Norwich - Neighbors of the former William A. Buckingham School were surprised twice in the past few days, first at the sudden arrival of a bright tent for a weekend religious revival and then on Monday when the Ferris wheel, giant slide and Tilt-a-Whirl arrived.
"This is wrong at so many levels," said JD Donner, a Broad Street resident whose backyard abuts the former school property. "I have a Ferris wheel in my backyard. It's 10 feet away."
Donner complained to Public Works Director Barry Ellison, whose department oversees the property, and to Mayor Peter Nystrom. Donner is worried about trash being thrown into his pool from the rides that tower over his yard, and noise from generators, rides and "screaming kids."
He will host a catered 30th anniversary party in his yard Saturday and complained the city gave neighbors no warning about the coming carnival.
The carnival is a fundraiser for the VFW Post 594 and will run today through Saturday from 6 to 10 p.m. Last weekend, several churches from Norwich and New London held the "Jesus People" tent revival event at the Buckingham School grounds.
Ellison said he just started offering the Buckingham grounds to outside groups wanting to use Chelsea Parade, where the carnival was last year, or the Norwichtown Green for events. He said he wants to avoid damaging the grass on these high-profile city assets. He said he didn't charge for use of Buckingham because it has no electric or water service.
City Manager Alan Bergren said Tuesday he has received complaints from residents about the carnival and agreed it might be "too intense" for the residential neighborhood. Bergren plans to survey neighbors this summer to gauge their opinions on future uses for the Buckingham grounds.
Bergren made his own wishes known during a recent workshop held by city officials on properties throughout the city that should be studied for redevelopment. Bergren said the Buckingham School grounds should be removed from the study, and the property retained as a neighborhood park.
The property has entrances from Cedar and Washington streets and borders Greene Avenue and the houses along Broad Street. With the school building gone and that space filled and seeded, the land features an upper level flat area on Cedar Street - where the carnival is set up - a flat lower level with a popular basketball court and playground and a steep grassy slope in between.
The slope has been a favorite sledding spot for decades.
Greene Avenue resident Saara Douglas and other neighbors welcomed the park idea and offered suggestions for park amenities. Douglas went to school at Buckingham and was sad to see it torn down, but said the park could be a "positive place" for the neighborhood. She suggested the city add a gazebo or picnic tables to the property.
Three friends from nearby Fanning Avenue were playing basketball at the court Tuesday afternoon. They play in the band Angry Bears and said they would be in favor of concerts in the park. They also suggested a gazebo and perhaps a port-a-john for the playground.
"It's a good idea to keep it as a park," said Aaron Pippen, 25, who plays basketball there about three times a week. "It would be nice to see them do something with this property."