‘A Day of Profound Sadness’: Town Officials Report Passing of Steve Benko

Steve Benko, a lifelong New Canaan resident known to local families through five decades as head of the town Recreation Department, died overnight, officials said Saturday. A former chief of New Canaan Fire Co.,#1, he died “after a very courageous, but mercifully short, battle with cancer,” the organization’s president, Rob Mallozzi, said in an email to Fire Company members. “His family was by his side.”

“It is a day of profound sadness to our Fire Department and Company and our entire town,” Mallozzi said. “Please keep the Benko family in your prayers.”

First Selectman Kevin Moynihan issued this statement Saturday: “New Canaan lost one of its most dedicated and long-serving Town employees Friday night when Steve Benko passed away at Stamford Hospital surrounded by his family after a short battle with cancer. Steve served 50 years as Recreation Director of the Town of New Canaan and was a mentor and friend to generations of youth, Town employees, Fire Co.

Rule-Breakers Prompt Town To Install New Sign at Dog Park Regarding Prohibition on Young Children

Saying some of those who use the dog run at Waveny are breaking a rule that prohibits young children from entering the fenced-in area, officials are planning to install an even more explicit sign there. This wording already appears on a “Rules of the Dog Park” sign outside Spencer’s Run: “Children under five are prohibited from entering Spencer’s Run—no exceptions. This is for the protection of the children.”

Yet recently, Parks & Recreation Commissioner George Benington said, when he’s gone to the popular dog run “there have been some not-so-bright adults who have been bringing in some of their toddlers.”

Addressing the full Commission during its Nov. 10 meeting, Benington asked whether a dedicated sign saying “No children under the age of five” could be posted at the gated entrance to Spencer’s Run. “One mother gives us some pushback in there,” he said at the meeting, held via videoconference. 

Recreation Director Steve Benko said that although the rules of the park are spelled out on the gate, people don’t read them.

Parks & Rec: Tennis Permits Up 70% in 2021

Sales of Mead Park tennis permits are up 70% year-over-year, officials say. The New Canaan Recreation Department had sold 473 permits in 2021 as of the Sept. 8 meeting of the Parks & Recreation Commission, according to Commissioner George Benington. The figure compares to 277 in 2020 and 142 “so we can obviously see the post-COVID effects, or COVID effects, are having a huge impact on our facilities,” Benington said at the meeting, held via videoconference. 

“The numbers speak for themselves,” he said. “They’re absolutely phenomenal.”
The comments came during update from Benington on the town’s tennis, platform or “paddle” tennis and recently opened pickleball facilities.

‘It Looks Beautiful’: New Pickleball Courts at Mead Park Near Completion 

The widely anticipated pickleball courts at Mead Park are nearing completion and a new patio is planned for an area next to them, officials say. The courts have been painted and fencing has been installed, Public Works Director Tiger Mann told members of the Parks & Recreation Commission during their regular meeting, held July 14 via videoconference. Gates into and between the courts still need to be installed, as does a practice tennis wall at the southern end of the new courts, officials said. Located on the western end of Mead, above the pond and colonnade, the area around the courts also will get landscaping, an expanded parking lot and a patio, Mann said. “It’s shaping up really nicely,” he told Parks & Rec during an update.