A longtime next-door neighbor of the New Canaan Nature Center told officials at a public meeting last week that the organization is failing to care properly for its grounds and that he plans to share steps with the town to correct existing problems and ensure they do not re-emerge.
John Busch of Oenoke Ridge Road told members of the Park & Recreation Commission that he’s lived just north of the Nature Center for nearly 20 years “and I walk the trails all the time.”
“And I daresay I know a lot about how the land has been cared for and, in my opinion, not cared for,” Busch told the commission at its regular meeting, held Wednesday night in the Douglass Room at Lapham Community Center. “I would like to share some thoughts not only about the condition currently but actions that I think this commission could take to improve the condition of the land not just now but in the future.”
Chairman Sally Campbell said the commission would form a subcommittee to establish whether it has oversight of the property and, if so, walk the grounds with Busch and report back to the full group at its meeting in February.
Asked by commissioner Matt Konspore for a quick summary of what exactly is wrong, Busch answered: “The Nature Center’s land is something not been cared for. There is a lot of debris. There are improvements that have fallen into disrepair and it is not the way I think any of us here would want a public park to look.”
Established in 1960, the popular and fully staffed Nature Center includes 40 acres of town-owned land and puts on a wide array of programs for kids, families and adults. While the town owns the land and buildings, too, providing maintenance support, the Nature Center raises its own funds—primarily through revenue-generating programs, membership fees and donations.
Busch—who said he lives just beyond the northern end of the property, by what long has been known as the ‘Butterfly Field’—underscored that his concern is with the upkeep of the land, not the buildings.
Saying he had taken photos that day (Jan. 13) to illuminate his concerns, Busch told the commission he would return for next month’s meeting with a full presentation.
Commissioner Laura Costigan said she was unsure whether the group had oversight of the Nature Center property.
“What would be the relationship between Park & Recreation and the New Canaan Nature Center?” Costigan said.
Campbell said that’s a central question to answer prior to getting involved. The selectmen now are looking at a lease with the Nature Center which is coming up for renewal, Campbell said, and have reached out to Park & Rec to weigh in.
Commissioner Andrea Peterson said that Park & Rec has never had a role “that I know of.”
“It is town land but it is not under our purview,” she said.
The commission is scheduled to meet Feb. 10.