Consultants for Darien’s new Parks Master Plan delivered their preliminary findings to the Parks & Recreation Commission last week, moving the process one step further along. The findings included site analyses from each of Darien’s park and beach locations as well as trends and demographics collected by the consultants.

Darien has more than 200 acres of park land split across a dozen sites in town. Sellecks Woods and Dunlap Woods make up the bulk of that space, while Cherry Lawn Park is the largest traditional park at 27.5 acres. The Parks Master Plan aims to provide the town with a 10-year plan on how to best utilize that space and continue improving local amenities.

Daniel Biggs of Weston & Sampson Design Studio and Art Thatcher of GreenPlay, LLC presented their findings during a May 17 meeting of the Parks & Recreation Commission. Both consultants have been involved with the Parks Master Plan process since its start in February. Along with Parks & Rec Director Pam Geary and Commission Chairwoman Mary Flynn, they held interviews and focus groups with several community stakeholders in April in preparation for their own site reviews.

The consultants reported that Darien’s park facilities are in overall excellent condition and maintenance standards are high. However, the town’s non-field areas do suffer from issues of drainage and erosion, and several parks need to be updated for handicap accessibility. During their presentation, the consultants provided a site-by-site examination of where existing amenities could be repaired or improved.

Biggs and Thatcher also recommended that the town invest in more walkways and biking paths to promote connectivity between park areas and the surrounding communities. For example, the space between Holahan Field, Town Hall and the Spring Grove Cemetery as a prime location for a walking path that connects all three areas.

The Parks Master Plan will also help the town determine the best uses for some new acquisitions and otherwise utilized land. The 16.25-acre Ox Ridge Hunt Club property was listed as having relatively few constraints outside of the open space restriction that prevents permanent buildings or structures.

The plan will also examine the Diller Property, which borders Darien High School and shares its parking problems. During the meeting, the consultants suggested Diller could potentially be home to a wildlife or nature program that is less invasive of the wooded property. The site of the former senior center at 30 Edgerton Street will be considered by the plan as well.

Public Survey

A public survey was released earlier this month to gather feedback on how Darien residents utilize the town’s parks and what they would like to see in the future. Approximately 3,500 were mailed out to homes in the first week of May and approximately 635 had already been received by May 17. Nearly 500 respondents had completed the survey online giving the survey more than 1,100 total responses so far.

There are several weeks still remaining in the survey process and with an approximate 6,680 total households in Darien the survey has already earned a solid response rate. Residents can continue to complete the Parks and Recreation Master Plan Survey survey online at DarienSurvey.org. Paper copies are also available at Town Hall, Darien Library and the Mather Senior Center. Surveys completed by hand should be returned to the Parks & Recreation Department office in Town Hall.

Once the survey is completed and tallied the consultants will examine how the level of services in Darien’s parks match the needs and desires of the community. They are expected to return to the Parks & Recreation Commission with their service analysis and the survey results on June 21, and another progress update is expected on July 19.

The Commission will give their recommendations for a draft of the Parks Master Plan in September and will hold a hearing for the public to respond in October. A draft will then be presented for review, and finalization by the Commission in November.