Spicebush Swamp, West Hartford
When I originally explored this little park with Damian in 2016 or so, I had this to say:
… This little piece of land is really sort of lame. There is a nice little pond there which is open for fishing only to kids under 16 which is a nice concept. But the trails behind the pond are really poor and just INFESTED with mosquitos during mosquito season.
Also, this place (being a swamp) floods every time it rains more than a drizzle. It’s always muddy and soggy and, well, like I said – it’s just not a fun place to spend too much time in my opinion.
Then I received a comment (below) claiming that an energetic girl scout cleared the trails here and I should update this page. I must admit, I didn’t really believe it to be true but I kept it in the back of my mind.
After all, Spice Bush Swamp is only a few minutes down Mountain Road from my house. And so, one day after Quarantine School/Work, due to COVID-19, Calvin and I went to check it out. I had read that not only were there actual trails now, but that the town has done some reclamation work on the pond itself and the retaining walls for the streams.
In the past, this place would flood every time it rained hard, so I’m happy to see that it’s no longer as messy.
I’d guess 90% of the people that come here come to fish or just sit on a bench to look at the pond. 5% are the cops that set up the speed trap in the little parking lot and the remaining 5% are the people like us, here to really check the place out.
Spicebush Swamp was given to the Town of West Hartford for the sum of $1.00 in September 1962. At 33 acres in size, it was the first park in town set aside to be used and enjoyed in its natural state. Today it is officially part of Westmoor Park, a couple miles north, which has a little bit more in the way of hiking.
After checking out the pond, Calvin and I began our counter-clockwise journey. Hey! There is a trail here now! It even has little metal blazes! The young woman who cleaned this place up is Victoria Rozario and she did it for her Gold Award in Girl Scouts. Her work was completed in the summer of 2019, and I really hope volunteers keep up with it for years to come. This Courant article states that Westmoor folks will maintain the trails, and also has this to say:
In choosing the project for her Gold Award, Rozario said she knew she wanted to do something related to trails and nature. She chose Spice Bush Swamp because it’s a place she remembers going to when she was younger.
She said the trail had become prone to flooding, leading to a lack of use by the public. A lot of trees had fallen on the trail too.
“Spice Bush was one of those places I’ve always gone to as a kid,” Rozario said. “I realized I was going there less and less. The last couple of winters, a lot of the trail gets blocked off because there’s so much damage in general. People just weren’t super inclined to go up there. I was hoping to make it more accessible. I wanted to make it more frequently used again and bring it back into circulation.”
Calvin and I did follow one trail west; someone had done an incredible job of clearing the path through a bunch of deadfall and stuff. Unfortunately, that trail just sort of disappeared – giving me flashbacks of the first time I came here.
We retraced our steps and took the other option across a bridge and then found ourselves on a very well-cleared, wide path for the rest of our hike. Spicebush is hemmed in by houses on all sides – something anyone who comes here knows at the outset – but it does offer a nice 15-minute walk in the woods. There’s even a little up- and downhill in the middle of the loop.
I know that no one is coming to my hometown to “hike” Spicebush Swamp. Or, really, to hike at all. But hey, here’s an option for those of you with toddlers looking for a little diversion. And a huge thank you to Ms. Rozario for her efforts to reclaim this place.