Five Must-Visit Parks in Central Mass.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Bancroft Tower- Worcester
Bet you’d never guess that there’s a small castle in Worcester. Natural stone and granite are stacked 56 feet atop a spacious grassy hill. Rusted iron gates seal off this memorial tower, and only those brave (or stupid) enough to scale the building can get inside. Take a stroll on a sunny afternoon and enjoy the quiet, peaceful clearing next to this Medieval-eqsue monument.
The tiny tower was built in 1900 by Stephen Salisbury III, the son of a railroad baron, in memory of Worcester native, General George Bancroft, who was the 17th US Secretary of the Navy. You can read about the General’s historical contributions at the monument. Bancroft Tower was added to the National Register of Historical Places on March 5, 1980.
Also notable in the park are the two half-compasses set into the ground in front of and behind the tower. They are marked as if they pointed to the other six of the Seven Hills of Worcester (Bancroft Hill itself being one of the seven).
Moore State Park- Paxton
If you’re looking for a picturesque place to visit in your free time that’s out of Worcester but still in Worcester County, Moore State Park is your destination. Upon entering the park, you’ll be greeted with a grassy field so perfect that you’ll swear you’re on the set of Heidi or frolicking through the countryside with Julie Andrews’ character to the soundtrack of The Sound of Music. Two trails go through the field, onto Davis Road, and the rest of the paths will take you through the scenic wooded areas. You’ll find a gravel parking lot just beyond the entrance.
In the central section of the park, you’ll find trails paralleling the brook, giving you plenty of great scenic views up the sides of the banks. It’s so scenic, there’s an artist overlook where you’ll have a fantastic view of Sawmill Pond.
Green Hill Park- Worcester
This utopia located atop one of Worcester’s seven hills in the heart of the city is known as Green Hill Park, Worcester largest municipal park. Almost 500 acres of greenery stretch across the area between Route 9 and Lincoln Street, filling in the gap between the two busy thoroughfares with just the opposite.
Originally the Green estate, this tract of land was sold to the city in 1905 and has long since been a place of recreation and escape for Worcesterites. It contains two ponds, a barnyard zoo, picnic grove, playground, little league field, golf course, and handball courts. It is also host to the Worcester Parks, Recreation and Cemetery administrative office.
The free petting zoo, Green Hill Farm, is open from Friday to Tuesday until 4:00 p.m. and is home to mini-horses, sheep, goats, llamas, pigs, chickens, peacocks, pheasants, and ducks.
Purgatory Chasm- Sutton
Even if you’ve hiked in the area before, fall is one of the best ways to see it. The trees are full of vibrantly colored leaves, covering the chasm in a canopy of yellow and orange. Also, this time of year is much less susceptible to large crowds of noisy children on group trips.
As you make your way through the middle, you’ll pass many named rock formations such as The Devil’s Corncrib, The Coffin, The Devil’s Pulpit, Lovers’ Leap, His Majesty’s Tomb, and Fat Man’s Misery. Along the margins of the chasm and into the woods are 2 miles of hiking trails that meander through the scenic forest and by streams on the property like Purgatory Brook. Charley’s Loop will take you on the largest path around the central chasm.
As the sign at the entrance warns, you’ll need to stay smart and safe in the chasm. Frankly, it’s dangerous, and people have died there. While the steep sides of the chasm are incredibly fun to climb, keep an eye out for slippery or loose rocks. The clumsy need not apply. For those who are less adventurous but still wanting to be in nature, the park is also open to picnics and has ample scenic space outside the dangerous areas.
Coes Pond- Worcester
Coes Pond is located right off Park Ave and is a nice way to take a breather. Turn down either Lakeside Ave or Coes Street, and you’ll find yourself paralleling the destination’s namesake. Though the pond is definitely not swim-safe, it’s still scenic. At the end of Coes Street, feel free to cut your own path down to the larger body of water, Coes Reservoir. Heading right will take you across a bridge, and onto a trail that goes by the water’s edge. Local residents are usually fishing or enjoying the view on the water. You can also head up Mill Street in the opposite direction, which will take you around the other side of the reservoir.