Wilton fields '100 percent' playable again after summer drought, officials say

Photo of J.D. Freda

WILTON — Just one month ago, Parks and Recreation Director Steve Pierce said he hadn't seen worse field conditions brought on by the effects of a drought in the 31 years he has been in Wilton.

The past two week's rain has revived the town's many playing fields, despite an intensely dry summer that forced Wilton into a prolonged Stage 2 drought, according to the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), .

"At this point, the fields have come back," Pierce said. "Our staff did a good job of fertilizing them before the rain forecasts, so that also helped in bringing them back." 

In a town that holds a long tradition of high participation in youth sports, he said, the health of the fields is one of his primary concerns — and he was concerned throughout the summer.

In early September he said the town's grass fields were "fried."

"They were really, really in dire straits," Pierce said this week. "I mean, you could walk around and take a look at the different fields and you could hear it crunch underneath your feet."

Since the rainfall replenished the fields in late September and early October, Pierce said his department has been busy maintaining the grounds. The department was also in constant communication with the youth sports organizations in town.

At this point, Pierce said he is happy to report there are no limitations to any of Wilton's fields and, luckily, no long-term damage was sustained during the drought. All are 100 percent playable and already started scheduled games and practices, he said.

He said the fields have gained importance in town, especially as the youth sports landscape changed dramatically over the past two decades.

Upon first coming to town, the sports seasons were fairly predictable — football and soccer in the fall, lacrosse and baseball in the spring, he said. Now, there is a push to have each sport played year-round.

"Now, we have spring football, fall lacrosse, these traditional sports that were usually played in one season, now they are played all year round and on our fields," he said. "This is a very active community in the sporting world."

And it is that added stress with each game and practice, paired with the natural inconveniences, such a long-standing drought, that keep he and his department busy catering to the playing fields.

The town is still looking at the possibility of adding another turf field, which Pierce said holds up better during inclement weather. A feasibility study is still in the works for putting it at Allen's Meadow and Pierce hopes to know more by November.

Wilton's drought status has stepped back from its previous Stage 2 classification to Stage 1, according NIDIS.

Fairfield County as a whole falls into this same category. Overall, just over three-quarters of the state was experiencing moderate or severe drought on Thursday, according to the Drought Monitor’s latest report, down from 98 percent of the state last week.

And that trend away from severe drought status seems to be in store for the whole state.

“Everything’s going to be slowing down as far as growth goes, and the fact that it’s getting cooler and that we’ve gotten a lot of rain in the last month or so,” said Doug Glowacki, an emergency management program specialist who serves on the state's Interagency Drought Working Group. “I think we’re pretty quickly headed down, away from the drought.

Staff Writer John Moritz contributed to this article.