Winter in the Forest: Boulder Park in Chester-Blandford State Park, MA, USA

Boulder Park is located in the Chester-Blandford State Forest, in the scenic Berkshire Hills of New England, USA. I stumbled upon this hidden treasure, an early twentieth century recreational park, a day after one of the first snowy days of the winter in Eastern Massachusetts.

In this beautiful forested landscape the mystical Boulder Park offers glacial history together with a fine example of 1930s Park Rustic recreational facilities built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). On this cold day it allowed for a scenic, icy and educational moment, with a couple of contemplative photo opportunities.

The  Chester-Blandford State Forest is located along the historic Jacob’s Ladder Scenic Byway (US Rte. 20) in the eastern Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts. The Berkshires is a mountain range that falls within Massachusetts and Connecticut. They sit within the Northeastern Appalachian mountains (“The Appalachians”).

Many of the  features in the Chester-Blandford State Forest were created by the CCC during the early twentieth century Depression. The Civilian Conservation Corps developed Boulder Park from 1934 to 1936 as a day-use facility. Built features were constructed in the Park Rustic style of the  National Park Service, which is a style that was developed in the 1920s by the landscape architect Daniel Ray Hull. For Park Rustic structures local materials were used, with the intention to retain the natural scenic qualities of the diverse parks.

At Boulder Park the Park Rustic features and structures were built in the 1930s with the intent to facilitate day-use recreation. Main structures include: a pavilion, stone walls and stone stairs, a system of stream, two pedestrian bridges,  and a wellhead. At one end of the recreational area, at the upper trail, the CCC built an earthen dam to create an outdoor swimming pond. The pond now has evolved into a charming naturalised feature.

Nearby the swimming pond the CCC also constructed a rustic gazebo and a bathhouse. The gazebo appeared to have collapsed (if this indeed was the former gazebo). The bathhouse used to function as changing rooms and now also was in disuse and poorly maintained. Hopefully these features will receive appropriate preservation attention in due course.

Boulder Park is located close to the small town of Chester, which once was known for small mines that produced mica, emery and corundum. Boulder Park derives its name from the glacial rock drifts that can be found here. These scenic rock drifts were deposited by glaciers around 15,000 to 18,000 years ago. The Boulder Park Trails allow visitors to take a short walk along this geological phenomena. The large boulders, which include beautiful white marble ones, are called “erratics”, and can be found in this woodland of  Eastern Hemlocks.

Glacial erratics are rocks that are different in size and type from the local native rocks found in an area. They may have drifted along in glaciers for hundreds of kilometers. These erratics are fascinating as they can help establish the paths of these glaciers. At Boulder Park there are interpretative sign that briefly illustrate and explain the history of the park and the geology. Various photographs of Boulder Park and its historic features, in better weather circumstances, can also be found on LocationReservoir.

For those interested in hiking, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, the famous “A.T.“,  crosses Jacob’s Ladder Scenic Byway near the town of Lee. This is some miles further west from Boulder Park. At this time of year the A.T. seems abandoned in these cold hills, and the wildlife takes over, with only their footsteps marking the path of the A.T. trail.

Text and  photography by Jan Haenraets

 Jan Haenraets is a Director of Atelier Anonymous Landscapes Inc., Vancouver, BC, Canada

 

Useful Information, maps and reference sources:

The  Chester-Blandford State Forest – Massachusetts Government

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Work in Massachusetts Forests and Parks – Massachusetts Government

Jacob’s Ladder Scenic Byway

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy

The Appalachian Trail – National Park Service

The Appalachian Trail Map – Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation

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