Sherwood Island State Park
|Sherwood Island State Park|
|Connecticut state park|
East Beach at Sherwood Island State Park
|Elevation||10 ft (3 m) |
|Area||234 acres (95 ha)|
|Management||Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection|
It covers 234 acres (0.95 km2) of beach, wetlands and woodlands. People come to the park to enjoy various outdoor sports, fly kites or model airplanes, picnic, visit the Nature Center, or just relax under the trees. The park is bounded on the west by the Sherwood Mill Pond, and on the south by the Sound, but it is separated from the mainland only by creeks and ditches. Access is by road: the Sherwood Island Connector that intersects with Interstate 95.
Waves on the beach separate three different colors of sand into different lines—red (garnet), black (magnetite) and white (quartz) are sorted by the waves because each type has a different density and shape from the others.
Before the park
In the 1640s, several colonists who came to be known as the "Bankside Farmers" from the Town of Fairfield settled in the area that included Fox Island, which was later renamed Sherwood Island, administering the island in common.
Daniel Sherwood settled on Fox Island in 1787. During the 1800s, his large family farmed the uplands on the west side of the island and operated a gristmill on the Mill Pond. Many farmers shared the Machamux salt marsh. (See also Henry Burr Sherwood). By the 1860s, the place was known as "Sherwood's Island". Gallup Gap Creek at one time ran north and south on the east side of the park but not far from the center. Some have said that what was known previously as Sherwood's Island was only west of that creek, which was later dammed up to help water flow at the grist mill.
When the Connecticut State Park Commission was formed in 1911, one of its main tasks was to find and develop shore parks along Connecticut's coastline. Field secretary Albert Turner walked the shoreline seeking suitable sites: several hundred acres of undeveloped land with natural scenic beauty, fronting on a good beach, and far enough from cities to ensure freedom from sewage pollution and lack of interference with industrial development. He concluded that Sherwood Island was the only suitable site in Fairfield County.
At that time, the land had many owners. Acting for the state, Westport farmer and public citizen William H. Burr Jr., who led the fight to create the park, bought two small parcels in 1914, including a 5-acre (20,000 m2) strip of beachfront, giving Sherwood Island its designation as Connecticut’s first state park, although it took another two decades for the park to be widely used. Various parcels bought by 1915 amounted to 24 acres (97,000 m2) by deed, although a state survey showed they in fact amounted to 30 acres (120,000 m2). The park at this point had 23,350 feet (7,120 m) of shorefront.
In 1923 another 18 acres (73,000 m2) north of the island were acquired for possible use as a parking lot, although they were unconnected to the other 30 acres (120,000 m2). Some access to the park at this time was available through the Town of Westport's Burying Hill Beach. At this point, further development of the park stalled when local landowners, led by local property owner Edward Gair, persuaded a town meeting to oppose further land acquisitions and spending on the park. The state legislature, reluctant to act without local approval, defeated a proposal from the State Parks Commission to spend $500,000 on further park development. Large beachfront properties were acquired by developers. For the next nine years, supporters and opponents in Westport and Fairfield County debated the matter. By 1932, the state leased more land in what became the park (with an option to buy within five years) and opened the park that summer.
On April 29, 1937, with the lease and option to buy nearing expiration, Governor Wilbur L. Cross signed two bills with a total appropriation of $485,000 for the state to buy more land and develop the park. This was a victory for the Connecticut Forestry Association and the Fairfield County Planning Association, and supporters including William H. Burr, who came to be known as the father of the park.
The Sherwood Island Nature Center, constructed and opened in 2009, is a summer facility that offers close-up experiences with live animals, displays about the environment and local history, and educational programs for people of all ages. It is supported by the Connecticut Department of Environment and Energy as well as by the Friends of Sherwood Island, an independent non-profit organization. In recent years the Friends group has sponsored a free Sunset Lecture Series and special family events on topics related to environmental preservation and proper stewardship of the state's natural resources.
Sherwood Island State Park was chosen for Connecticut's 9-11 Living Memorial because on a clear day, the New York City skyline is visible from the point. On 9/11, people who gathered there saw smoke rise over the World Trade Center. Then, the park served as a staging area for relief efforts to the City. At the dedication on September 5, 2002, the names of 149 people who were killed that day were read aloud. They were residents of Connecticut or had close family in the state. Governor John G. Rowland presided over the interfaith ceremony of music, speech, and prayer. About 400 people came. The design incorporates the endurance of granite, the sheltering beauty of trees, and the tranquility of the sea. The 9-foot (2.7 m) polished granite stone monument reads, “The citizens of Connecticut dedicate this living memorial to the thousands of innocent lives lost on September 11, 2001 and to the families who loved them.”
- "Sherwood Island State Park". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. 1979-09-12. Retrieved 2013-02-18.
- Bill Thomas; Phyllis Thomas (1 March 1983). Natural New York. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. Retrieved 18 November 2011.
- Skehan, James W., Roadside Geology of Connecticut and Rhode Island, p 224, Missoula, Montana: Mountain Press Publishing Co., 2008, ISBN 978-0-8784-2547-1
- George Penfield Jennings (1933). Greens farms, Connecticut: the old west parish of Fairfield ... historical sketches and reminiscences by ... the squire of Elmstead. Modern Books and Crafts, Inc. p. 2. Retrieved 2 December 2011.
- "Colonial Green's Farms". Friends of Sherwood Island. Retrieved 14 February 2013.
- "History of the Park". Friends of Sherwood Island. Retrieved 14 February 2013.
- "The Controversial Creeks". Friends of Sherwood Island. Retrieved 14 February 2013.
- "The 23-Year War". Friends of Sherwood Island. Retrieved 14 February 2013.
- Connecticut Impressionist Art Trail sign at east end of pavilion at Sherwood Island State Park, read on November 17, 2007
- Barnett D. Laschever; Andi Marie Cantele; Kim Grant (18 May 2009). Explorer's Guide Connecticut. The Countryman Press. pp. 88–. ISBN 978-0-88150-824-6. Retrieved 28 November 2011.
- "Connecticut's 9-11 Living Memorial". Connecticut DEEP. Retrieved 18 February 2013.
- Greens Farms, Connecticut: The Old West Parish of Fairfield, George Penfield Jennings, The Congregational Society of Greens Farms, 1933; reprinted: Modern Books & Crafts, 1971.
- The William H. Burr Jr. Collection (B-112), Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield, Connecticut.
- Friends of Sherwood Island State Park
- Sherwood Island State Park Connecticut DEEP
- Natural Assets of Sherwood Island State Park[dead link]