Officials Expect to Break Ground This Spring/Summer on New Fitness Area at Waveny


Sample rendering of future fitness and playground at Waveny. Courtesy of Parks & Recreation

Work is expected to start on the new outdoor fitness equipment area at Waveny this spring/summer, officials say, with the widely anticipated playground project to follow.

Located on a grassy, tree-lined island near the Orchard Field lot—currently a seasonal outdoor ice rink—the two playgrounds will serve kids ages 2 to 5, and then 5 to 12, while the fitness area will be for people 13-and-older “and all inclusive,” according to Ryan Restivo, assistant parks superintendent in the Department of Public Works.

“And to reiterate on the surfacing, we’ll be using the Poured-In-Place rubber surfacing, which is the same at Mead Playground,” Restivo told members of the Parks & Recreation Commission at their Feb. 7 meeting, held at Lapham Community Center and via videoconference. “It is number one, accessible. It is safe and durable, shock-absorbent for fall protection. It’s cost-effective with low maintenance, and it has a much better aesthetic as opposed to the wood chips. Our plan is to use two different color schemes … we’re going to use a leafy green for the playground, and then a tan for the fitness area to differentiate the two.”

He spoke during a general update to the Commission on the plans for a fitness area to replace the one there now, whose equipment is outdated and broken down, and the new playground area. 

The committee that’s overseeing the project is being co-chaired by Monica Capela—who, along with Allyson Mahoney, had spearheaded efforts for the popular rubber-surface playground at Mead Park—Hilary Ormond and Lauren Connolly Nussbaum, as well as Parks & Rec Commissioners Francesca Segalas and Lindsey Heron.

During his presentation, Restivo reviewed some of the fitness equipment that the committee is selecting. They include the six-piece “Thrive 250,” which serves multiple muscle groups and signage that features instructions and workouts, Restivo said.

“And our plan is to add a QR code that will link you into a big workout plan that they have online on their website,” he said. “So it gives you step-by-step directions and good workout plans.”

Sample rendering of future playground at Waveny. Courtesy of Parks & Recreation

Though Restivo also presented possibilities from the committee for the playground area, final decisions around that equipment will be made after feedback is solicited from the wider community—importantly, the special needs community—as well as fundraising to find out what’s possible, committee members said.

Capela said the fundraising and organizing group behind the playground project has officially been named the “Friends of Waveny Playground.” 

As she did with the Mead Park project, the Waveny group will establish a fund at the New Canaan Community Foundation, which will act as a “steward” for the funds, Capela said.

“They will be our administrator, which is great because it really allows us to focus on the hard work of fundraising,” Capela said. “And it also adds a layer of transparency that we feel is really important for the community. I think it only adds to the integrity of the type of fundraising that we’re doing and the kinds of dollars that we’re asking for when we say things like, ‘We don’t touch a dollar, it all goes directly to the Community Foundation and they then handle the funds for us.’ ”

Sample rendering of future playground at Waveny. Courtesy of Parks & Recreation

The Community Foundation also ensures that the newly created nonprofit “Friends” group follows IRS rules. 

The committee is meeting weekly and working hard on the playground project, Capela said. 

“There is just so much that goes into this—so much thought, so much care, so much work and time and effort, and community feedback as well,” she said. “The reason why we’re giving you samples and ideas as opposed to saying ‘This is set in stone’ is because we feel our mission is to make sure that we are representing the all-abilities community as best we can. So what we did with Mead last time was we convened a panel of community members that have kids who have extra support needs. What we would call the ‘special needs community.’ And we just want to make sure that when we’re showing them some of the ideas that we have for this equipment, does this speak to you and your family? Is this something that resonates? And if it’s not, what would that look like? And we try to develop some kind of a consensus. There’s always going to be compromises that need to be made. But it’s a really great information exchange. And it really helps us home in on that particular demographic and make sure that this is something that speaks to those community members and their interests, as well. So that has not been done yet. And we couldn’t do that because we didn’t have the survey.”

Commissioners asked whether the new fitness equipment will be more durable than the existing gear (yes), whether the existing fitness equipment will be removed (only when the new installation is ready), how much time it will be between the installations of the fitness area and playground (possibly one year given the grant cycle; the fundraising will drive the completion date), whether people will be encouraged to the use the planned new tables near the playgrounds as a picnic area (yes) and how much money will need to be raised (several hundred thousand dollars).

Commissioner Hank Green asked whether inviting people to picnic there will create a problem with trash.

Parks & Recreation Director John Howe said that in the proposed budget now before the town funding bodies there’s overtime money “to have somebody come in early and pick up litter at Dunning, two Water Tower fields, and Mead Park daily, seven days a week, during the main playing season.”

“We’ve added Mead Park in there because we’ll have enough time to do it,” he said. “But mainly it’s the athletic fields, where there can be a lot of trash.”

The hope is that the overtime spending covers early morning trash pickup at the future playground area, as well, Howe said.

Parks & Rec Chair George Benington said to the committee, “I really appreciate you guys for what you’re doing, and I think it’s important.”

Capela noted that for the Mead project, she raised money through grants, and that the grant cycle starts in the fall with awards announced in the spring. Missing the cycle now underway “is not necessarily a bad thing because it gives us time to really get this community feedback and get all the proverbial ducks in a row,” she said.

“But for me, for example, it represented such a big chunk of our fundraising and it was a relatively—I don’t want to say ‘easy,’ because it’s not easy to fill out these applications and it’s not easy to go on interviews—bu I think we got a $52,000 chunk of money. It’s really hard to leave that on the table. And I’ve found that most of these organizations really want to participate in the process. The Community Foundation is one of the pillars of philanthropy in our community, and so they want the opportunity to be able to participate in a project like this.”

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