Saying they’re concerned about pedestrian safety, town officials on Wednesday night called for the organizer of a popular car enthusiast gathering to be held Oct. 20 at Waveny to ensure that a footpath running along the main road through the park is clear.
If the Caffeine & Carburetors exhibitor cars are parked on one side of the footpath only, then visitors who wander through the popular show that Sunday will be less likely to walk in the road, according to members of the Parks & Recreation Commission.
“If you can get the cars to park so that the path accessible that would be great, because that would change entirely what happened with all the pedestrians in the road,” Commissioner Francesca Segalas said at the group’s regular meeting, held at Town Hall.
It isn’t clear which side of the pedestrian path is to be left clear—parks officials couldn’t agree on that—but Caffeine & Carburetors founder Doug Zumbach agreed to work with Recreation Director Steve Benko, Parks Superintendent John Howe and Commissioner Matt Konspore on a parking plan.
Parks & Rec Chair Sally Campbell said the Commission would take a vote on whether to recommend the Oct. 20 date at Waveny for approval at its next meeting once that plan is in hand.
A New Canaan resident who owns an eponymous coffee shop on Pine Street where the event was born, Zumbach noted that New Canaan Police have said in the past that there is no safety issue with Caffeine & Carburetors as it already is run at Waveny (and downtown New Canaan).
Campbell took issue with that assessment.
“I will disagree with you on that, because I felt there was a big safety issue,” she said.
Saying that Caffeine & Carburetors is a major draw that brings prospective shoppers and diners to New Canaan, Zumbach in recent years has come to the town for approval to run four shows each season, two downtown and two at Waveny. This year, in addition to the October date at Waveny, Zumbach has organized three shows for the downtown. The Police Commission approved the April 14, May 19 and Sept. 15 dates.
Following last summer’s June show at Waveny, Campbell was critical of the event, saying several conditions that Parks & Rec had established were violated. For example, she said, many exhibitor cars—mostly specialty and classic autos—did not display placards in their windshields. Also, she said, in addition to the problem of exhibitor cars parking on the footpath, only exhibitor cars are to be allowed to enter Waveny from the South Avenue entrance during the show (locals seeking to use the park are to enter from Lapham Road and use the lots on the western side, while show visits are to park at New Canaan High School’s southernmost lot and walk over).
During Caffeine & Carburetors, show cars park off of both sides of the main road through Waveny where it opens up, as well as in the Orchard Field lot, in the west parking lot (near the veranda), all around the forecourt and in the parking lots directly in front of it, and along the road outside the forecourt and down to the Carriage Barn.
Zumbach reiterated that although when he promotes the event, he asks visitors to swing around to Farm Road to park, “I cannot stop anyone from entering the park.”
Referring to Campbell’s assertion that only exhibitor cars should be allowed to drive in by South Avenue, Zumbach said, “We can attempt to do that, but again, it is a public park. And anyone can come to the park. I am not at liberty to stop anyone from coming into the park.”
Benko backed up what Zumbach said and Campbell relented, agreeing that police and volunteers who are stationed at the South Avenue entrance to Waveny can “suggest” that motorists who are not exhibitor cars enter the park a different way.
Campbell also noted that 709 exhibitor cars attended the last Waveny event, whereas Parks & Rec wants to cap the number at 700.
When Zumbach asked where that number came from, Campbell said it was based on how many cars could park in Waveny.
Zumbach said that “this park can handle many more” vehicles, and added that a new Tourism and Economic Development Advisory Committee had been appointed by the town in order to boost the local economy.
Campbell answered, “But do we want to handle more?”
New Canaan is being “very generous” in opening the park for Caffeine & Carburetors “ but we do not want, I do not want this event to grow to be thousands and thousands of people. We think 700 is a reasonable amount of visitors.”
Zumbach noted that many more cars than 700 come to Waveny for the Family Fourth. However, Benko said, the grass is dry at that time of year and with rain getting heavier in October, the risk of damaging town fields by having cars drive and park on them rises.
For that reason, Howe also said he favored having show cars park on the “near” side of the footpath along the main road through Waveny, between the footpath and road itself.
The next regular meeting of Parks & Rec is scheduled for March 13.