Wooster Mountain State Park is a state park located in the town of Ansonia, Connecticut. The park includes 1,400 acres (5.7km2) that are mostly forested with an additional 700 acres (2.9km2) dedicated by the Audubon Society as the John J. Tyler Arboretum. It is named after Wooster Mountain, which lies outside its borders, and was given to the state by conservationists who were inspired by the work of the Sierra Club.
In 1997, it became the first state park in Connecticut to switch from gasoline-powered lawn mowers to propane powered lawn mowers. This reduced emissions by 90% and saved money on fuel costs. Propane mower engines are more efficient than gasoline engines and use less fuel per mow, thus reducing emissions further. There are over 100 miles (160km) of fire trails maintained throughout the year for recreational use such as hiking and cross country skiing. A network of seven natural parks allows visitors to explore diverse ecosystems including pine forests, oak woodlands, hardwood forests, freshwater marshes, bogs, fens and heathland communities.
The park’s facilities include campsites, picnic areas, playgrounds, playing fields, athletic fields and shelters, nature center, gift shop and snack bar, and parking lots. Parking fees are in effect during the summer season. The park has three main entrances with varying levels of difficulty. The northernmost entrance, which serves the campground and Echo Lake, is the most difficult to access due to dense foliage, particularly in autumn. The middle entrance, serving the midpoint along the ridge line, provides the best views but can be very crowded. To ensure space for all users, the state implemented an entrance fee for this area effective June 15, 2020.
The southernmost entrance, accessible via Mansfield Grove Road, is the easiest to access, although still fairly rugged. This entrance also leads past the campground to some private property, where there may be no camping allowed. No matter which entrance you choose, each one requires navigating steep, narrow lanes within heavily forested terrain. Because of these factors, snowmobiles are often seen cruising down the lane toward Wooster Mountain, even when the road is closed for safety reasons. According to legend, General Israel Putnam chose the site for Fort Trumbull because he believed that Wooster Mountain would provide a strategic advantage against the British in the coming war.
On July 2, 1775, 300 men under Generals Enoch Poor and David Wooster attacked 500 strong detachment of redcoats led by Lieutenant Timothy Dwight in what came to be known as the Battle of Wooster Mountain. Although outnumbered, the Americans had the advantage of being able mounted warriors while the British soldiers were tied up in battle with the Indians. As soon as the British realized they were not facing Native American warriors but rather regular infantrymen, they regrouped and counterattacked.
The British eventually broke through the colonial lines and drove the colonists back to their fortifications. However, the colonists rallied behind Colonel William Ledyard and managed to hold their ground until reinforcements arrived. The British ultimately withdrew, recognizing that they could not capture the fortified port city of New York without breaking into open warfare with the colonies. The Battle of Wooster Mountain marked a turning point in the American Revolutionary War. It helped convince many of the colonials that independence was inevitable and that military conquest was necessary.
For his role in leading the charge, Major Dwight was awarded the rank of brigadier general; however, he declined the honor, preferring instead to remain a major. He did accept a promotion to lieutenant colonel though, and went on to lead troops in several battles. After the defeat at Wooster Mountain, General Wooster resigned his commission, choosing to fight alongside the citizens in the cause of liberty rather than serve in the army of King George III. His place was taken by his deputy, Enoch Poor. At age 70, Poor led a group of veterans in forming the “New Army,” which fought in numerous skirmishes in the years following the Revolution. He was commissioned as a full general in 1827, becoming the oldest person ever promoted to that rank.
General Poorly retired in 1830, having served in the capacity of commander of the militia for nearly 30 years. Upon his death, the position of governor was offered to him, but he refused, stating that he had done enough fighting for one lifetime. He was buried near the summit of Wooster Mountain, in front of his monument still standing today. Following the example set by her father, Sarah Sherman Todd joined the Continental Army in 1917, at age 66, and remained there until 1923, when she returned home to care for her failing eyesight.
She died two years later at age 77. Her son, Robert Todd, enlisted in 1942, shortly before his 40th birthday, and remained in the service until 1947, when he too returned home to care for his failing eyesight. He died four years later at age 62. With the passing of both parents, the family farm was lost to foreclosure. Desperate for employment, Robert’s 22-year-old grandson, Steven, decided to take matters into his own hands and applied for a job at Sears. Impressed with his appearance, especially his height, 6’4″, and his clean record, Steve was hired away from unemployment insurance benefits and began working for Sears in 1988. Five years later, he was made manager of the company’s lighting division.
Two years after that, he was promoted to vice president of marketing, overseeing all lighting products for the company. While attending college part time, he worked long hours and rose through the ranks quickly, becoming president of the company’s lighting subsidiary, Luminolite, in 2001. Under his leadership, the company grew from $10 million in sales in 2000 to approximately $100 million annually. However, despite glowing reports from employees and customers alike, Steve was fired in 2003 for allegedly misusing corporate funds and lying about his expenses during an audit. Fearing repercussions from the Securities and Exchange Commission, he agreed to settle out of court and return any profits he received from stock options that expired unexercised. Shortly thereafter, he left the company to start his own firm, Lighting Research Center, with the help of a $3.6 million grant from the Economic Development Administration.
The LRC produces annual conferences, symposiums, and workshops on topics ranging from energy savings to product development. Its website features daily news updates, event listings, and links to industry information. The original Wooster Monument was built in memory of those officers and soldiers killed in action or whose deaths were otherwise grieved, and to mark the spot where General Wooster fell upon the battlefield. It stands 34 feet (10m) high and 120 feet (37m) wide, and is surrounded by a circular driveway paved with blacktop. The top of the obelisk is flat and covered in bronze. Beneath the main section of the pyramid are eight steps, each step bearing a name.
The park offers opportunities for:
- fishing and hunting
- mountain biking
- horseback riding
- ATV riding
- rock climbing