Start Them Early
Serge G. Mihaly, Jr
Some of my best memories have been my earliest. As a young boy I still remember my father taking my brothers and I to a local park to teach us how to fish. My Dad, a struggling lawyer who regularly ended work late at night, found it important enough to pass his love of the Outdoors to his three young sons. To this day I still tie fishing knots the same way – three times around the main line and then through the loop. I have done it a thousand times in my life and will always remember my father’s smile when we finally mastered the task.
Not all of us have a Dad or relative that hunts, fishes or camps, but this doesn’t prevent an adult from instilling a love of the outdoors in their children, especially here in New Haven. An occasional walk up East or West Rock Park will certainly do.
Both Parks offer great opportunities to experience nature, an often unknown and adventurous change from the paved streets of urban living. A simple walk through a quiet forest filled with singing birds provides a pleasant distraction from just about anything we can dream up.
Two local State Parks, East and West Rock, have several trails that wind throughout the forest leading to a number of breathtaking views of the New Haven area. You also have a chance to see whitetail deer and wild turkeys.
East Rock State Park is located at Cold Springs and Orange Street in New Haven. The Park rises 366 feet above sea level offering a spectacular view of New Haven, the Mill River and Long Island Sound. The 455-acre park is open year round, has both hiking and jogging paths, is located near the Eli Whitney and Peabody Museums and has a Civil War monument at its summit. It is a perfect place to visit not too far from the city where a family can enjoy an afternoon of quiet or a picnic away from the noisy exhaust filled streets below. There is no fee to use the park and it is open from sunup to sunset. Bring a camera and a box lunch and enjoy the day. To get more information you can call the New Haven Parks Department at 203-946-8020.
West Rock State Park is the second largest State Park in Connecticut with 1,722-acres and is located at 40 Main Street, Hamden. Coming from New Haven north on Wilbur Cross Parkway, take a right off Exit 60 and another right onto Benham Street. Follow Benham Street all the way to Main Street and then take a left. Follow Main Street until you can’t go any further and take right on Wintergreen Avenue. The main entrance will be on your right.
West Rock is almost 7 miles long and has approximately 15 trails to choose from. Its cliff rises almost 650 feet above sea level and provides a view of 200 miles that overlooks New Haven and Long Island Sound. Made of basalt rock from ancient volcanic activity, the park’s is home to over 230 species of birds that live in a forest predominantly comprised of Hickory, Red Cedar and Round Leafed Dogwood. Several rare plants also exist there too.
Other recreational options in West Rock State Park include visiting the Three Judges Cave and a Nature Center. You can also camp at the Nature center for the more adventurous. Like East Rock, West Rock closes at sunset and there is no fee. You can go to the State of Connecticut’s website portal.ct.gov/ and click on ‘Recreation’ and then ‘State Parks’ to find more information on both Parks.