Parks & Rec Talks New Additions to Wilton Fields–Lightning Detection, Park Benches, Indoor Field House and AED in Memory of George DiRocco

At the February meeting of the Parks and Recreation Commission, the commission members continued discussions about exciting new additions to the town including lightning detection software, an indoor field house, and park benches.

The Commission also introduced plans to keep Wilton’s young athletes heart-healthy with the help of In a Heartbeat.

Lightning Detection Software

The Commission heard more details about the operation and location of the lightning detection software system for Wilton fields that was introduced at the last meeting. This safety measure would make a loud sound alerting users of the fields and anyone in an 8-mile radius, of lightning in the area. There will also be a mobile device alert system that residents can opt into. 

“If you’re a parent downtown shopping, you’ll get an alert and say, ‘I need to get to the field because I have to pick up my son or my daughter,'” explained Parks and Rec Director Steve Pierce. 

The system also includes a “clear to go” signal when the threat of lightning has passed. 

At the recommendation of the Commission, the lighting detection software system would need to be expanded to cover all 31 fields in the town including Allen’s Meadows‘ 10 fields, Comstock Community Center, Tom Fujitani Field, fields at all Wilton schools, Merwin Meadows, Middlebrook, Miller-Driscoll, Lion’s Georgetown/Landmark, and Ambler Farm.

“Wherever there’s a field it’s covered,” said Pierce. 

Wilton High School officials including Athletic Director Chris McDougal have offered their support of this initiative. 

The Commission discussed the various users of the field other than athletes that would benefit from the system. Families swimming at Merwin Meadows pond, as well as the Physical Education and Science teachers that bring their students out to the various fields during class, would benefit from this safety measure too. 

With so many people using the fields, “The risk of not doing is too great,” said Commission member Kevin Ring

Parks and Rec Chair Anna Marie Bilella explained that the entire lightning detection system would cost $10,910 annually with a one-time setup fee of $4,083. Divided by 31 fields, this comes down to $350 per field per year, a cost that Bilella deemed modest considering the benefits. 

“Personally I think it’s a no-brainer for $350 dollars a field to have the safety of those playing on it especially when it’s not just youth and high school. You have club teams, adult league teams, and town residents,” said Bilella. 

The Commission briefly discussed how this safety measure would generate revenue in the coming years by attracting more people to Wilton facilities and motioned to bring this idea to the Board of Selectmen

Indoor Field House

The commission continued discussions of the previously-proposed indoor field house project.

Although the commission hasn’t agreed to work with engineering consultant Stantec on the whole project, Pierce said for a fee of $45,000, the firm is willing to survey the potential site and provide an estimate of what the overall final cost would be. 

A Stantec representative would examine “traffic patterns, square footage, all of that fun stuff,” said Pierce, in order to provide a range of prices for the whole project. 

“It would give an idea of exactly what it would take, they’d have to do some geotech work. We’re looking at the Comstock site now so it would be specific to that site,” said Pierce. 

Pierce has been in communication with Stantec and is hoping to bring the $45,000 cost down. The commission also discussed being prepared to seek funding from Wilton’s youth sports organizations if the cost of the whole project is too high. 

Park Benches

Commission member Joe Guglielmo said he had been in contact with Liz Larkin and Michael Conklin of the Environmental Affairs Department about installing park benches.

They identified Schenck’s Island as the primary location for adding park benches to complement the proposed playground and bandshell construction projects that are part of the Schenck’s Island Improvement Proposal.

Guglielmo also described details about bench construction. The benches will be “world’s fair-style” and constructed with “composite of PVC pipe” which would lower the amount of upkeep and cost because those materials do not rot. 

A final cost per bench has not been determined but it’s expected to be more than $1,600, which would cover both the bench and the concrete slab that the bench would be bolted to. The Commission still plans to gather funding through donations. 

Guglielmo added that an idea came up in his discussions with Larkin and Conklin to partner with the Tree Committee so people could, “donate funds for a bench and potentially include a tree on either side of the bench so this way you have shade for some of these bench areas.” 

Guglielmo will continue working with the Environmental Affairs Department and is hoping to have more to report on bench cost and locations at the Commission’s next meeting. 

AED Donation

The In a Heartbeat organization has offered to donate an AED to the Wilton community in memory of George DiRocco, the Wilton teen who died suddenly from an undetected heart condition in September.

The AED would be placed in an alarmed wall cabinet at the high school varsity baseball field. Parks and Rec would be responsible for maintaining the device. The commission motioned to present this idea to the BOS as a gift to the town. 

In a Heartbeat is also offering to bring in cardiologists to perform free ECG tests on youth and high school athletes ages 10-19. 

“It’s something that, given what’s going on in the community and across the country, is probably a great benefit to everybody,” said Pierce.