Wilton selectmen accept plans to improve two parks

The Board of Selectmen has given the green light for plans to improve two parks in Wilton Center — Schenck’s Island and Merwin Meadows.

Mike Conklin, Director of Environmental Affairs, reviewed the plans at the selectmen’s meeting on Monday, Feb. 3.

After review, the board voted unanimously to approve the plans which were prepared by Milone and MacBroom engineers. Workshops, public meetings and public viewings were held to get input from residents about what they would like to see on these town properties.

Conklin said the plans are designed to be a public/private partnership and will require donations from the public for portions of them.

Schenck’s Island

Conklin highlighted projects for Schenck’s Island which he had discussed in detail at previous meetings.

Great Lawn: Part of the existing meadow will be converted to create a “great lawn” that can be used as a public gathering and event space.

Bandshell: A space for public performances. Phase One calls for building a concrete pad base, Conklin said. The town is looking for private donors to pay for its construction. He said there is no set design for the bandshell. An underground conduit will be installed for electricity for this area.

Improved parking lot and park entry: The town will reconstruct the parking area. Light fixtures will be installed on Old Ridgefield Road for pedestrian safety. An entry sign will be installed at River Road to better identify Schenck’s Island access.

Managed meadow: Conklin said there is a floodway on the property which prohibits structures from being built in certain areas. The goal, he said, is to create a managed meadow area by planting hardy grasses. The town will mow and overseed it in the spring, but are not looking to create a “golf course type” lawn.

Nature-themed free-play area: Utilizing wood chips and boulders for a natural look, the town will start prepping the space. The town is seeking donations to build out this area. Vegetation will be selectively cleared and increased where needed to buffer the train tracks. There will also be a trail going through the play elements and connecting to the main path. A protective screen fence will be created along the rail line buffered with native trees and shrubs.

Meadow observation tower: Construction of a roofed platform with an accessible ramp will be installed to provide viewing across the meadow area for bird watching, educational gatherings and general enjoyment of the park. There is no official design yet for the tower, but Conklin would like it to be accessible for people with all abilities.

Signage will be installed to explain different management techniques, improvements, plants and wildlife. The Norwalk River Valley Trail (NRVT) would like to cross along the trails. Invasive species removal has begun and will continue, Conklin said. Trout Unlimited will be replanting some native plants.

An early draft plan for Schenck’s Island had an area proposed for a dog run. But that idea has been rejected. The area is mostly sand and gravel, Conklin said, and having a dog run close to the river could be a problem over time for ecological reasons. “Basically the area is too small for a dog park,” First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice said.

Merwin Meadows

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.

Bath House improvements: Update the interior for code compliancy and make aesthetic improvements to the exterior. Replace dividers in changing areas. Overgrown landscaping will be replaced with new plantings.

Storage yard: Improve screening.

Entry plaza: Add a lifeguard booth or station, enhance the entryway, maintain the gravel, improve signage and landscaping.

Playground improvements: The existing playground has been deemed to be in good shape, Conklin said. The committee considered expanding the playground, however, with the creation of a new play area at Schenck’s Island it was considered unnecessary.

Pickleball court: One pickleball court will be installed with seating.

Parks and grounds material storage: A covered area will be constructed to store materials and equipment, with evergreen screening installed along the park side of the structure.

Water play area: To be created for children sometime in the future. No immediate plans for its construction.

The selectmen said they will try to work some of the improvements into this year’s budget and will phase in other parts of the plan as more funding becomes available.