DARIEN, CT — As Darien continues preparing Great Island for public access, the town is planning on offering residents the chance to tour the 60-plus acre parcel of land.

During the Great Island Advisory Committee’s regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, First Selectman Monica McNally said her office is working on organizing bus tours over two days in late September or early October.

Residents will be able to hop off the bus and take a look at the property during the one hour tour. Details are still being worked out and more information will be released in the coming weeks on how to reserve a spot.

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“It’s important for our residents. It’s great to watch the presentation [of the island] and the pictures, but once you’re actually out there, I think you get a better idea of what you think some of the uses for the structures there and any other activity,” McNally said. “That’s kind of our goal, to give residents a little bit more information so that when we’re looking for ideas, they’ll be a little more aware of all the possibilities.”

Also during Wednesday’s meeting, Darien Director of Public Works Ed Gentile gave the advisory committee a summary on the work that has been completed so far on the island and what’s ahead.

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The advisory committee was formed to provide oversight and feedback on various post-acquisition tasks that need to be done so the island can be accessible to the public.

It’s made up of a Representative Town Meeting member, the chair of the Parks & Rec. Commission, two members of the Board of Selectmen, the chair of the Board of Finance, and four town residents.

A contractor has been on the island five days a week cutting grass, trimming trees, and handling some work associated with the horse stables, Gentile noted.

The contractor previously worked for the previous owners of the property — the Steinkraus family — and Gentile said their knowledge of the island has been crucial.

Several dead trees have been removed, and tree trimming work was done along roadways to accommodate emergency vehicle access. Potholes have also been repaired, speed bumps have been repaired and painted, and some catch basins have been cleaned out, according to Gentile.

Since the town officially acquired the property in May, signage was posted and 24-hour surveillance was installed to remind residents that there is no public access yet.

Gentile also summarized some work that’s been done to some of the facilities on the island.

Structures on the property include equestrian facilities, a deep-water dock, 13,000 square foot manor, a three-bedroom stone house, farmhouse, beach cottage and a seaside bungalow.

“Basically we’ve done a lot of landlord property ownership stuff around the facilities,” Gentile said, noting code work, regular maintenance and utility work.

Going forward, Gentile said there are plans to widen the roadway to 22 feet starting from Rings End Road up to the existing cul-de-sac. The work will require the removal of approximately 16 trees, Gentile said, but a planting plan will be developed.

Additionally, there are a couple of underground oil storage tanks on the property that Gentile said he’d like to remove.

It’s estimated that it would cost around $26,000 to remove a 2,000 gallon tank behind the main house, conduct soil testing, backfill the area, build a new tank and make it functional. It would cost around $11,000 to remove a smaller 275-gallon tank, Gentile said.

Gentile said they were “rough estimates,” and he “erred on the higher side.”

“There’s no sign there’s leaks in those tanks right now. Not knowing the age of them, I wouldn’t want to leave them in the ground too much longer,” Gentile said, noting they could wait a year before they’re removed.

In the short-term, there are four old transformers with PCBs in them that were left on the property, which Gentile wants to remove as soon as possible. Gentile mentioned an estimate of $35,000 to $50,000 to dispose of the old equipment.

Additionally, asbestos has been found, primarily in pipe wrapping, in the basement of the stables, the main house, and what’s referred to as the “Pink House.”

“Any type of remediation I want to get done as soon as I possibly can,” Gentile said.

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The town previously announced it would be addressing elevated arsenic levels found on the property.

Committee member and Selectman Jon Zagrodzky suggested coming up with a list of needed projects for the island, the costs associated with them and a prioritization.

Zagrodzky reminded residents to respect the fact the island is currently closed to the public.

“Nobody is supposed to be out there except town staff. It’s a safety issue,” Zagrodzky said. “Please abide by that rule. We will get the island open as soon as possible, and when we do, we’re confident you’ll really like it.”

The town originally came to a $103 million agreement to acquire the property last year, but after a lengthy due diligence process in which the town said it had to rectify some issues that cropped up, the final purchase price was lowered to $85 million.

Great Island is considered one of the largest remaining undeveloped pieces of land in the area, and town officials have called the purchase a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Click here to view Wednesday’s Great Island Advisory Committee meeting.

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