Parks officials on Wednesday voted in favor of requesting funds for next fiscal year to update the fitness area at Waveny while also creating a children’s playground area.
Located just below the main road through Waveny, next to the parking lot that serves the “Orchard Field” softball diamond, the all-abilities fitness station has equipment that will need to be replaced in a few years, according to Parks Superintendent John Howe.
Many kids already use that equipment “even though it’s not age-appropriate for them,” and the area is large and flat enough to get a poured-in-place surface not only for the fitness area but also for new playgrounds for younger children, Howe told members of the Parks & Recreation Commission at their regular meeting.
“We feel strongly that a playground would really round out recreation at Waveny Park,” Howe said during the meeting, held via videoconference. “We would say that we need to put a fence just so that kids would not be able to go into the roadway from there. But we could make a wooden fence similar to down at Mead Park where it would blend into the surrounding woods and everything else.”
Commission Chair Rona Siegel and members Carl Mason, Francesca Segalas, Steve Haberstroh, Hank Green, Gene Goodman, Laura Costigan, George Benington and Jack Hawkins voted unanimously in favor of a future funding request. (Commissioners Matt Konspore and Jake Granito were absent.) When Public Works officials discussed the project in January, the estimate was pegged at about $429,000, including the new surfaces and all required fencing. Howe said the figure would need to be updated.
Siegel said, “I see so many children on that workout equipment so I think having a playground or children’s area near that, in some way separating it so a parent could be right next to it on the workout [area] with the kids playing, seems like a smart idea.”
Benefits of the site include that it’s already screened by trees from Waveny House and surrounding areas, Howe said, and that the installation would happen on the northern portion of the park, which is designated for sports and active recreation. An ash tree that will need to come down in a few years anyway would need to be removed to make room for the playground area, Howe said. A pine tree also might need to come down, he said.
Commissioners asked whether parks officials looked at other possible sites in Waveny (yes and they were problematic for different reasons), whether the workout equipment would be fenced off from the children’s playground area (yes), what the timeline for installation would be if the project is approved (if money is made available next July, installation could happen next fall into spring 2023) and whether Howe would come back to Parks & Rec with a more formal plan than the current conceptual rendering (yes).
Mason noted that the fitness area would be a good location for playground equipment for kids since they often are the younger siblings of those playing sports on the fields nearby. He asked whether the fitness equipment itself could be relocated within Waveny.
Howe responded that the fitness area gets good regular use where it is now, and that more thought could be given to separating it from the proposed playground equipment using fencing.
Waveny visitors often mistake the exercise station for a playground, and misuse it as such. In fact, it’s an all-abilities fitness station, opened in 2011 thanks to supporters such as Karl Chevrolet, C&H Auto, Joe’s Pizza, New Canaan Community Foundation and Bankwell.
Recreation Director Steve Benko noted that the Lapham family, former owners of Waveny, had a tennis court just where the fitness area now is located, and that’s why it’s flat.