Nature center eyes new location; Town Council talks preservation
As Trumbull’s Nature & Arts Center looks to relocate and expand, the Trumbull Town Council discussed preserving the current property the arts center sits on, formerly the Wagner Tree Farm.
TNAC has been in talks about a relocation with the Town Council’s Education Committee for about a year, according to Nature Commission Chairman Pam Georgas. Nature Commission members said the current town-owned 11-acre property on Main Street is somewhat isolated from Trumbull’s trail system and they would prefer to operate in a larger area, to attract older children and adults, and provide a more diverse ecology.
TNAC is managed by the town Nature Commission and the Patrons of Trumbull Nature & Arts Center, a nonprofit commission.
The patrons and commission aren’t asking for any town funding for a new facility but rather looking to raise about $1.5 million, based on cost studies of relocation. The fund raising could take two to three years, according to commission members.
“They want to fund it through a private initiative,” Education Committee Chair and council member Chadwick Ciocci said of TNAC plans Monday night.
But before moving forward with fund-raising efforts, the center wants to be sure it can use parkland for a new space.
“A lot of nature centers do it this way, using town land,” Georgas told The Times Tuesday. “We looked at a lot of different models.”
The nature center’s top choice for a new location is in Old Mine Park but other parks have been looked at as well.
“One of the primary reasons is it’s directly on the Pequonnock River trails,” Scot Kerr, the vice president and treasurer of Patrons of TNAC, said of Old Mine Park. “It has sufficient parking so it wouldn’t require any additional parking creation. It also has historical significance as well as diverse habitat.
“We also feel it’s more of the underutilized park that could use some attention — creating a regional focal point would be very beneficial.”
In a brief discussion Monday night, Ciocci updated the board on plans for relocation. Council members voiced no opposition to the relocation plans and discussed only the preservation of 7115 Main Street.
“As a Town Council there are plenty of steps we can take to determine what will or will not happen to that land,” Ciocci said.
Council member James Meisner wanted to ensure the Wagner Tree Farm property remains open space.
“We should enact legislation to ensure it stays that way,” Meisner said.
Council member John DelVecchio said he spoke to the Wagner family recently, which sold the property to the town. He said the family wants to see it preserved.
“Mrs. Wagner stated to me that if she knew the town would sell the property she would have never sold it to them in the first place,” DelVecchio said.
DelVecchio said he was against any development of that property, saying many in town have memories of buying their Christmas trees there.
“Once it’s gone, it can’t come back,” he said.
Ciocci agreed the council can move forward in introducing legislation protecting the land.
“This is an issue we can work on in a bipartisan way,” Ciocci said.
Georgas said she had heard that members of the council will work on introducing legislation that would protect the current property and also recommend the center’s relocation to Old Mine Park.
“At some point it will come back to the full council,” Georgas said.
It will also be put before other town boards and commissions, including the Parks and Recreation Commission and Planning and Zoning.
Kevin Malone, president of the Patrons of TNAC, agreed that relocation could help the center better serve more people in the community.
“Essentially, the goal of the TNAC is to serve the greatest number of community members in the best possible way,” Malone said. “We believe that a relocation to Old Mine Park provides that opportunity.”
TNAC offers a number of seasonal programs and organizes field trips with local schools. To learn more, visit patronsoftnac.com.