Though they stopped short of specifying just where the Pop Up Park would be located in the future—a major sticking point for a group of downtown merchants who oppose it—those who created and for three summers operated the makeshift plaza on the final block of South Avenue said Wednesday night that they plan to launch it again next summer.
There will be no Pop Up Park in 2015, despite an online petition and many New Canaanites on social and local media platforms calling for its return, Betsy Wilson, a Realtor who serves on the Pop Up Park Committee, told the Police Commission.
“Our goal by early 2016 is to have approval for next summer,” Wilson told the commission at its meeting, held in the Training Room at the New Canaan Police Department.
“It’s not going to be open [in 2015]. What we are going to do is continue to organize.”
That means inviting all stakeholders to help forge a workable site and operational plan, Wilson said, as well as defining committee members’ roles, developing liaisons to emergency response agencies, launching a website, branding the Pop Up Park with a formal logo and securing funding through a GoFundMe campaign, Wilson said.
“We feel we have done a very detailed job,” she said. “We have done everything up until this point to the rules, by the book and through the appropriate channels, but we want to make sure that we go even further to involve more people.”
The meeting marked the first time that the Pop Up Park Committee addressed the Police Commission since May 20, when the commission approved a plan to keep the park in place from New Canaan High School graduation (this week) to Labor Day. Twelve days after receiving that approval, the committee received a letter signed by 16 merchants downtown, listing concerns about the park’s effects on traffic, aesthetics, parking and business—and decided to suspend it indefinitely.
Another member of the committee, Tucker Murphy, told the commission that she and others “had heard and continue to hear from merchants that were very supportive of the park and felt that it did benefit their business, while others did not.”
“We were disappointed that the merchants who were opposed came out after approvals were granted and our program had already been coordinated, she said.
Murphy added: “We felt we had provided ample opportunity for them to voice their concerns, however, we recognize that we must respect the wishes of the merchant community as well as the residents and visitors. Because of this, we decided to suspend the Pop Up Park until we can better address the impact it has on our merchants and until we can determine how to best work together to benefit all stakeholders.”
Committee member Jeff Holland said he planned to present photos, video, past traffic studies and other materials that will serve as counterpoints to many of objections raised by the opposing merchants.
The committee members thanked Pop Up Park proponents for their support and said that reasons it’s not feasible to set up and break down the park each weekend—as they had last summer—include the labor that’s involved, problems of storage and that keeping it in place addressed some concerns about its up-and-down-again, such as from motorists who feel they don’t know when they can make a left from Elm onto South Avenue and when they cannot.
Murphy said the location of the Pop Up Park remains a sticking point with the merchants who object to it.
“We will work with them, and we have some of our own concerns with some of these merchants,” Murphy said. Some of them “seem to be taking full advantage of parking on Elm for hours and hours and hours each day, and they say we are taking away three parking spaces, [while] some of them are also violating [parking rules].”