Despite objections, Parks & Rec votes Yes on Pear Tree upgrades
Concession or no concession? Heated or not heated? Year-round or seasonal?
Those were some of the topics debated at the recent Darien Parks & Recreation Commission meeting in regard to the Pear Tree Point Beach improvement project.
By the end of the meeting, the commission voted unanimously “to provide direction to the Pear Tree Point Beach Building Committee to design an enclosed flexible community space of approximately 500 square feet overall to accommodate a concession stand, the open space, storage, etc. — to stay generally within the existing footprint and to the extent that the design can go a little from the concession to slightly expand the enclosed space,” Chairman Lorene Bora said.
At the meeting, Parks & Recreation Director Pam Gery said that Jim Flynn, who is supervisor of Darien's parks and maintenance, recommends having a year-round facility from a maintenance standpoint.
“In the beach environment, to keep it open year-round, [Flynn] cites the fact that just having doors and windows open from time to time and letting fresh air in [is important,]” Gery said.
Gery further recommended that the concession and flexible community space should be open the same hours.
“When you think about the hours, if you were going up to use the concession stand and you wanted to order a hot dog, then you can go inside the flexible community space where the concession would be and you would either choose to stay inside — or you can decide to go out on the deck,” Gery said. “So with that, it would follow the same hours as the concession would be.”
At the end of the summer, when the concession is closed down, “that space would be open off-season and available for whatever we choose to use it for,” Gery added.
According to Gery, Flynn recommended a year-round heated room.
From a maintenance perspective, “Flynn said a heated room wouldn’t have as much wear and tear and dramatic changes in temperature,” Gery said.
Flexible community space
The flexible community space would be able to fit roughly 30 people. “So if we were to have an event in the off-season in that space, it could be a nice size for a small intimate party,” Pear Tree Point Beach Building Committee Chairman Mike Sgroe said.
Gery said the space “is going to be so beautiful.”
“There’s going to be people that are going to really want to use it,” she said, adding there would be 200 parking spaces.
In favor of renovations
At the Parks & Recreation Committee meeting, Bora read a letter sent to the commission from a resident who is in favor of transforming Pear Tree Beach.
“Most people I talked to are excited about the changes as well,” the letter said.
During public comment, Darien resident Vincent Arguimbau spoke out against the proposed renovations.
“Instead of the Pear Tree Beach improvement project, it’s a shame the building committee wasn’t originally named the Improvement Committee to consider alternatives to truly improve the Pear Tree Beach experience,” he said. “By deciding to build, the committee is forced to a preordained outcome.”
He further said the commission is going to “end up building a Noroton Yacht Club. You’re going to build something like that just across the bay, and something that will cost around $6 million.”
He added that with Pear Tree Point Beach “more prone to flooding, and with an unsupported base of sand and mud, the committee should expect really, really terrific engineering expenses.”
Arguimbau then asked the commission: “What unmet need does Darien have to consider making a six million dollar building?
He called out First Selectman Jayme Stevenson for “encouraging this project, despite the disregard of the public’s 100 percent resistance coming from neighbors protecting their own.”
Arguimbau also wrote a letter to The Darien Times that further expressed his dissatisfaction with the proposed project.
In his letter, he reiterated some of the statements he made at the meeting. He also said the commission “should stick to the idea of improving the Pear Tree Beach experience by refurbishing the two buildings within the constraints of FEMA and construct an open deck on the south side of the commissary building, one with temporary tents for summer use.”
Scott Reardon, another resident who spoke at the meeting, said commission members need to listen to the public on this issue.
He also said it’s “very important” to look at operating costs. “The operating costs of a lot of these things are quite considerable.”
Darien resident Ruth Tait Taubl also sent a letter to The Darien Times, which said how she is against the installation of berms at the beach.
In her letter, she wrote that placing berms on the beach in front of the water will block the view of the water from people’s cars.
“I’ve seen what the berms look like at Weed Beach and I, for one, am not a fan,” she wrote. “My days of sitting on the beach are done but I intend to sit in my car and enjoy the view for the rest of my life.”
At a recent Pear Tree Point Beach Building Committee special meeting, resident Kelli Cole, also expressed her disapproval about the berms.
“I’m not sure what berms are going to accomplish when you have a beach that’s at sea level,” she said.
She added that “the drain pushes the water into the parking lot. The water is going to find its way into the parking lot no matter what you do.”
Cole said she’s at the beach for two or three hours, five times a week. I love it.”
Earlier in the summer, Cole posted a series of protest signs about the proposed changes to the beach. Cole said at the last meeting she attended about the proposed improvements that there were “25 people standing up talking about how they didn’t want it done.”
She also started an online petition and said she has collected more that 130 names.
“I’m not going to stop,” she said at the Pear Tree Point Beach Building Committee meeting. “I’m here and I’m not going to go away. It’s a beach. Let it be a beach.”
Watch the full meeting on Darien TV79.