COVID-19 concerns should limit Ridgefield's Ballard Green to residents, commission says

Use of walk paths from Ballard Park through Ballard Green housing should be limited during the COVID-19 crisis, the Commission on Aging says.

Use of walk paths from Ballard Park through Ballard Green housing should be limited during the COVID-19 crisis, the Commission on Aging says.

Macklin Reid / Hearst Connecticut Media

With continuing concerns about the coronavirus, people are being asked to stop using pathways through the Ballard Green senior citizens housing complex as a shortcut or picnicking spot.

The request came this week from Ridgefield’s Commission on Aging, in a letter to the editor of The Press.

“It has come to our attention that the Ballard Green property is being utilized by the general public — walking paths, using the picnic tables, using the driveway as a cut-through for cyclists and skaters,” the Commission on Aging said in a letter signed by Chairwoman Laura Giovannoli.

“This utilization by the general public is putting older adults and people with underlying medical conditions living in the units at a higher risk of exposure for developing the COVID-19 illness.

“According to CDC coronavirus safety guidelines, the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus,” said the commission’s letter, which appears on this week’s editorial page.

“Keeping distance from others is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick. The residents of Ballard Green are a vulnerable population, as such deserve our protection from unnecessary exposure.”

They ask for Ridgefielders “assistance in safeguarding these residents by limiting access to the Ballard Green common areas to the resident themselves.”

Housing authority

The Ridgefield Housing Authority, which oversees operation of the Ballard Green housing complex, has also expressed concern.

“Our residents at Ballard Green have found that there has been a great deal of foot traffic through the campus recently. They are concerned with people using our picnic tables and other things that are for resident use only,” wrote Housing Authority member Jan Hebert.

“Ballard Green is private property and for residents, their families and their healthcare staff only,” she said. “With the concern of Covid 19 and the risk that it poses for our vulnerable residents, we ask Ridgefielders to be mindful of their presence on the property.

“We realize that it is a quick cut through to CVS and the park, and we are fine with the transient passing to get to the next place,” she said.

But the street furniture around the Ballard Green site is for the use of residents, she said, not the general public. “...Walk ways, grills, smoking shelters and picnic tables are not to be use by anyone except Ballard residents,” Hebert wrote.

Hebert’s letter to The Press on behalf of Ballard Green was past this week’s letters deadline.

The Housing Authority had previously responded to an inquiry from The Press, saying the concerns would be discussed with the firm it contracts to manages the complex, Konover Residential.

“We are unaware of the concerns raised in the open letter,” Housing Authority Chairman Frank Coyle told The Press. “I have reached out to the Konover staff to determine their awareness of any issues.”

Coyle said fewer people have been going through the area lately.

“Since the stay at home restrictions, there has been a very reduced volume of pass-through foot traffic with the playground and some shops closed,” he said. “We may now be seeing the volume starting to return to more normal levels.”

He said Ballard Green residents have long raised a variety of concerns — motorbikes on the sidewalks, people using “internal paths” in the housing complex, parking problems during summer concerts in Ballard Park.

“While a few residents would like the site to be access controlled, others love it the way it is with young people and fellow citizens passing through,” Coyle wrote. “The board has not seen a safety or security issue that would warrant such a step...”

“Our residents have been terrific during the ‘lockdown.’ This has not been easy with all common areas closed. It shows the seriousness with which they approach the situation,” Coyle added.

“Thankfully, we have had only one confirmed case to my knowledge,” he said. “Hopefully, with vigilance and constant cleaning of wash rooms and mailboxes that will continue.”

The Commission on Aging ended its letter by pointing to the many other places people can walk.

“Ridgefield residents have the gift of a vast selection of green spaces to choose from,” the commission wrote. “Let’s respect the Ballard Green residents and help to continue to provide a safe environment.”