It's a project that has been in the works for years, and Tuesday it took another step forward when the Planning and Zoning Commission gave its approval to the construction of a barn at Brooksvale Park.
The barn will be home to the animals that live at the park and currently only have run-in sheds for shelter. The plan also needs the approval of the Legislative Council, and P&Z has recommended that it too give its blessing to the project.
"The barn will be a welcome addition," said Asst. Town Planner Dan Kops. "It's a relatively minor change and it conforms to the regulations and will have no impact to the health, safety and welfare of the public."
P&Z's approval is good for five years, during with time the Friends of Brooksvale Park will undertake a fundraising campaign to raise the money to build the barn.
"We would be very excited to see this happen," said Park Ranger Vinny Lavorgna.
Currently the animals only have the run-in sheds for shelter, he said. "It's sort of free rein out there now," he said. "We don't have the ability to secure them indoors so it's sort of a free for all out there."
The barn also will allow the park to expand its programs, especially with children, he said.
"Several years ago we started farm camp where the kids care for the animals, and we saw the potential in it for the animals to get more attention," he said. Children would leash up the sheep and take them for walks throughout the park, where the animals would interact with park visitors, he said.
"We saw that the barnyard has much more potential," Lavorgna said. "The next step was to create housing for them."
The barn would centralize the park's operation and allow for the establishment of a breeding program, he said.
"Right now it's hit or miss," he said of the ability to breed. "If we provide a secure area, we will be able to control the animals and have more opportunity to offer programs to the public."
"We are trying to get this facility up to date," said Fred McCarthy, a member of the Friends of Brooksvale Park. "Last winter was horrendous."
Currently park employees have to cart grain from one building out to the animals, he said. With a barn, food and animals can be located together.
"It would be so much easier if everything was under one roof -- both for the animals and for the people who care for them," McCarthy said.
As the economy worsened, the park's importance increased for families who may no longer be able to afford other forms of family entertainment, he said.
"Brooksvale Park in no longer just a casual place to go -- it's a necessity in these bad economic times," McCarthy said.
"The park is a wonderful asset to the town and the best babysitter going -- kids love it, school groups love it," said fellow Friends member Gail Traester. It offers a variety of programs for all ages, she said, including last year's Civil War reenactments.
"Brooksvale Park offers a lot," she said. "If you haven't been there, I would urge you to go."
The council agreed and approved the barn and the favorable referral to the Legislative Council.
"Brooksvale Park is a treasure in Hamden," said Commissioner Ann Altman, "and the ranger is a national treasure in Hamden."