Oak Hills authority looks to make park a year-round draw

Members of the Friends of Oak Hills Park explore the park’s woods last winter.


NORWALK, Conn. – The intensive development of a master plan for Oak Hills Park is part of the deal if Norwalk goes ahead and allows Jim Downing of Total Driving Range Solutions to build a proposed driving range between the first tee and the sixth green.

Downing said possible recommendations to make the park a draw for more than just golfers include a “Nordic area” and work on the nature trails. The public would be invited to a brainstorming session, he said.

Downing is the winning bidder looking to build a driving range at the park, but the deal is not yet set. Negotiations continue, and Downing unveiled drawings of the proposed double decker driving range at last week’s Oak Hills Park Authority meeting.

Doug Smith, a certified golf architect with the American Society of Golf Architects, would focus on developing a master plan for the golf course if an agreement is met, Downing said.

“You go hole by hole, yard by yard and you really write down what you can do to improve the course, whether it’s changing the layout of sand traps, or fixing the tee boxes or whatever it is that you need to do. The master plan puts everything in it,” Downing said. “You have your to dos for today, you have your to dos for next year and you have your to dos for the future.”

Costs would be included.

“Obviously, the bones are there,” he said. “Everything is in place, you’ve got the golf course. We’ll have the practice area with the range. We’re going to need help. We don’t have the answers right now.”

OHPA member Ernie Desrochers said such a meeting would happen “sooner rather than later.”

The goal is to have people going to the park year round.

“Some of the things we’ve thought about, maybe put in a Nordic area,” Downing said. “You can put an ice skating rink in – it can come down in the summer time.” He also said the Nordic area plan might include cross country skiing.


8 responses to “Oak Hills authority looks to make park a year-round draw”

  1. Debora

    C heck the recordings from past OHPA meetings. When cross country skiing was mentioned by an audience member because it was cited as an objective in a report on a draft master plan done back in the late 90s, at least one member of the OHPA actually snorted in derision.
    I am glad OHPA is open to exploring these options now, but I encourage them to also revisit the terms of the lease they are operating under to be clear on what they are empowered to do.
    This massive capital project is un funded due to the original bonds being exhausted on the restaurant. So were the original approvals to do a driving range (even assuming such approvals were properly obtained without first completing the original master plan under the lease).
    The course is not currently cash positive enough to fund this project without incurring debt. That debt must be supported by the city since the OHPA does not have the ability to float a bond. Any funding by a private entity seeking profit in our public park will have to be scrutinized under the original state grants that funded the purchase of the park land.
    There is more homework to be done.

  2. M Allen

    Cross country skiing, snow shoeing and the 500-meter downhill Toboggan has always been available at Oak Hills. On the 8 days a year when there was enough snow. Other than what Mother Nature provides for, what do the Nordic enthusiasts want the city to provide? It’s a serious question because I think people forget that we sort of get mild winters round these parts.

  3. LWitherspoon

    Ice skating at Oak Hills in the winter is an interesting idea. Is there anywhere in Norwalk where there is outdoor ice skating in the cold months?

  4. M Allen

    Closest outdoor I know of is Longshore in Westport.

  5. Don’t Panic

    Isn’t there a brand new skating rink called sono ice house?

  6. M Allen

    Yes, there is, but who would skate indoors when you can get the city to build a temporary outdoor rink at the new Oak Hills Nordic Center.

  7. Skating outside in the winter time is hands down preferable than skating inside (too bad our winters get really cold only every so often that allows skating on either Woods pond or 14 Acres).
    The Longshore rink is ideal; a really nice, safe place to skate, accommodating hours, reasonable rates for rink and rentals and best of all, you are on the water (brrrrrrrr).
    Just a thought on a rink at Oak Hills park if ever one was built, there might be a draw from the Darien and New Canaan kids on that side of town … a definite plus!

  8. Don’t Panic

    There’s a rink in Greenwich too.

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