Since childhood, my love of the outdoors has always been a part of me. And as an adult, I hope to share that passion with my own children.
So, I offered this challenge to my family, to join me in exploring the hidden treasures and more popular gems Connecticut and the surrounding region have to offer. From hiking to biking to kayaking, I hope my window into the outside world inspires you to explore as well.
TOMASSO NATURE PARK
It’s a little park - its entrance tucked away in the back of a public works garage. But don’t be fooled - Tomasso Nature Park in Plainville packs a punch despite its small size.
The park was created in 1989 as part of a mitigation project to restore lost wetlands from the expansion of Robertson Field Airport. And its existence has allowed for abundant plant and wildlife to rebound.
Mind you, I had my doubts at first as I stepped through the gated fence and made my way down the paved path to the reserve. A sign signals a waste dump to the right and houses can be seen through the tree cover on the left. But, even here, the birds flittering about were countless. As were the rabbits I came across in the first few minutes of my hike.
A short distance in, stands a large kiosk with a map and identification key detailing the numerous species of plants and animals in this 11-acre park. And there is much to discover. The reserve is home to nearly 600 turtles, fish and other animals. It’s also a haven for plants such as beggar’s tick and sweet flag.
The park is well protected and free from litter. No dogs or bikes are allowed here. And, the park is open only part of the year - from mid-March to mid-November - so keep in mind if you are planning a trip down the road.
Setting off on the gravel trail was easy enough as it wound its way around a large wetland pond. A green frog sat stoically on a rock by the edge of shore. And it was easy to see the fish and turtles just below the surface of the still water.
The creatures here aren’t relegated to just the pond, however. The foliage around the trail is overly lush and filled with its own parade of wildlife.
Red-winged blackbirds, cardinals, sparrows, and robins regularly greeted me on the path, flying among the trees and well-placed birdhouses on the property. On the ground, chipmunks and yes, more rabbits, scurried past me, diving for cover at my approach.
I took the time to watch and listen, very aware that I was a curious intruder in what’s become their sanctuary. But, plenty of benches and bridges made it easy to quietly observe my surroundings with respect.
Passing over one of the park’s bridges, I could see another pond in the distance and even further out a line of rail cars dotting a distant track. The scene is a pretty one and further accentuated the cozy niche I was in.
Moving on, the trail meanders around a second pond and more views of the vivid wildlife. A kiosk stands by the water’s edge detailing the fish life here while blooming wild flowers add the finishing touches to this delicate landscape.
Far from a rare sight, I ran across two more bunnies – hungry enough to brave my presence as they warily fed on the tidbits of grass and underbrush. It was a sweet moment that could only be made better if my own children were there to witness it.
But, there’s always a next time – something to contemplate as I headed back to the trailhead, reflecting on how this tiny world has thrived despite mankind’s intrusion knocking on its door.
Directions: Take I-91 S to Exit 22 N to merge onto CT-9 N toward New Britain. Keep right to stay on CT-9 N. Take Exit 28 on the left for CT-72 toward Bristol. Continue on CT-72 W. Continue on CT-72 W/I-84. Take Exit 33 for CT-72 W toward Bristol. Keep left to continue on CT-72 W. Take the CT-177/North Washington St. ramp. Turn right onto CT-177 N. Turn right onto Granger Lane to the end.
Trail Distance: <1 mile
Trail Difficulty: Easy