Letter: In Favor Of The Sound Beach Avenue/Wesskum Wood/Arch Street Scenic Road
By Margot Mabie
An application for designation of the Sound Beach Avenue/Wesskum Wood Road/Arch Street loop in Old Greenwich as a scenic road is now before the Planning & Zoning Commission. Running by the elegant Perrot Library and stately First Congregational Church, a graveyard, and around Binney Park and its pond and streams, the loop is at the quintessentially beautiful heart of Old Greenwich, the oldest part of town. Within the loop are a serene haven and a lively gathering place: skating on the pond in winter and racing model sailboats in the summer, outdoor concerts and movies, fireworks to celebrate Independence Day, wedding pictures, turtle counting, lolling and strolling and cavorting, Binney Park is the scene of much activity day in, day out. People from all over Greenwich are drawn to the park by its inviting look and feel.
The Plan of Conservation and Development urges the designation of scenic roads as one tool for controlling and managing physical change in Greenwich. Stipulating that all alterations or improvements to scenic roads “shall be carried out so as to preserve to the highest degree possible their scenic characteristics,” the Town Charter specifies strict procedures for doing just that. Greenwich already has five scenic roads, four of them north of the Merritt Parkway. The loop would be the first both south of the Post Road and in Eastern Greenwich. Some say that because of the traffic on the Sound Beach Avenue portion of the loop–less than half the total length of the loop–it doesn’t meet the standards for a scenic road, which rule out “intensive vehicular traffic.” The Town Charter doesn’t define “intensive,” so it will be for the members of P&Z to make that determination. A road to a more densely settled section of town, a commuter train station, shops, and Tod’s Point, Sound Beach Avenue does at times have a fair amount of traffic, but even at the busiest times the traffic flows smoothly.
All of us have seen enough dismal design work–for example, the new Eversource footbridge in Bruce Park–to recognize the value of comprehensive, thoughtful planning with community input. That’s one reason I hope P&Z will designate the Sound Beach Avenue/Wesskum Wood Road/Arch Street loop a scenic road. But P&Z should approve the designation because it is, first and foremost, richly deserved. Announcing, “Hey, don’t miss this wow vista!” scenic road designation for the loop would affirm its beauty and celebrate the vitality of the commons it embraces.