At the Monday, June 6 Board of Selectmen meeting, Wilton’s environmental affairs director Mike Conklin announced to the BoS members that the Kiwanis Club of Wilton had presented a gift of $17,000 toward completion of the new town park on River Road. The town is creating a public space at the northern end of the Schenck’s Island area situated between the Norwalk River and River Rd., across from Stop & Shop.

Kiwanis gift to town for park

Work has been underway since early Spring to remove invasive species of trees and shrubs around the island and along the river. Now, the gift from Kiwanis will help the town not only complete the replanting and landscaping with more native plant species, but also improve the park esthetics and encourage more use by the public.

Kiwanis approached the town about helping.

“They wanted to enhance the area beyond just this invasive species removal and replanting,” says Conklin. “Their donation will pay for the initial tree removal, landscaping, the creation of the space, one wheelchair accessible game table, a 36-in. granite seal (which is like a ground level monument) and the relocation of the League of Women Voters adopt-a-spot sign.”

The gift also will allow the town to install three chess tables to encourage people to gather, socialize and use the park. Of note is that one of the tables will specifically be built to be wheelchair-accessible.

town park chess tables

“Kiwanis has really stepped up the level with the park, and created an area that people will definitely want to visit, hopefully. The tables are called a chess table, and the idea is that this will be a chess park. The handicapped chess table is going to be installed directly along River Rd., [where] there used to be a sculpture across from the Starbucks driveway, that will allow a wheelchair to pull right up to the table, and include people of all abilities,” Conklin said.

He added that an anonymous donation has also been made to support the project, and he anticipates receiving a second anonymous gift within the next two weeks.

For the moment, the park will remain as it is now–packed, flat dirt. New plantings and grass seeding won’t be done until the fall. That timing means cost-saving, according to Conklin.

“That will minimize or negate the need to water them, because having a water system is extremely expensive even with permission to pump from the Norwalk River.”

First selectman Lynne Vanderslice was very appreciative. “I really want to thank Kiwanis. We were looking at the invasive species and how to remove them and Kiwanis came and said they’d like to get involved. We would not have a project to this extent, it would not be a chess park, unless they got involved. We’re actually planting more trees than we’re removing. We hope to make this a long-term relationship as we move up the river.”

In fact, Kiwanis officers have said they intend to provide continuing support for maintenance in years to come.

“Supporting this innovative park is consistent with a long tradition of Wilton Kiwanis contributing to make the Town a better place for families and children,” said Kiwanis president John Savarese.

Vanderslice added that she has spoken with Parks & Rec chair Steve Pierce about a chess tournament or chess instructions for the grand opening of the park.

The BoS voted unanimously 5-0 to accept the funding gifts from Kiwanis and the anonymous donors.