John S. Risley Park
Parking: Medium sized lot near 366 Lake St Vernon, CT
My write-up for Risley Pond was one of my favorites… then my site crashed and it was one of the few that I wasn’t able to save. In the previous version I contrasted my great Fall sunset hike with Peter Marteka’s and Steve from CTMQ’s seemingly lackluster visits. I visited this park at the right time and had a great hike but now it has been about 2 1/2 years and while I remember how great the hike was, I can’t recapture the same detail.
Here’s my bare bones. The trail heads downhill towards the pond and forks with an option to head along the pond’s edge or continue straight into the woods. Continuing straight takes you gradually uphill until a steep hill of glacial till at the back of the loop.
At the top of the hill there is a tower through the trees and thankfully other curious hikers like me have made an unblazed path over to it (though there isn’t much to see). The trail continues along this rocky ridge until back in the direction of the pond however there are narrow trails that continue east over the ridge through a huge patch of low blueberries that connect down to Freja Park and Bolton Notch along the Hop River Trail.
Continuing back towards the pond I encountered several very wet/muddy areas that required careful footing to cross. I then came across what looked like a fairly new trail (I don’t think the map above notes it) that wound its way along the eastern border of the property until I came across a small cascade and viewing bench. The trail then brings you to the dam at the southern end of the pond. The sunset was putting on a show and reflecting off the still water. I walked along the mossy banks back to the trailhead as the sky darkened noting where a tree had been cut into the water that once hung an old rope swing.
See, not great, no magic.
Swimming and boating are not allowed since the pond is a secondary source of water for the Manchester Water Company. Fishing is catch and release only.
Originally donated in 1983 by Gladys R. Hall and Dorothy R. Miller additional land was acquired through several purchases/donations from 1986 to 2014. The property was donated in honor of John (Jack) S. Risley Jr. (1894- 1984) who’s father was the proprietor of the Lake Side Farm here. From a Manchester Land Trust Brochure,
The Risley family owned this property and previous generations farmed the land north of the pond. In the 1940s, they grew strawberries in the meadow that slopes down toward the pond.
From the book Buckland: The North West Section of Manchester, Connecticut,
In 1978 the Army Corps of Engineers inspected the earthen dam at Risley Reservoir and declared it unsafe. In 1984 the reservoir was drained to eliminate the possibility of flooding. The town of Manchester owned the water rights but did not own the reservoir. A title search turned up many who might have an “ownership interest,” in the dam. The big question was who should pay for the repairs. Finally, in 1990, the necessary funds to pay for the repairs, over four hundred thousand dollars, were pledged. Some of the money came from donations and some from the State of Connecticut. The town of Manchester paid one hundred and thirty thousand dollars toward the project.
CTMQ – Risley Pond Loop Trail (2009)
Peter Marteka – Risley Park Visitors Can Explore the Wild (2009)
Peter Marteka – Overlook Offers Panorama (2002)