Parks officials last week approved a private group’s request to hang a windscreen on the outfield fence of the large baseball field at Mead Park, but are insisting that this time around the opaque netting come down at season’s end.
That didn’t happen in the case of the little league fields at Mead that got the screens last spring, despite New Canaan Baseball’s agreeing to do so, Park & Recreation Commission Chairman Sally Campbell said during the group’s regular monthly meeting.
The commission had received feedback that residents didn’t want to see the netting in the winter months, Campbell said during the meeting, held Wednesday in the Douglass Room at Lapham Community Center.
“New Canaan Baseball said they would put them up and take them down last year, and they never came back to take them down last year,” she said. “So this windscreen, too, it needs to put up by [New Canaan] Baseball and taken down by X day by [New Canaan] Baseball and we should not have to go back to you all to say to take it down. Like we had to keep saying take down the New Canaan Pride sign over at Saxe last year. So we need to know that New Canaan Baseball—not ‘Friends of New Canaan Baseball,’ will take responsibility for this and take it down.”
She addressed Paul Giusti, who identified himself as representing Friends of New Canaan Baseball, which he said supports the New Canaan High School varsity baseball team, and Jim Higgins, president of New Canaan Baseball Inc. A search of nonprofit organizations registered with the IRS yields no return for ‘Friends of New Canaan Baseball.’
Commissioners ultimately approved the request from Giusti and Higgins on the windscreen 8-0, as well as three other capital projects for the large field at Mead that will be funded privately:
- Restoring visiting teams’ bullpen/warm-up pitching mounds;
- Installing an electrical conduit behind the backstop;
- And running border collies to keep Canada geese off of the field.
Giusti and Higgins said the main purpose of the windscreen is aesthetically to provide some definition to the outfield fence, which is chain link.
Commissioner Laura Costigan asked whether the windscreen has any functional value.
Giusti answered: “What it does—and this doesn’t happen a lot—when a ball hit off fence or something like that, when it comes of the windscreen it comes off a little cleaner, because if you have chain link fence it kind of goes around. But that is a rare occurrence. This is more defining the field of play and more of an aesthetic quality to the field than just chain link.”
Recreation Director Steve Benko said the screen also makes it easier for a batter to pick up a ball that’s been hit to the outfield.
Commissioner Jason Milligan said it minimizes the distraction of kids playing or practicing in areas beyond the outfield fence.
Even Chris Santopietro, owner of Wilton-based Geese Relief LLC, who was there to speak to the problem of “nuisance geese” at Mead, put in that the windscreens could deter Canada geese from congregating at the park since it will make the expanse of the baseball field feel smaller and less safe.
Higgins when asked about why the windscreens at Mellick and Gamble Fields hadn’t been taken down in the offseason last year, as agreed, told the commission that he wasn’t president of New Canaan Baseball at that time.
“I wasn’t involved in this,” Higgins said. “Can I ask why you want it [the windscreen taken down]?”
Giusti said they’d take the windscreen down if the commission wanted, and added: “I guess the only question I would ask is that if we put it up, and then have this group take a look at it once it’s up and we’d be happy to come back or for New Canaan Baseball to come back, and say, ‘Is it offensive to anybody to have that there?’ Because I went and looked at it at Gamble and Mellick and this is an eye-of-the-beholder thing, but you are either seeing a green windscreen or you are seeing a chain link fence. Those are the options, it’s not like the whole fence comes down.”
Commissioner Joan Guzzetti responded that the chain link fence is transparent whereas the windscreen is not.
“It’s not so much looking at a fence versus a screen but you get to look through the fence,” she said. “You lose the aspect of looking out at the open space.”
Higgins said that installing the windscreen at the little league fields proved more difficult than had been anticipated. A group of dad volunteers couldn’t do it and New Canaan Baseball had to hire a crew with special tools to take care of it.
Asking the group to take it down each season “could end up being a cost of thousands of dollars” to New Canaan Baseball, Higgins said.