Parks & Rec: Tennis Court Usage Up Amid COVID-19 Emergency

Officials say they’ve seen a sharp rise among residents seeking passes to play tennis at Mead Park this summer. 

The town has sold 216 total passes compared to 144 last year, Parks & Recreation Commissioner Steve Haberstroh said during the appointed body’s regular meeting Wednesday. 

Within those figures, the number of adult passes has increased year-over-year from 59 to 115, while youth passes have increased from 17 to 42, Haberstroh said during the meeting, held via videoconference. 

“Likely due to COVID, people are interested in tennis again,” he said during an update on tennis activity. 

The courts at Mead Park and New Canaan High School both are seeing robust regular use, Haberstroh said. On good weather days, 35 to 45 courts are used daily at each location, he said. Starting May 10, the high school courts began requiring users to register ahead of time to use the courts and had an attendant there to ensure CDC and U.S. Tennis Association guidelines are followed, and 450 people signed up, Haberstroh said. The only user group buying fewer passes is seniors, down slightly from 65 in 2019 to 56 this summer, he said. The reason for the overall increase likely is that residents are looking to do outdoor sports and to social-distance amid the COVID-19 public health emergency, Parks & Rec commissioners said.

Town: Sales of Waveny Pool Passes Down 

Fewer seniors are purchasing passes to Waveny Pool in years past, officials said last week, likely due to COVID-19 virus-related fears. As of Wednesday, 116 senior passes had been sold, according to Recreation Program Manager Steve Dayton. 

The figure is down 33% from the 174 total sold through the summer season one year ago, records show. In the past five years, the number of senior passes sold for Waveny Pool ranged up from 140. “I don’t think they are coming to the pool,” Dayton told members of the Parks & Recreation Commission during the appointed body’s regular meeting, held July 8 via videoconference. Commissioner Matt Konspore said, “I think there are still people in fear,” referring to transmission of the virus to seniors, for whom coronavirus disease poses great risk.

Town Officials Eye June 22 Reopening of Playing Fields, with Restrictions

Town officials said last week that they’re working on a plan to reopen New Canaan’s playing fields, following state guidelines. District and parks officials are hoping to start opening fields June 22, with several mandated restrictions, according to Recreation Director Steve Benko. For example, player benches at the fields will be removed because six-foot social distancing is required and they would need to be disinfected after every practice or game, Benko told members of the Parks & Recreation Commission at their June 10 meeting, held via videoconference. 

“The same thing goes with the bleachers,” he said. “It says you must practice six-foot social distancing in the bleachers. Our bleachers, like at Mead at the baseball field, there are five rows.

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.