Town officials this month approved an approximately $30,000 contract with a Canaan-based company to remove existing lights at two Mead Park tennis courts and replace them with a new system. The company, Musco Sports Lighting, “did a fantastic job on the lights at Dunning [Field],” Public Works Director Tiger Mann told the Board of Selectmen at their regular meeting, held Nov. 15 at Town Hall and via videoconference. “I don’t know if you’ve been able to see a game. See the new lights.
On April 12, 1915, Florence Heath Mead, wife of Benjamin P. Mead, donated “18 acres, more or less,” to the town of New Canaan. There were a few stipulations: (1) that the property “shall be known as the ‘Mead Memorial Park”; (2) that its only use could be as a park; (3) parts of the park could only be sold to the New Haven & Hartford Railroad Company or its successors; and (4) that $300 be set aside for maintenance and improvements.
Benjamin Mead had been a very active member of the town. He first moved to New Canaan in 1873 to manage a general store located on Main Street where Chase Bank is today. He later went on to be town clerk, first selectman, legislator, senator, and state comptroller. He apparently never lost an election. He died in 1913. Looking to memorialize him, Mead’s friends suggested donating land that Benjamin had purchased in 1895 from the Rockwells. A former cranberry bog and a cornfield, it had been a gravel pit under Mead’s ownership. By 1915, gravel had been extracted and local residents used the land as a dump. The proposed donation of the land caused an uproar in town. A town hall meeting on the subject attracted some 350 residents. While the attendees were waiting outside for the meeting to begin, they debated the pros and cons of accepting the gift, including the tax burden and that the land would be “another sewer bed for a playground site.” But despite these objections, the land gift was accepted in a 136 to 110 vote.
Not too much was done with the park in the first few years. The first goals were to build a ballfield and a skating pond. The field was measured out, but it took until 1920 before there was something resembling a baseball field in the park.
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Town officials say they’re converting a standalone hard-surface public tennis court at Mead Park into a series of “pickleball” courts for use by New Canaan residents. Located up behind the collonade on the western edge of Mead, a tennis practice wall area also will be converted into a a pickle ball court so there will be five in total, under a plan that’s expected to go before the Board of Selectmen later this month, according to Public Works Director Tiger Mann. “The overall thought is to redo that hard court at the top, take away the trees that are along the railroad tracks, since they are damaging most of it, resurface or put an entire post-tension concrete surface below, surface the top of it, put in new fencing and then some additional trees in the back just as a buffer to soften the look along the railroad tracks,” Mann told members of the Parks & Recreation Commission at their regular meeting, held March 10 via videoconference.
The practice wall will remain with a pickleball court lined out on what will be the new post-tension concrete surface that will bring it up to the same grade/level as the other four, Mann said while showing schematics drawn up by West Haven-based Hinding Tennis LLC. Asked when he’d like to start the project, Mann said, “Now.” Once the concrete for the surface is poured, it takes about three weeks to cure, according to Recreation Director Steve Benko. Pickleball is a “paddleball sport” of two to four players “that combines elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis,” according to Wikipedia.
Town officials last week voted in favor of a $6,735 contract for a design improvement at Mead Park that’s expected to address the decades-old problem of baseball striking parked cars. The work of redoing the backstop on the varsity baseball field and some fencing around it is expected to cost a total of about $80,000, according to Public Works Director Tiger Mann. During its regular meeting May 19, the Board of Selectmen approved a contract with Avon-base Richter & Cegan Inc. to “give us a design to help us with the layout of that area, of the backstop itself and the fencing to try and protect and prevent balls from leaving the playing field,” Mann said. “It’s been a problem for a very long time with the layout of this backstop,” Mann told the selectmen at the meeting, held via videoconference.
First Selectman Kevin Moynihan and Selectmen Kit Devereaux and Nick Williams voted 3-0 in favor of the contract.
Foul balls struck down the right-field line at the large field often fly over a fence and onto cars in Mead’s main lot—a problem that was mitigated somewhat though not entirely with a new parking configuration.
The selectmen asked Mann whether the project had been discussed during budget season (in years past, yes), whether funds for the work were in this year’s budget (yes), in which direction the balls are flying (toward the parking lot) and whether the concern was vehicles.