A Walk in the Park
Last Fall, my husband Steve and I woke early one Saturday morning, grabbed a thermos of coffee, our camera, and the dog and headed up to the top of Peter's Rock Park to catch some early morning photographs. I am always amazed by the view from the top. It tends to plant me on a certain spot on our globe. I also am reminded of my childhood treks up the mountain. From a child's point of view, it of course was a lot bigger then, although as I get older it once again seems to be growing since it takes me longer to hike up the path. As a Montowese youngster, my friends and I would grab our bikes, aluminum canteens filled with Koolaide, compass and most likely a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and head off for a morning of adventure. Our bikes were left at the bottom of the old dirt road off of Middletown Ave. Never did we doubt that they would still be there when we returned. The morning would be spent climbing, jumping, running and discovering. The last climb to the summit was always a chore and a well-earned rest at the top was anticipated. Even as kids we could appreciate the view that stretched from the New Haven harbor past East Rock and Sleeping Giant and onto Meriden mountains. You can understand the topography of Connecticut from this vantage point. We could imagine Montowese Indians sending smoke signals to each other and wished that we could each stand on top of a different mountain and send our own signals back and forth. After devouring our lunch we would hurry back down to our bikes, snatch a few cattails bordering Middletown Avenue and file the experience away in our memories.
Over the years the trips became infrequent and eventually Peter's Rock became an occasional article in the newspaper. I was saddened by the fact that the wonderful place of my childhood would inevitably become a series of fairways dotted with golf carts or rows of cluster housing. Fortunately, neither materialized. I did manage to occasionally return to the top. Hiking was a favorite activity of our family and I was lucky enough to take my own kids trekking up the hill. The same expression of awe that I had as a child would decorate their faces and make the trip worthwhile. I was happy that my kids had the opportunity to experience not only what I had, but those of the native Indians, the early New Englanders, the gentlemen and ladies that would make the trip up to the Hermitage Sport Club as well as those like the villager Peter Brockett.
Fast forward to the new millenium. A chance conversation with Kevin Kopetz let me vocalize my thoughts about our "someday" park. I talked and he listened. A couple years later I was asked to join a steering committee to look into the idea of bringing new life to what I consider to be the best kept secret in North Haven. I was excited about the prospect of finally making Peter's Rock a destination for all to enjoy. I have quickly learned that it takes a lot of work to make a park. You can't just leave it alone and think that someone else is going to take care of it. It literally is going to "take a village" to preserve and maintain this great property for future generations. Volunteers have carted truckloads of trash off the property and sadly more is being littered there daily. Peter's Rock Association was incorporated in 2004 and their mission is to preserve, maintain and protect the park. Committees are busy mapping trails so that they can be properly marked. An organic Garden committee has developed an area so that the community can learn about organic gardening and cultivate some of the property, with excess food going to the food bank. The Rotary together with the town of North Haven is in the process of developing a handsome entrance near Four Corners in Montowese. A bulletin board resembling the ÒHermitageÓ will serve as an information center. This is the third issue of the ÒHermitage ViewÓ and our website petersrockassociation.org is up and running taking us into the present era of communication. Scouts working on Eagle badges are building bridges and picnic tables. A lot has been accomplished, but there is a lot to be done. Don't be hesitant to join us in preserving this park. Whether you want to garden, maintain a section of the trails, or help out with a project, remember that just as we need the park, the park needs us.
It is a good feeling to sit at the top and know that there will be no golf carts roaming the fairways or lawn mowers cutting cluster-housing lawns. It is comforting to know that the same view and the same feeling that the native Indians, the early Montowese citizens, and the 1950's school girl enjoyed will be there fifty, a hundred, maybe two hundred years from now because we cared enough to preserve it. It is a different world. I don't think that I would let my grandson hike alone in the park like I did with my friends, but I definitely hope I can take the opportunity to hike with him just to see his face at the top. Someday far in the future, it is good to know that someone will take his or her bottle of water, a GPS and maybe a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and enjoy a walk in the park.
Ann White Lombardi