The Wilton Parks and Recreation Commission — back on track with monthly meetings after four new members were appointed to fill long-vacant positions in May — met last Wednesday (July 12) with several topics on the agenda.

Merwin Meadows Playground Update

After the commission recently approved a bid for a playground renovation at Merwin Meadows, commissioner Andrew Maria has been working with Parks and Recreation Department Director Steve Pierce to finalize details of the equipment.

The project will include a complete overhaul of the playground aimed at 5- to 12-year-olds, along with a “refresh” (clean, paint and wax) of the playscape for younger children. 

The final details include the selection of a slide more appropriate for children over age five. The vendor is also expected to walk the site once more.

Pierce reported delivery of the new equipment would not be expected before November — a timeline that is later than the early fall timing previously discussed, but still on track for installation before next spring.

“Even if we went to contract today, the delivery is going to be in November,” Pierce told the commission. “It will be in before next spring. The latest would be March.”

Winter installation is not expected to be an issue, Pierce said.

Commission Priorities

The Board of Selectmen recently asked the commission to reconsider priorities for $500,000 in available funds that had been planned for improvements at Middlebrook‘s grass playing fields.

Since the referendum on a proposed new turf field at Allen’s Meadow failed in May, the selectmen felt the commission should have the opportunity to reassess how the $500,000 would be best utilized.

At the commission’s June 21 meeting, First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice offered commissioners a list of ideas to consider — which reflected some input from the Wilton Athletic and Recreation Foundation (WARF).

At the July 12 meeting, Pierce offered additional thoughts, specifically on the idea of improving the playability of Guy Whitten Field (the practice playing field between the WHS football stadium and the parking lot along Kristine Lilly Way) with lighting and irrigation.

He noted that the ideal time to make those improvements would coincide with the significant drainage work already planned at the Wilton High School sports complex later this year.

Parks & Rec will consult with Wilton’s Department of Public Works, which is overseeing the drainage work at the complex, for rough cost estimates to expand the work to include the Guy Whitten Field improvements.

Pierce also raised the issue of “an ongoing problem” with storage needs for several youth sports leagues as well high school sports teams and the Parks & Rec department itself.

Among other possible priorities, Pierce asked the commission to consider some sort of centralized storage or a plan for improving access to storage at locations where it is needed. He also reminded them that the previous commission had identified a number of priorities in the spring of 2022.

The commissioners agreed to develop their individual thoughts on projects to be prioritized, to be discussed collectively at the next meeting.

Commission chair John Macken offered a guiding principle.

“I would just ask that you consider everyone in town, from babies to seniors,” Macken said. “We’ve talked a lot about sports and the playground, but when we think of our priorities on a go-forward [basis], we need to think about it from a holistic residents standpoint.”

WARF Presentation

Two representatives of the Wilton Athletic and Recreation Foundation (WARF) attended Wednesday’s Parks & Rec meeting to help acquaint the new commissioners with the organization.

(Standing, from left) J.R. Sherman and Nick Gemelli represented the Wilton Athletic and Recreation Foundation (WARF) at the July 12 meeting of the Parks and Recreation Commission, which includes (seated, from left) Mike Schmidt, Andrew Maria, John Macken, Alix Korpan and Mark McAndrews. Credit: Town of Wilton Zoom recording

WARF President J.R. Sherman and Nick Gemelli, who leads WARF’s efforts on fields and facilities, explained WARF’s origins and evolution as a non-profit, volunteer-run organization working to help advance sports and recreation facilities in Wilton.

“It’s not just about youth athletics,” Gemelli emphasized. “Everything we look at is multi-dimensional. We try to support as many people as possible.”

As one example, Gemelli mentioned that WARF is currently working with ASML to help understand the recreational needs of the company’s employees.

“Now that the turf vote is finished, we’re ready to move on [to] talk about what are the Parks & Rec commission’s priorities, what are our priotities [and] do that public-private partnership, which includes fundraising.”

Sherman discussed WARF’s broader goal, to gain consensus on community needs and wants, and develop a “unified voice” in which to work with Town officials — and ultimately help get things done.

“The major objective of WARF is to create more unified, prioritized needs and asks within the community, specifically around athletics and recreation… so that the selectmen are getting fewer voices, more of a unified voice,” Sherman told the commission.

Other Discussion

  • Pierce briefly reviewed the procedure for accepting gifts for town facilities. Current policy mandates that when a gift is offered, the commission, along with the Parks & Recreation Department, would vet the desirability of the gift, before referring it to the Board of Selectmen for acceptance. Long-term impact on costs to the Town and other factors would be considered.
  • The commission agreed to review policies pertaining to line-painting fields for youth sports and make recommendations for parties responsible for the cost.