Indian Well State Park is a state park in the town of Easton, Connecticut. The park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Indian Well State Park-Emmons Farm in 2004. It includes four contributing buildings and one other contributing site.
Four buildings are single story wood frame structures with gable roofs that were built between 1920 and 1930 by local architect Alfredo De Vido for use as summer cottages. Two of these cottages have been converted into private residences. A third cottage has been adapted for use as a restaurant. The sixth building, which originally served as a garage/workshop, now houses the park’s administrative offices. This complex sits at the junction of Pond Street (CT Route 262) and Rustic Road (CT Route 107). Emmons Farm, located north of the main area, consists of an agricultural stand along road and a farm gatehouse dating to circa 1900.
The farmstead also included a dairy herd but this has since been reduced to a small number of cows. There are several outbuildings including a barn, chicken coop, and blacksmith shop. One of the last remaining farms in the region, it is considered significant both for its well-preserved architecture and for its role as a working farm.
The park offers access to miles of mountain bike trails through neighboring lands managed by the Rocky Mountain Bike Association. It is part of the larger Wooster Forest preserve, which also manages nearby Wooster Mountain. Indian Well State Park features three distinct trail systems. The park’s primary system is maintained in conjunction with the adjacent Wooster Mountain State Reservation and spans nearly 14 miles (23km).
Longer distance riding can be done by combining sections of each trail system. An easier, shorter 7.5 mile section of forested mountain bike trail begins just outside the park gates. Another popular MTB loop within the park starts near Building 6 and ends near Parking Area B. The final easy 4.8 mile loop follows the Argyle River Valley before climbing back up onto Wooster Mountain. All three trail systems share similar characteristics; ruggedness, steep hills, narrow width, loose gravel, roots, rocks, and logs that make their way down from the mountains above. The park’s secondary system of paved roads and parking areas provides access points for visitors without bicycles or horses. These include a car-camping facility, camper cabins, rental campsites, group tenting sites, and picnic areas.
The park’s visitor center, located in the former garage/workshop, maintains a map kiosk providing information about all of the park’s trails and trailheads. Indian Well State Park is home to a variety of wildlife species due to its location atop a ridge surrounded by multiple ecological zones including hardwood forests, pine forests, and fields. White tail deer feed on grassy meadows, while mule deer prefer open woodlands with scattered trees and shrubs. Foxes, groundhogs, muskrats, and otters live in marshy areas while raptors like osprey nest in rocky uplands.
Loose soil supports a wide variety of plants and animals, many of them rare or endangered. The former owner of much of the parkland, Charles Burr Todd, made significant efforts to protect certain habitats. When he died in 1915, his son Frederick tried to continue protecting the environment, becoming active in the Sierra Club and serving as president of the Audubon Society. His conservation ethic influenced a generation of young people, leading to the creation of the Save America’s Treasures program during the presidency of Ronald Reagan.
Indian Well State Park was among the first hundred parks designated under the program. On taking office, Reagan named Howard Zahniser director of the United States Department of the Interior, giving him responsibility for overseeing all federal lands. Zahniser quickly set about trying to improve environmental conditions at Indian Well State Park. He worked closely with the state to reduce pollutants in emissions, increase recycling, install solar panels, and develop alternative sources of energy. By 1990, more than 200 sites on the park grounds had been improved, mainly through projects funded by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act.
Zahniser also oversaw development of the adjoining Wooster Mountain State Reservation, increasing accessibility to the ski slopes by allowing snowmobiles in the winter months. However, despite these improvements, Indian Well State Park remained seriously polluted, prompting officials to seek additional funding to address the problem. They found an ally in U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, a Democrat who believed government should not waste money attempting to clean up old pollution problems on public lands that could instead be put toward preventing new ones. With financial support from Tom Daschle, Democratic leader in the Senate, funds were finally authorized in 1997 to begin addressing the environmental issues at Indian Well State Park.
Workers went ahead and removed approximately 1,500 linear feet (460m) of asphalt driveway, planted over 300 native tree seedlings, laid water lines, and performed other maintenance and remediation work, removing almost 19,000 cubic yards (15,000cuft; 3.2m3) of dirt and debris from the park’s 13.4 acres (55,000m2; 20,000sqft). Once completed, the total project cost was estimated at less than $6million, paid for primarily with $4million in state monies allocated from the Land and Natural Resources Division, $1.9million from the Capital Region Economic Development Council, and $900,000 from the Environmental Protection Fund.
Additional funding came from the city of Hartford, which provided $200,000 in matching funds. While still far from perfect, Indian Well State Park is demonstrably cleaner than when it was previously unregulated. Its shores are free of toxic PCBs and heavy metals. Trees are healthier, having been planted to compensate for the destruction wrought by decades of illegal logging. And aquatic life is returning, with fish populations significantly increased in recent years. But there is still plenty of room for improvement.
Indian Well State Park occupies land purchased from the estate of Charles Burr Todd in 1914, who owned property there as large as 600 acres (240ha). He sold 320 acres (130ha), most of which lay south of what is now the park, to Ogden L. Webb for $1 million, then another 150 acres (61ha) two years later. In 1918, Webb offered to sell 280 acres (110ha) of his land, mostly to the west of the present park, to the state for use as a public recreation area. Although he retained ownership of the rest of his property, he allowed the state to assume management of the park in 1934, when it opened.
During World War II, the state began purchasing farmland around the park to establish Camp Bluefields, a military training school that graduated over 2,000 officers and soldiers. After the camp closed in 1944, the state used some of the facilities as a prisoner of war camp until 1946, holding German prisoners of war in tents and guard posts. In 1957, the state returned 270 acres (110ha) of land to Ogden L. Webb, whose heirs donated the parcel to the state five years later, officially dedicating it as “Indian Well Park.”
- pond fishing
- cross-country skiing
Mammals observed at the park include:
- mule deer
- white tail deer
Birds such as:
- bald eagles
- blue grouse
- pileated woodpeckers
- red squirrels
- wild turkeys
- Canada geese