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Worcester’s Inside Guide: Spring Fun in Worcester City Parks

Friday, April 06, 2012


Elm Park

As the days get longer and signs of spring appear everywhere, I head outside for some walks and views. The City of Worcester offers its residents 20 parks on 1,250 acres including two on the National Register of Historic Places.

Elm Park

Worcester’s Elm Park is one of the oldest parks in the country. In 1854, one of the first purchases of land to be designated for use as a public park was set aside in between Park Avenue, Elm Street, Russell Street, and Highland Street. The city purchased Newton Hill, just across from Park Avenue, in 1888, bringing the total area of the park to 60 acres.

When the park was first constructed, boats were available for paddling through the shallow waterways and among ponds stocked with waterfowl, including great blue herons and swans. A nursery supplied trees for city streets. Jets were installed to flush the ice in the winter to insure that residents were able to ice skate. Sheep were used as the park’s lawnmowers.

Rededicated in 1971 after extensive renovation and replanting, the park still offers something for almost every taste. Its historic bridges, reconstructed in 1985, still ford the three ponds in the midst of scenic walking trails. Strategically placed benches provide a place for rest or quiet relaxation, and hiking trails ring Newton Hill and merge with a new Frisbee Golf course. The outer loop of Elm Park offers a ¾ mile walk.

Recreational facilities include a large playground in the main park. Tennis courts, which were added at the turn of the century, are located by Newton Hill next to the basketball courts and are in constant use during the summer. A popular music series takes the outdoor stage during the summer, with musical refrains heard from Newton Hill on Tuesday nights in July and in the main park on Thursdays.

Green Hill Park

Worcester’s largest municipal park, Green Hill Park encompasses over 480 acres. It is located atop one of Worcester’s seven main hills and can be accessed on Belmont Street. The golf course entrance is on Lincoln Street and the course is one of my favorites, with its challenging hills and spectacular views. While waiting to tee off, I once watched a hawk as it calmly sat on a branch right above my head. A new facility and restaurant complement the natural offerings of the course.

Green Hill Park is also a wonderful place to take the kids. The petting zoo, little league field, and playground are popular with families. A picnic by the water is a great way to end the day. One of my favorite places on a sunny day is the Massachusetts Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a beautifully landscaped 4-acre memorial with a pond and fountain. Walking paths and benches help create a quiet place for reflection.

Institute Park

Institute Park, on Salisbury Street, offers the rare treat of viewing wildlife and enjoying the feel of the country without leaving the city. Sit under a tree with your book or Kindle and let the long summer hours drift by. The fauna of Salisbury’s Pond, an artificial lake created by the Grove Street Dam, includes a resident pair of swans and a muskrat. A new outdoor pavilion features classical concerts during the summer.

Bancroft Tower in Salisbury Park.

Salisbury Park

Some of the first things I noticed when I moved to the Worcester area (more years ago than I care to admit in print) were the views. The perfect place to enjoy those vistas is at Salisbury Park, which houses Bancroft Tower. Circled by trees and wildlife and an exceptional hilltop view of the city, the Tower was a gift from Worcester philanthropist Stephen Salisbury III as a tribute to Worcester native George Bancroft, the former Secretary of War who helped acquire California, Texas, and the Pacific Northwest.

The tower is no longer open to the public but the exterior is worth viewing. A stone circle shows the location of Worcester’s seven hills. The park also offers a quiet place to relax and feel the sun on your face on a summer afternoon.

For more information on Worcester’s city parks, click here.

Susan D. Wagner is a Worcester resident and president of Susan Wagner PR, a boutique public relations firm invested in meeting client's goals with integrity and creativity. She is also Managing Partner for The Boston Ad Agency and Director of Corporate Communications for Boston Web Designers. 


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