After three years of formulating concepts, asking residents for input, and working with consultants, Wilton’s Schenck’s Island/Merwin Meadows Committee will present its proposal for improvements to the parks to the Board of Selectmen next Monday, Feb. 3.

On Jan. 22, the SIMM Committee members finalized and unanimously approved the conceptual master plans that had been created by Milone and MacBroom, the engineering and landscape consultants hired by the town for the project. The project’s objective is to improve existing features and create public spaces that encourage increased use by residents and visitors. Milone and MacBroom formulated the plans after facilitating workshops to solicit feedback from residents during two public meetings last April and May.

The final step the committee took before giving its unanimous endorsement was to hear priorities for each of the open spaces as determined by Town departments (Parks and Recreation, and Department of Public Works/Facilities) and staff. Environmental Affairs director Mike Conklin presented those priorities to the SIMM committee, breaking out not only a timeline by year (Year 1 priorities and Year 2-3 priorities) but potential funding sources as well.

Year 1 Priorities

Schenck’s Island

  • Lawn improvements (town funding)
  • Performance space (private funding)
  • Park entry improvements (town funding)
  • Managed meadow area (town funding)

Merwin Meadows

  • Bathhouse improvements (town funding)
  • Storage yard improvements (town funding)

Year 2-3 Priorities

Schenck’s Island

  • Trails (town funding)
  • Nature themed free play area (private funding)
  • Meadow observation tower (private funding)

Merwin Meadows

  • Park entry plaza improvements (Year 2) (town funding)
  • Playground improvements (Year 2) (private funding)
  • Pickleball court (Year 2-3) (private funding)
  • Parks and Grounds storage yard improvements (Year 3)–all town storage needs are being reviewed by Wilton DPW/Facilities.

Before next Monday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, Town staff will need to develop budgets to accompany the proposal, extending out five years. Conklin told GOOD Morning Wilton that the various departments are trying to work those out now in time for the meeting.

One area that the Parks & Rec Department staff expressed concern about was a proposed water play area at Merwin Meadows, with apprehension about on-going maintenance needs. Before presenting final plans to the BOS next Monday, town staff will research other lower-maintenance options that are also less costly.

The Board of Selectmen will then have to consider what priorities are doable, given budget needs and town appetite for spending–as well as whether any improvement work would begin in 2021 or further out.

Conklin told the SIMM Committee that he had met with a Norwalk River Valley Trail representative to discuss where the NRVT would run through Schenck’s Island. It will most likely run along existing grass path at Schenck’s (path closest to river) and would remain as a mowed, grass path. NRVT is looking into potential signage to mark the route.

Donna Merrill, executive director of the Wilton Land Conservation Trust, was present at the Jan. 22 meeting as a member of the public. She asked SIMM committee members what the Land Trust might be able to contribute to the project at Schenck’s Island, a portion of which the Land Trust owns. Among the ideas suggested by the Committee were to continue removal of invasive plants along River Rd.; assist with educational signage and programming around vernal pools; and provide bat boxes or bird/owl boxes.