NORWALK, Conn. – A celebration of Norwalk parks began early Saturday for the city’s volunteer leaders and ended with a ribbon cutting out over the water at Calf Pasture Beach and lunch at Calfe Mu – and a glimpse of a happy Norwalker reeling in sea robins.
Common Council, Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) members, Recreation and Parks Department Director Mike Mocciae and one bus-crasher began their tour with a visit to Cranbury Park and a look at a tent donated by Stew Leonard’s. They ended it in grand fashion: out on the recently opened new pier in the best of summer weather.
Mayor Harry Rilling joined the crew for some quick laughs before cutting a ceremonial ribbon and lauding Mocciae.
“Mike, you’ve done an amazing job, not only on the beach but on all the parks,” Rilling said. “We know that times are tough and your staff gets cut, but you rose to the challenge like a good manager does. You still maintain the beach in amazing fashion.”
The new pier has been open for about two weeks.
“It’s been tremendously popular,” Recreation and Parks employee Susan Crotinger said. People are “catching fish like crazy,” and at sunset the fishing platform is completely full, she said.
“It feels so good, like you just arrived to the end of the Caribbean or something like that,” Crotinger said.
The old pier was blasted by both Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy; the budget for the rebuild was $1.56 million, Mocciae said in April. The new pier includes six fish stations with water, benches, aluminum rails and a concrete sidewalk over the jetty. The end is 6 feet higher than that of the old pier and has two view finders from Tower Optical.
“I love it,” said Timothy Freeman, who was reeling in sea robins when the politicians came to visit. “I’ve been waiting for two years for it. I fished here all my life. I was waiting a long time,”
Freeman said he likes eating sea robin tail.
Deidre Panella rode along with the politicians on the bus. Rilling mentioned the tour when he was speaking at Wednesday’s beach concert, and Panella took him up on the apparent invitation.
She said stops included Freese Park, Flax Hill Park and Fodor Farm. She didn’t realize how big the parks are, she said. “Cranbury Park is so beautiful,” she said.
“The whole tour was just awesome,” BET Chairman Jim Clark said. “I hadn’t been to the Gallaher mansion since they had done some of the upgrades there. They had the big tent there, which is great for events.”
Renting the mansion and the 40-by-80-foot tent helps subsidize Cranbury Park, he said. The new area can accommodate seasonal weddings, corporate events, and fundraisers up to 220 people.
“I was surprised. Mike said there’s only one groundskeeper in the whole place,” Clark said.
Councilman John Kydes (D-District C) said Panella, a 60-year-old lifelong Norwalker, added to the tour as she remembered the history of all the stops.
“It was great seeing people back on the pier, enjoying a nice summer day,” Kydes said. “After taking the parks tour today, I have a new respect for the Parks Department. Norwalk parks are looking great!”