Rec Director: Town Waits for Word on Waveny Pool Reopening as Walkers Take to Public Parks, NCHS Track

Residents have taken to the trails at public parks and the New Canaan High School track in large numbers since town officials reopened the facilities for walking nearly three weeks ago, officials said Wednesday. 

An online booking system for singles tennis at the NCHS courts also has seen more than 30 courts used on average this week, according to Recreation Director Steve Benko, who has an attendant overseeing the facility. 

“Hopefully the next step is to get some of our fields reopened in a limited capacity, limited fashion,” Benko said during the Parks & Recreation Commission’s regular meeting, held via video conference. 

“Just to go out and throw a lacrosse ball or kick a soccer ball or throw a football. That has been the one challenge. We have got people who want to get out on the turf fields, who climb up the fences or climb under the fences at Dunning [Stadium]. And we have to throw them off once in a while.”

The comments came during a general update from Benko. 

During her own update, Commission Chair Rona Siegel praised Benko and his department as well as Parks Superintendent John Howe and Public Works Director Tiger Mann on their nimbleness and diligence through a time of uncertainty, as new directives come down from state and local leaders. 

“Watching all the work and changing signs and things that have been going on, I’m utterly impressed and speechless,’ Siegel said. “I know it hasn’t been easy, and I see that also during this time you are getting a lot of work done,” she added.

Parks & Rec: Kiwanis Park ‘Is Not Fully Being Used’

Attendance at Kiwanis increased by more than 40% last summer and the park potentially could more than cover costs associated with its operation, officials said last week. Kiwanis Park “is not fully being used for what it should be,” according to Parks & Recreation Commission Chair Rona Siegel. “The facility is incredible inside that concession,” Siegel said during the Commission’s regular meeting, held Jan. 8 at Town Hall. “It is restaurant-grade for the summer and spring months.

Officials Seek Workable Site in Kiwanis Park for Proposed Open-Air Ice Rink

Town officials said Tuesday they’re trying to identify just where in Kiwanis Park would be the best place for a proposed open-air ice rink. 

A leading contender for a seasonal rink site in New Canaan that would be open to the public with an admission charge, Kiwanis is attractive in that it has sufficiently large areas, parking, access to bathrooms, running water and electricity, and structures that could house changing areas, snack bar and skate shop, members of the Parks & Recreation Commission have said. Yet a level area out front of the main pavilion traditionally has been used by a local service organization for a large chunk of the late-November-through-February trial season that Parks & Rec has floated. 

And early cost estimates to level out an area behind the pavilion and install a retaining wall there appear cost-prohibitive, a group of town officials and community volunteers said during a meeting of a Parks & Rec subcommittee. It’s also unclear whether installing the ice rink deeper into the park—on the far side of the swimming hole—would create a sufficiently attractive and workable facility, officials said during the Parks & Rec skating subcommittee meeting. While excavation, fill, retaining wall construction and other costs would push the total expense for an ice rink located between the rear of the pavilion and swimming hole to an estimated $200,000 to $250,000, creating a facility out front of the building, where the Exchange Club of New Canaan in past years has set up its approximately month-long Christmas tree sale would be far less money, official said. Rona Siegel, chair of Parks & Rec, asked whether the club had ever looked at setting up its sale in the Waveny Pool parking lot instead. 

“It’s ideal,” Siegel said at the meeting, held in a conference room at Town Hall.

Rec Director Defends Tennis Programs at Mead Park

During a capital budget discussion that grew testy at times, the head of the New Canaan Recreation Department last week defended reinvigorated town-run tennis programs at Mead Park. Responding to one Parks & Recreation Commission member’s assertion that the clay courts at Mead continue to go largely under-used, Steve Benko said, “We are building our program.”

“If you want to kill my program, then kill it,” Benko told Commissioner Sally Campbell during the appointed body’s Nov. 13 meeting, held at Lapham Community Center. “But my program came back. My tennis grew by almost 60% from last year.”

The comments came as the Commission reviewed the Recreation and Parks Departments’ proposed spending plans for fiscal year 2021.