Building a running path on the Diller Property was a big topic of discussion at Darien’s Parks & Recreation Commission meeting on Jan. 16.

The five-acre Diller property is located on Nutmeg Lane, adjacent to Darien High School. The Darien Athletic Foundation has proposed to build a cross country running path that would connect through the high school property and the Diller property.

The proposal includes an updated survey, professional design services, and construction of the cross country pathway, as well as four to five parking spaces at the Diller property for public access. All of this would be donated back to the town as a gift from the Darien Athletic Foundation.

The estimated value of the gift, which would be the cost of construction, is from $200,000 to $300,000, according to Mark Maybell, chairman of the DAF.

At the meeting, Parks & Recreation Director Pam Gery said the Board of Education doesn’t think the donation is ready to be accepted yet.

“They would like to get the green light here from the commission for them to move forward with the P&Z application getting filled out and being reviewed by myself, [attorney] Elliot B. Spector, and Jayme Stevenson, and at least get that signed off,” Gery said.

Tara Ochman, chairman of the Board of Education, told the Darien Times in an email that the BOE approved the DAF as an applicant for its gift pending the appropriate government approvals “that would allow the BOE to consider this gift as a reality.”

“The DAF will need to come back to us for final approval,” Ochman wrote. “It is not that we don’t think it is ready, it is that the proper procedural approvals, and any requirements they might have, have not yet occurred.”

It “seems like everyone” is on board that this is “a good project” and would like to see it move forward, said Parks & Recreation Chairman Lorene Bora at the Parks & Rec meeting. “But there are a lot of layers involved.”

2019-20 park fee schedule

Parks & Recreation members unanimously approved the 2019-2020 park fee schedule, with the exception of how the paddle hut rental will be handled during key holidays.

There was much discussion, however, about the kayak rack storage fee.

The commission approved one flat fee of $200 for each space, versus charging per item.

There’s a huge need for kayak space in town, according to Gery. There are currently 30 spaces to store kayaks.

“Last year, we sold out in a matter of hours and had 100 people on the waiting list,” Gery said. “It was two different fees. It was confusing. It was hard for us to manage.”

The commission is looking to see “if the park crew can make it a winter project to build more spaces,” Gery added.

The committee will return to this topic at a later date.

2019-20 budget

The Board of Selectmen’s budget meeting is scheduled for Jan. 30 at 5:30 p.m.

Kate Buch, the town’s administrator, has changed the budgeting process from prior years. All the department heads will meet with her and will sell their budget to her. It then becomes her budget. She will present that budget to the Board of Selectmen.

Pear Tree improvement project  

The Pear Tree Point Beach Building Committee has unanimously approved a surveying services company. The survey work is targeted to be completed by March 1.

The Pear Tree Point Beach Building Committee received five bids from design/architect firms.

“Our budget is $150,000 for this job. Three of the bids came in within that range, two were over,” said beach committee co-chairman Mike Sgroe.

The all-volunteer committee is charged with overseeing the upgrading of Pear Tree Point Beach.

The committee is going through the review process now. To help with this, it has established an extended selection team that includes subject matter experts within the town.

The goal is to come to a decision on a design/architect firm by the end of January or early February.

The Pear Tree Point Beach Building Committee has also unanimously approved a surveying services company for this job.

The company, Edward J. Frattaroli, Inc. of Stamford, will do the work for $5,350.

The work is targeted to be completed by March 1.

Short Lane Project

The Short Lane Project is an acre of property next to Weed Beach. This parcel is one of three potential sites in town that has open space potential for extra outdoor recreation options.  For now, the design shows the site landscaped into an open lawn with a plaza/viewing area. Walking, running, and strolling pathways interweave throughout the open space, which would be used for picnics and gatherings.

The preliminary design and permitting package is being worked on now. It is expected to be completed by Jan. 30, according to Gery. A public hearing will be scheduled in February.

The final design package will be due by the end of March or early April.

“We hope we can get the money through and into the 2019 fiscal budget so that the work can be done in the fall,” Bora said.

Commemorative bench program

The town of Darien has launched a commemorative bench program. The purpose of this program is to honor a loved one or  someone special in the community.

Benches can be purchased through the Parks & Rec Commission.

“We have chosen four different style benches,” Gery said.

“We have a teak bench that we will put throughout different parks. A teak bench is already at Weed Beach. We have a buddy bench that we want to put at playgrounds and athletic benches to honor a father in town,” she added.

Residents will get three different choices of their desired location for the bench. Ultimately, it’s up to the Parks and Rec Commission as to where the benches will go.

The beach benches cost $2,500. The athletic and buddy benches cost $2,000.

“I think it’s great because we have a lot of benches around town that at some point need to be replaced,” Gery said.

sfox@darientimes.com