A little over 40 years ago, Citizens for Easton was inspired by a piece of land in the lower part of town, which has remained essentially unchanged after all these years. “South Park,” as this property has come to be known, is a flat plain bounded on one side by the Mill River, and on the other, by the road that bears its name. Once a farm, now a promise. But a promise of what? “South Park” is like so many other “open spaces” in our town – wild, beautiful and waiting. South Park has been waiting for nearly half a century, and for the first time in all those years, the wait is nearly over. The New England Prayer Center’s so-called “lease/purchase option” has now ended, and under the terms of the lease option, South Park has become the property of the Easton taxpayer.
We at CFE believe that the question of what should happen to South Park should be: How can South Park best serve the future of our town? Viewed from that perspective, we think South Park becomes not a burden but an opportunity. Our organization was directly inspired by South Park in 1972 when intensive commercial development was proposed for the site. A few concerned Eastonites thought such a development would set a precedent for future developments. Our concern then – as now – was based on the self-evident notion that anyone who calls a cherished place “home” should reserve the right to determine what that home should look like. We believe Easton holds a unique position in all of Fairfield County, as the steward of a water supply, and that a threat to open space in one part of our town opens a door to threats in other parts. We believe that development would not only ill-serve Easton, but threaten the Mill River and our neighbors as well. That’s what lies at the heart of CFE’s efforts to seek a fair and environmentally safe solution to the proposed “Saddle Ridge” development, too. Easton has a chance to make the right decisions about South Park, and not just what might be claimed to be the financially expedient ones. We have the luxury of time – time to think about what we want to do, and time to make a decision that will positively impact our town for generations to come.
Keep South Park as Town Property
What then is the best use of South Park? Glance at the property the next time you drive by. Once wild, then farmed, now wild again, CFE’s position is that South Park should remain true to those roots and remain town property. While ideally the entire parcel would remain forever wild, especially in the vicinity of the Mill River, leasing a portion to be used for organic farming, similar to that which exists on the Staples School property, would be in keeping with our zoning and agricultural heritage. The revenue from the farming lease would provide income for the town, in addition to the rental income derived from the house on the property. This would help ensure that Easton remains the jewel of Fairfield County – a “water” town with a vital, strong agricultural base, superb school system, and unparalleled natural resources, thanks to our current zoning regulations. We are a town that will continue to grow, but we also need to grow wisely and in accordance with our character and principles. That’s the promise of South Park and of so many other places in Easton – a promise we have to keep.