advance of a full Board of Finance meeting.

During a discussion of the paddle hut, Benko said, “Our park is getting a tremendous amount of use from people outside New Canaan.”

“I bet on any given day, 40 percent-plus people are non-residents in the park.”

Benko in the fall had described Waveny as a destination park for Fairfield County.

Waveny remained open to the public longer than parks in surrounding towns in the weeks after COVID-19 virus set in here. It finally was closed March 30 by order of the first selectman, reopening April 26 for trail-walking only and for limited sports use about two months later. 

Murphy Carroll said the town isn’t “trying to make money on our parks, but we are trying to keep them in good shape.”

She said that if Benko was able to provide more than anecdotal evidence that nonresidents are using Waveny in significant numbers, “that would be really helpful.”

Schulte said, “I think this idea, Amy, would get a lot more traction if we actually had evidence or other support that would say that 40% number is credible, I think you would get a lot more people to stop and start thinking right along those lines. I really do.”

Benko said he expected Waveny to be “jammed” with “parking lots full” this Saturday afternoon, following snow later this week, with people sledding and that “a big chunk of those are not people from New Canaan.”

“It’s mobbed,” Benko said.

Murphy Carroll said she was “not asking for a ton of money.”

“But like, five bucks or something so that we can cut the grass, you know?” she said.

12 thoughts on “Board of Finance Member: New Canaan Should Consider Charging Nonresidents Using Waveny Park

  1. Went to nursery school with Marnee Lapham in NCHS when for tax reasons it was turned over by Lloyd Lapham. About 20 yrs ago, there was exclusionary with entrance signs stating “only NC residents” when there was the iron fencing. What changed. Complaints just like Waveny Pool residents not wanting out of towner’s using facility. Town needed revenue. Gained a negative reputation. Let’s not go there. Sets bad example, in my opinion, unwelcoming.

  2. I think Cranbury Park in Norwalk requires an admission fee for non-residents during summer months, so there is precedent for doing this in the area.

    • Yes, as someone who lives in Norwalk and frequents that park with my dog, that is true. Out of town residents can pay to park with an app.

  3. I have concerns about this suggestion. Already out of town residents (and town residents) have to pay to use the paddle tennis courts, dog park and organized sports, such as girls softball fields. There are often track & field; and running races during the summer that are attended by students and adults. Further, residents and non-residents often attend events at the Carriage Barn, Playhouse and Waveny House.
    It seems excessive to double charge for use of the park’s facilities and buildings and then again for a parking permit.

  4. I grew up in West Norwalk, and, 15 years later after living out of state, moved back to CT and bought a home (again) in West Norwalk. Though we now live in Litchfield County, I often shop in New Canaan, my hair and nail salons were in New Canaan, and, until covid, dined in New Canaan on a nearly weekly basis. I have been to Waveny Park more times than I could ever count. My husband proposed to me under a big tree there many years ago and we often go back on our anniversary to just sit under the tree and reminisce. If you must charge an entrance or parking fee, please consider it for out of state visitors only. Though we are not New Canaan residents, it would certainly make us feel as if we are simply no longer welcome in town.

  5. Other surrounding towns charge beach access fees to non-residents, so there are ample precedents for a Waveny Park fee. The mechanism would be simple – town residents can register their license plates, as they do for the railroad lots, while non-residents can either purchase seasonal passes or day parking via meter or app.

    This idea wouldn’t be intended to exclude, but for users of the facilities to share in the cost of the park’s upkeep.

  6. New Canaan already charges non-residents (including those who are neighborhood residents – within walking distance of the train and park) double the resident cost (over $800 annually) for parking at Talmadge Hill station, $40+ annually for dog park use, and fees for each individual activity in the park (theater, art museum, sports, etc.).

    Darien charges for beach access during summer months, and nothing for any parks nor beach the remainder of the year.

    Should all towns make parks inaccessible to those who cannot pay, and deter those who don’t live locally? This sounds exclusionary, and like a slippery slope. Not the kind of community I want to live in. Just imagine if when in NYC you couldn’t enter Central Park without paying…

  7. If we are going to charge for parking, in order to help with upkeep costs, we definitely first need to know how many visitors to the park are from out of town.

    Limiting it to in-state residents does nothing since I would bet the majority of non-New Canaan users are still from Connecticut.

    We can’t compare this in any way to Central Park – which we do pay to use, indirectly, by paying transportation fees to enter New York City.

    If parking costs were low, I don’t think it would be unwelcoming. But it would also mean residents would all have to get a sticker and then someone would have to be checking all the parked cars to see whether they displayed the sticker or a paid parking receipt. Is this worth it?

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