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From the First Selectman’s Desk by James M.  Zeoli – 11/18/22

As First Selectman I have a duty to serve all residents, adults, and children alike.  To make sound decisions the Board of Selectmen give careful consideration for practicality, costs, and safety before informed actions that affect our residents are taken.

Recently there have been articles and comments made about the lack of response in meeting children’s needs regarding soccer fields.  I am writing to give the residents of Orange an accurate accounting of the history and development status of Fred Wolfe Park.  In the mid 1990s the town of Orange acted to be the sole owner of a 67-acre parcel of land to be used for open space, of which some portions were farmed by local farmers.  The remainder of that land, which was virtually landlocked and unattended, had uneven terrain, contained wetlands, and had become overgrown with vines.

A costly Master Plan was designed and offered to the Park and Recreation Commission to be implemented as needs and funds arose.  Many requests for development proved to be impractical, costly, or unsafe.  At that time the Orange Soccer Association (OSA) expressed the desire to have new and additional fields built and that request was granted resulting in 5 fields, at very little cost to the OSA.  For many years the fields have been mowed and maintained at no cost to the OSA, but to the town, and children have had a wonderful environment to enjoy playing soccer.

The request now to use existing farmland to develop more fields, parking and create new entrances would be a major cost to the town and deprive the farmers of their livelihood.  We do not receive adequate information from the OSA to make an informed decision as to their necessity.  Information that I gathered from the Orange Soccer Association’s most current filings show the number of children in the soccer program has remained constant at approximately 300 in the Orange Soccer Association program, and 300 in the Travel soccer program.  The area OSA would like to see fields expanded to is a parcel currently leased to Field View Farm for growing corn.  The access to this parcel is limited to Hemlock Road and Peck Lane extension off Meetinghouse Lane.  There are other areas within the park property that could be considered for fields.

The current development of the park addresses some of the requests made in the past and will assure practicality and safety.  The park is getting some new improvements after several years of discussion.  A new driveway which will allow access to Wolfe Park from Oakview Drive will be completed in 2023.  The current driveway from Hollow Road will see widening and paving as part of the overall access project.

There will be a new all-inclusive playground installed that will be available daily for all to use.  This will alleviate the problem of no playground available during school hours and forcing parents to other communities for playgrounds.  The Board of Selectmen unanimously approved supporting the Playground Committee’s presentation at the February Selectmen’s meeting.  The playground is on order and installation will begin soon.  There has been curbing installed and rail fencing will also be installed for the safety of the playground.  Safety improvements will continue as part of the development process.

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