Plenty to do at Harold Parker State Forest!
By Jim Humphrey
“HP” is bisected by Jenkins Road into 2 distinct entities (see the Harold Parker State Forest Trail Map); west of Jenkins is home to the largest body of water, Field Pond; the Lorraine Campground; and some of the most interesting historical sites. East of Jenkins Road is where the main picnicking, swimming and (in-season) hunting take place. Both sides are laced with multi-use trails. Maps can found at the campground and the Forest Headquarters.
Relief from the hot and humid days of summer can be found at
Berry Pond, a daily-fee area which
has swimming and a sandy beach, nearby picnic sites, and new bathrooms and
changing facilities. A pavilion near the bathrooms can be used for group
functions. Some larger picnic sites feature roofed structures with built-in
fireplaces. Access is from
If you want trails for walking,
hiking, biking or horseback riding, HP has them in abundance. A good place
for walkers to start may be the smooth, flat trail of fine crushed gray stone
which goes around Berry Pond, culminating in an overlook of the whole pond from
a rocky promontory reminiscent of some peak you might find in the
Walkers, hikers, bikers and riders looking for tougher
terrain can start down any of the broad dirt roads which meander through the
park. On the Route. 125 side of HP, Walker Road goes around Brackett and
Collins Ponds, affording a view of one of the dams created by the Civilian
Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s (the CCC, a depression-era work program
for out-of-work men and boys, helped build many of the roads, dams, and
facilities the park uses today, in addition to replanting trees in the forest
and helping to create nine man-made ponds). Take
Cross the wooden bridge where the
The “east of Jenkins” section of the park is larger, and
features trails especially enjoyable for longer mountain bike and horseback
rides. The dirt
If you have planned ahead, you can camp in the Lorraine Campground, in one of the 90
sites embedded in the pine forest. Each site has its own grill, picnic table,
and fireplace; flush toilets and hot showers are available at four stations
located throughout the camp. It also has its own swimming beach, on Frye Pond. This
is also where you will find the
Field Pond, south of
Check HP’s summer events calendar!
Summertime also finds special events at HP, including a fishing festival in August; and regular nature walks and interpretive programs. A very helpful online event calendar allows you to see what is happening at any state park on any given day; just put in the appropriate day. You can verify an event’s status by calling Forest Headquarters at 978-686-3391
Fall and winter fun, too
Fall and spring are generally times when the Berry Pond facility can be reserved for use by groups for specific events. About 200 mountain bikers attend NEMBA’s annual “Wicked Ride of the East” around Halloween. Riders check in at the pavilion to sign up for led rides at various skill levels, or just go off on their own to follow well-marked trail loops. Call Forest Supervisor Richard Scott about organizing events at HP.
Hunting is in season during the fall as well – check with the forest headquarters for rules and regulations. Note that summer gunshots can be heard near Berry Pond, but they are occurring safely within a private hunting club across the street.
Winter turns the paths and roads into excellent, if ungroomed, cross-country ski trails. Park carefully by the side of the road, and just ski into the woods.
How HP came to be
It’s important to understand that this cornucopia of natural
attractions and recreation facilities was once considered “waste land”, a place
where most of the trees had been burnt or cut down. Supervisor Richard Scott’s
In the 1800s, the area of the forest near the intersection
of what is now
Jenkins was also an abolitionist, and his house, erected by his grandfather Samuel Jenkins in 1765 (and still occupied today), was host to several famous anti-slavery activists, including William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass and Harriet Beecher Stowe.
During the later 1800s, much of the cleared farmland was abandoned, as better soil could be found further west. In 1895, much of the area was destroyed by forest fire, probably sparked by coal- and wood-burning steam engines. The trees that remained were cut down, leaving nothing but “waste land” behind.
Fortunately, land preservation began to be taken seriously
in the early 1900s, when
As noted, many improvements to the property were made by the CCC in the 1930s. These days, a number of groups volunteer time and materials to help the DCR maintain the trails and build new ones, including NEMBA, Americorps, and the Boy Scouts.
Make a day of it at HP!
Harold Parker’s beautiful, rocky forests and numerous ponds should keep you and your family busy with outside activities throughout the year. Plan to make a day of it soon!
DCR website for Harold Parker - http://www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/northeast/harp.htm