A.W. STANLEY PARK
This isn’t a hike I normally have on my radar, but after so many adventures seeking the hidden gems of Connecticut – it was time to explore a spot that seemingly hides in plain sight.
So, I took the Trail Mix to New Britain and the heart of the city – A. W. Stanley Park.
It’s a place that city dwellers visit on a regular basis, but others may never even think about and I figured this was as good a time as any to give it a try.
With hundreds of acres under its belt, Stanley Park was set aside in the late 1920s as a place for the public to enjoy. And since then, it has morphed into a spot for swimmers, golfers, and people wanting to escape the rigors of city life.
It’s not the type of escape I expected. But, I was surprised by the subtle touches of the natural world that actually thrive here.
The trail starts from the parking lot and follows an even-keeled path around a large pond and into a grove of trees on the property. I hiked in a counter-clockwise direction in order to pass the pond and head into the tree line.
The paved path goes ‘off-road’ and in several directions by the time I closed in on the water’s edge. Here, the autumn leaves of the sugar maple stand are still strewn all over the ground – embedded in the mud during this mid-winter warm spell.
Right above me, the infrastructure of a zip line course are scattered about – used by adventure-seekers as late as last year.
Further into the lightly-wooded grove, I came across several yellow posts that accompany much of the trail. The numbered markers correspond with tidbits of history and information about each area passed and follows the path onto paved sections at the park as well.
That information can be accessed online at www.foawsp.org or by using codes that can be scanned with your phone. And, there are some noteworthy details to share.
I learned that a cattail marsh was once used as a huge natural swimming pool for the thousands of people who sought relieve from the summer heat. And, I discovered the spot where some of the original fieldstone sat by which several buildings in the park were built from.
For the most part, the path weaves in and out of wooded parcels that highlight the huge variety of trees that grow here – white pine, hickory, birch and chestnut among others. And the scenery changes yet again with a detour along a small traprock ledge with a view of the pond and surrounding landscape.
Bright spots to be sure …. but, I won’t sugarcoat it. The constant drone of nearby traffic and the bits of trash I found scattered about are disappointing at best. But, more natural sites than this often struggle with the same problems.
So, it’s heartening to see the great attempts being made to make this very urban playground ‘wild’ again. And, that’s a good start.
Directions: Take CT-9 N toward New Britain. Take Exit 30 for CT-71 towards Corbins Corner. Turn left onto CT-71 S/Hartford Rd. Turn right onto Firehouse Lane. Turn right onto Stanley St. Turn left onto Alexander Rd. The parking lot is at the end of the road.
Trail Distance: @ 1 mile
Trail Difficulty: Easy