RIDGEFIELD — The diesel engines of construction equipment hummed in the background as local officials and community members gathered on Thursday to break ground on a new Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex in Ridgefield.
The outdoor complex is situated on land owned by the Ridgefield School District, and is adjacent to two new schools currently under construction that will house fifth through eighth graders. Work on the new schools began in June.
The Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex came about as a partnership between the city of Ridgefield and the Ridgefield School District. The school district had acquired 50 acres of land across from the location of Ridgefield High School, and planned to build its new schools on that property several years ago.
At that time, the city also recognized a need for a community recreation facility. Mayor Ron Onslow said that in Ridgefield there is a “tremendous amount of development going on” and a “fast growing need” for recreational facilities. Because of the need for new schools and recreation facilities, the city of Ridgefield entered into a partnership with the Ridgefield School district to build the outdoor recreation facilities.
The Ridgefield School District passed a $78 million bond in Feb. 2017 that paved the way for the development of the new schools. To help save money and accomplish a joint goal of the city and district, the city of Ridgefield stepped in to help provide funding for the outdoor recreation facilities adjacent to the new schools.
The partnership between the school district and the city means that the school district owns most of the property, but the city will build all of the buildings on it except for the schools themselves.
School superintendent Nathan McCann called the groundbreaking for the facilities a “monumental day for Ridgefield.”
The Ridgefield Outdoor and Recreation Complex will boast six sports fields, play areas, natural areas, trails and a community meeting room. Sports such as football, soccer, baseball, track and field, lacrosse and rugby will be accommodated, and the school district teams will have access to these fields.
In addition to the sports fields, the facility will have a full service kitchen in its concession stand. It will also have bike and pedestrian facilities “built for bikes and pedestrians, as opposed to ones that were built after the fact,” Stuart said. The complex will boast 400 to 500 parking spaces as well.
Joe Melroy, commissioner for the Port of Ridgefield, praised the progress the project has had so far.
“This community advances so well,” Melroy said.
One resident of note at the ceremony was lifelong Ridgefield native John Burrow. Burrow turned 102 this year and is known as the oldest living graduate of Ridgefield High School. Burrow knew the original owners of the land on which the complex is being built.
“I think it’s wonderful,” Burrow said. “This property is ideal for it.”
The expected completion date for the Ridgefield Outdoor and Recreation Complex is the fall of 2018.