Cranbury neighbors weigh in ‘ludicrously’ on zip-line adventure

recs and parks zip line 16-0210 Norwalk  (7)
The Common Council Recreation, Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee listens Wednesday to Cranbury residents decry the proposal for a Go Ape! treetop adventure in Cranbury Park.
Signs left outside a City Hall meeting room Wedneday as a Common Council Recreation, Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee public hearing is held.
Signs left outside a City Hall meeting room Wedneday as a Common Council Recreation, Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee public hearing is held.

NORWALK, Conn. — Comments made by Cranbury Park neighbors Wednesday in opposition to the proposed Go Ape! Treetop Adventure were later characterized as “ludicrous” by Common Council Recreation, Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee Chairman Travis Simms (D-District B).

About 40 people were present for the committee’s public hearing for the proposed Cranbury Park Treetop Adventure, which includes a zip line, and the proposed Veteran’s Park skating rink, and most speakers were dead set against the Cranbury proposal. Council members later approved sending the skating rink to the full Council for a vote. They took no action on the proposed zip line, as they had promised the crowd earlier, but Recreation and Parks Department Director Mike Mocciae announced a surprise for them after they had been laboring for about 2½ hours, with the room almost empty of spectators.

Two of the three people watching were Go Ape! representatives, he said.

“If you have any questions prior to the vote next month, I think they can answer them for you,” Mocciae said.

Mocciae said he didn’t “hear anything really big” from the naysayers earlier.

“You didn’t get stopped by an angry mob outside, though,” Councilwoman Shannon O’Toole Giandurco (R-District D) said, with a laugh.

“But then again, there’s not 85,000 people out there, either,” Mocciae said. “There’s 10 or 15 people who live in Cranbury.”

The eco-adventure’s driveway has been planned for off Grumman Avenue opposite Live Oak Road.

“I don’t think I would have chosen that neighborhood if I had known it was going in,” Live Oak resident Andrew Troetti said earlier. “I would not have chosen the neighborhood if I knew the parking lot was going in.”

“Why this place, why this spot?” Troetti said, adding that the proposal “doesn’t make sense.”

Patty Ruffo said she grew up near Norwalk Hospital and chose to live in Cranbury because it’s quiet. Her children would be unsafe in their own driveway because the “zip line” would be directly in front of her home, she said. People park in the street, she said.

Several speakers alleged that the treetop adventure would make Cranbury Elementary School children unsafe.

“I think the zip line should die on the vine,” Councilman Doug Hempstead (R-At Large) said, standing in the back of the room with the public and garnering applause for his remarks. There’s been “zero public cry” for a zip line and the people who visit the adventure would not venture further into Norwalk to patronize the restaurants or shop, he said.

Mike Mushak spoke in favor of the proposal, saying he had used a zip line while visiting Vancouver. The “fears” of the neighbors need to be addressed, he said.

Some audience members snickered as he talked. The zip line would raise their property values, Mushak said.

David Rinaldi, a Stonehenge Road resident, immediately followed Mushak, passionately asserting that Go Ape! would only bring in $23,000 a year for Norwalk. That would not be enough to pick up the garbage created, he said.

Most people who use the course would not be Norwalk residents, he said.

Tonya Steiner said she had recently purchased a home on Live Oak after years of research.

“If I wanted my children to go to an urban elementary school I would not have bought a home near Cranbury Park,” she said.

She called the proposal “devastating,” and her voice broke.

“These are not fears, this is my life,” she said. “I spent my life savings on this home and this zip line will crush it. … It’s crushing. You are impacting everybody’s homes.”

Common Council Recreation, Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee Chairman Travis Simms (D-District B) talks to the public Wednesday in City Hall.
Common Council Recreation, Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee Chairman Travis Simms (D-District B) talks to the public Wednesday in City Hall.

“We hear your concerns,” Simms said, closing the public hearing.

He had gone to visit with other Council members, he said, calling some of the concerns “extremely valid” but adding that the 80 parking spots would not be where originally expected.

“Everyone will come into the entrance on the Wilton side,” he said. “… I think that would take care that part of the concern from a lot of the folks.”

Mocciae later said the park was not being commercialized, as asserted by Joanne Horvath, but that the master plan was being completed.

Residents were given every opportunity to weigh in on the master plan, he said.

“We are not prohibiting anything. We are not making it any louder than the users with their dogs that are fighting on the paths,” Mocciae said.

Less than 1 percent of the city’s budget goes to Recreation and Parks, he said.

“There is no supervisor at Cranbury Park during the day. If you are worried about ‘strangers,’ anybody can walk the trails during the day. They can go to the school ground and be a lunatic. I can’t stop them,” Mocciae said.

Rinaldi’s claim of $23,000 a year was inaccurate, he said. There’s a potential for $200,000 if the city allows him to charge for parking, and with potential rentals to the bunk house, he said.

“I am not going to book double events so there will never be a time where we are going to have people parking on Live Oak. I have never seen that, ever. In 32 years I have never seen somebody park on Live Oak and walk into the park. Absurd,” Mocciae said.

“I thought a lot of (the comments were) hysteria because they don’t want anything in their neighborhood,” Mocciae said. “… I have yet to see a downside to this.”

Simms said he had had concerns after the last meeting, where the neighbors expressed anger, but the site visit had allayed his worries.

“Right now there is no foliage on the trees. … You saw far in the woods, you cannot see the road, you cannot see the houses, you cannot see in, nor can you even hear what is out there,” Simms said.

There were 100 kids in the school yard screaming and they could hardly be heard, he said. When there are leaves on the trees the sound will not carry, he said.

A neighbor had said that the master plan showed a trail through the woods, from the zip-line area to the school; Mocciae said it had never been built because it was discovered that it ran through a wetland.

Councilman Mike DePalma (D-District D) said he had met with the neighbors. They were still angry but feeling better about it, he said. Maybe if some of the income were used to fund a security guard for the park it would help, he said.

“It will happen,” Mocciae said, asserting that city government is different now than what it was a few years ago.

The committee agreed that they would go visit the nearest Go Ape! adventure, in New Britain.

Then they will vote on the idea next month.


36 responses to “Cranbury neighbors weigh in ‘ludicrously’ on zip-line adventure”

  1. Mike Mushak

    There seemed to be a lot of irrational fear and misinformation in the room last night. This is not a theme park ride that will destroy the park, but a sensitively-built natural adventure course weaving high up through the trees and deep into the woods, invisible from the road and neighbors, and drawing a maximum of 14 people every half hour by reservation only (or about 5 cars per hour since most folks arrive in groups of 3 on average).

    There have not been widespread complaints from previous installations across the country, including in nearby New Britain, and one in Bridgeport that is next to a residential neighborhood. As we found out last night, the neighbors concerns from the first meeting were addressed and the parking will NOT be near Live Oak but in the main park, and a new attendant at the gate charging admission for out-of-towners and resident stickers will limit much of the loitering and illicit behavior presently occurring there.

    The zip line course will be an asset to the park, to the community, and to Norwalk. I wish the opponents could all watch this short video which should allay many of the fears.


  2. Norwalk Parent

    Tonya You should have moved to VT with your life savings and no one would have disturbed But instead you move next to a PUBLIC park. It is like moving next to i95 then complaining that it is to noisy. It comes with the territory.

    Also how does this make the school unsafe via traffic? Come one get a better argument then that.

  3. Joanie

    The mosque in Norwalk was going to cause an Apocalypse – but non stop apartment building and now the most ludicrous of all ideas a zip line in Cranbury park are being lauded as great for Norwalk. For a FEW Thousand dollars the city is selling off a park and wrecking the home values for the people in that area. And please stop pushing everyone to watch that propaganda video that Go Ape is pushing – when does a sales job ever showing anything negative – the nature part of a park is its NATURAL state not a zip line business.

  4. Sara Sikes

    As a frequent user of Norwalk’s parks, I do have a concern about overuse of the parks from too many events being permitted. I have gone to both Calf Pasture Beach on a Wednesday night, and Cranbury Park on a Saturday and was not able to find parking in recent years.
    If there were someone monitoring the planning of these events so that the parks are not overused, it is not evident. The scanners at Calf Pasture entrance do not seem to be in use, which could monitor the number of cars going in.
    I also question how many out-of-towners would drive to our hidden gem for zip-linig, when they could go to Bridgeport’s park with easy access to the Merritt.

  5. Mike Mushak

    Joanie, if you can find any online evidence that current GoApe installations have ruined parks and neighborhoods and dropped property values, please share. I could’t find any.

    I also could not find any evidence on the record about complaints from abutting residents about Bridgeport’s course, which is much closer to a dense residential neighborhood than the Crsnbury Park location is.

    In fact, the course there is about 200 feet from a neighborhood, compared to Cranbury’s which would be about 500 feet at its closest point. 500 feet is the distance between City Hall and the middle of the Norwalk River. Of the impacts were as horrendous as folks are predicting, why would cities across the country be inviting GoApe to be in their communities? And wouldn’t the public backlash if there were any create online references?

    It was reported that committee members will tour the facility in New Britain, which is in a public park near residential neighborhoods. This is good, as the decision they make should be based on facts, not fears and emotion.

  6. Glenn

    As a property owner who borders Cranbury Park I felt compelled to go to the meeting at City Hall last night to hear more about the concerns that people have regarding the proposed zip line. There were a wide range of comments as to why the zip line should not be installed at Cranbury Park. While the council members may not agree with all of the comments made I find it disturbing that terms like “ludicrous” and “there’s 10-15 people who live in Cranbury.”, were used to dismiss heartfelt comments made by city taxpayers. There were closer to 60 people there opposing the zip line. My question to Mr. Mocciae is, where were all of the people in favor of this zip line you are so adamant about installing? I would have thought that if there is such strong support in favor of it that they would have had some presence there last night outside of the company that stands to profit from it. A few people sitting near me commented that the decision “has already been made.” The optimist in me told them not to rush to judgment and that I was sure the council would closely consider what had been said. I left the meeting when we were told that a vote would not be held last evening and was appalled to read the article this morning about comments that were made by Mr. Mocciae and the other members of the council after the crowd dispersed. Mr. Mocciae has mismanaged Cranbury Park from the outset. One has to look no further than his lack of oversight during the shots that were fired there at an event last summer. After reading about the details of that incident and how poor the oversight was it doesn’t give me great confidence that he is the person we want supervising the placement of activities that will further damage our open areas. Additionally, Mr. Mocciae has mismanaged other events (lack of payment for Scottish Festival a few years ago) at Cranbury Park. I have always had great faith in the public servants but I’m seriously questioning that in light of what I currently see taking place with this council. Aren’t there better uses of the park that can help create a healthier lifestyle in Norwalk than zip lining? There is relatively little in the way of health benefits to zip lining. The city would be better off looking into using the current green space in the park to offer and promote further healthy activities that can be enjoyed by all Norwalkers. The only thing “ludicrous” about this situation is how the council is dismissing local taxpayers and pushing forward with something that has little to no support from the public.

  7. Jesse

    I recently bought a home near the south entrance of cranbury park, and live there with my wife, young son, and dog. The main reason we chose to live in Norwalk was the Cranbury Park area. Norwalk can often times feel very congested, with a lack of open space and peace. Don’t get me wrong, I love the hustle and bustle of Norwalk when it comes to SONO, the aquarium, and the gem that is Stepping Stones, expertly located next to the dump in an otherwise undesirable location. The ice skating rink sounds like a great addition to Veterans Park.

    Cranbury park is one of our community’s few, and certainly grandest place to take a breath, explore nature, and enjoy some peace and quiet. Sure, there are many dog walkers, and hikers, but that just adds to the community feel and chance to acknowledge another smiling face. I moved to the Cranbury area specifically for the open air and nature that the park provides, as did many of my neighbors. The park is the main attraction in Norwalk, and is the reason property values are so high and the elementary school is top rated.

    I don’t know how the zip line will affect property values or overall feel of the park, nobody does for sure. But I beg the council to consider one questions before your vote.

    By agreeing to the zip line, you are setting a precedent that commercializing Cranbury park is ok. Do you want to be remembered as a conservatory steward of the park, who saved it from over development, or the people who voted for the first wave of commercializations to enter? The zip line may only end up to be a small disruption, and at most an unwanted attraction to many in the Cranbury community, but I worry much more for the preservation of the park for future Norwalk residents, and my son.

    The zip line simply isn’t worth it. We need to preserve what open space we have left.

  8. EveT

    Just say no to the zip line. We don’t need it. Cranbury Park is just fine without it.

  9. Lisa Thomson

    Reading dismissive comments to residents who pay city workers salaries is almost as annoying as reading (in another NON post about a City Planner) Zoning Chairman, Adam Blank’s comments about the distribution of powers regarding Norwalk P&Z in the city charter regarding P&Z, Redevelopment and the Common Council. Top priority assigned by the council to the charter revision commission – longer terms. Really?

  10. Ryan Wiedmann

    Mike Mushak, I’d be interested to hear the reasons you are so adamantly behind this proposal being passed and why you are monitoring the situation so closely. As a stated landscape architect, I can only assume you stand to profit from this endeavor in some way. I would hope as a local business person that this is not the case as in my eyes, putting the profitability of your company above the best interest of your community is a quick way to compromise the integrity of your business. You’ve been well prepared (too well prepared it seems) to rebut all of the heartfelt challenges that residents have had against the park, but I’ve yet to hear anything from you on why you are so passionate about this happening beyond the fact that you zip lined in Vancouver once, which would hardly support such deep dedication to adding a zip line in Cranbury Park to any logical person. So, as a local business owner who relies on local customers to keep your business profitable please tell me why you are so dedicated to this cause that you show up to meetings during your personal time and reply to every negative post from the good people of Norwalk who oppose your view. I for one would be interested to see your response. You are very comfortable dismissing concerns that people have expressed around the safety of their children & elementary schools and the protection of the sanctity of Cranbury Park, and if you are doing this with your own personal gains in mind I think potential and existing customers deserve to know the type of person they are dealing with. I will keep an eye out for your response and watch closely as this vote and subsequent development progress (I say this with confidence because it was obvious to me that the majority of ELECTED city council members were also dismissive of the pleas and petitions shared by the same people who they rely on for reelection and to pay their salaries).

  11. Norwalk Parent

    A few good point here. Honesty how much revenue does this bring in? 15k is much different the 200k. Where is the money going? Will it go back into the park? Also we should charge out of towners for use anyway via parking.

    I could get behind this more if someone said the revenue was going to build or improve x for the Norwalk residents. Or this the out of town revenue would fund residents to use the zip line. I have been to the one if Bridgeport and it is awesome. However paying $50 for each of my 3 kids and $60 for me is out of the budget. I never went back

    1. Mark Chapman

      @Norwalk Parent

      We are not sure where these dollar figures came from. From our originals story reporting on the proposal:

      The zip line would contribute $50,000 to $120,000 per year to the parks, Go Ape! Director Chris Swallow said, in a shared revenue agreement that would escalate as years went by. There would be 17 jobs, four of them full time, he said.

  12. Mike Mushak

    @Ryan Weidmann, you can relax now, as I have no stake in this game, and no financial relationship with the company or the city. I just think this family-friendly zip line course is awesome for Norwalk just as many others do, and this project is being way overblown by fear and emotion that is not based on any argument I can find that is convincing enough.

    Its almost like a mob mentality at work, and your very nasty comment only supports the rudeness on display at the first meeting when folks started shouting at supporters like a an angry mob full of thugs. I was appalled at the parents acting that way in front of their own children, but then I have been to Rangers games and seen worse.

    The behavior was better last night although I had to contend with rude interruptions as I spoke, interruptions that did not occur to anyone who spoke against the proposal. I lost my train of thought which was surely the intent.

    I respect some of the concerns neighbors have as far as traffic and noise, but after the first meeting these were responded to by the city in a big way by moving the parking away from Live Oak to within the park, controlled at the gate with a new guard, and the course will be buried deep into the woods away from any nearby neighbors, about 500 feet based on my Google Earth estimates.

    As I said, the park will be improved greatly by controlling the gate, so that Wilton residents will be charged a fee and Norwalk residents will be let in free with their park passes. This should stop a lot of the loitering and drinking that folks complain about.

    The revenue that this zip line generates, estimated at $50,000 to $120,000 per year in the last meeting as a previous comment by Mark Chapman confirmed (the low $15,000 figure is floating out there but not confirmed by any official I have heard), will offset the cost of the guard and help fund other park improvements. As the Parks Director stated in the last meeting, the city system requires that the revenue go into the city general fund, but is basically considered as park revenue when the Parks Director makes his annual budget request for the park. This will save taxpayers money while generating much needed funds to keep the park in great shape.

    This idea of a business in a park is not a new model for the city by any stretch, and all cities across the country do it to keep their parks in top shape without heavy taxpayer burden. We already have restaurants in parks just as most other cities have, at Oak Hills and Calf Pasture, and no one is suggesting a restaurant in Cranbury Park, just a simple treetop adventure course that weaves through the trees, and is totally reversible.

    Some folks are reacting as if this is a some kind of theme park roller coaster, which is absurd. It wont even have lights or music, and will close several hours before sunset to make sure the users are out of the park by dark.

    For the record, I am pretty well-known around town as a sometime outspoken (as you can see) but dedicated volunteer that devotes more time to helping our city than I do to my own business, at no cost to taxpayers. There is no question I love our parks more than anyone, and I think teh zip line will get folks up into tree tops to have an unforgettable experience that may just turn on some kid to a career in botany or science.

    When I did a course like this last year it was like a religious experience, and hardly the theme park ride folks are making this out to be. There will even be educational signage to teach about the environment, making education fun. Anything that gets kids away from their digital devices for a few hours and out into nature sounds great to me.

    In fact, I love our parks so much that I have donated countless thousands of my own money and my time and resources to improving city parks, including donating, installing, and maintaining the gardens around Lockwood Mathews Mansion and Contemporary Printmaking in Mathews Park, and helping to restore 6 historic city-owned cemeteries including Mill Hill and Pine Island.

    I am currently donating my time and money to installing new gardens around the new Norwalk Historical Society Museum next door to City Hall, at no cost to the city. My partner David Westmoreland is the Chair of the Historical Commission and just opened up the museum in November, after managing a shutdown of the old museum in South Norwalk that saved the city taxpayers millions in future rent, since the new museum is in a city-owned building that sat empty for years.

    I am also donating more time and materials to make Mill Hill Historic Park the best it can be, after an ADA accessibility renovation that was supported originally by Councilman Doug Hempstead. We also worked with Boy Scouts on Eagle Scout projects over the years at Mill Hill and at Pine Island, and other cemeteries around town to fix and clean stones and clean up after years of neglect. I have never taken a penny of city money for any of these projects.

    Over the last 17 years since I moved here, I have basically spent my retirement savings on making Norwalk parks better for the public, as my accountant has protested the whole time that I am foolishly throwing away my savings. I don’t see it that way at all. Most of my bread and butter work these days is on large private estates, sometimes for the rich and famous, and as much as I enjoy that work nothing compares to improving public spaces In Norwalk that many folks can enjoy every day.

    I am astounded at your comment, and that you were pretty sure of yourself that I was going to make money on the zip line and was being unethical about it. I could ask for an apology but I am pretty sure by the tone of your comment that I would be wasting my time.

    And I did not dismiss concerns about safety of children. I just simply don’t understand how teachers and parents are teaching children in Norwalk to be so fearful of strangers when the world is full of strangers every day. The park is full of strangers already, and so is every street, store, and public place. Most schools in Norwalk are in very public locations, surrounded by streets and roads and parks and ballfields that are used by strangers all day long. You don’t read about kidnappings or assaults in all of those locations, so why is Cranbury School so different that anyone should be getting so upset at the prospect of members of the public using a public park near a school, when you can basically drive a car past or even up to any school in Norwalk at any time?

    The ‘fear of strangers” argument in a public park full of strangers already seemed irrational to me, and to many others as well who witnessed that in the first meeting. I don’t want to dismiss it but I am being honest here. It just seems so emotionally unhealthy to be so obsessed about “strangers” in such a public setting where anyone can enter the park at anytime. If anything, this proposal will limit that ability once the guard is in place at the gate, and the identities of the participants of the zip line is documented through credit cards and signed forms.

    Let me end by saying that there if I wanted to, I could easily get a roomful of folks out to support the zip line. Some of the commenters seem to suggest that we should base our decisions in Norwalk simply on how loud the crowd can get and how many signs they can paste up on walls in a meeting. If I had realized we were doing head counts in a small room and that is how we make policy, I would have made sure zip line supporters were there.

    Certainly neighbors have concerns which were heard, and which I have said all along were worthy of respect, except perhaps for the seemingly paranoid “fear of strangers” argument. And the city so far has been responsive by reconfiguring the parking and solving what appeared to be the biggest issue from the first meeting. But obviously there are folks that still want to kill this proposal, which is fine.

    I just have not heard any convincing arguments from any opponents yet as to why it needs to be killed. But I have seen and heard a lot of unnecessary rude behavior, which is just sad.

  13. Martin Lawlor

    The last thing Cranbury Park and the surrounding neighborhood need is an “attraction” like a zip line. This beautiful, peaceful rural oasis in the middle of suburbia is a jewel that should not be disturbed or exploited under the guise of revenue raising and/or employment opportunities. The You Tube video attached above is clearly a self-promotional advertising tool to make Go Ape look all nice/nice. Good marketing….that’s all.

    Discussions about gate guards are fine, but what about the inevitable traffic, garbage and sanitary requirements? Does Norwalk really want to be more like Bridgeport or New Britain? I think not!

    If you want to experience nature, take a hike in Cranbury, and leave flying through treetops to birds.

  14. Ryan Wiedmann

    @Mike Mooshak, good response with the exception of my name being misspelled. I’m not sure what made you feel that my message was nasty, but if there was anything hurtful I do apologize for that. It was not intended to be personal, but definitely meant to be direct and to the point asking you for clarity on why you are such a passionate supporter of this activity being built. You have addressed my comments and I appreciate that. As for people snickering and making you lose your focus, I noticed this and did not agree with it either. Though we have opposing views on this topic, I do believe that you have every bit as much of a right to express your beliefs as I do, or anyone else in the room for that matter. From your message I can assume that you are a supporter of this project because it represents an opportunity for the city of Norwalk to profit and because you feel that it could offer a recreational outlet for people in our area and beyond. I can agree with you that these are both good things. At the same time, as a resident of the area, I can also argue that walks in the woods, picnics in the park, peaceful time with children and dogs at the play areas, and Frisbee golf area already offered through the park and already satisfy the need for recreational activities. When it comes down to it for me, I agree that protecting our children and our natural resources is very important – and I understand your argument on this as well. Coming from Los Angeles and Brooklyn I agree that solitude does not always equal safety, the same way that crowds do not always represent danger. I just feel overall that not enough thought has been put into this decision and I urge the committee to look at this long and hard before they cast their final vote. Look at the roads around the park, that are already narrow and poorly kept. Look at the roads leading to the park area, also narrow and poorly kept, but also running through residential areas that are not set up for any more traffic than they already have. Look at the sidewalks – you can’t because they don’t exist – and additional traffic will make walks with children and pets more dangerous for residents of the area and Norwalk residents who visit this area for a brief reprieve. Look at the statement you’ll make that money is more important to us than one of our last remaining areas of solitude for all to enjoy in the area. Look at the precedent that you will set that when opportunities for incremental revenue appear we are open to compromising our parks and nature centers. Look at the end benefit of this decision, which is bringing an activity to an area that is not screaming out for it. I hear Mr. Mushak that he could gather his own group to support this activity – zip lining fanatics possibly, but this is not a key priority on our list of things that this city needs to improve. It can’t be. There are so many things that can improve, and our parks department is focused on an activity that will benefit a few thousand people per year. I look at the art installation at the South Norwalk train station, such a beneficial endeavor by our city to beautify a building that thousands of people see every day. Potentially putting smiles on faces and offering a glimpse back at the history of our area for the next generations of adults to use that station. I look at the proposal for an updated ice house – offering an outlet for families and individuals to socialize and be active during the cold winter months. There are things that we can do that make sense and add value to our community – add to the potential of our area and inspire shared moments for the masses. A zip line park is not the solution. Again, Mr. Mushak, apologies if you misread my last message as nasty and please know that I have no need to calm down. I am calm in knowing that I am on the right side of this argument because I have the right things in mind as I determine what is best for our residents, our community, our parks, and our future. We have too little natural beauty already, let’s not take steps to turn Cranbury Park into a business venture and strip it of its natural charm.

  15. Tony P

    Irrational fear and NIMBY-ism for an outdoor use proposed for an outdoor park. I can’t wrap my head around all the folks against this seemingly appropriate idea. Amazing how some steel cables and visitors make Cranbury Park commercialized in some people’e eyes. Here’s hoping it gets passed!

  16. Matt Forte

    I argued that a business like this is against current zoning regulations because it is. I want to comment on Mike Mushak’s last posting. The two instances you mentioned, restaurants at Oak Hills and Calf Pasture beech comply with the zoning regulations. Here are the points that deal with those instances under “special permit”

    (h) A full-service, all-season restaurant shall be permitted in a public park having one
    hundred twenty-five (125) acres or more and which has a standard eighteen-hole golf
    course by Special Permit.

    (k) A full-service, all-season restaurant shall be permitted in a public park having thirty
    (30) acres or more which adjoins Long Island Sound by Special Permit.

    There is absolutely nothing under special permit about zip-lines or anything even close to that. Now I don’t expect you to know all the zoning laws but Mike Mocciae is someone who should have done his research. Also, the city has already illegally filled an area right up against and possibly in the wetlands where they want the launching pad for the zip line. There is absolutely no silt fence or hay bails to protect this fragile ecosystem. They also filled up on the trunks of a number of trees that have already died because of the fill. Mr. Mushak, I would expect that to bother you considering all you have done in regards to protecting and restoring landscapes.

    I am very sorry to say that I do not trust Mike Mocciae as I have heard him speak out both sides of his mouth during this process. Even last night Councilman Simms first said that they have addressed the parking issue and there would not be a parking lot across the street from Live Oak. When asked directly “So there will be no parking lot in that area” he said well there will still be a smaller lot but parking for the zip-line will be in the main parking lot. That’s just another empty promise. How does the city intend to police that? Hire another security guard? So now we need a security guard at the main entrance and another across from Live Oak. I think those two salaries are sure to eat into the $120,000 projected that is being thrown out there.


  17. David Rinaldi

    Hello all, this is the aforementioned “Mr. Rinaldi” (see article above). I want to clarify that my $23,000 comment is referencing the lease to GoApe for $15,000 per year with 4% of revenue up to $200,000 which would equal $23,000. Mike, as you are such an adamant supporter of this endeavor (along with our fearless leader Mr. Mocciae) please tell me who negotiated this great deal. All I hear is how we are going to have $200,000 worth of revenue added to the park via parking passes (something that could be initiated REGARDLESS of a zipline) and bunk house rentals (which is separate from the zip line)…..DIRECT INCOME FROM THIS ZIPLINE IS THE LEASE WHICH IS SOMETHING THAT EVERYONE INVOLVED SHOULD BE EMBARRASSED ABOUT!!! Mike Mocciae is on the record with Nancy saying that I am wrong, show me the lease that says that my figure of $23,000 from the zip line is wrong. Mike, PUT UP OR SHUT UP!! I want to see what they are actually paying. I worked in commercial real estate for 15 years and a deal is a deal, we never speculated on peripheral income!! Nancy, please do your job and hold Mike to the fire and let him fill us in on how the $15,000 lease, with the potential to get to $23,000 equates to $200,000. If it involves income from parking fees then that would conflict with the argument that this endeavor does not bring in excessive traffic. There was a discussion of $5 per vehicle, that would be a BUNCH of vehicles to close the gap between a few bunk rentals, $23,000 per year and a final total of $200,000. Mike Mocciae, DO YOUR JOB AND DEFEND YOUR NUMBERS!! Don’t say that I am wrong and lump all of your residual income into the HORRENDOUS LEASE THAT YOU GUYS HAVE NEGOTIATED!!

    1. Mark Chapman

      @ David Rinaldi, Norwalk Parent

      Mr. Rinaldi, after further research, your rental figure is correct — $15,000 for the license period each year, April 1 through Nov. 30; plus 4 percent of gross revenue up to $199,000, with an escalation to 9 percent above $199,000. Go Ape was by far the top bidder among three. Here is a link to the bid responses: http://www.norwalkct.org/documentcenter/view/8907

  18. Bryan Meek

    Put it on the northeast side of the park. North, but parallel to Field St. A larger gradient for a really steep line. Plus away from homes and the school…..win, win.

  19. David Rinaldi

    Thank you Mark and I am sure they were the top bidder but I have never (nor would ever) negotiate my space as a landlord on a one time bidding basis, would you? Of course you wouldn’t. You would set an asking price and then negotiate off of it. That aside though, it still comes down to revenue and the zipline does not give enough direct revenue to this city to justify the amount of out of towners it takes to sustain the business, correct? What is the added benefit to Norwalkers, that is my question and nobody seems to have an answer, especially Mr. Mocciae. We can keep doing the same dance of “there is no good argument against” but in reality, when all things are equal, we need to be sold as residents as to what the benefits for us are, no? You are a journalist, along with your wife, and a good one so do your job and give both sides equally and let Mike Mocciae make his argument publicly. He does not have a good one for the zip line and that is his problem. It relies on out of towners and that is not acceptable to those of us that pay the taxes we pay. I LOVE progressive policy and encourage community endeavors but this is a round peg in a square hole any way that you look at it.

  20. Paul Persius

    There is a misunderstanding here. As I understood it, The “most” the City can make is the 200K from GoApe, not including any parking fees. The lease, as explained at the meetings, was a flat rate of 15K PLUS 4% of GoApes revenues (we don’t know what these revenues are right now, escalating to 4% over time) capped at a 200K PAYMENT to the City. This doesn’t mean the City will only get 4% of 200K.

  21. EastNorwalkChick

    Mr. Mocciae does not have a good track record collecting parking fees, just come down to Taylor Farm Park any weekend in the summer and see the number of out of State cars parking there for free, right on the park grounds. Nor is parking area policed or monitored by anyone. This has been a bone of contention with Mr. Mocciae for years, (and still counting), with those of us who use this park daily.

    It was not until we brought the the drug dealing activity that came with the illegal parking to the attention of District C Councilman John Kydes and the Chief of Police did anyone bother to come by and ticket or patrol the area and this has been on a catch as catch can basis….the regular park users usually have to call to get them come out.

    What we also have to content with and I believe that this will happen in Cranbury, is the lack of parking for residents to use the park due to the influx of out of town cars. Yes it’s great that so many people from all over want to use our parks and beaches, but at what cost to the residents?

    So I’m not so sure that this is going to be such a win, win for the City. Mr. Mocciae has great ideas, but totally lacks oversight and follow through on a good number of them….the Island Belle comes to my mind.

  22. Mike Mushak

    EastNorwalkChick, I have only seen out of state cars parked on the grass at Taylor Farm during the boat show, and they were charged $5 each by an attendant. There have been issues with parking on the street in front of it, and I know the police ticket them regularly because I have seen them do that many times. The gate is otherwise closed to access the turf for parking.

    The GoApe course handles a maximum of 14 people every half hour by reservation only, and since it’s a group activity for families and friends, the average is 3 people per car. That’s about 5 cars every half hour at peak times only, which is not every day. They said at any of those rare peak times, they may have a maximum of 25 cars (it’s a 2-3 hour course). The existing parking lot could easily handle that without crowding out residents.

    With the new guard that will be partially funded with the estimated $50,000 to $120,000 of new revenue per year (to a max of $200,000 as reported) all of the Wilton folks that use and abuse our park for free now will have to pay, which I am sure will cut down the traffic in the park, as well as illicit behavior. Norwalk residents will get in for free with their park passes.

    I am still waiting to hear of all the locations where a GoApe course has ruined parks, neighborhoods, and depressed property values. I can’t find any on line, but surely if this is as devastating as folks are saying it is, they would be getting kicked out of communities, no? All I hear is that they are expanding these courses into city parks all across the country.

  23. Glenn O’Neill

    @ Mike Mushak

    I appreciate your commitment and involvement to so many things that impact life here in Norwalk. It’s clear that you have a vested interest in what is happening around the city.
    I have heard you and others talk about how the Go Ape group only handles a maximum of 14 people every half hour. In theory that sounds like a relatively small amount of people. However, it seems likely that these people will stay at the park before and after their assigned zip line time. It’s reasonable to think that they are not going to drive a decent distance for their time slot and then leave. I can easily see a situation where you end up with an additional 50-75 people using the park beyond their use of the zip line. Will they be required to leave the park after their course is complete? How would we even begin to police that? When you calculate this over time it is quite an infringement on the residents that enjoy the park.
    As for the Go Ape courses expanding “into city parks all across the country”, I would like to hear how many situations are similar to the conditions at Cranbury Park. Specifically, are these residential neighborhoods in zoning areas that prohibit such activities? I would like Go Ape to give us an example where they are operating in an area similar to Cranbury Park, not in downtown Vancouver for instance. My bet is there are few to none that meet this criteria. My issue is not so much with ziplining itself, but rather where it is being placed in Norwalk.
    I was not at the original meeting on this topic but it sounds as though it was a bit unruly. While I don’t condone rudeness and as a social studies teacher I vehemently believe in every citizens right to free speech I can’t imagine this reaction came as a great surprise to you and the other supporters of the zip line (commission included). One group is arguing for a recreational activity that would be a nice addition in their opinion compared to a group that sees this an issue that impacts them in a variety of very personal ways (real estate value, safety, parking, traffic issues, loss of privacy, etc…). You and the supporters of the zip line have been quick to dismiss many of these concerns but I’m sure you can understand why you were met with such raw emotion at the first meeting. The meeting I attended the other night was civil for the most part and I was disappointed that some in attendance caused interference during your chance to speak. Why were you the only one speaking in favor of the zip line? Where were the other supporters? Could it be that this issue just isn’t worth the fight for them? Or perhaps, as was mentioned by some opponents, they already know the vote is ‘in the bag’ and their attendance was not needed.
    As for the revenue flow that seems a bit fuzzy, can we see some real numbers from other places where GoApe is currently operating? Why didn’t the two people from Go Ape stand up the other night to explain their stance and clarify these so called ‘misconceptions’that opponents have. Instead it seems that they sat silently until the room basically cleared out and were then offered a chance to answer questions by Mr. Mocciae. It is this kind of behavior that erodes the public trust in elected officials. Since you are an active member of many groups in the city perhaps you can explain to me why this was handled in this manner. To me this runs akin to the strategic filibustering we see go on at the federal level when a particular interest group drags out proceedings in an effort to silence the other. Shouldn’t our commissions in Norwalk operate in a completely transparent manner? I think the taxpayers of this city deserve nothing less. I would hope you at least agree with me on this matter.
    I hope that we can all handle ourselves in a cordial and respectful manner moving forward but I think that Mr. Mocciae and proponents of this ill conceived zip line endeavor will be surprised by the intensity of opposition the residents of Cranbury and other good folks around the city will fight this with. In my opinion, if they push this zip line through it will come at the expense of their re-election. Additionally, if those above them in city government do not step in and move this forward with transparency they will meet a similar fate come election time. “But then again, there’s not 85,000 people out there, either,” Mocciae said. “There’s 10 or 15 people who live in Cranbury.” Really? So is about whether the zip line is the right thing to do or how collectively large the number of opponents is? The fact that Mr. Mocciae would even make such a statement in a public setting is ‘ludicrous’ to me. The group was much larger than 10-15 and you can be sure that if this zip line gets pushed through we will be letting people all across the city know how this situation was handled.

    Respectfully… Glenn O’Neill

  24. Mike Mushak

    Glenn, Mike Mocciae had to leave the room to attend another public hearing on the turf field at McMahon high school in the chamber next door, where he was desperately needed. He was not there when I left the room when the committee moved on to other business after closing the hearing. I do not see this situation as shady. He returned later obviously but I assume it was after most of the crowd had left.

    The reason why more supporters weren’t there, and a couple of supporters just sent letters in, was that at the first meeting they were shouted down and called names by the thugs in the audience. It was not civil at all. Why would they subject themselves to that childish nonsense again?

    The intimidation strategy worked to an extent to keep supporters away, but it was obvious to the committee what was going on. I am not intimidated by thugs, so I showed up and dared to be shouted at which is where it was going as I tried to talk and was interrupted. I literally went silent and lost my train of thought, but it only made the opponents look bad.

    You can read the comments above for a sample of the behavior. I was accused by someone I never met of unethical behavior, and then yelled at in all caps by Mr Rinaldi who told me to “PUT UP OR SHUT UP” even though he was the one who had completely misunderstood the revenue stream equation, as Mark Chapman pointed out right after that nasty comment.

    Yesterday, a commenter on the Hour site said the city should put the zip line “down in the ghetto” at Mathews Park. Nice.

    As far as the zoning issue goes, this is a recreational use that is completely reversible with no permanent structures, and recreational uses are allowed in parks and need no zoning approval. It doesn’t matter if it’s in a AAA zone or a ZZZ zone. Folks who bought properties by a city park should expect recreational activities will occur.

    I am also struck by the folks who pretend this area of the park is “tranquil”, with off leash dogs barking their heads off on the trails.

  25. Debora Goldstein

    A quick word on the “commercial” issue in City parks. People have brought up the restaurant in Oak Hills Park. Regardless of zoning, the restaurant is in violation of the post-grant restrictions from the original open space grant used to purchase the land in the park. The state/federal government could enforce upon the City at any time, forcing them to “cure” the breach with a purchase of additional parkland, at the city’s own expense.

    A zip-line however, would meet the definition of a recreational open space activity for a park that is funded with an OS grant (I have not checked to see if Cranbury has or has not been funded with a grant). Zoning is only part of the story.

    However, the issue of the “upside” revenue, however disputed the numbers is one that is not being properly accounted for, IMHO. As I stated at the bigger “unruly” meeting. Having a commercial operator in the park without charging the full value for the land–what they would pay for a needed parcel meeting their requirements on the open market (not how parkland is valued for taxes) is effectively a subsidy. If we are not going to charge for this, then the upside revenue share should account for all of the lost value to the residents who are subsidizing it (all costs, and a share of the revenue). But when asked about this point, it became clear that Mr. Moccaie values up from zero–he counts only the value of the activity and the revenue.

    I am sure other businesses in Norwalk would love to have this kind of subsidy, but it seems only operators who need a park-like environment, not a commercial building, get this kind of subsidy.

    Lastly, it should be noted that there were THREE, count them THREE public hearings on Wednesday night. It may be that attendance was down because it was just plain impossible to be everywhere at once.

  26. Old salt

    As I am watching this issue evolve, several questions come to mind. First, if any other applicant but Mr Moccaie was proposing this, the Planning and Zonning folks wold ask for a parking plan, traffic, study, and the big question how can a AAA zone park be used for a commercial purpose? Second does anyone remember the black and white party and the famous Island Belle debacle? Were these issues ever resolved? Was the city made whole in either case?

    Unortunately the Director has demonstated his uncanny ability for putting revenue first, safety second, and the citizens of Norwalk last.

    Mr Mushak spends a lot of time discussing the challenges of long term city employees running their departments like kingdoms. I suggest the Parks Department is run much like the Roman Empire. Is this another case where we are mandated again to “render unto Cesar” at any cost?

  27. Joanie

    Where is the proof that these zip lines increase property values? And the fact that these lines are spreading across other parks and other cities just proves that Norwalk does not own the market of stupid ideas. Also many residents in these cities have protested against these zip lines and stopped them from happening – a foreign concept in Norwalk – since nothing is ever stopped.

    Mike wrote a page long brief about the horrors of the recycling pick up dropping the garbage on his street (that was a major problem for him) yet he wants to tell people living near the park to like the zip line and how lucky Norwalk is to have it! I guess only problems on his street matter.

  28. Rod Lopez-Fabrega

    I attempted to bring up this point again on this page, but my posting seems to have disappeared. It has to do with the proposed location for the zip attraction: That appears to be cheek to jowl between the Cranbury Elementary School playground and the dog walking area of Cranbury Park.

    As the GoApe zip line will be open for business from April to November, some of those months will be while the elementary school is in session. That would seem to make it an ‘attractive nuisance’ and/or distraction for the school children and just one more thing for the school administrators to worry about.

  29. Jessica

    Though I’m just catching up with this conversation, as a first reaction, I have some doubts about GoApe moving into Cranbury Park.

    I do worry about bringing more people and more cars, especially from people out of town, to our parks. And people screaming through the trees sounds a little more disturbing to me than dogs barking here and there.

    Having any kind of course in a park changes the feel and use of it. For example, when the disc golf course got installed, I stopped using some of the trails and areas I once used frequently. This is because I don’t want to disturb their game and I don’t want them to disturb my peaceful walks. I just imagine a zipline course doing the same kind of thing. A walk through the forest will not be the same under a zipline course, and I imagine it will turn into another part of the park that needs to be avoided.

    I am concerned about developing Cranbury Park. More trees, more fields, more forest and wildlife is what I value. I would not like more parking lots, more buildings, etc. How many trees will need to be cut down for this? How many more buildings and trails will need to be installed. How long is the construction time and how invasive will that be?

    And the main question is who will benefit more from this? Norwalkers? Or GoApe?

  30. Dennis Horvath

    Because of the controversy surrounding the zip line in Cranbury Park the city of Norwalk should abandon its pursuit of it for now. What’s the rush?

    1. The zip line should be moved to Oak Hills Park or Calf Pasture Beach Park. These parks are “active” parks. Both parks have enough parking and a restaurant or concession area already. Security is less of an issue at these parks. Cranbury Park should remain a more “passive” park.
    2. The Cranbury Park Master Plan should be updated to clearly show areas earmarked for commercial amusements (the amusement, parking and road access areas) before any amusement is approved. Let’s avoid misconceptions as to where any amusements will be placed in the park.
    3. The Friends of Cranbury Park committee should have seats on it for abutting property owners. It seems decisions are being made by folks who don’t live near the park or who may not live in Norwalk at all.
    4. The presentations for Go Ape! are nothing more than infomercials.
    5. What are the city’s plans for other future amusements in any park or city owned property?

    Why do we need a zip line at all?

  31. EastNorwalkChick

    Mike in response to your response to my post, I am at Taylor Farm every day, twice a day on weekends for the last 20 or so years walking with my dogs in the rain, sleet, snow and heat of summer. Sometimes I feel like a mailman, nothing stops us, except for this particular weekend due to the extreme cold temperatures, our Vet warned us against it!

    From before Memorial Day weekend if the weather is nice to the Labor Day, the gates to Taylor Farm Park are flung open by the Res & Parks Department and out of state cars were directed to park inside Taylor Farm. It was not until many of us who use the Park complained to the Mayor and the Districts Councilman was there a attendant put on duty there….and that didn’t start until after the 4th of July. So from May to July the City let out of town cars to essentially park for free.

    The other issue that we had to contend with was this attendant did not work past five nor during the week, so any cars that came after five on weekends or during the week, again parked for free.

    As for the boat show, that is a captured audience, yes, there is a attendant there, but again they leave by 5pm. Leaving the gates open all night, therefore those that get there before the attendant comes on duty, they park for free.

    The parks department also lets the Boat Dealers park their trailers on park property, not sure if they are charged or not…more than likely not, since I’ve seen them open the gate themselves and pull in, unhitch the trailer and leave. There is no chain or lock on either of the gates, another failure by the R&P to secure the park.

    So yes, I stand by my statement that Mr. Moccaie does not have the capacity for oversight or follow through on many of his endeavors to bring more people and revenue to the City’s parks.

    So just because YOU haven’t seen it doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened….

  32. Chris K

    @ Mike Mushak, can you please expand upon these two comments you’ve made:

    …all of the Wilton folks that use and abuse our park…

    …Wilton residents will be charged a fee and Norwalk residents will be let in free with their park passes. This should stop a lot of the loitering and drinking that folks complain about…

    In what ways are Wilton residents in particular “abusing” the park? And how would charging Wilton residents a parking fee stop loitering and drinking? Are you suggesting that the regular contingent of park-goers who congregate and drink in and around the parking lot are primarily Wilton residents?

    Just to be clear, I have no issue with charging non-residents a parking fee or creating a paid pass- but I’m curious why you’re singling out Wilton residents as “abusers” and “loiterers”.

  33. Paul Passarelli

    I want to know *ALL* the facts!!! What does Go Ape offer the City? What is their taxable investment? What are their tax abatements? Will the company *FULLY INDEMNIFY* the City or will the taxpayers be left holding the bag if someone is injured? How can they *PROVE* that?

    Why isn’t Go Ape a listed member (vendor) of ACCT? Are the 15-18 jobs they claim they will create ‘real’ permanent jobs or temporary to clear the trees and string some wires? Will their manager live in the cabin? Their ask for an acre seems like a lot of property for a cabin and staging area! Will they actually keep the park clean? How many days per week will they be open? Who will pay for their refuse service, water, sewer, electricity, etc??? How much are they paying for these City provided services? How much profit is the City actually earning, How much of a discount are they being provided?

    I want to know the vote of *EVERY* person on the Parks & Rec Committee that evaluated this proposal! I want to know which committee members received payoffs!!!


  34. Donald Schroeder

    My concern is the message that this sends, that developers can do what they want in this town and get away with it. This is the ONLY undeveloped open space the city has. There is no other. It was donated to the citizens of this city to enjoy and it was expanded upon (with Federal Money) by wiser councilman then we apparently now have in the hopes of preserving open space for future generations. In the past few years the rate of construction of high density apartment buildings has exploded in this town. I’ll bet the park and rec department doesn’t even know how many potential new users of the towns resources are in line. And with all that new development why are we even having this conversation over money. Where are the tax dollars this development was supposed to bring in? This is about preservation of natural space…pure and simple. Please don’t mortgage it off.

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