Rec Director: ‘Non-Summer’ at Kiwanis Due to COVID, YMCA

The town couldn’t open Kiwanis Park to the public in the way it had planned this summer, officials say, not only because of the COVID-19 pandemic but also because a local organization that took over the Old Norwalk Road property for its own campers left it in sub-par condition. In years past, residents including Kiwanis pass-holders and Recreation Department campers, among others, have split use of the beach at the park’s swimming hole with the New Canaan YMCA. This year, citing space restrictions due to COVID-19, town officials approved a new lease that gave the Y exclusive weekday use of Kiwanis for its camp, limiting public access to 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, and open use on weekends. As a result, “the summer was a non-summer,” according to Recreation Director Steve Benko, “because we ran into the COVID situation and we ended up leasing the whole complex to the Y.”

“That really affected the attendance,” Benko told members of the Town Council Land Use, Recreation and Conservation Committee during their Oct. 7 meeting, held via videoconference.

Selectmen Restore Placeholder for Kiwanis Park Funding; Board of Finance Decision Looms

The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday proposed a spending plan for next fiscal year that restores funding to operate Kiwanis Park, though the future of the Old Norwalk Road facility remains uncertain. The selectmen voted 3-0 to pass along to the Board of Finance an overall operating budget of about $153.6 million, representing a year-over-year spending increase of 1.1%. The figure includes Board of Education spending. In a budget season that has seen the finance board call for an operating reduction of 2% in municipal departments, an initial draft proposed spending plan before the selectmen had essentially de-commissioned Kiwanis Park by removing funding for it. Yet Selectmen Kit Devereaux and Nick Williams during the Board’s regular meeting at Town Hall pushed to have $47,000 restored to Kiwanis so that recreation officials have a chance to reinvigorate the park under a reduced-hours schedule next summer.