Nature walk celebrates revised trail guide. Herald, 5-18-14

June 10, 2014

Nature walk celebrates revised trail guide

Sunday, May 18, 2014 10:13 PM EDT
NEW BRITAIN — More than 15 people got a true insider’s look at the A.W. Stanley Park Sunday, using a newly released and updated trail guide.

Guiding them on foot were Elaine Lechowicz and Don Crockett, members of Friends of Stanley Park, along with Sylvia Halkin, a biology professor at Central Connecticut State University, and Peter Picone, a wildlife biologist with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. 

It was Picone, with the help of the others, who wrote the A.W. Stanley Park Nature Trail Guide, Second Edition, May 2014, which was distributed to the walkers Sunday. He also wrote the first edition, which came out in February 1999.

“It was a great collaboration,” he said, adding, “We upgraded it, made it more modern and pointed out features we didn’t in the last edition.”
The first few pages outline the park’s history and the next 10 or so detail identify 36 “stops” along the way — park landmarks and the many species of trees and flowers that are habitat to wildlife.

“This park has an amazing population of birds,” said Halkin. 

“It’s an important stop for feeding on their migration route,” she continued, adding with a chuckle, “This is one of those cafés that’s highly recommended if you’re traveling from Canada to Florida.”

And when the entire group looked up at a tree in the cattail marsh as she pointed out a warbling blackbird in its branches, Picone noted, “There are some resident birds that are living here and raising their young, but when you’re walking through this park, depending on what time of year and what time of day, you might see a warbler that made its way here all the way from South America.”

The marsh, which was the first stop on the tour, was once a 4.5-acre swimming pool used by thousands during hot spells in the early 19th century. According to the guide, it was closed in the 1960s and replaced by the park’s current pool, which is on its west side.

The second stop was at a white ash tree overlooking New Britain Little League’s baseball field. This fact has particularly interesting significance, Picone pointed out.

“White ash is the wood that’s mainly used to make baseball bats,” he explained.

The tree’s seeds are eaten by birds and small mammals, but the white ash faces a serious threat by the invasive emerald ash borer, a beetle.

“Unfortunately, it faces a lot of challenges, but it is important to this habitat,” Picone said.

One of the park’s original sources of food for resident wildlife are American elms, which line the perimeter of the pond adjacent to the Little League complex. 

Even though they grew up in New Britain and have been frequenting the Stanley Quarter their whole lives, Dave and Monica DeFronzo never said they had never experienced the park quite the way they did Sunday.

“We’re very interested in New Britain history,” said Monica DeFronzo, who was also joined by 8-month-old daughter Grace.

“It’s her first time here,” she added.

An electronic version of the new trail guide is available on the city’s website,

Erica Schmitt can be reached at (860) 225-4601, ext. 210, or