Oyster Shell Park
Norwalk, Fairfield County, Connecticut
From Norwalk State Heritage Park: Oyster Shell Park http://www.norwalkct.org/HeritagePark/oyster.html
This new riverside park was formerly a landfill. It serves as an outstanding
example of ecologically sensitive redevelopment and provides a focus for new
riverfront landscaping. Caught between a bend in the river and the I-95's
"Yankee Doodle" bridge, it dramatically changes an entire section of river that
had been disregarded for decades.
Oyster Shell Park now rises high above the water, but once the area was a
flat meadow and marsh inhabited by Native Americans. Documentation of South
Norwalk's Native American inhabitants began in the 1600's with the Wappinger
Confederacy, a small nomadic tribe that migrated from the Wappinger Falls area
of the Hudson River. Approximately 200 members of that tribe eventually began
settling in coastal area villages around the Norwauke (Norwalk) and Saogutuck
The Native Americans used oysters primarily for making monetary exchange called Wampum. Shells were filed down and polished until only the shiny purple center remained. These beads were strung together in sets of 240 and used for trade with the colonists and to appease hostile neighboring tribes. Early Colonial settlers named one area along the river Oyster Shell Point because of the thousands of oyster shells that had been discarded there by Native Americans making Wampum.
More recently, the 17-acre site was used as a city landfill, which now has
been capped following Environmental Protection Agency guidelines to ensure
safety for future recreational use. Today, beautiful winding trails and walkways
beckon visitors through marsh grasses, reeds and wildflowers in Oyster Shell
Park. The half-mile multi-purpose trail for bikers, pedestrians and roller
bladers runs from the Maritime Aquarium to Mathews Park. It will eventually be
linked to the Norwalk River Valley Linear Trail at Belden Avenue, which is in
the planning stages.
Oyster Shell Park is teeming with migratory birds, fiddlercrabs and aquatic life. The City of Norwalk envisions future uses to include children's learning programs, birdwatching and research projects. Other attractions include an amphitheater, walking trails, fishing pier and overlook.
A riverfront esplanade links Mathews Park to Oyster Shell Park, the Maritime
Aquarium and South Norwalk. The entire stretch of riverside will be open to
public access, providing magnificent frontage to the Reed-Putnam area, which is
now under construction.
In addition to these areas, the park is linked to the eastern side of the Norwalk River via Stroffolino Bridge. Here, the waterfront Veteran's Park soon will be joined to a river walk and will extend along a landscaped dike to the opposite bank of the river from Oyster Shell Park.
The Norwalk River Linear Park will also be linked to Heritage Park by following the river north and connect to the Connecticut Greenways system.
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