New Playground, Rubber Surface at Mead Park on Track for Late-May Completion

The widely anticipated installation of a new playground and rubber surface at Mead Park—a project nearly two years in development—is expected to be completed next month, officials say. A collaboration between the town and Friends of Mead Park Playground, the project will see preparation work for the new play structures and a “Poured-In-Place” surface commence during the last week in April with a target completion date of late-May, according to Recreation Director Steve Benko. The 20-year-old playground structure that had been there was recently removed (it’s going to be refurbished and sent for use in an underdeveloped country) after the New Canaan Department of Public Works’ Highway Department helped disassemble it in a single day, Benko told members of the Parks & Recreation Commission at their most recent meeting. “The first step to is to grade the area, level it off and then we will install the playground, put the stone in and the concrete borders and then the last step is to put the Poured-In-Place surface in,” he said at the meeting, held April 10 at Town Hall. “And that is probably going to be in mid- to late-May to put that in, because the temperatures should be in the 50s to do that.

Town: Changes Coming to Traffic Islands at Mead Park To Improve Flow

Town officials plan this month to realign a traffic island in Mead Park so that motorists don’t cut the wrong way past it, and also to re-stripe the parking for areas that are expected to see heavier use with the newly turfed little league baseball infields. Public Work Director Tiger Mann told members of the Parks & Recreation Commission at their most recent meeting that the town wants to “try and manage the parking in and around the [Mead Park] Lodge” as well as the traffic that flows toward that area from the main entrance on Park Street. 

Specifically, the traffic island at the “T”—where the main parking lot approaches the tennis courts—will be reconfigured, with new hash marks to go down, to prevent drivers from zipping past it on the left. “Right now we have got a lot of people cutting to left of the island, even though we have signage that says ‘keep right,’ they are cutting to the left because it is a little bit wider in that area,” Mann told the Commission at its March 13 meeting, held in Town Hall. “If we if we reorient island—the tree to the western side of the island is in decline, so we are looking to take that out—realign the curb itself, making it straighter so that it will actually narrow down that left-hand lane, so people will be forced to go to the right and around the T,” he said. The town also will either curb or stripe an area below the traffic island to make it narrower and indicate to motorists that they should keep right as instructed, he said.

Here’s What’s Next for the Former ‘Mead Park Brick Barn’ Site

Town officials say they’re adopting a plan laid out by a local landscape architect to reimagine the northern portion of Mead Park where, until last week, a former fuel depot had stood for 100 years. 

The demolition of the “Mead Park Brick Barn,” which came nearly one year after the first selectman broke a tie on the Town Council to have it razed, clears the way for New Canaan to pursue a plan for the area that Keith Simpson Associates put forward several years ago. Plans call for an overhead sign announcing the new formal entrance to ‘Mead Park’ and commencement of the “Gold Star Walk,” an honorary walk in memory of New Canaanites who died in World War II that rings that side of Mead Pond. The footprint of the Brick Barn would remain as a plaza with native stone paving infill and seating that’s edged by ornamental fencing, an on-grade brick border and low plantings, under the Simpson plan, and a pedestrian path would run off of the back toward the Gold Star Walk itself. The small parking area next to the razed building would include six parking spaces, one for disabled drivers, and a bike rack would be added there, under the plan. Asked about the plans, Public Works Director Tiger Mann called the area “an underutilized side of the park.”

“Most people come in for the other side, with the Lodge and baseball fields and playground, so we want to promote usage of this side, we’re trying to make a nice entranceway,” he said.

With Interest in Tennis Waning, Town Officials Pursue New Uses for Mead Park Courts, Racquet Club Partnership 

Town officials are looking to forge a new partnership with the New Canaan Racquet Club and also find some new uses for the under-utilized tennis courts at Mead Park in order to boost attendance there. 

In 2018, New Canaan sold 112 season passes for the clay courts, bringing in about $10,000 in revenues against $14,000 just to open the facility and thousands for more attendants, according to the Parks & Recreation Commission. 

“There is a considerable shortfall on tennis that the town has to make up,” Commissioner Carl Mason said during the appointed body’s Feb. 13 meeting at Town Hall. “Even if we were to look at some of our better years, looking back at 2015 or so, we have a shortfall.”

Though tennis instruction clinics bring in some money, they effectively just “cover their costs” and it’s hard to justify redoing the clay courts for an estimated $140,000 “without any real hard data on usage,” Mason said. 

“We are really not finding any champions for tennis in New Canaan at this point in time,” Mason said while presenting the full Commission with an update on the eight Mead Park courts. 

The Commission should consider whether all of those courts must be dedicated to tennis, given the low demand, or whether “we can convert those courts for other sports,” Mason said. 

“One thing that has been discussed is pickle ball. The hard court is maybe a venue for pickle ball. Or maybe even volleyball, basketball or a flexible field on one of the Har-Tru courts.”

Recreation officials also have met with the New Canaan Racquet Club to talk about a new partnership.

Town Officials Call for Less Conspicuous Garbage Dumpsters in Parks

Town officials said last week that they’re addressing an aesthetic problem whereby those entering local parks in some cases are accosted by the sight of garbage dumpsters. 

The town many years ago switched from trash cans dotted around fields at parks such as Waveny and Mead, to having dumpsters, according to Parks & Recreation Commission Chair Sally Campbell. That effort was “very critical to reducing the amount of trash on the fields and in our parks,” she said during the Commission’s regular meeting, held Oct. 10 at Lapham Community Center. 

“However, we find that every park we drive into we are verbally assaulted by City Carting on the dumpsters,” she said. The answer, according to Commissioner Hank Green, who has looked at how nearby towns handle their dumpsters, will involve putting up three-sided fencing around them. “It should be a pretty easy fix,” Green said.