New Canaan Nears Decision on Selling Waveny Pool Passes to Out-of-Towners

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The divisive question of whether New Canaan will sell Waveny Pool family passes to out-of-towners again this summer hinges on two things, parks officials said this week: How much money is collected from passes sold to residents, and whether the plaster lining of the pool itself will hold for another season.

If that major capital project at Waveny Pool must be done prior to the Memorial Day weekend opening, the facility—which is designed to be self-sustaining—would fall short of funds based on the roughly 330 passes already sold to New Canaan residents, the Park and Recreation Commission said Wednesday at its regular meeting.

The commission will wait until after April break to take a look at how much money has come in to offset the cost, prior to making a decision on nonresident pass sales, commissioner Richard Kilbride said at the meeting, held at Lapham Community Center.

Park & Recreation Commission member Matt Konspore (far left) with the rest of the group, at its April 9, 2014 meeting, held at Lapham Community Center.

Park & Recreation Commission member Matt Konspore (far left) with the rest of the group, at its April 9, 2014 meeting, held at Lapham Community Center.

“The thinking was that in a couple of weeks’ time, in terms of where we are in pass sales and in terms of where we are in terms of what we might need to do with this budget, that the subcommittee could do some sort of go/no-go on nonresident sales at that point,” Kilbride said.

Last year, 100 passes were sold to nonresidents, raising hackles from some New Canaan users—as well as at least one online petition protesting the practice, with a comment thread that turned personal and combative.

Given the finances and capital needs—which also include work and maintenance around diving boards, pool pumps, showers, bathrooms and deck work—efforts are underway to increase resident memberships. Recreation Director Steve Benko has said the town began to see a decline in those memberships in the wake of the 2008 economic downturn. What likely happened, Benko has said, was that many New Canaanites were forced to give up memberships to private clubs at that time, and that opened up coveted spots for Waveny Pool-goers who had been on waiting lists.

“We’ve empowered some people in town to work with us to help raise awareness if residents want to increase their participation,” Kilbride said.

Waveny Pool, photographed April 9, 2014.

Waveny Pool, photographed April 9, 2014.

The town has given the commission the ability to sell nonresident family passes—at $1,000 a pop, compared to $475 for the 2014 season for resident families—if it so chooses.

Commission Chairman Sally Campbell said that—even if the pool’s interior doesn’t need replacing this season or next—it must be done at some point soon and the group’s job is to ensure that funds are in place for it.

Last year, about 730 passes were sold to residents—that figure is far below what’s needed to obtain the necessary funds, Campbell said. In addition to the 100 nonresident families that bought passes last year, there’s a waiting list of 150 more ready to jump in, officials said.

Yet at least some townies who went to Waveny complained that opening up the facility to nonresidents created some problems at the pool.

This year, the commission additionally is exploring the idea of introducing activities at Waveny Pool to make it a better, even more club-like, experience, Campbell said.

“We did listen to the residents and we talked to Steve about addressing some of their concerns about cleanliness of bathrooms,” Campbell said.

“We’re going to try to create a pool experience more similar to a Field Club or a Country Club, have activities, so that people feel like it’s a more of a real club that they’re a part of,” Campbell said. “We’re hoping that will maybe entice more people to join and it’s also a better experience.”

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