The new Merwin Meadows entrance pass plan implemented last month by Wilton Parks and Recreation Department—allowing Wilton residents free park entry but requiring non-residents to purchase entrance passes in advance—worked well over Memorial Day Weekend, the system’s first weekend in use. Steve Pierce, director of Parks & Rec., says that everything went smoothly over the three-day weekend, despite having had just a few weeks to implement the new pass purchasing process.

“There were no issues whatsoever, as reported by staff,” Pierce says. In fact, he adds “…it was a fairly quiet weekend at Merwin.”

The new procedure to enter the park requires everyone—resident and non-resident alike—to have a season pass or daily voucher in order to be admitted to Merwin Meadows. Those passes and vouchers must be purchased in advance at the Parks & Rec office in Comstock Community Center. People who want to enter the park but who don’t have a pass cannot purchase one on-site at Merwin Meadows. What’s more, passes are only sold at the Parks & Rec offices during the department’s current open hours, Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m..

Pierce said there were just “a couple people” who wanted to enter Merwin Meadows over the weekend without having procured them in advance, “…who we requested that they had to pick up their passes as everyone does, at Parks & Rec, but it wasn’t a large number.”

When those people were told they couldn’t enter nor could they purchase passes on-site, Pierce says it wasn’t a problem. “Everyone was understanding, there were no issues from anyone down at the park, so it was a quiet weekend. We’ll see what happens as the summer progresses but as of now everything is progressing along fairly well.”

Overall, attendance was relatively light throughout the weekend. With Monday’s rain, the actual holiday itself was what Pierce calls “kind of a washout.” As well, he says there weren’t “a lot of in-towners or non-residents” in total. However, he reports that the office has seen decent numbers of people requesting passes. “We’ve been very steady this week and last week in giving out passes for residents and non-residents. We have sold about 15 families non-resident [passes], and earlier this morning we were at over 60 resident families who had picked up passes.”

Overall, he is pleased with how things are working under the new procedure, especially since his department didn’t have official go-ahead to implement the plan until after the selectmen’s budget passed the town vote. Because the plan impacted revenues and his department’s budget for FY 2016-17, Parks & Rec couldn’t move forward with it until the town budget was approved by voters.

“We’re happy with the way it’s rolled out so far, and we hope that residents can continue to enjoy the park and non-residents as well. From a management perspective this weekend was not an issue, which was great to hear. You never know when you make a change how things are going to be. There’s always bumps in the road, and we were a little late in getting stuff out primarily because of budgetary considerations.”

There’s been some talk from residents who haven’t yet procured any passes wondering whether they’ll be able to show proof of residency at the park. However, Pierce says everyone needs to get passes during weekday office hours at Comstock; park staff cannot make any exceptions for residents.

“Residents really need to come to Parks & Rec to pick up their passes, just as non-residents do. We cannot issue passes at the park. If we were to do something like that for residents, we would have to do the same for non-residents, and our legal counsel said we have to be consistent, so we’re trying to be.”

Pierce did hint at other news he’ll be announcing shortly—there will be some concerts and movie nights at Merwin Meadows this summer. He wasn’t yet ready to say exactly what will be featured or shown.

“We’re just solidifying those this week, and then we can get some more information about activities going on down there, and we hope that everyone comes down and enjoys the park this summer. It will be a lot of fun. It’s something new and different and will bring people back to the park.”

2016 Parks Rec Rules