Thursday, June 16, 2016

More of the Microcosm of Connecticut...Sherwood Island State Park

Several years ago a friend of mine told me about a place that she had been to.  She described it to me, but she didn't know what it was called, and I set off researching what she'd told me.  I found Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, CT.  Much time had passed, so I decided that it was time to go and check it out.  I was really glad I did.  Sherwood Island is only 235 acres.  It has two beaches, a pavilion, a marsh, a nature center, a lot of grassy picnic area, a snack stand, two changing houses, and a rocky outcropping.  The main thing that has is a great view of Long Island Sound, and the distinction of being the first State Park ever established in Connecticut.

Back in 1914 land was starting to be set aside for a park.  By 1937 it was all a go and one of the only parks to offer a public beach in Fairfield County was established.  The park is scenic and peaceful.  It's the kind of place that you can walk all over, or you can just sit on the beach.  It's a matter of choice.  It seems like a huge park, but it's small.  It turned out to be a great place to spend the day.

The Nature Center is a great little spot to take the kids to learn about the local wildlife.  They have some taxidermied animals on display that live in the area.  They also have some live animals like a turtle and some salamanders.  They have activities for the kids to do, and they have a tank of various crabs and rays that the kids can touch. The hours are 10 to 4. Outside the center there are birdhouses for the local birds to nest in.  Next to the center is the local marsh where hundreds of birds live.  There are paths to walk through the marsh as well.

There is a trick to the Nature Center though.  When we got there, we followed the one way road around the park.  The signs all say that the center is at the East Beach.  If you've never been there, this won't be as easy to get to as you might think.  The first signs you see lead you to believe that the Nature Center is in the main pavilion building.  Then you find information that just sends you to the East Beach.  When you get to the East Beach, there are flyers that tell you to go to the far end of the beach and up the little hill to the building.  It can be very confusing, but it is there and it is a cute place to take the kids.

There's a lot of wildlife at Sherwood Island.  The marsh is teeming with all kinds of birds.  Of course, I didn't have any luck getting photos of the petite birds that flit around the marsh.  I can tell you that they were colorful and made beautiful music.  I did, get some great shots of the regulars.  There were tons of Seagulls and Canadian Geese wandering the grounds and they were fairly tame with the visitors.  The woodchucks that make their homes under the rocky outcrop, however, weren't too happy that I was taking their pictures.

In the center of the waterfront part of the park is a rocky outcrop.  This is a great place to sit and watch the wildlife, the birds and just relax.  There is a great view of other islands in the area, the coastline, Long Island and in the distance you can even see New York City.  This is at the narrow west end of Long Island Sound, so there isn't a lot of distance between Connecticut and Long Island at this point.

The West Beach is rockier than the East Beach and was less crowded.  The water there was very shallow and you could walk out quite a ways without even getting your knees wet.  It was low tide, however.  The view is still nice, but it did seem like more people were actually in the water on this side.

In the middle of the park sits an enormous pavilion.  This place is partially enclosed by glass walls that have great views.  There is an area that looks as though it may be for caterers.  This is a great place to have a family reunion or a wedding reception.  Even if the weather gets a little dicey, the glass enclosure will make it a nice party.

9/11 was an event that really made an impact on the people of this area.  For one thing, several people who died in those attacks were from Fairfield County.  Fairfield County is full of people who commute to New York City every day for work.  Most of the people in this area identify more as New Yorkers than they do as Connecticut residents.  On top of losing several people in the attacks, the locals could see the smoke billowing from the towers from Sherwood Island.  Therefore, a lot of the park is dedicated to 9/11 and there are two memorials on the island.

There's a lot more than meets the eye in this little park.  It's educational, it's a memorial, it's a place for gathering, it's peaceful, it's full of wildlife, and my favorite part; oh the view.  It's a great little park, and it started the ball rolling on state parks in Connecticut.  I've said it for years; Connecticut is a microcosm.  Give me two hours and I can show you the world right here in Connecticut.  So, come and see the little state that can take you from beach to mountain and from country to city and from ocean to woods in two hours.  It's a little spot, but it's amazing how much is crammed in it.  Follow me as I check out many places in the state this summer.  Come and visit us and enjoy!

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