Twenty three years ago my wife and I moved to Darien. During that time we raised two children who participated in the numerous town and high school sports programs. It was also during this time we witnessed the ongoing debate over permanent lighting at the high school.
Sadly a compromise still has not been reached. Darien now is the only town in Fairfield County without lights. Other towns have reached accommodations with their residents. Why can’t we achieve the same results?
It is time to revisit the discussion over finding a permanent field lighting solution for Darien. After a fair and sensible compromise was recently reached at the Staples High School stadium facility in Westport, Darien finds itself in a unique situation: It is the only school district within the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference (FCIAC) that does not have a solution in place for permanent field lights. This issue is now more pressing than ever because Darien now houses the state’s largest youth population segment and boasts one of the highest youth and high school sport participation rates in the United States.
This unique situation does not only affects our players and our coaches. It encumbers commuting parents and Blue Wave fans from seeing high school games, it obstructs the full utilization of the town’s public sports facilities, and even thwarts our sense of community and home-town spirit born by the excitement and pageantry of local sporting events held during evening hours. It would be such a reward for all of us who commute to cheer on our sons and daughters on a Saturday due to the availability of the football field that could be utilized for soccer and field hockey. For all intents and purposes, Darien’s quality of life is needlessly disadvantaged when compared to all of our neighbors of the FCIAC, negatively affecting our entire community.
Reaching a compromise is simply the right thing to do for the well being of our youth and student athletes — our children — and, most important, it’s the right thing to do for the well being of our entire community.
Two years ago I wrote an article on the “love affair” other towns have with Friday night lights. As a relative newcomer to high school football, I witnessed games under the lights in Danbury, Fairfield, Wilton and, of course, New Canaan where families could gather at the end of the week, under the lights for some good old fashioned fun. It was intoxicating and addictive. I had wished the same for Darien but alas that was not to come.
Election Day is only a few weeks away. Might I suggest we have a town referendum on this subject? I am certain there are a host of reasons why this can’t be done, however, I grew up with a can do attitude so anything is possible.
To make it real simple why not place a shoe box at each polling station in which a yes or no vote could be deposited as one exits. I am certain the mothers of the football captains, with assistance, could oversee the polling. At the end of the day the results could be tabulated at this paper under the watchful eye of an independent third party and the outcome could be published in the next edition. To me this could be the first step forward.
I applaud the efforts of the Planning & Zoning Commission to consider the rights of the residents who live close to the high school. No one is suggesting anything other than the same future consideration for their privacy. However, we can learn from other towns, most recently Westport, on how to reach a similar accommodation. The threat of a suit is simply not an option from which we should back down.
I would welcome the opinions of the residents of Darien in this paper. This is your town. I believe the majority of the parents in this town support this initiative. Election Day is a perfect venue in which take an up or down vote. This won’t happen without your voice and support.