State grant to fund half of Broad River baseball improvements, fences in Freese Park, more

Norwalk Little League’s opening ceremony, April 23 in Broad River Park. (Harold F. Cobin)

NORWALK, Conn. — Details have been released on plans for $4.5 million in State funding for Norwalk’s parks.

“Investments include … new synthetic baseball fields at Broad River Park, new fencing, lighting, benches and landscaping at Irving Freese Park, a new trash receptacle system at six town parks, and more improvements at the Ludlow Park, Veterans Memorial Park, and the Brookside Elementary School fields,” a news release from State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25) and Mayor Harry Rilling said.

The funding will pay for about half the improvements at Broad River, it said.

The State Bond Commission approved the grant Friday.

The Broad River baseball complex has been an issue for years. It’s Norwalk Little League’s primary baseball field but there are no restrooms and no concession stands, then-Little League President Dan Balliett said in 2018, adding that there are only two porta potties for the 400 players who use the facility during the season.

Design for a new complex was funded with $95,000 in the 2019-20 capital budget and $2.5 million was allocated for construction the following year, but Norwalk Recreation and Parks Director Robert Stowers said in April that the $2.5 million estimated to do the work is “not enough” and “we need to reassess this project.”

“A year ago, Norwalk unveiled plans to upgrade the baseball field complex at Broad River Park after parents complained that conditions there – hardened dirt in the infield, poor drainage, and uncut grass – posed a safety hazard to children,” the news release said. “Improved fields at Broad River would not only fix those conditions, but also reduce costly maintenance and allow for the possibility of regional tournaments on the fields. Today’s state bonding funds will pay for about half of those needed improvements.”

Duff worked with parents and Rilling “to advocate for and secure the state funding after parents complained about the quality of the existing fields, the safety hazards they sometimes present, and the inability to play games during certain weather conditions,” the news release said.

“We’ve got 90,000 people in Norwalk, and that means a lot of families with kids playing sports and using town parks on a regular basis. Part of the joy of living in Connecticut and living in Norwalk is the very high quality of life that we have, and these state investments will help protect and improve that quality of life while simultaneously taking some of the responsibility of paying for this off of local residents,” Duff said in the release.

Tuesday in Freese Park, at the weekly open concert from 7 to 10 p.m. through Aug. 31. (John Levin)

“These funds will upgrade several of our sports fields, including the Broad River Synthetic Field baseball complex, and help beautify our landscapes by improving park amenities at Irving Freese Park,” Rilling said in the release. “The funds will also replace playground equipment at Brookside Elementary School, Ludlow Park, and Veterans Park to increase safety and accessibility and enhance the city’s beautification and sustainability initiatives by enhancing our recycling and garbage efforts at our parks.”

Irving Freese Park will receive about $500,000 worth of new metal fencing, landscaping, lighting, and benches,” the release said.

“Freese Park is a special place for the residents of the Wall Street neighborhood, with its view of the river, and natural amphitheater. It’s right in the heart of Norwalk’s original and historical downtown,” Wall Street Neighborhood Association President Marc Alan said in an email to NancyOnNorwalk. “For as long as I’ve been in Norwalk, I’ve always seen that Freese Park has the potential to be a massive draw for cultural tourism. I couldn’t be more pleased to see funding for the Freese Park improvement come to fruition, and I greatly look forward to the improvement. Thanks to Bob Duff and everyone fighting for the future of Wall Street.”

Ludlow Park, Brookside Elementary School and Veterans Memorial Park will each receive upgrades as well, the news release said.

“Just as important, $1 million in state funding has allocated for the total replacement of Norwalk’s garbage receptacles at Veterans Park, Calf Pasture Beach, Cranbury Park, Oyster Shell Park, Fodor Farm, and Taylor Farm Dog Park,” the news release said. “The new trash receptacles will be located side-by-side and labeled for garbage, recyclables, and compost. The state funding will also pay for a new mini-packer garbage truck and a large grass mower.”

“This funding reflects Governor Lamont and Senator Duff’s continued commitment to securing critical funding for the City of Norwalk’s Park System and prioritizes some of Norwalk’s treasures, such as our parks and green spaces,” Rilling said in the release.

Duff said, “I want to thank Governor Lamont and the State Bond Commission, along with my colleagues Senators Marty Looney, John Fonfara and Marilyn Moore, for always paying attention to the needs of Connecticut’s residents.”


DryAsABone July 30, 2022 at 9:35 am

Like him, or not, Bob Duff is bringing home the bacon. Stamford got $2.25 for new chillers at the courthouse Big deal. The mayor, over there, touts all her “experience and delivers nothing.
And the Crumbling Foundations? The fund that we all pay into with a fee on our homeowners insurance? Another twenty-five million for that!
I look forward to getting out of this mismanaged state…

Tph August 1, 2022 at 5:52 pm

Why don’t you repair Norwalk roads first. An don’t dig newly paved roads. So we can get to these parks in one piece.

Mitch Adis August 1, 2022 at 9:59 pm

Can’t wait to see how many tournaments they end up holding here once the fields are done. My bet is – Not many.

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