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Wilton

Boards question purpose of park lease

  • <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Goss Park on Forest Road in Wilton is owned by the Wilton-Lyndeborough Youth Center, which provides services for the towns of Wilton and Lyndeborough. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

WILTON — The Wilton and Lyndeborough select boards are looking to update the status quo in the way they fund a local park enjoyed by both towns, after clarifying who officially owns the land.

The Wilton and Lyndeborough select boards met earlier this winter to discuss several issues, including their shared responsibility for Goss Park, which both towns fund. The main topic of discussion at the time was who was responsible for liability for injuries that occur at the park.

At the time, Wilton Select Board Chair Dan Donovan said Monday, he believed the park belonged to Wilton, as it was on the town property rolls and Wilton carried liability insurance for the property. However, the towns have since discovered that’s not the case. The park is owned by a nonprofit organization called the Wilton-Lyndeborough Youth Center, and has been for more than 50 years. The center runs youth programs for both Wilton and Lyndeborough residents.

The town of Wilton had reached an agreement with the Wilton-Lyndeborough Youth Center to lease the land for the cost of $1 per year in 1986, the town discovered, which is the reason the property has been on the lists of town-owned property, and why the town carries liability insurance.

But after speaking to Laura Manning, a representative of the Wilton-Lyndeborough Youth Center, both boards learned that the nonprofit also carries liability insurance through the Local Govern ment Center.

Donovan asked a representative from the Local Government Center, Darlene Simmons, who would be liable in the case of an accident at Goss Park. Simmons replied that, although both the town and the Wilton-Lyndeborough Youth Center carry liability insurance for the area, because the nonprofit is the landowner the liability would fall to them.

Donovan said he would support continuing to fund the park based on a fee-for-service system, splitting the operating costs with Wilton based on the population of the two towns.

Wilton Select Board member Bill Condra questioned whether it was necessary to continue leasing the property or paying the liability insurance, when the responsibility was already shouldered by the Wilton-Lyndeborough Youth Center.

Manning questioned whether the lease was put in place as an incentive for Wilton to continue funding the larger part of the park’s expenses, but Donovan said it was highly unlikely the board would consider discontinuing funding for the park.

“Goss Park is a valuable entity, which we certainly don’t want to lose,” he said.

Boette agreed, saying, “Everyone loves and appreciates Goss Park, I don’t think that’s in question,” he said. “We were most concerned about the liability issue, and that question has been answered.”

Donovan said he was open to renegotiating the way the two towns fund the park, but noted that the benefits of maintaining liability insurance might outweigh the risks. He said if an accident occurred while the park was closed and while the youth center was not running programs, it might lead to a legal gray area. The liability insurance was bundled with several other insurance policies for the town, and the cost was minimal, he said.

The Wilton Select Board and Boette each agreed to appoint a point person from each of the town’s Select Boards to refine the agreement to continue paying Goss Park’s operating costs.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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