The Parks and Recreation Department manages 170 acres of Town parks, 36 playing fields, five miles of beaches, two public golf courses, two marinas, a fitness center, 31 asphalt tennis courts, a Har-Tru tennis center, three picnic areas, two waterfront banquet facilities, and a waterfront pavilion. The Tree Warden oversees the Drew Park Community Garden offering raised beds for local gardeners upon application.
Fairfield has 59 parcels of open space land totaling over 1,100 acres (about 5% of total land in the Town); they range in size from less than 1 acre to over 180 acres and are representative of Fairfield’s natural habitats: upland forest, lakes, rivers, salt marsh, wetlands, and meadows. These parcels are managed by the Conservation Department under the direction of the Conservation Commission and the Open Space Program. The Land Acquisition Commission is charged with developing a plan to acquire 70 acres of open space per 1,000 Town residents using a current $500,000 reserve dedicated for such purchases.
The State of Connecticut’s “Green Plan” established a goal to protect 673,210 acres (21%) of the state’s land as open space by the year 2023. Ten percent of this open space is to be State parks, forests and wildlife areas. The other 11% is to be owned by Towns, private non-profit land conservation organizations, water companies, and the federal government.
Achievements to Date
- An extensive network of trails are maintained throughout many of Fairfield’s open spaces. They can be used for hiking, walking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing or to access fishing spots. Camping permits for Brett Woods and shellfish permits can be obtained from the Conservation Department. Inland and saltwater fishing licenses can be purchased from the Town Clerk or the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP)
- The Conservation Department has created trail maps and usage guides for the most frequented of these open spaces available online
- The Town is in the process of developing a pollinator pathway by connecting open spaces, parks and private properties through the planting of native plants that will attract local pollinators
- Balancing revenue-generating land use with preservation of open space.
- Planning for Town population growth while conserving natural habitats (Plan for Conservation and Development)
- Maintaining current and future open spaces, in particular controlling invasive plants, is expensive and time-consuming
Benefits of Open Space
- Preserves natural habitat and serves as a refuge for wildlife
- Captures rainwater and allows it to infiltrate, reducing chemical runoff, flooding and erosion
- Trees and shrubs reduce air and noise pollution as well as flooding and erosion
- Proximity to open space enhances value of residential properties
- Reducing runoff reduces stormwater management cost
- Open spaces serve as outdoor classrooms for the study of nature
- Safe access to outdoor public space offers opportunities to all residents to enhance physical and mental health
- The Parks and Recreation Department offers outdoor programs for residents of all ages
2030 Plan Goals*
- Designate additional open space to reach the Town goal of 70 acres per 1000 residents, which will contribute to Connecticut’s Green Plan goals
- Develop contiguous sections of open spaces and parks and plant to facilitate local pollinators
- Develop additional biking and hiking trails across Town.
- · Create an additional community garden (ideally near the Bigelow Senior center)
*Some goals are ambitious and may need more time to achieve target participation rates; others can be achieved sooner. Work on all goals should begin as soon as possible.
How Do We Reach Our Goals?
- Support Land Acquisition Committee
- Participate in updating the Plan of Conservation and Development
- Coordinate with Parks and Recreation Department on sustainable management of parks and fields
- Coordination with Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee in expanding walking, hiking, and biking opportunities in Fairfield