Sherwood Island State Park is a state park in the town of Ridgefield, Connecticut. The park offers opportunities for hiking and cross-country skiing on 1,300 acres (5km2) that include Sherwood Island, Long Island Sound, and portions of land around it. It is managed by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
The park includes a nature trail, the Shoreline Trail, which runs along the shoreline of Long Island Sound. The 3.75-mile (6.04km) route connects Norwalk with Redding hills via 11 stops, passing by Wooster Mountain en route. The park is accessible via the Metro North Railroad’s Harlem Line, with trains stopping at nearby Union Station. Parking lots are located adjacent to the station, and connecting train services are available to Route 66 attractions in California. The park entrance is located on Hill Street, one block east of the intersection of Hill and Church Streets.
Accessibility for disabled individuals requires special arrangements. Telephone reservations are available beginning Tuesday, June 22, through Friday, July 26, and weekends April through October. Walk-in registrations are welcome year round, although not always able to accommodate the entire campground. Reservations can be booked through the Reservation Center online. Half of the campsites are reserved, the remainder are open on a first come, first served basis.
Campsites range from modern with electric hookups, 30 Amp outlets, central sewer, shower and parking lot, to rustic tent sites with no conveniences. Advance campsite reservations can be booked through the Reservation Center. Tent and RVs up to 20 feet (6.1m) in length are permitted in certain areas of the campground, subject to restrictions regarding use of generators and campfires. No pets are permitted within the campground or on the trails. Horses may enter some designated areas of the park. Amenities include walking paths, bike lanes, boat launches, playgrounds, picnic areas, and extensive forests stretching along the shoreline.
Several miles of trails exist within the park, featuring varying degrees of difficulty. Some run along the shore, while others climb steep wooded mountains. All pass through beautiful forest scenery. The park hosts numerous events, including music festivals, parades, political rallies, and environmental awareness programs.
The park provides a habitat for a number of species of plants and animals, some of which are threatened or endangered. Plants: Animals: In 2011, a major restoration project funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund returned to the park grassy meadows and stream banks covered with vegetation, trees, and shrubs destroyed by previous decades of farming, logging, and development. About 600,000 square feet (56,000m2) of additional tree plantings have since been added, increasing the total amount of woodland in the park by 25%. Over 250 different kinds of trees and bushes have been planted.
In 1649, English colonists established Fort Trumbull at what later became known as “Slaughter’s Island” to guard against attacks by Native Americans who had driven out most of the Pequot tribe. The island was called “Trumbull Island” until about 1750, when it took on the name of Sherwood, after one of the colony’s early settlers, William Sherman. The fort was never attacked during its time, but it did serve as a prison for several British soldiers accused of treason during the American Revolutionary War, including John Andr, Samuel Bussard, and Joseph Clay.
After the Revolution, the island fell into disuse, with the possible exception of local fishing. However, in 1818, Lieutenant Stephen Decatur led a group of men from the USS Washington across the Atlantic Ocean to attack and capture the heavily fortified Tripolitanian city of Tripoli, which was under the rule of the Barbary pirates. This act of piracy launched the First Barbary War, in which Decatur and his crew were eventually captured and held prisoner for nearly two years before being released without ever having been charged with a crime.
Upon their release, Decatur wrote an account describing their imprisonment which was published in England, launching the fame of young Navy officer Decatur, whose nickname soon became “Old D”. Decatur’s daring exploit made headlines around the world, and he was immediately offered a commission in the British Royal Navy, which he accepted. He went on to become a noted admiral in the United States’ first naval war, the Quasi-War with France, and commanded the fleet sent to defeat the Barbary pirates at the Battle of Tangier in 1776.
Following this victory, Morocco concluded the treaty of San Ildefonso, granting American ships safe passage through the Strait of Gibraltar. Although Decatur continued to fight the pirates in the Mediterranean, the end of the pirate threat allowed trade to resume between America and Great Britain. With the resumption of commercial traffic, New London merchant Moses Hazen bought three vessels, the Nancy, Polly, and Ruth, and chartered them to carry passengers and freight between New York and China.
On May 21, 1786, the three ships left New York laden with merchandise for Canton; however, they were captured near Bermuda by a French privateer named La Concorde. Despite efforts by Captain George Roberts and others, all hands were lost when the ship was wrecked on Sept. 6, 1787, off Sandy Hook, New Jersey. Only four bodies were recovered. Among those aboard were Joshua Reynolds, author of Painted Lady, and his daughter Mary, who was pregnant. Her son, also named Joshua, was born shortly before she died.
The loss devastated the Hazen family, and particularly affected Mary’s brother, Abram S., who was only 12 years old. To honor her memory, he dedicated Painted Lady to “the fair sex.” When the wreck was discovered by divers in 1976, more than 300 artifacts were found, many of them still in good condition.Many of these items are on display at the Fairlawn Museum in Madison, CT. Sherwood Island has long been used for recreation, especially windsurfing. There are over 50 marked surf spots, ranging from beginner to advanced levels. The beach itself averages 200 feet (61m) wide, and can stretch for miles along both the ocean and sound sides.
Other activities available at the park include:
- bird watching
- wildlife viewing
- full facility camping
During the winter season activities include:
- cross-country skiing
- ice skating
- red-tailed hawks
- owls such as
- screech owls
- saw-whet owls
- white-tailed deer
- bald eagles
Reptiles and amphibians include: