Letter: Hunt Club neighbors say town use should be 'passive recreation' or park, not playing fields

Board members Alison Porter, left, and Flavia Callari pose with Blue, along with First Selectman Jayme Stevenson (center) and Hunt Club President Richard Colligan, in December, on the land the town intends to purchase from the Club. The purchase was recently approved by the RTM. — Laureen Vellante photo

The below letter, and more detailed suggestions, was sent to the Board of Selectmen, the Planning and Zoning Commission, and the Parks and Recreation Commission. It is reprinted here at the authors’ request. 
To the Editor:
We are the neighbors of Ox Ridge Hunt Club and would like to take the opportunity to provide input regarding our neighborhood’s concerns as you begin planning for the recreational use of the newly acquired Ox Ridge Hunt Club open field property.
The unique bucolic setting of the Ox Ridge Hunt Club is the foremost reason we purchased homes nearby.  Being one of only two equestrian hunt clubs in lower Fairfield County, Ox Ridge is a crown jewel for the Town.  The over 100-year-old club also has historic relevance not only to the Town but also to the greater equestrian community.  It is nationally renowned, and we all wish to see it thrive as an equestrian facility.  We are supportive of the Town’s purchase of the 16.25 acres, and more gratefully, happy that the property will be deemed “open space” for the next 26 years and exist as it has been for decades.
We respectfully request for the town to pursue a plan that encompasses a “passive recreational” use of the open field.
“Passive recreation” activities would include, but are not limited to, walking trails, park space, unpaved bike paths, disk golf, rustic picnic areas, nature walks, snowshoeing, and bird watching to name a few.  There could also be a thoughtfully designed space for casual pick-up games, cross country track practices, and community events such as dog events, horse shows, and tented events such as weddings and fundraisers, with limitations.
There would be greater utility derived by more Darien taxpayers from this sort of use than from playing fields, which we understand is being considered. Additionally, such use would be copacetic with abutting a property with competitive high performance horses that would be sensitive to high levels of noise and activity associated with playing fields.  Lastly, creating a new park would be consistent with the Town Conservation Plan in preserving open space and scenic character as well as promoting community spirit.
We understand that no temporary structures would be permitted under the new purchase agreement, and we would respectfully oppose the following: permanent or portable lights, bleachers, a permanent bathroom, and significant town sporting events that would create a significant safety issue for the riders and horses.
Factors that must be considered include adequate landscaping to divide the horse activity from park activities on the property; landscaped and daylight hours secured parking area and one-way entrance and exit locations that mitigate traffic problems.  Irwin Park and Watson Property in New Canaan would be good resources for ideas for this property.
We commend all members of the Town’s board for taking the initiative to secure this once in a lifetime opportunity to purchase this property.  We also thank the rest of the taxpayers for ultimately funding the bond issue that will pay for the purchase. Thank you for your consideration of our thoughts, ideas and concerns.  We look forward to working with all members of Town boards in a collaborative way to formulate solutions that provide the most benefit for all Darien citizens.
The Neighbors of ORHC as listed below.  

  1. Leelee and  Michael Klein  2 Saddle Ridge Road
  2. Kim and Lou Giannattasio 6  Saddle Ridge Road
  3. Jenny and Kevin Schwartz 8 Saddle Ridge Road
  4. Cynthia and David Yowan 10 Saddle Ridge Road
  5. Amy and Zach Comey  20  Saddle Ridge Road
  6. Judy and Bill Holding 22 Saddle Ridge Road
  7. Anna and Cliff Blaze 24 Saddle Ridge Road
  8. Christine and Tim Gould 393 Middlesex Road
  9. Renee and Richard Gregory 451 Middlesex Road
  10. Linda and Doug Reid 515 Middlesex Road
  11. Lynne and Hank Wilson 527 Middlesex Road
  12. Truda and Link Jewett  537 Middlesex Road
  13. Mr. Lewis Cullman  543 Middlesex Road
  14. Lauren Calahan  561 Middlesex road
  15. Dr. Rhett and Heather Druggee  11 Ox Ridge Lane
  16. Patricia and Timothy Reis 18 Ox Ridge Lane
  17. Mollie and John Callagy  3 Althea Lane
  18. Keri and Matt Bruce  360 Mansfield Avenue
  19. Colin and Cristine Foster   396 Mansfield Ave
  20. John  and Martha Hendrickson  577 Middlesex Rd
  21. Peter & Tracy Drippé 40 Blueberry Lane
  22. Carol & Michael Bishko 364 Mansfield Avenue
  23. Costa and Cheryl Kensington 366 Mansfield Avenue
  24.  Brendan & Jenny Malone 2 Ox Ridge Lane
  25. Julie Phillips  362 Mansfield Ave. and 350 Mansfield Ave

NOTE: There are many other concerned Darien residents and ORHC neighbors who are not listed here, who agree with our suggestions.