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.