Centennial salute: Sherwood Island at 100
Even 100 years ago, Westport was a special community, and Sunday's celebration of the Sherwood Island State Park centennial demonstrated that.
A group of state park supporters, historical re-enactors and members of the Friends of Sherwood Island took part in a celebration of the park's origins in September 1913 -- the first in state park system.
It was a time when the Connecticut Park Commission began searching the state for desirable sites to incorporate into a series of parks for public recreation and relaxation. A 5-acre portion at the far eastern end of what is now Sherwood Island was the commission's first choice.
"They traveled all over Connecticut identifying potential parklands," said Cece Saunders of Westport, a member of Friends of Sherwood Island.
The purchase was officially made about a year later--December 22, 1914, to be exact. Ironically, because of local controversy over the park's opening, Sherwood Island effectively did not function as a park until the 1930s.
"It was years before we had public access," Saunders said. "It took about 20 years."
To mark the 1913 benchmark, however, a small vintage-style encampment was set up to resemble a 100-year-old photo of the first site, which had been taken from Burying Hill Beach -- the place from which people originally accessed the park at low tide. Several tents and tables were put together, along with costumed visitors and a few vintage cars to boot.
A group of park enthusiasts was also present, having biked about 170 miles around the state over the past couple of weeks, visiting a dozen parks to celebrate the state parks.
"I've never really been to many state parks in Connecticut, but I learned they're very beautiful in their own ways," said Frank Rauber of Danbury.
"We biked about 170 miles and also kayaked about 14 miles down the Connecticut River," he said of the parks tour.
Earlier this summer, Professor Ernie Wiegand of Norwalk Community College led an archaeological dig at the site of David Sherwood's original house on the property, which was built in 1787 and stood until the 1940s.
"The foundation's still there," Wiegand said, displaying a collection of artifacts found during the two-month dig.