State seeks feedback on recreation plan
Picnic areas, swimming pools, splash pads and walking trails are among the list of recreational demands highlighted in a five-year plan released recently by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
The final draft of the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan is open for public comment until Dec. 28. The document is used as a planning tool to determine recreational priorities and is a requirement to obtain federal funding. The last extensive study on the topic was in 2005.
“Our primary goal with the new five-year plan is to better understand the recreation demands of Connecticut’s residents and identify opportunities for a variety of outdoor recreation activities that are compatible with the long term protection of the state’s outstanding natural and cultural resources,” said Mike Lambert, DEEP Bureau Chief for Outdoor Recreation.
The plan was created using input from “recreational enthusiasts,” town officials and the state’s own goals. Officials in Newtown, Redding, Ridgefield and Kent, among others throughout the state, contributed comments.
Town officials and residents listed access to swimming pools as a major need.
Kent is one town that already has a swimming facility, Emery Park. It was built 20 years ago, but the facility is underused and town officials must now decide if it’s worth renovating.
“We hoped it was a case of build it and they will come, but we built it and they didn’t come,” said First Selectman Bruce Adams.
The swimming pool is located in a wooded area and filled by a diverted stream in the spring, which he said not all residents enjoy. The usage could also be down because residents have their own chlorine pools.
He said overall, the town has access to nice athletic facilities, especially at the three private schools that let the town use the buildings. There are also three state parks in Kent, which Adams said are maintained.
Another challenge facing Kent’s parks and recreation is declining registration for athletics, a trend that is acknowledged in the state report. Adams said the senior participation has increased, largely due to the parks and recreation director’s efforts at attracting more people.
The state report predicts individual activities will continue to grow and participation in organized sports, tennis and golf will decrease in the next five to 10 years.
Already, the most popular outdoor recreational activities among residents in general are walking or hiking, swimming, beach activities, running and visiting historic sites. Hiking and walking also saw the greatest increase among the outdoor enthusiasts interviewed, who ranked it highest.
“These results do not represent anything surprising because walking, hiking, and running are all outdoor activities that can be easily practiced by anyone at any location,” the plan states, although it notes that access to trails can sometimes be a barrier.
Many town officials report the demand for multiuse trails or paved paths. In the Danbury area, Brookfield and New Milford just opened paved greenways, while Ridgefield and Redding are working on completing their sections of the Norwalk River Valley Trail.
Demand for these types of trails and picnic areas or shelters were repeated throughout the report.
“We were also glad to see the increases over time in the recreational uses taking place in State Parks and Forests as well as trails, but it was somewhat sobering to see the large increase in recreation taking place ‘out of state’ even though most of that increase was connected to vacations,” said Eric Hammerling, executive director of Connecticut Forest and Park Association.
Comments can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, or mailed to DEEP SCORP c/o Doug Jann, Environmental Analyst, Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, 79 Elm St. Hartford, CT 06106