Parks & Recreation approve parks master plan
DARIEN — While a town pool appears to be a long-term goal, the recently approved parks master plan prioritizes immediate work at town-owned land along the beach area.
After a year of discussions between the commission, consultants and town residents, Parks and Recreation voted to pass the parks 86-page master plan Jan. 17.
Commission members will have until their February meeting to digest the master parks plan and select certain goals for discussion and agenda review. Parks and Recreation Director Pam Gery said that plans for improvements to two parks would be included in this year’s budget.
“In this particular budget it was agreed by the commission that their first priority request in our capital improvement budget is for $150,000 for construction drawings for improvements to Pear Tree Park Beach. The second priority is to request $25,000 toward design drawings for the improvements to the town acquired Short Lane property adjacent to our Weed Beach Park,” Gery said.
Improvements to the Pear Tree Park Beach and Weed Beach Park include replacing damaged trees and reducing the wind and water erosion of the beaches.
The plan also includes items that come at no cost, such as developing a marketing and communications plan, as suggestions to improve the commission’s efficiency.
When commission member Jonathan England brought up the question of addressing goals with costs that would be beyond the scope of a proposed budget in the future, Flynn alluded to the idea of a town pool as an example.
“We could say we’re not ready to talk about it or we could decide to talk about it at a later time. It doesn't mean that the commission can’t decide that we want to move ahead with the conversation and at least we would know where we would like to recommend it at some time in the future if there’s funding for it. It’s up to us all,” Flynn said.
Gery noted that budget concerns would have to be taken into consideration.
“We have to be financially responsible and mindful of projects that might be happening now. The public works department is redoing the garage and that comes at a big ticketed price, so we have to be strategic about our projects and our timing,” Gery said.
Capital costs estimates for updating existing park signage ranged from $10,000 to $15,000. The capital costs estimates for the development of additional sailing facilities to meet current and future town demands was in the $15,000 to $550,000 range depending on complexity.
The parks master plan did not include the Ox Ridge or Edgerton Parcels as these two items are not park property and are under purview of the selectmen.
The discussion of an aquatic facility is also a goal for Gery. “In the last 20 years we have wanted to explore the idea of an aquatic outdoor facility or a more expensive indoor pool to address the needs of the high school swim team, but that’s something we will take a closer look at.”
The actual construction of a town pool, according to the master plan, would take one to two years for completion, though capital costs estimates and operational budget impacts depend on the complexity of the facility. Financial and concept planning would have to take place beforehand.
The plan outlines general recommendations such as improving existing and outdated facilities, providing universal access, upgrading signage and expanding walking pathways and trail connectivity within parks.
Throughout 2017, the plan at times sparked heated debate on behalf of town residents who argued that a town survey showed that open space was favored over fields. Residents voiced their opinions for open space but also for soccer fields and even an ice rink at an October meeting last year .
The consultant team hired by the town consisted of Daniel Biggs from Albany-based Weston & Sampson and Art Thatcher of Louisville, Colorado-based GreenPlay LLC. The study cost around $95,000 according to Gery.
Biggs, present at the Jan. 17 meeting, gave a brief summary of the 86-page master plan. Listed goals included descriptions of actions, capital costs estimates, budget impacts and a timeframe for completion.