Parks officials on Wednesday night voted unanimously in favor of a private group’s plan to create a new trail in Waveny Park where walkers, joggers and others now are forced into the roadway for lack of one.
As it is, the trail that snakes alongside the Waveny Road from the South Avenue entrance ends at a traffic triangle where the Carriage Barn driveway comes into it.
Under a proposal from the Waveny Park Conservancy, a new trail would climb the hill up toward the main parking lots in front of Waveny House, according to Keith Simpson, a local landscape architect who sits on the nonprofit organization’s board.
“I am showing some additional trees because we want to do some additional trees, and if the budget allows, we would like to put some trees in and cut down some brush so that there is no doubt about it, people can see the trail from the road,” Simpson told members of the Park & Recreation Commission during their regular monthly meeting, held at Lapham Community Center. “Because we want them incentivized to get up and then that would presumably strengthen our hand and the police department’s hand to say we really, really want strollers and people with dogs off the road because we have created an 8-foot-wide trail for you.”
The commission voted 8-0 in favor of constructing the new trail (it needs selectmen, finance board and Town Council approval, and will be paid for entirely by the conservancy) as presented. According to Simpson and WPC board Chairman Bob Seelert, it’s really the first of three phases for the trail that also will include crossing the entrance to the first parking lot (on the left as motorists climb the hill past the Orchard Field), then running through the tree-lined island there, closing off what the group has deemed an unnecessary second entrance so it’s also pedestrian-friendly, and then crossing the parking lot entrance closest to Waveny House before connecting to parkland again.
Park & Rec Chairman Sally Campbell praised Simpson for his diligence and volunteerism to put together the plan, and commissioner Jason Milligan said that what the conservancy has planned “is awesome.”
“It’s great. We have been talking about this trail for a long time, and it’s been on the list but it gets kicked to the side. And the fact that you guys are doing this is awesome. Waveny is so big and there are so many things you could do, the fact that there is another group that has got brains and power and thinking, it’s awesome.”
Seelert responded that to some extent, “that is inspiration behind our group.”
“These things can always get deferred, but there’s a lot of things that could really be addressed and done to make this park as inviting and useful for everybody as it possibly can be.”
The trail proposal, part of a larger effort to imrpve the entryway to Waveny from South Avenue to the main house, is one of five major programs coming out of the conservancy. Others include improving the pond at the foot of the sledding hill, a forest management study that will serve as a foundation for future woodlands, trails and open space (both presented at Wednesday’s meeting), restoring the cornfields and restoring the formal gardens and areas near Waveny House.
As the conservancy continues to stir wide community support, Seelert said the group applied to the New Canaan Community Foundation for a grant during this current cycle.
“They wanted us to do something that we could assuredly have the funds for and complete in 2016, so ergo that comes down to this project which will extend the trail from the triangle all the way up to the parking lot and it will get people all the way off the road safely, and then we will come back in with some other components of this larger entryway project because we are going to refurbish the trail that that will connect to and make it a totally compatible thing,” Seelert said.
Commissioners asked whether the proposed trail feeds into the first parking lot on the left that motorists come to after coming the hill (it will cross the entrance to the lot), whether the conservancy would stripe the road down at the triangle (yes), whether the trail project is contingent on getting grant money from NCCF (no but it’s a great project to garner the organization’s support as a partner), what other parts of Waveny have 8-inch stone trails (anything done by DPW in the past two or three years, such as the trail that runs inside the stone wall, parallel to Lapham Road), whether approval is needed from Inland Wetlands for this specific trail (nope, there are no wetlands), what funds will be put aside for ongoing maintenance of the trail (none, under the operating agreement with the town, though it’s a low-maintenance project and for other WPC projects such as the pond, yes absolutely) and whether the WPC plans to post a sign alerting pedestrians to the new trail (it should be naturally conspicuous to park-goers, though a sign is also possible).
The notion of creating a new trail that would climb the hill opposite the Orchard Field first was discussed last fall among the parks commissioners, with a plan from public works officials that would see a “switchback” trail installed.
Recreation Director Steve Benko noted that the WPC’s proposed second and third phases of the new trail—that is, once it’s “out of the woods” and running alongside the parking lots—would run over the original driveway into Waveny from South Avenue. The main road through the park had been shifted west in 1979 once the parking lots were built, Benko said.