Parks Officials Designate New Areas at Waveny for Drone Operators, Eye Kiwanis for This Fall

Drone pilots finally have a viable and designated place to fly this summer. Parks officials on Wednesday created a plan for drone users and their devices to operate at Waveny. Under a proposal that the New Canaan Parks & Recreation Commission approved 8-0 during its regular meeting, beginning June 26 and through Aug. 15, drone-using members of the New Canaan Radio Control Society will be able to fly the devices in an area west of the water towers, near the softball fields behind Lapham Community Center, while model plane and “quad-copter” racing owners fly on the same field but nearer to the main road through Waveny. Flying will take place 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends and 12 to 4 p.m. three days per week, commission Chair Sally Campbell said.

Drones in New Canaan: Parks Officials Eye Out-of-Season Use of East School Field, Waveny Pool Lot for Operators

Facing pushback on an idea that had emerged last month, parks officials now are weighing a new plan that would see drone operators in New Canaan restricted to a playing field at East School during the summer and a parking lot behind Waveny Pool for the rest of the year. The playing field is isolated, unused when school is out and visible from Little Brook Road, according to Parks & Recreation Commission Chair Sally Campbell, and nobody goes to the Waveny Pool parking lot when the facility itself is closed from Labor Day to Memorial Day. “One of the things we were struggling with is where to put the drones—they are not gong to go away, they will just increase,” Campbell told fellow commissioners during the group’s regular meeting, held Wednesday night at Lapham Community Center. As per a policy adopted last summer, New Canaan now requires drone users to join the New Canaan Radio Controlled Society and fly the contraptions in an approximately 50-by-90-yard area near where Lapham Road comes into the main road through Waveny. Allowable hours of drone-flying vary by season, under the town’s plan, and they’re only allowed in Waveny and no other park, under the town’s policy.

‘This Is a Significant Issue’: Parks Officials Pursue Signage, Regulations at Waveny To Control Drone Use

Parks officials are ramping up their efforts to rein in the currently unregulated use of drones at Waveny, and may piggyback on an established and vigilant group of aircraft operators there to do so. The prevalence and apparent misuse of drones at the park are posing immediate threats, according to members of the Park & Recreation Commission. Commissioner Matt Konspore said he was at Waveny Pool on Sunday “and it was drone central.”

“They were flying low over the pool,” Konspore said at the group’s regular monthly meeting, held in Lapham Community Center. “It was crazy.”

And police have no real way to address that craziness without conspicuous signage at Waveny instructing drone operators to fly only at specific times and in designated areas, according to Commissioner Kit Devereaux. The group decided to approach the New Canaan Radio Control Society about folding drone operators under its organization.

Drones at Waveny: Citing Safety Hazards, Town Officials Call for Use Policy

Saying the drones they see flying at Waveny with greater frequency represent safety hazards, parks officials will set about drafting a policy on the use of the devices there. Recreational drone operators and at least one out-of-town Realtor—practicing her listing flyovers—have sent the devices overhead during baseball and softball games at nearby fields, according to Steve Benko, director of the New Canaan Recreation Department. With a policy in hand, signage and organization, those who fly drones hopefully would become as responsible and respectful as the men who fly model airplanes as part of the venerable New Canaan Radio Control Society, Benko told members of the Park & Recreation Commission at their regular meeting this month. “Unfortunately, Waveny Park has become ‘Fairfield County Park,’ ” Benko said during the meeting, held May 11 in Lapham Community Center. “Everybody from Stamford, Darien, Westport and Norwalk comes here and they think, ‘I can just do that.’ ”

And in some cases, they appear to feel very strongly.