The calendar link is below the Center Springs Park July Sunrise Slide Show.
My good friend and neighbor, Lois, has accompanied me on a few treks through the woods up at the Nike Site. Earlier this week, before the snowmelt, we hiked from the pickleball court parking lot, past the water tower and the cairn, and down the hill to Manchester Country Club on snowshoes. We saw a herd of deer with at least twenty deer, some beautiful views into the distance and close by, and snow fleas. And, yes, snow fleas are really a thing. You just have to look for them.
Manchester Snow Fleas
Fun Facts About Snow Fleas
Not much has been happening in the Manchester area since the COVID Quarantine started in mid-March. Absent are the MCC Band Shell Concerts, Yard Goats Baseball Games, Senior Center classes, recreational opportunities, and TheaterWorks and LTM productions.
Even with a partial reopening in the state, we have felt the need to continue being cautious about social distancing and wearing a mask. We haven’t visited any indoor dining establishments or attended summer social gatherings. When we were out for our nightly walk around the block with Esther earlier this week, we were surprised by a sign advertising a concert at Center Memorial Park.
A quick look at the Beller’s Music website revealed this flyer.
We decided to check it out. Most people arrived wearing masks and kept them on until they were seated safely. There was a big sign letting us know how far apart to sit.
The weather was perfect. A socially distanced audience, relaxing music, and plenty of shady spots to sit created a joyful, soul-nourishing and much appreciated night out. The five-piece band, Autumn Mode, played selections made famous by Jackson Browne, Neil Young, Marvin Gaye, and Steely Dan, to name a few.
On Mother’s Day morning, with snow still coating some surfaces in Manchester, Esther and I took a walk on the White Trail at the Bush Hill Preserve. It was a cold, bright, crisp morning for a walk. The trails are well-marked and well cared for. I learned about something known as perambulating.
Yes, that is snow, and yes, it is May 10 in Connecticut.
I have never heard this expression, and I was born well before 1979.
I am grateful to the volunteers at the Manchester Land Trust for all of the work put in to purchasing, preserving, and caring for open space.
The Nike Site, off of Keeney St at the end of Garden Grove Rd., is a fascinating place to explore. From 1957-1961 the land was a U. S. Army anti-aircraft defense site. There were twelve of these Nike Sites in CT. The installation in Manchester protected this area (Hartford? Pratt & Whitney?) from military planes that entered our airspace. The army used radar and missiles to detect incoming enemy planes and was considered a last line of defense to protect the U.S. during the Cold War. The military decommissioned the site in 1961 as advances in technology made the missiles obsolete. I don’t think the deployment of any missiles ever happened from the Manchester Nike Site (or any of the sites for that matter).
When the army returned the land at the Nike Site installation to the town of Manchester, the recreation department found another purpose for the area. Today there is a pre-school, indoor shooting range, baseball field, the CT Concert Ballet, pickleball courts, hiking trails, and some buildings that look empty but (peeking in the windows) are obviously used for storage.
The trails are not well marked at Nike. The Recreation Department has this little booklet of town trails with maps, but the Nike Site did not make the final cut. Here is the link to the town’s little hiking booklet:
On the CTMQ website, I found this map of the trails (which I have altered slightly) . The CTMQ blog is one of my favorites, and when the CQ is over and you are looking for something to do in CT, you need to go to the website and check it out. You won’t be disappointed. Here is the link: http://www.ctmq.org
Hiking on the Nike Site trails and abandoned roads is an opportunity to look back at the land-use history of this area since 1957. There is an abandoned, (serious) double yellow line road that connected what is now Hercules Dr. to Faith Circle. Army officers and their families lived on Faith Circle.
A radar tripod was at one time attached to the three metal plates of this cement pad.
There is a cairn where you take another trail out to Manchester Country Club.
Other features at Nike include a well-built lean-to, cement pads, assorted buildings, metal objects, telephone poles, and water towers.
I found an abandoned ski slope and an abandoned baseball field, to be the most intriguing elements. Internet research reveals that the ski area was called Northview Ski Slope. It was open from 1969-1979. Vandalism, including cutting the ropes on the rope tow and driving a four-wheel vehicle into the rope tow building caused the town to shut it down.
Most of the poles from the rope tow are still standing with the pulleys attached. Only this one has fallen over.
Trees and brush now cover most of the ski slope, making it hard to visualize people skiing on that hill. But, there are a couple of clearings on the old trails where you can still picture people coming down on their skis.
One of the trails looks like it had a good view of Hartford.
Last but far from least, is the abandoned baseball field. The field is down in a valley closer to Hackmatack St.
I couldn’t find any mention of the field on any sites related to the U.S. Army use of the Nike Site or the Manchester Recreation Department. I think the soldiers working at the installation used the field. The only evidence of access to the grounds is a path from Faith Circle. It doesn’t look like there was ever a road or parking area down there.
Was the field used only for pick-up games between those stationed in Manchester? Maybe teams from some of the other Nike Sites in the region came up to play.
Here are some pictures of the old backstop and old cedar posts that held the player’s benches.
More photos of the area include home plate and the pitcher’s rubber.
This trail off of Faith Circle takes you down to the field.
Every time I walk around the Nike Site, I discover something new. I haven’t hiked the trail out to the golf course yet. I am grateful for the creative people who have used this land and the buildings for recreation rather than just abandoning it like some of the other Nike Sites.
Basketball rims at Manchester parks were removed, and the playgrounds fenced off to protect the community from the spread of COVID-19. But many trails are wide enough to allow 6 feet of physical distance while providing an opportunity for social connection if walking with a friend.
I am grateful for the green spaces in Manchester. The latest upgrades to our parks and trails have re-connected us with the beauty and tranquility of nature. Substantial revisions and the guidance of friendly recreational staff members provide opportunities for exhilarating play and creative expression. It is a pleasure to anticipate the joyful return to the full use of our parks in the not too distant future.
In the meantime, social distance walking in one of Manchester’s parks or on trails, considering the words of Rachel Carson, is nourishment for the soul during these days of uncertainty.
Manchester’s contribution to the East Coast Greenway is the Charter Oak Trail. The East Coast Greenway “connects 15 states and 450 cities and towns for 3,000 miles from Maine to Florida. We are fostering a safe walking and biking route through the country’s most populated corridor.”
Many, many, many years ago a friend and I rode on ten speed bikes from West Palm Beach, Florida to West Hartford, CT. The East Coast Greenway did not exist in 1980 so we rode on back roads like Route 1 and 1A in Florida and Route 17 through Georgia and the Carolinas. We encountered a small problem in New Jersey and took quite a risk by riding our bikes on the Garden State Parkway from one exit to the next.
When the Greenway is complete a bike rider could ride from Florida to Maine almost entirely away from busy streets and traffic. Back in the day, I never would have dreamed this was possible. Given how polarized the country is today, the East Coast Greenway Alliance continues to be an amazing feat of interstate communication, cooperation and sharing of resources.
The East Coast Greenway is 33% complete but the section of the greenway located in Manchester is 100% complete. Enjoy the ride!!
One year ago I began this blog with a post about the K-9 Doggie Kerplunk. I was proud to attend the free swim for dogs with Esther as my companion this year. She had the time of her young life and did not stop running for one second because there was always something new to chase or see or hear or smell. I hope you can find your own dog in these pictures.