Youth Services, the YMCA, and the future of youth programs in Norwalk

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In recent weeks, our Mayor has mentioned that there are discussions about bringing a new YMCA to Norwalk. It seems as if the Mayor and his team have had four years to address the issue of expanding youth activity services in Norwalk. When he first ran, one of his opponents in the primary was suggesting that we pursue a Big Brothers/Big Sisters chapter here in Norwalk.

 Since the existing YMCA facility closed in 2012, our local YMCA has had to do without a building. Why is it only now, when re-election is on the table, that the Mayor is first seeking to address the issue?

 In addition, the Norwalk Parks & Recreation department, their staff and budget, have been decimated over the past 10 years. Mayor Riling has done little to improve these areas. Parks & Rec is run in an outdated manner and uses no advances in technology to engage the community and drive improvements. Although some positive work has been done at Calf Pasture Beach, the mayor’s office needs to expand the resources provided for Parks & Rec to focus on providing safer, improved playing fields for the many youth sports programs in the city, especially Broad River Park, Veterans Park, and the middle school and elementary school sports fields. The city barely touches these fields. Right now, private sports programs and volunteers maintain many of these fields on an ad hoc basis.

Although the investment in turf fields at Nathan Hale and Brien Mcmahon are OK, I am not a fan of artificial turf. It was a convenient choice to avoid giving Parks & Rec operational dollars, and instead invest only in capital projects.

Youth programs, like the YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, and youth sports, require significant investment in new facilities, new technology, new operational services and new security. This requires a much larger operational budget and better management. Good youth programs draw young families, which drive property values and invigorate our city.

Having stronger planning and professional management will help us to do better, and that is why I am voting for Lisa Brinton (Row D) on Nov. 7th

Brian Anderson



Kevin Kane November 1, 2017 at 2:17 pm

Agreed that this is another election year discussion point, not an action point. I’d like to know why the YMCA closed? What are the details and reasons? I never went into the Y but in discussions, I’ve heard it was that there was not enough dues paying members to keep it afloat. Might be a good follow up story or investigation. The Y had a pool – last time I checked pool demand is booming yet the Y is gone, Swim 70 is bankrupt and in the budget messes, even the Norwalk High pool gets a sit down with the chopping block.

Donna Smirniotopoulos November 1, 2017 at 8:57 pm

@Kevin I was involved with the Westport Y for many years, 6 on the board, two on the executive board. Like the Norwalk Y, the Westport Y occupied an aging building. Without successful annual campaigns, the Y could not make its operating budget. Trying to save for a rainy day (new roof, major pool repair) was difficult. When I left the Y, they needed a major repair to a header over the big pool. The Y had two things of value—downtown real estate and Mahackeno. Selling one allowed the new Y to be built, plus aggressive fundraising in an affluent community. So the story behind this closure is not so mysterious to me. Without knowing much, I’d guess that they didn’t have the resources to function operationally, let alone raise funds for any major upgrades. Also when you do upgrades to an old building, you are forced into seismic and ADA compliance. It’s sad that the Norwalk Y couldn’t make it.

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