With so many parks in Stratford, and so little free time, the decision on where to plan a day of leisure can be overwhelming.
This week's hunt took Stratford Patch around town to four different parks in hopes of shedding some light on some of the best places to relax and enjoy the variety of natural escapes one can find without even having to leave town.
I hit the beach first, making my first stop at Long Beach. Long Beach is the ideal spot to feel like you’ve really left Stratford. After traveling through the long stretch of marshes off of Access Road, it feels more like Cape Cod.
Long Beach is technically an “unimproved” beach due to the lack of amenities available. This means that for those totting toddlers around or those seeking bathrooms and other necessities, this might not be the ideal location. While kids are welcome, it seems just right for someone looking to engage in quiet activities such as reading or fishing. There are even two rock walls extending into the Sound to climb on.
At Long Beach West, you can see a 35-acre stretch of land that received $909,000 under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The funding is going toward the removal of cottages and the restoration of habitat along the stretch of waterfront property. It is one of the longest stretches of barrier beach in Connecticut and contains sand dunes, tidal wetlands and salt flats.
In addition, it has been designated by the National Audubon Society as an Important Bird Area. Restoration will also improve public access to this natural area.
I climbed along the rock wall and spent a good long while enjoying the Sound as the waves lapped around the disappearing rocks before heading over to another one of Stratford’s beaches.
Arguably the most popular destination in town for park-goers, Short Beach has everything that Long Beach does not -- making it an ideal trip for families looking to socialize, exercise or just enjoy the water.
Short Beach features a playground, a skate park, bathrooms, picnic tables, six volleyball nets (including a league that meets every Wednesday night), ball fields and basketball courts. A golf course sits along the perimeter, and the recreation department is located just to the right of the entrance for those looking to sign up for organized competition. For non-residents like myself, it’s a little pricey -- 15 dollars -- to get in. But for residents, tax dollars cover the cost. Just bring your beach sticker and you won’t have to pay.
My next destination took me further inland to a small park located a short distance off of Main street.
Wooster Pond and Park is a very quaint little area located right next to David Wooster Middle School on Freeman Avenue. This manmade pond, originally dug to save local basements from flooding, has become quite a harbor of wildlife.
“I’ve seen woodpeckers, sparrows, lots of robins,” said Stratford resident Kathleen M. Clark, who was having a walk with her dog Olive.
Clark also mentioned the abundance of ducks, geese, swans and snapping turtles as well as an egret, a heron and a muskrat who can be seen from time to time. The pond is also home to red winged blackbirds.
“They like the water,” said Clark.
There is no cost to enter the humble park. A playground is situated underneath a grotto of trees but there are no bathrooms or concession stands. A path extends around the pond for those looking for a walk through the woods. It is a very scenic, cheap and convenient escape perfect for a short walk or a stress relieving venture after work.
Boothe Memorial Park
The fourth park I visited was undoubtedly my favorite of the day.
Boothe Memorial Park is a 32-acre parcel of land in the North End of Stratford. The park includes the Boothe Homestead, which is apparently the “oldest homestead in America,” according to its website.
I knew I was in for a strange treat when I parked my car right below a tree of chattering wild parakeets. I then made my way over to an original tollbooth on display that was taken from the Merritt Parkway. And while it seems strange to have a tollbooth right in the middle of a park, it made sense when I read that the Parkway was “designed to bring the weary city driver into a restful, park-like setting.” How fitting, then, to include it in Stratford’s own little oasis.
Boothe Memorial Park offers lush gardens, rolling lawns and two playgrounds (as well as a small rock-climbing wall). Sheep and chicken are available to observe. Additional attractions include a clock tower museum, a trolley station, a blacksmith shop and a windmill. But my favorite spot was the Rose Garden, where I sat to enjoy the dwindling daylight.
Boothe Memorial Park is open for special events, weddings, picnics and group functions, and there are several sites that are free to the public or reservable for a fee. The park grounds are open and free of charge year-round.
There are about 40 parks in Stratford, ranging drastically in terms of what each one offers.
What's your favorite beach or park destination after work, or on the weekends? Do you have a little known location that you like to visit? Tell us in the comments section below.