Neighbors recommend passive uses for Ox Ridge Hunt Club town-purchased land

With the town’s purchase of a large portion of the Ox Ridge Hunt Club’s field space now confirmed, neighbors to the property are taking steps to make sure the space is used in a way that is mutually beneficial to the surrounding community and the town as a whole.

A group of about 50 families identified as the neighbors of the Ox Ridge Hunt Club submitted a joint letter to town officials requesting the 16.25 acre parcel be used for “passive recreational” activities rather than team sports or other organized athletics. Passive recreational activities could include things like jogging, dog walking, picnic areas and bike riding. Their letter also recommends that new parking should be established on the north end of the property along Middlesex Road and protected by landscaping barriers.

First Selectman Jayme Stevenson has said the Ox Ridge Hunt Club will not be officially designated as a park space but the Board of Selectmen will be taking recommendations from the town’s Parks & Recreation Commission on its use. The commission will review the property as a part of its master planning process this year. Neighbors to the club have already joined in on the commission’s planning process, which is relying heavily on feedback from the town and focused stakeholders. Furthermore, use of the property will require a special permit from the planning and zoning commission. In order to make sure their interests were made clear, the neighbor group has sent their requests to all three town bodies.

The neighbors are not in favor of installations at the space including a pool, field lights, bleachers or other large sporting equipment. As it stands the property is protected by an open space agreement until 2042, preventing the town from pursuing most permanent fixtures. However, the open space agreement does allow the town to perform standard maintenance on the property for drainage and irrigation purposes. A small building could also be constructed for bathrooms or storage but the neighbors would prefer for the field to remain undisturbed.

One member of the neighbor group, Leelee Klein, said restricting the property to passive use would help improve the safety of town residents as well as horses and riders at Ox Ridge, as the large crowds and flying objects associated with sporting activities can startle the animals. Ultimately, the neighbor group feels the town can provide adequate space for athletics without the Ox Ridge Hunt Club property.

Town officials were in communication with the neighbors prior to the announcement of the purchase. Klein said that the number of families involved in organized talks quadrupled as the process continued, all with the goal of amplifying their joint voice. The neighbor group has also been working to maintain its relationship with the board of the Ox Ridge Hunt Club, as the club prepares to launch its own new initiatives with the capital gained from the sale.

The town’s uses for the Ox Ridge Hunt Club property will take some time to negotiate but the neighbors are excited by the potential the space represents. Klein said the neighbors are doing their best to be proactive for the benefit of all parties involved: the town, the Ox Ridge Hunt Club and the rest of the community at large.