Plan moves forward for Schenck’s Island, Merwin Meadows in Wilton
A plan to improve the features at Schenck’s Island and Merwin Meadows is moving forward.
Michael Doherty and Suzanne Schore of Milone and MacBroom engineers reviewed proposed conceptual master plans with the Schenck’s Island/Merwin Meadows (SIMM) Committee at a special meeting on Dec. 5.
The plans were developed following workshops, public meetings and public viewings to get input from residents about what they would like to see on these town properties.
“The SIMM Committee had two overarching goals that we hoped to achieve by making improvements to the two parks. We want to enhance economic development in Wilton Center, and we want to inspire long-term environmental stewardship in the Wilton community,” SIMM Chair Susan DiLoreto said after the meeting.
She said the proposed plans reflect public comment discussed at two charettes and the goals of the SIMM Committee. Both proposed plans would be phased in over five years.
Funding for parts of each plan will be raised privately, not through taxpayer dollars.
Town employees are reviewing the proposed plan to identify which components would be considered maintenance and therefore town-funded costs, DiLoreto said.
“They will also be providing the SIMM committee with the suggested priorities within the two proposed plans. Once our review is completed, we will be presenting the proposed plan to the Board of Selectmen,” she said.
The proposed plan calls for increased use of Schenck’s Island, bounded by the Norwalk River on the western edge, while respecting the island’s natural character and avoiding overdevelopment.
Proposed features include a great lawn area for picnicking and community events, an acoustic amphitheater, improved parking lot and park entry, a nature-themed free-play area, meadow observation tower, River Road gateway, managed meadow area and trails, river restoration plantings, invasive species removal, and river access.
A new great lawn would provide a sodded area for event space. There would be an accessible path connecting Old Ridgefield Road, parking, open lawn, nature play and an observation tower.
For the acoustic amphitheater, a concrete pad with a band shell would be installed to serve as a performance stage.
The plan calls for an improved parking lot and park entry. Light fixtures would be installed on Old Ridgefield Road for pedestrian safety. An entry sign would be installed at River Road to better identify Schenck’s Island access. Daily parking would be available for 18 cars along with a food truck reserve and handicap-accessible parking during community events. Bollard lighting would be installed in the parking area and shared parking would be promoted across from the Old Ridgefield Road entrance.
A nature-themed free-play area would be created, and a slope would be utilized for boulder scrambles, slides and climbing elements. Vegetation would be selectively cleared and increased where needed to buffer the train tracks. There would also be a trail going through the play elements and connecting to the main path. A protective screen fence would be created along the rail line buffered with native trees and shrubs.
A meadow observation tower — a roofed platform with an accessible ramp — would be installed to provide a unique point of view across the meadow area for bird watching, educational gatherings and general enjoyment of the park.
Improvements would be continued along the River Road gateway to be undertaken by the Wilton Parks & Recreation Department.
There would be a managed meadow area and trails where signage would be installed to explain different management techniques, improvements, plants and wildlife.
Improvements which have been started by Trout Unlimited will continue in order to enhance river restoration plantings and river access. Ongoing landscape management will continue by the Parks & Recreation Department.
The plan for Merwin Meadows is to reinvigorate and update the park; improve the appeal of the pond and beach; expand recreational opportunities; enhance connectivity; and protect the river and forested areas.
Proposed features include bathhouse improvements, an interactive water play area, playground improvements, a new pickleball court, and storage yard screening.
Bathhouse improvements include updating the interior for code compliancy and making aesthetic improvements to the exterior. Overgrown landscaping would be replaced with new plantings.
An interactive water play area would be created for younger children. The main center element would be a concrete spiral trough that fills by movable weir boards at the pond’s edge. The flow of water would be controlled by opening or blocking the spiral stream. Additional features include buckets, sand diggers and an interactive sluiceway.
An existing sand mound would be maintained as a free-play element in the water play area. There would also be stepping stones and boulders continuing up and over the lawn berm to Comstock Brook.
A new, universally accessible playground would be created with play elements and structures. There wiould also be increased seating and shade trees.
Two bituminous pickleball courts would be installed with seating adjacent to the grass ballfield.
A three-sided roofed structure would be added to conceal visibility of materials and equipment from park visitors. Evergreen screening would be installed along the park side of the structure.
First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice asked the committee to develop a five-year plan with desired features prioritized for each park and associated funding needs to present to the Board of Selectmen.
Wilton Environmental Affairs Director Mike Conklin and Parks & Recreation Director Steve Pierce will review the concept plans and suggest priorities and funding requirements.