If you’re like (too) many Westporters, you’ve never been to Sherwood Island.*
You should visit Connecticut’s 1st state park** soon.
Like, Saturday. This Saturday (June 4, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.).
Friends of Sherwood Island — a group filled with Westporters*** — is sponsoring a “CT Trails Day.” There are bird, archaeology and nature walks and talks; nature/bird photo tips with Westport native AJ Hand; a BYO kayak paddle adventure off of the beach — and flight simulators in the morning, followed by a hands-on flying experience and an air show by the Fly Guys.
That group of 100+ men, women and children has flown at Sherwood Island for nearly 50 years.
But this is the park’s 1st-ever air show. It includes drones, radio-controlled helicopters, aerobatic planes and gliders.
Two of the Fly Guys, at Sherwood Island.
The best part: It’s all free. Here’s the secret code to get in to Sherwood Island without paying: “CT Trails Day.”
For details and a full schedule, click here. Pre-registration is appreciated; email email@example.com, or call 203-955-1943.
*That 3rd grade field trip does not count.
** If you’re embarrassed to ask: It’s located at the end of the Sherwood Island connector, just past the I-95 Exit 18 on/off ramp.
Next year, Sherwood Island celebrates 100 years as a state park. (At least, 1914 was the year Connecticut acquired the initial parcels for what — 23 years later — eventually became our 1st state park.)
In anticipation of the centennial celebration, the Friends of Sherwood Island will install educational panels on the history of the Sherwood family. Daniel Sherwood and his wife Catherine Burr settled the area in 1761. They farmed onions and potatoes, and harvested oysters.
An aerial view of Sherwood Island State Park.
But before the signs can be installed for a historical walking tour, an archaeological survey must verify the locations of houses and barns.
Next Wednesday (May 22, 10 a.m.), Connecticut state archaeologist Nick Bellantoni will make a presentation and inspection visit. The public is invited to attend his free lecture and walk-about tour. Entrance to the park is also free.
Elwood Betts will be there. The 87-year-old Westporter remembers where the Sherwood house was; he visited the farm complex as a 6-year-old. (Just as notably, he’s a Sherwood descendant.)
In preparation for Wednesday’s event, Elwood Betts (left) shows archaeologist Ernie Wiegand where the 1787 Sherwood house stood.
Archaeology professor Ernie Wiegand will exhibit Native American artifacts from Sherwood Island and nearby Green’s Farms. He’ll also help identify arrowheads, stone axe heads or other artifacts residents have picked up over the years.
Sherwood Island is an enormously popular state park — and a spot many Westporters have never set foot in. You may not be able to make it to next Wednesday’s event — but don’t wait another 100 years to go.
Add to the many things Westporters don’t know about Sherwood Island State Park — its various beaches, sand dunes and 9/11 Memorial — one more: There’s a Nature Center on site.
A very interesting and comprehensive Nature Center, in fact.
A cooperative effort of the state Department of Environmental Protection and Friends of Sherwood Island, its now in its 3rd year. A wide variety of displays and exhibits help visitors understand the rich diversity of plant and animal life inhabiting the park.
Few of those visitors are from Westport. For us, Sherwood Island is both out of sight and out of mind.
But a few Staples students find it. They’re interns, working with DEP staff and docents.
Sherwood Island Nature Center intern Taylor McNair shows a snake to visitors. (Photo/Stevie Klein)
Taylor McNair — a June SHS grad headed for Emory University — heard about the Nature Center from his friend Jon Wormser. Jon’s mother is a Friend of Sherwood Island, and Jon has worked there for several years.
Taylor, Jon and the other interns show off animals: turtles, snakes, crabs, snails, lobsters, sea urchins, native fish and many other sea creatures. They explain everything that grows and lives in the marshes and Sound. They help kids enjoy the “touch tank.”
“People think Long Island Sound isn’t very interesting. But it really is,” Taylor says.
One of the many attractions at the Sherwood Island Nature Center.
He’s learned plenty, by reading and listening to the directors and other interns. Some interns are part of the aquaculture project at Trumbull High School’s regional agricultural and biotech magnet school.
Ellie Gilchrist is one of those students. She volunteered at the Nature Center for several years. This year, she’s old enough to be paid.
“I’ve learned about so many creatures in the Sound,” she says. “I also learned to deal with people — naturalists, co-workers, kids and visitors.”
She loves her internship, but wishes there were more bilingual programs. Many visitors speak Spanish.
Taylor, Ellie and the other interns also help out with — and learn from — the free Thursday lecture series. Topics range from raptors to undersea diving.
The Sherwood Island Nature Center.
This Thursday (July 19, 6 p.m.), Marilyn Bakker speaks on the 23-year fight, from 194 to 1937, during which advocates for Connecticut’s 1st state park battled neighboring landowners, real estate developers and the town of Westport.
It’s a little-remembered part of Westport history. Perhaps that story will entice some local residents out to the Sherwood Island.
If they go, odds are good they’ll stay for the bivalves, birds and fascinating beach exhibits.
(The Nature Center is located between East Beach and the salt marsh nature trail. Hours are are Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
Some of the Sherwood Island Nature Center interns pose with Senator Richard Blumenthal (the only one wearing a tie) and director Rindy Higgins (far right).
(From left): Volunteer Jon Wormser, and interns Annie Harnick, Erica Mayer, Matt Wormser and A.J. Kieffer, examine a horseshoe crab.
Mike Rowinsky — whose main job is teaching biology at Greens Farms Academy — is the center’s naturalist at the center. He’s looking for high school students and 2010 graduates to serve as interns this summer.
Working with Mike, interns create and lead a variety of activities such as arts and crafts projects and trail tours. They also conduct research for displays, help set up exhibits, care for animals, and act as educational docents to the public.
Interns should be friendly, have a strong interest in nature and environmental issues, and be willing to take initiative. Small stipends are available.
(For a downloadable application form, click here. For more information call Liz Milwe: 203-984-8981.)
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