Mingle and Make Plans
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Fairfield Citizen News)
Fairfield, CT – In one of the most noted structures on the block, Old Post Road neighbors met over wine and cheese to reconnect, catch up and look forward.
The site was the Burr Homestead and the neighbors were members of the Old Post Road Area Association, which was conducting its annual meeting late Sunday afternoon May 1. The Association is dedicated to promoting community and preserving the historical character of the Old Post Road neighborhood. A reception preceded remarks from association president Peter Petron, guest speaker Fairfield Police Lt. Jim Perez and a report from Treasurer Jim Miller.
“This is our 61st annual meeting since our incorporation in 1950,” said Miller, who served as the association’s president for 30 years. “One of the founding members was honorary town historian Marcia Miner’s father Chick Peden. Today, the meeting is about the neighborhood socializing and input about traffic safety. We’re in the middle of the fourth year of a neighborhood vehicular and pedestrian safety campaign. We’re asking the town to continue to make upgrades to aid pedestrian safety.”
Miller has lived on the Old Post Road for 41 years. “The changes I’ve seen include a significant increase in traffic. A study we conducted four years ago showed 11,000 to 12,000 cars passing between the YMCA and Beach Road every 24 hours. That’s a lot of traffic for a residential street.”
With regard to demographics, Miller said the pattern has been cyclical. “In our block, between Beach Road and South Benson, there were two kids in public schools when we first moved here,” he said. “Three years later, there were 25 kids. Those younger families rotated out and by the 90s, there were only five kids in the schools. Now, in the 00’s, there are 32. Most families stay here and raise their kids and when the kids are gone, they think about moving on.”
Miller said sidewalks are a key neighborhood issue. “Since the town put one in from Beach Road to the Circle Diner last summer, I can take my 3-year-old granddaughter for a nice safe walk, which wasn’t always possible.”
Miller’s wife, Joyce, was happy about another development. “I’m delighted that the town will monitor the placement of chairs and blankets along the Old Post with regard to the Memorial Day Parade, so that there’s no placement more than 24 hours in advance,” she said. “The policy is respectful of the property owners here. We love the parade, but chairs and materials set out five days before is ridiculous.”
Joyce said the area has obvious significance, given that there are 32 events conducted on the Town Green throughout the year. “We welcome the culture, but fight the commercialism,” she said.
Jim was also pleased that the town has agreed to install “heavy-duty” signs that say Old Post Road Historic Area, at perimeter points in the neighborhood. The funding for the signs was raised through sales of pewter Christmas ornaments that depict area historic homes.
Lt. Perez said associations like OPRAA are a tremendous help to law enforcement. “They are an integral part of a consistently safe community,” he said. “The level of service the department can provide is directly related to the interest and involvement of the community.”
He agreed with Jim Miller that traffic is the biggest problem in the neighborhood and said the department is aiming to reduce volume. “Unfortunately, the Old Post Road is often used as an alternate to the Post Road. Working together with the community, I hope we can come up with a solution agreeable to everyone,” he said.
Meanwhile, Debby DeRose will continue to be a neighborhood cheerleader. “I’ve been living here since 1969,” she said. “This is a wonderful area and we’ve supported the association for years. We really work to form a sense of community, especially through activities like a summer picnic and pumpkin carving. These help define us as a neighborhood.”
An Old Post resident since 1990, David Henry echoed the cheer, saying, “I’m really fortunate to be living in a neighborhood where I can walk or bike down such a pretty and historic street to a neighborhood meeting where I know I’m going to see friends.”