Almost 26 years after the Branford Hills School closed, a new sign has been erected on the site that designated the area a town park for all to see and use.
Branford Hills Park is the result of actions taken by the Cosgrove administration after the deteriorating Branford Hills School stood for decades, and the site has been transformed into a community park that hosts countless dog walks, soccer games and picnics, and has now been locked in as a park for years t come.
First selectman Jamie Cosgrove walked the park this week as the Parks the Recreation department installed a temporary sign on the site.
“I wanted people to know clearly that this was their park,” he said regarding the sign. He said a more permanent one is being worked on, and he may speak with the Garden Club about potential plantings, as well as other improvements on the site. For example, Cosgrove is looking into benches just outside the fence.
On October 22, an event to celebrate the park will be held, a product of efforts by area residents and the Parks and Rec Department.
In 2014, shortly after Cosgrove was elected, he hired Hamden based DTC to analyze the condition of the school and look at potential uses. The report showed a strong structure but little else, almost all the utilities were failing and the cost to bring the facility up to current codes was prohibitive. The report put in writing what many already felt: the building had served its purpose.
Soon after, Cosgrove requested monies from the town to take down the building, in part due to safety concerns as there were frequent reports of area kids entering the building. It also was a part of Cosgrove’s desire to cut long term costs by reducing the towns overall building footprint; the move avoided any spending on upkeep and needed improvements, like a new roof.
Realizing that the Branford Hills area is one of the few in town without a park, Cosgrove initially stated his desire to see it become one. A fence was put up that enabled dos to safely use the area, and the field was lined to be used as a soccer field for youth leagues. Earlier this year, the Board of Selectmen made it official, placing the park in the care of the Parks and Recreation department.
The October 22 event will be held from 11 AM to 3 PM. Organizers describe the event as having food trucks, music, sports and dancing as a way to celebrate the towns newest park.
“We hear from many that are thrilled to use the new park,” said Cosgrove. “Every weekend its filled, and this area really needed it. It took some time, but I’m glad we got it done.”