George Waldo State Park is a state park in the town of Ansonia, Connecticut. The park was named after George B. Wallbridge, Jr., who served as governor from 1923 to 1927 and again from 1933 to 1937. It covers 1,936 acres (7.98km2), with its main entrance located at 69 Court Street. In addition to hiking trails, the park has fields for model airplane flying, picnicking facilities, and access to waterfowl hunting on Long Island Sound. The park’s forests are part of the Northeastern coastal forest ecoregion. George Waldo State Park is managed by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
There are more than 20 miles (32km) of hiking trails within the park. Some of these trail connect with other parks such as Wooster Mountain State Park and Saugatuck Reservoir State Park. Hikers can also walk onto the grounds of Fort Trumbull State Park. The park offers picnicking facilities and a field for model airplane flying. Visitors may also use the park to gain access to the adjacent Long Island Sound for bird watching or fishing. There is one small pond suitable for ice skating. George Waldo State Park features two large open fields, one of which is used for cross country running. This field is bordered by trees offering shade and an abundance of wildlife. The park includes a soccer field and playing courts, volleyball court, handball courts, horseshoe pit, softball field, playground areas, and biking paths. There is one mile-long bike path leading out of the park to the north, passing by the golf course en route to the highway. George Waldo State Park has three short sections of beach, accessible via footpaths, suitable for swimming. One section is shallow with a sandy bottom, while the other two have steep drop offs into deeper waters.
The park has a boat launch enabling motorized boating directly opposite the campground. Gas powered boats are prohibited at George Waldo State Park. Electric powered motors only please. Sailboats, rowboats, canoes, kayaks, paddleboats, and rafts are permitted on the lake. Motorized boats must be properly registered with any state. Boat rentals are available all year round. Canoes, sailboats, rowboats, kayaks, paddleboats, and rafts must be returned by 5 p.m. sharp. All other boats may be taken overnight if you have proper registration. No wake boards or wave runners allowed. Boats may not tie up to the dock. Camping facilities include tent sites, trailer sites with water and electric hookups, yurts, cabins, and group campsites. Modern restrooms and showers are provided in the campground. Half of the campsites are available on a first come first serve basis, the remainder require reservations.
The park accepts Passports, Military ID cards, and Visa cards as forms of identification. Pets are permitted on leashes of six feet (1.8m) or less, and must have proof of inoculation before entering the camping area. They are not permitted in the campground or elsewhere on the park lands. As of February 2015, there is no fee charged to enter the park. Fees are charged for day use and camping/RV sites. Day use permits are valid for 3 days or a week; annual permits are also available. Campsites range from modern, full hookup RVs, to rustic tent sites, to cabin-like shelters. Thirty-five primitive campsites are scattered throughout the park, designated specifically for hikers and bicyclists traveling along the Bay Circuit Trail.
Fourteen additional “comfort” campsites are situated near the parking lot, providing easy access to restroom facilities, hot showers, and electricity. Two yurts are available for rent. Each yurt contains 2 single bunk beds, wooden floors, windows, skylights, countertop, table, chairs, electric heat, lights, and outlets. The campground opens on Memorial Day weekend and closes Columbus Day weekend. Advance campsite reservations can be booked through Reserve America. Tent and RV sites are available all year round, with the exception of several weeks around Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The picnic area is shaded by the forest and has grills, tables, and drinking water. Drinking water is available seasonally.
Other amenities include a playground, horseshoe pits, volleyball courts, basketball courts, tether and ladder ball, disc golf, and a dog training center. The park hosts many events, including cross country races, outdoor sports competitions, music festivals, and naturalist programs. The park’s golf course hosted the US Intercollegiate Championships in 1989. George Waldo State Park is utilized by University of Hartford students for field trips and research projects, and serves as the park headquarters for UHart’s environmental studies program.
Prior to being known as George Waldo State Park, this area was primarily farmland. Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, property owners began to abandon their farms due to poor soil conditions and increasingly competitive markets. At least ten families abandoned their farms between 1875 and 1900 and took up residence in the nearby mill village of Ansonia where they established a community newspaper, the American Fertilizer Journal. Eventually, most of the farmers moved away leaving behind a mill, railroad tracks, a church, houses, schoolhouses, and a hotel which operated during summers until the 1960s.
After abandonment, some of the buildings were used for various purposes including service stations, private clubs, and even a funeral home. However, none of these establishments lasted very long. Most of the structures fell into disrepair until preservation efforts were undertaken. With support from the state and federal governments, the region’s historic landscape was protected under the title of George Waldo State Park. Construction on the new park facility began in 1972 and completed in 1974. The land had previously been owned by Colt Industries, which manufactured ammunition here from 1901 to 1956. When the company decided not to renew its lease when it expired in 1971, the state stepped in to prevent the property from falling into the hands of private developers.
Alderney Group Ltd. of Milford made an offer to buy the land, but the state rejected that proposal. Instead, the firm offered to sell the site to the state for $1 million, which was accepted. Additional acreage totalling 640 acres (2.6km2) was contributed by the state and another 720 acres (2.8km2) came from the federal government through the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Another 540 acres (2.3km2) in the neighboring town of Chaplin were purchased by the state with money granted by the legislature. These purchases brought the total amount of land devoted to the park to 936 acres (3.72km2).
The park provides excellent habitat for a variety of woodland creatures including:
- white tail deer
- black bear
- wild turkey
- cottontail rabbits
- garter snakes
- red foxes
- pileated woodpeckers
- screech owls
- barred owl
- fisher cat
Bird watchers often see a wide array of:
- bald eagles
- golden eagles
The park’s forests consist mainly of oak species such as:
- white pine
- eastern hemlock
- yellow birch trees