Since opening as a park in 2005, Irwin Park has been seen as a sanctuary where residents and our neighbors can walk, jog, ride bicycles, picnic and even cross-country ski. The New Canaan Garden Club, as stewards of the Park, recently completed a ten-year Master Plan for the park with Stimson Landscape Architects from Cambridge, MA. Stimson recently was awarded the 2021 Landscape Architecture Firm award from the American Society of Landscape Architects and their Master Plan will provide the road map for the future of the Park.
The NCGC Irwin Park Committee presented this Master Plan to the Parks and Recreation Commission at their February meeting and received conceptual approval for two agreed upon priorities. The first project would be to create a terraced lawn seating on the existing hillside west of the Gores Pavilion as a natural location for informal gatherings, lectures or small groups of classes.
The second priority project is the installation of a boardwalk, approximately 900 feet in length, eight feet wide, through the wooded western edge of the park. It would conform to the property’s contours and be composed of a combination of crushed stone and locust wood. Providing more trails with varied experiences will enormously enhance the quiet pleasure of being in the Park. In addition, the establishment of this boardwalk would further enhance the Town’s “Green Link Trail” that connects Irwin Park to other Land Trust properties, the Nature Center and other New Canaan parks.
A significant focus of The New Canaan Garden Club has been the continued beautification of Irwin Park. Over the past fifteen years, the Garden Club has planted 50,000 daffodils and over forty trees. Close to a mile of Flexi-Pave trails have been installed by the Town, thanks to generous contributions from the community of nearly $500,000. In 2019, the final loop of Flexi-Pave trail was completed after a successful fundraising effort spearheaded by the New Canaan Garden Club.
The Garden Club also just completed its three-year “Goat Project” which showcased an environmentally friendly way of eradicating invasive species such as Japanese knotweed, mugwort and others from the western edge of the park. This project was supported by contributions from the community, a grant from the New Canaan Community Foundation and the Garden Club of America’s Partner For Plants program. A video of the project received first place and Best in Show at the Garden Club of America’s Annual Meeting in 2021 in the Education Division – Conservation Class.
Irwin Park has grown in popularity and continues to be a respite for passive recreation in all seasons especially during the pandemic. Scientific studies conclude that spending more time in green spaces boosts mental and physical health during these stressful and uncertain times. Both the hillside terrace and the boardwalk projects will significantly enhance Irwin Park for the New Canaan community.
Diana Ferguson, Debbie Gordon, Donna Howard and Judy Neville
Irwin Park Co-Chairs, New Canaan Garden Club