‘It Takes a Village’: Parks & Rec Chair Spotlights Volunteer Efforts

The chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission at the appointed body’s most recent meeting voiced appreciation for six local volunteer efforts in New Canaan. Rona Siegel in providing an update during the Commission’s Oct. 16 meeting credited individual residents and nonprofit organizations that have enhanced or are expected to improve areas of public parks here in various ways. “I think it takes a village,” Siegel said at the meeting, held at Lapham Community Center. “And as much as there are things that are bumps in the road, there are a lot of people that make stuff happen in New Canaan.”

She named: the Waveny Park Conservancy for its work in and around the pond at the foot of the sledding hill; New Canaan High School graduate Celia Sokolowski, who installed “bat houses” at local parks as part of her Girl Scout Gold Award project; NCHS senior Henry Pohle, who for his Eagle Scout project installed two new benches dedicated to local veterans at the memorial Gold Star Walk in Mead Park; and Allyson Mahoney and Monica Capela, who led the Friends of Mead Park Playground’s efforts, in conjunction with the town, to get new equipment and a poured-in-place rubberized surface there.

Parks Chief: Goats Pulled ‘A Little Bit Early’ from Irwin

Though the goats installed at Irwin Park did well in their first summer of chewing up invasive plants, the animals appear to have been pulled from their work just a little too soon, officials said. The five goats who arrived at Irwin in July under a town-approved contract went to work immediately on the invasives and especially Japanese Knotweed, which had grown so high it encroached on the Flexi-pave path at the western end of the park, officials said. “There is a lot of knotweed that came back, a lot of stuff was growing again,” Parks Superintendent John Howe said during the Oct. 16 meeting of the Parks & Recreation Commission, held at Lapham Community Center. “I think they pulled them a little bit early.”

The Board of Selectmen in June approved a $10,200 contract with Rhinebeck, N.Y.-based Green Goats to have the goats work at Irwin this year, with funds provided by the New Canaan Garden Club.

Sales of Passes, Attendance at Waveny Pool Hit 3-Year High

Passes sold for Waveny Pool, overall attendance and revenues all ticked up to three-year highs in the season just ended, officials said last week. Total attendance reached 40,059 during the Memorial-Day-to-Labor-Day season, including a record-high 7,644 nonresident visits, according to data presented to the Parks & Recreation Commission during its regular meeting. “We had a very good season,” Recreation Director Steve Benko told the Commission during the Sept. 11 meeting at Town Hall. 

“The weather cooperated,” he added. “We had a couple of weekends with a little bit of rain, but it was a very good season.”

Here’s a snapshot of attendance going back to 2014:


Owned and operated by the town with costs offset by sales of passes to local and area residents, the self-sustaining Waveny Pool long has been one envy of neighboring Darien and is widely seen as one of New Canaan’s most successful endeavors.

‘Our Hands Are Tied’: Parks & Rec Chair Voices Frustration Regarding Security Cameras at Waveny

Saying she and others researched a proposed installation of security cameras at Waveny’s entrances, the head of the New Canaan Parks & Recreation Commission on Wednesday night voiced frustration about what appears now to be the appointed body’s inability to make a formal recommendation on the widely discussed matter. Faced with a petition calling for the cameras that now has garnered more than 2,200 digital signatures, the Commission earlier this summer formed a subcommittee to study the issue, solicited an expert recommendation from police, met with vendors and prepared to request a $25,000 special appropriation for the installation. The Commission was “ready to move forward,” Chair Rona Siegel said at its regular meeting, held in Town Hall. “However, we were just informed that it is not in the purview of Parks and Rec to determine where security cameras go, it is [up to] the Board of Selectmen and the first selectman, Kevin Moynihan, to determine and that, lucky us, we’ll just be stuck with the aesthetics of the cameras.”

Addressing the petition’s creator, Hilary Ormond, a guest at the meeting, Siegel continued, “So I share your frustration, because I think that the time and effort put on that was meant for whatever the outcome and recommendation from the police chief was, but we are here with our hands are tied.”

Moynihan, also a guest at the meeting, said he had issued a statement on Waveny and cameras and that he intends to meet with the Police Commission to discuss the matter. “Public safety is the Police Department’s responsibility, and when I observed how flailing our staff was over this issue, I realized it was not being handled properly, so we are working on a plan and we will come forward with a plan for the selectmen, working with the Police Commission,” he said.

‘Take Some Responsibility’: Officials Urge Mead Park Playground Visitors To Carry Trash Back Out

Town officials are urging Mead Park visitors to remove their trash from a newly installed playground area that came to be as a result of a successful public-private partnership. 

New Canaan is proud of the new playground and those that raised funds to help pay for the project, “and so I guess for me it’s just a public request, too: Whatever you take in, make sure you take it out, just like camping,” Parks & Recreation Chair Rona Siegel said during the appointed body’s regular meeting, held July 10 at Town Hall. 

“And there are trash cans near the concessions, near the driving area,” Siegel said. A collaboration between the town and Friends of Mead Park Playground–a private effort overseen by two New Canaan women that saw more than $200,000 raised thanks to scores of individual donors as well as generous local businesses and nonprofit organizations—the remade play area replaces aging, deteriorating equipment and includes a “poured-in-place” rubberized surface. After some weather-related delays, the playground was finished and ready for use prior to the Fourth of July, though almost immediately trash began collecting in the area. 

Parks Commissioner Jack Hawkins asked whether trash cans had been installed around the playground area itself. Told that they had not, he said, “Can we discuss tat and can we get some down there? I think having a trashcan available down there will help prevent littering.”

John Howe, superintendent of parks with the New Canaan Department of Public Works, said that before the town moved to a “carry in-carry out” policy, “we had much more garbage blowing around.”

“Blowing around the trash cans, anything from squirrels getting inside and chewing their way out, to ‘Well it’s close enough, it’s near the trash can,’ ” Howe said.