We’re only two weeks away from Memorial Day Weekend and the kick-off of the summer season. Town Parks & Recreation Department employees are working hard to get Merwin Meadows, the park in the heart of Wilton, ready, knowing residents will want to take full advantage of this amenity that offers a swimming pond, trails, picnic facilities, fields and a playground.

We spoke to Parks & Rec director Steve Pierce to get the lowdown on what residents need to know about buying season permits, hours of operation and some surprise special events planned for the summer.

GOOD Morning Wilton:  When is the park staffed with Parks & Rec personnel and lifeguards?

Steve Pierce:  We first start staffing the pond, as we do every year, on Memorial Day Weekend and the park will be open with staff on weekends starting on Memorial Day through the end of the school season, which of course is almost July this year. But at that time we open it daily after that.

We’ll have lifeguards on from 10 a.m.-7 p.m., When they’re not there at the beginning of the season there will be a ‘No Swimming’ sign up.

GMW:  And residents will again have to pay a resident’s fee for an entry pass–either a seasonal or daily pass?

Pierce:  Two years ago we had no fee and then last year and this year there’s a fee associated with it [again] because the state had a lot of looming potential debt coming to towns. Wilton along with other municipalities across the state were looking to recoup some user fees. Other towns in the state have even starting to charge at parks that they’ve never charged at before–municipalities across the state are looking for alternative revenue sources. The user fee helps offset the cost down at Merwin Meadows.

GMW:  What’s the difference between resident and non-resident fees and usage?

Pierce:  The resident family pass for the season is $60, the non-resident family pass is $150, and that is limited to 50 total families. The resident individual pass is $30, the non-resident individual pass is $75 and that also is limited to 50 non-resident individuals.

GMW:  And day passes?

Pierce:  Resident adult day passes are $5, resident youths are $2, adult and senior non-residents are $15 and non-resident walk-in youths are $7.50 per day. There’s no limit to those.

GMW:  Is there any change in when and where passes can be purchased?

Pierce:  All passes need to be purchased at the Parks & Rec offices in Comstock Community Center (180 School Rd.). We’re not selling or giving out any passes down at Merwin Meadows. Several years ago when we didn’t have restrictions and what not, we were taking in a substantial amount of money down there and the auditors thought it would be under better control to have it at Comstock, so all passes are sold at Comstock for residents and non-residents.

That’s only during office hours, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m..

GMW:  Is there a limit to the number of people who can come in on any given day.

Pierce:  There’s not an official capacity, it’s when the guards feel that they’re to the point that it becomes an unsafe environment, that they will close and turn people away. In previous years we’ve had issues but I don’t think we had an issue last year with over capacity, even on July 4th.

GMW:  Any differences or changes yet in any of the facilities–whether it’s the restrooms or the playground or anything like that?

Pierce:  No, no more than annual maintenance. There’s a SIMM [Schenck’s Island/Merwin Meadows] Committee looking long-term, so we’re deferring any long-term goals there to that group. They’re looking at responses to their RFP currently, so we’ll see what comes up from that. But as far as from last year to this year we have not added anything.

GMW:  What about concerts and entertainment–last year there were concerts at Schenck’s Island and Merwin Meadows?

Pierce:  There will be a couple of Sunday concerts down there this year as there will at Schenck’s Island, so we’re looking forward to that.

At Merwin, they’re going to be on July 29 and Aug. 5. On July 29 we have a lot of Wiltonians under the guidance of Joan Wallace; on Aug. 5 we have a band called the Tree Shakers. At Schenck’s Island as well, Wilton Rocks for Food All Stars will be on July 15; and on July 22 is Swing 42.

All these concerts are 5-7 p.m. and we encourage everybody to come out. There’s no fee, you don’t need a park pass to come to those concerts.

GMW:  Last year was the first year, and they were really well received.

Pierce:  We would anticipate hopefully the same response–it’s Sunday night so it’s kind of a wind down before the week starts; that was kind of planned that way. And we certainly hope to have the same response, if not greater this year. More people know that it’s going on, hopefully the more people will come out and enjoy the shows.

GMW:  Anything that you want people to know in terms of BBQ rules or anything else that people need to know about Merwin?

Pierce:  We hand out rules when they come in and if they have any questions they can certainly call us. We’re just hoping for a beautiful, sunny summer and as many people down there as possible that can take advantage of the park.

GMW:  The life guards are most usually high school or college kids; are there Parks & Rec staff on duty during Merwin Meadows’ open hours in the summer?

Pierce:  Our lifeguard staff will be down there. We’ve hired a gentleman in town, an adult to oversee the park for the entire summer–[Wilton resident] Brian Lilly as the Merwin supervisor. He will be managing the park, he’ll have a presence down there along with the guards. We’re there just to make sure that when people have reserved it for picnics and stuff, that they have what they need and everything’s going according to plans, and if there’s an issue he’s our first person to contact or the guards would be and then he would be and then myself.

He’s been very enthusiastic about getting things into shape and helping paint the guard’s stands and all that kind of stuff. We’ve been working for about three weeks now on getting everything ready for the summer down there.

We still have work to do, we have to clean up the park, dress it up, put some mulch out, that kind of stuff. But all that goes into opening up on a regular season and this is no different then previous years.

I think after the poor spring that we had I think we’re all looking forward to summer.

Wilton’s Parks & Recreation Department can be reached at (203) 834-6234, or find information on the Parks & Rec website.