Neighbor’s Concerns About Nature Center Grounds Include Disused Trails, Fallen Trees


Officials say the New Canaan Nature Center neighbor who recently flagged concerns about the park’s grounds is taking issue specifically with what he calls disused trails not properly “returned to nature” as well as improper removal of fallen trees.

John Busch of Oenoke Ridge Road additionally showed members of the Park & Recreation Commission “examples of water walkways that are left to fall apart or rot,” commissioner Gene Goodman said during the group’s Feb. 10 meeting.

The resident “suggested that there are ways to make the park more in tune with what the park should be, especially if you want it natural,” Goodman said at the meeting, held in the Douglass Room at Lapham Community Center. “Things that are not being done or are not being done correctly, in his opinion, that would be a benefit.”

Busch had come to the commission’s January meeting and expressed in general terms that he was dissatisfied with management of the Nature Center’s grounds. He could not immediately be reached for comment.

According to the commission’s chairman, Sally Campbell, a subcommittee (composed of herself, Goodman, Recreation Director Steve Benko and Parks Superintendent John Howe) met with Busch to hear him out, Howe walked the Nature Center’s grounds with him and Park & Rec members will meet with him again on Wednesday.

Established in 1960, the Nature Center includes 40 acres of town-owned land and offers programs for kids, families and adults. While the town owns the land and buildings, providing maintenance support, the Nature Center covers its own operating funds.

According to Campbell, one positive upshot of the talks with Busch has been to clarify just what the commission’s and town’s roles are with respect to the Nature Center.

“We are finding we really weren’t paying attention to it because we never thought it fell under our umbrella, but it is a town park and we are going to work to clarify some of what our responsibilities are and then what the Nature Center’s are,” Campbell said.

The office of the first selectman is working on a new lease, she added.

According to Goodman, many areas of responsibility “are not clearly identified.”

“They are just piece-by-piece and question-by-question, not with correct communications or an understanding of who does what.”

For example, someone apparently recently entered Nature Center property and cut up a fallen tree into sections without the parks department’s knowledge or the Nature Center’s and it was “due to a lack of communication among the various entities that they did things that no one would have done.”

Goodman told fellow commissioners: “So, not to defend or attack but to give you a a sense of what is going on in response to your very legitimate question of who is responsible for what: It’s not clearly drawn at this point in time.”

Commissioner Jason Milligan said he was “surprised at the level of attention he received for the minimal effort he gave.”

“Good for you for letting him air his ideas and opinions, but I am looking forward to what we see,” Milligan told Campbell and Goodman.

Commissioner Andrea Peterson said her impression was that Busch in some ways was suggesting that the town do less rather than more in caring for the grounds.

“I mean the trees that fall in the woods, right now they get chopped up into segments and then the segments get left there, and he said, ‘No, the trees that fall in the woods should just be left there’ ” except in cases where they cross a trail, she said.

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