Parks Officials To Vote on Shifting Oversight of ‘Bristow Bird Sanctuary’ to Town’s Conservation Commission


Municipal officials are expected Wednesday to recommend transferring responsibility of a wooded town-owned parcel adjoining Mead Park to the Conservation Commission.

Bristow Bird Sanctuary in New Canaan. Credit: Michael Dinan

Enjoyed by neighborhood residents, nature-lovers and leashed-dog walkers, the “Bristow Bird Sanctuary” off of Old Stamford Road long has been under the purview of the New Canaan Parks & Recreation Commission. 

Yet the town’s Conservation Commission “has forestry professionals on the board and they know more about how to handle and manage a sanctuary than we do,” Parks & Rec Commissioner Francesca Segalas said at the group’s most recent meeting.

“Plus we haven’t been able to get funds approved for various things we have asked for so we are hoping that in another entity’s hands that it will get the good care and love that it deserves,” Segalas said at the meeting, held Sept. 11 at Lapham Community Center. 

The Commission is scheduled to take up a vote during its regular meeting, to be held at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 10, to transfer responsibility of the park.

The idea to do so originated with First Selectman Kevin Moynihan, Parks & Rec Chair Sally Campbell said.

A draft transfer document obtained by notes that Bristow’s “unique deed structure” limits active recreation “and focuses on conservation, namely bird habitat and native plant preservation, which are strengths of the Conservation Commission.”

One Conservation Commission member, Chris Schipper, a guest at the meeting, told Parks & Rec that Bristow may be “one of the oldest private songbird sanctuaries in the country or at least the second-oldest one in Connecticut.”

The Conservation Commission is positioned “to provide open space management reporting and natural resource management reporting,” Schipper said, and “might be successful in advocating for resources.”

“We might be able to do certain things like redo fencing or address invasive plant management,” he said. “In addition, the Conservation Commission would reach out to other bodies of the town, such as the Beautification League or Garden Club, to help us in thinking about managing, so it’s an opportunity for some collective management.”

Bristow has made headlines in recent years as a suggestion to ban dogs from it originated in the spring of 2014 with Parks & Rec and re-emerged in May of 2015. In September 2015, an attorney for the town rendered an opinion that there was no legal problem with allowing dogs in Bristow. Even so, some on Parks & Rec have continued to push for a new rule keeping them out.

Officials say that after Parks & Rec votes in favor of the transfer document, the matter would go to the Board of Selectmen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *