Sunday, November 30, 2008
New Canaan's Waveny Park -possible ruinous construction
I have been running in the magestic and quiet Waveny park for years --as Jim says below in his column, it is a refuge from ever-increasing traffic and pavement in Fairfield County --now the wild meadow will be potentially destroyed for an amphi-theatre --simply unbelievable. A town meeting this Tuesday will decide whether construction can proceed or not -stay tuned! Runners and park users needed at the mtg..below is Jim's 11/30 column from the Stamford Advocate:
Running: Runners need to act to
preserve Waveny venue
By Jim Gerweck
Posted: 11/30/2008 01:00:00 AM EST
In the upcoming remake of the sci-fi classic "The Day the Earth Stood Still," Keanu Reeves, playing the alien Klaatu, is asked, "Are you aware of an impending attack on the planet Earth?"
While I can't answer that question, I am aware of a smaller scale assault that is under way right here in Fairfield County, one that threatens to irrevocably ruin the character of one of the running meccas in the area.
The Summer Theater of New Canaan (STONC) has asked for permission to stage their productions at Waveny Park in a section known as the cornfield, an area just to the east of the pond that is below the hill next to the Castle.
For years, this acreage, in the heart of the park, was the most unspoiled part of Waveny. And in the years since Ruth Lloyd Lapham donated the land to the town it had become a wild meadow, home to deer, birds, and numerous other forms of wildlife.
All that came to a shuddering halt a year or so ago when the town decided the area would make a good staging area for soil that was excavated during the construction of the new artificial turf field near the high school and later, silt dredged from Mill Pond in town.
Hundreds of dump trucks thundered down the central trail of the park, creating such deep ruts that asphalt grindings were laid down and compressed, forming what is essentially a roughly paved stretch from the main driveway to the entrance to the cornfield.
This "road," and the dirt piles in the cornfield, are perhaps some of the
greatest blights ever imposed on Waveny, which is nonpareil when it comes to running venues in the area.
These blights were understood to be temporary insults to the natural setting (although the town powers remain disturbingly vague as to the duration of this intrusion).
STONC saw the situation as an opportunity to weasel its way into the last large remaining undeveloped tract in the park, claiming they would "improve" the site by landscaping it into an amphitheater where they would erect a large, albeit temporary, tent and stage for its productions, using the paved path to allow cars to drive in and park for rehearsals and performances.
And the argument is seductive in its logic: the town gets its "Superfund" site cleaned up in exchange for granting more or less permanent squatter's rights to STONC, as well as other thus far unnamed groups who might also wish to use the resultant facility (the undetermined extent of such use is just one of the troubling aspects of the proposal).
The potential reality, however, is much more dire, especially for runners and others who use the trails as an escape from the ever-growing volume traffic that pervades the crowded roads of the county.
The incidence of pedestrian-vehicle confrontations, which reached a dangerously troublesome level when the trucks frequented the path, is sure to rise even higher, and it seems certain that it will only be a matter of time until such interactions rise to the physical level, with the pedestrian coming out on the short, and perhaps lethal, end of the equation.
First and foremost, there is no reason for motor vehicles to drive down trails that should be the sole province of walkers and runners. The packed asphalt must be ripped up and the trail restored to its original width and surface. Then this unfortunate, if temporary, rape of the parkland can be healed over and forgotten.
Second, the soil and silt should be removed and placed in a less intrusive area, perhaps west of Lapham Road where the town currently mulches leaves, and the cornfield restored to its original state as a meadow.
To posit that constructing a "natural" amphitheater would be "improving" the cornfield is nothing more than sophistry, akin to stating that constructing a mall on a toxic waste site would solve that environmental problem.
One wrong is not undone by effecting another, however attractive and well intentioned it might seem.
If you are a runner or walker who has come to value Waveny Park as the natural treasure it is, come to the public hearing this Tuesday at South School at 7:15 p.m. and voice your opposition to the proposal to allow STONC to situate itself in the heart of Waveny.
And recall the old adage about removing a camel once its nose is inside the tent. This is one camel that needs to be sent packing from a rare, true running oasis.
Jim Gerweck is Managing Editor of Running Times magazine and organizes many races in the area.
ON THE RUN
JINGLE BELL RUN, 5km, 9:30 a.m., Nichols.
JINGLE BELL RUN, 3 mi, 9 a.m., Greenwich.
HOLIDAY RUN FOR KIDS, 5 km, 9 a.m., Fairfield.