Byram Veterans Commander: Say No to a Walmart Size Rink Facility on Byram’s Green Space Parkland

Submitted by Don Sylvester, Commander, Byram Veterans Assoc.

As a Veteran and Commander of the Byram Veterans Association, and having 30 years of parades and ceremonies locally and throughout the country with the Darien and CT State VFW Honor Guards, with no ceremony too big or too small, there are those who undoubtedly will never sit idle in my mind.

From the “Citizen Solider Monument” dedication in Kansas City, Missouri, the “Vietnam Memorial ” rededication in DC, just to name a few.

But right along with those are the ones you will never read or hear about. The first casualty of the Vietnam War from Stamford. His Memorial Stone and Old Glory unnoticed by most alongside Washington Blvd in that city. The Vietnam and WW2 Memorials at the Lyon Park in Port Chester, NY.

Whether located in a sprawling Memorial Park or tiny  single stone plot, there is  but one thing you learn when entering these places.

You are on hallowed ground. Read the eulogy chiseled in stone or the bronze plaque bearing his name. Look around; the trees, the grass the flags. If a park, people walking, dogs running, kids playing baseball, etc. You look from out or in and you see forever.

For the families of the fallen, this is their place. A place frozen in time. And a place dedicated as forever for that reason.

Which leads us to our own Eugene Morlot Veterans Memorial Park in Byram. A 13-1/2 acre park dedicated 40 years ago to a man who lived every day of his life dedicated to the citizens of Byram and Pemberwick. As well as friend and mentor to the 13 Byram boys killed in WW2, Korea and Vietnam, and having as many trees planted in their memory. The first tree more then 70 years ago.

A dedicated parkland; skating rink, ball field, basket ball hoops, children’s playground and Veterans Memorial Grove. Not only dedicated by then First Selectmen Ruth Sims at the time, but several dedications within
the Memorial Park, by or attended by First Selectmen Rebecca Breed, Peter Tesei and Parks director Francis Keegan. All well documented.

This should be end of story for most, but the unthinkable has suddenly emerged. A move by the town to seize 13-1/2 acres open space parkland splitting off the 1/2 acre grove and relocating a “Walmart” size skating rink with new access road in its center. End of Open space. End of park.

How and who would even think of such a thing?

First, use monies authorized  by RTM for a skating rink evaluation/study, for a relocation design on property you may not even legally be allowed to use.

Second, name a 12-member committee to bring this project forward in the Byram community consisting of mostly town employees, supporters, and for profit renters. Include no Byram Veterans (Morlot is our Veterans Park) and no Byram residents.

Third, after fielding numerous complaints on these issues alone, name a new committee with mostly same people: No Byram Veteran, One Byram Neighborhood Association member, another town employee and another working within a town facility. Sound familiar? And so the beat goes on.

If that is not enough, then we maybe should look at the enormous costs, not even known at this time. A project that just six years ago was projected to cost $4 million to do a wish list addition/alteration. Another $.5 million added to bring the estimate forward several years later. A building rated structurally sound, with an ice surface easily extended the 15 feet needed within its existing walls in one off season. The stars were clearly in line to get this much needed project going quickly. Wishful thinking.

All of a sudden, the addition/alteration jumped up to $16,940,000, creating the narrative that a new building is only $17 million, so this is now the “smart”way to go.

Then we heard that winter ice time would be somehow lost for one year, then two, and now three. But they have the solution for that too. Build a new rink in the center of the Memorial Park. Build it on the Sal Strazza baseball field, also dedicated within the Morlot Park. And then move the best hardball field in town less than one hundred feet onto the former rink location. And why not add a new entrance road also while we’re at it?

So now with a project pushing $20 million and rising faster than the Hindenburg. They are no closer now than five years ago.

Ample time for a state-of-the-art rink to of been designed permitted, built and already used for a few years. A shameful loss for its beneficial users, our kids.

Which also brings us back to one year ago where I, the Byram Veteran Association, and Veterans of Foreign Wars, Dept of CT drew the line in the sand.

This dedicated Memorial Park is hallowed ground and dedicated forever green space parkland, “Don’t Tread On Me.”

As for being told by Town Hall they are doing this for us – “enhancing” I believe the word used, I offer a heartfelt thanks, but no thanks. Surely some other community here in Greenwich is much more deserving of this enhancing then we.