By Nancy Finlay
In 1913 forward-looking legislators in Connecticut began planning for the preservation of places of natural beauty and historic interest throughout the state, so that they might be enjoyed by future generations. While the state park system, like the federal national park system, intended to maintain these properties in their natural state, the parks were also meant to be used by the public for hiking, swimming, picnicking, and other forms of outdoor recreation.
Five waterfront acres in Westport, given to the State in 1914, would eventually become Sherwood Island State Park, one of Connecticut’s first state beaches. At first access was limited, but gradually other parcels of land were leased or purchased, expanding the beach and adding a parking lot. The park finally officially opened in 1932.
The “Other” Mount Tom
Another early gift, in 1915, became Mount Tom State Park. The 200-acre park in Litchfield, Morris, and Washington included Mount Tom, a modest peak overlooking Mount Tom Pond, a popular fishing spot. Even in the 1910s, Connecticut’s Mount Tom was sometimes confused with the more famous peak of the same name, located in Massachusetts.
Macedonia Brook State Park and Kent Falls State Park, both located in Kent, were donated to the State by the White Memorial Foundation. Kent Falls, a 200-acre tract including a series of spectacular waterfalls, was given in 1919. It would become a popular picnic spot. Macedonia Brook, with approximately 2,000 acres offering hiking and camping and including the remains of an early ironworks, was given in 1918.
A 1929 “Picture Plan” of Connecticut’s state parks was surely intended to celebrate the first 15 years of the state park system. While the little map would hardly have served as a useful guide for actually finding the parks, it shows a multitude of sites, scattered across the state, all within easy reach by automobile. To make the point, tiny cars are shown driving the roads from park to park.
Nancy Finlay, formerly Curator of Graphics at the Connecticut Historical Society, is the editor of Picturing Victorian America: Prints by the Kellogg Brothers of Hartford, Connecticut, 1830-1880.
© Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network and Connecticut Historical Society. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared on Connecticut History | WNPR News
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