NEWINGTON - Some religions believe that waterfalls symbolize “a place of peace and rest during life’s journey.” This may explain why Newington has an overwhelming feel of tranquility and is the perfect setting for any health and fitness enthusiast.
Newington is home to Mill Pond Brook, which is the smallest natural waterfall in the United States and located in the heart of the diverse town. What the fall lacks in size, it makes up for in character and serenity. The 16-foot waterfall is the backdrop for the Mill Pond Park, located on Garfield Street, which is the ideal venue for anyone looking to get fit this summer.
What’s makes the park fantastic is that it can accommodate people of all fitness levels, offering countless activities that will make working up a sweat pleasurable. The park has eight tennis courts, featuring two separate surfaces and shade coverage. A full-sized basketball court with some of Connecticut’s most-forgiving outdoor rims is located next to the tennis courts.
A swimming pool sits adjacent to the courts and is sectioned off with areas for open swimming and designated lanes for lap swim. The pool has changing rooms, showers and lifeguards and is surrounded by a fence to keep your little ones in and the unwanted critters out. The pool’s water is crystal clear, but they use chlorine to keep it that way, so remember to bring your swimming goggles to prevent eye irritation.
Surrounding the courts and pool are several fields to enjoy all the games we loved as kids, such blindfold tag. The fields are large enough to accommodate any activity, but please be aware that geese migrate from the nearby pond and use these fields as their personal lavatory. Friendly ducks also visit these fields, but if you feed them they will not leave your side and may even follow you home.
Encompassing all these activities and wildlife is a path around the perimeter on the park. The path is wide enough for both leisurely walkers and high intensity runners. The partially paved path takes you directly by the waterfall and a concession stand, which is open to the public.
The waterfall, courts, pool and fields are enough to put other parks to shame, but the town took its dedication to fitness even further by equipping the park with a handful of exercise machines. The machines, which include leg extensions, a pull-up bar and seated rows, are located on the north end of the park. This is your chance to do your favorite fitness center workout without having to hear the steroid-infested guy at the local gym grunting his way through deadlifts.
There is plenty to do at the park, but if you decide to venture out you won’t have to go far to explore the other trails Newington has to offer. You can access Indian Hill Trail directly from the park, which goes in two different directions. If you head west, you will see a beautiful golf course and many of the great neighborhoods of Newington. If you head east, you will reach Cedar Mountain Trail in less than two miles.
On your way to Cedar Mountain you’ll pass through Market Square. This section of town is the epicenter for health and fitness. The square is home to the Newington Yoga Center, CT Workout, World of Nutrition, and Connecticut Kenpo Karate. All four establishments have received glowing reviews online and make the square an exerciser’s paradise.
Just beyond square is the Cedar Mountain Trail. This is a great hike for those that love elevation or an amazing view. The trail will take you up a steep quarter-mile incline before climaxing at the Cedar Mountain ridgeline, which is a lookout with one of the most exquisite views Connecticut has to offer. The entire city can be seen from this lookout point, including the park. To prevent tomfoolery there are local police notices posted, as well as signs reminding hikers to use extreme caution in this area due to the ridgeline’s sudden drop-off. Legendary climber and author Reinhold Messer put it best when he said, “Mountains are not fair or unfair. They’re just dangerous.” Amen, Reinhold.
The outlook from the Cedar Mountain ridgeline is phenomenal, but this is also where a suspected phenomenon occurred decades ago. In 1965, and again in 1966, there were reports of possible extraterrestrial activity when two separate unidentified flying objects were spotted and reported in the local paper. It’s been nearly 50 years since the last reported sighting, but Halley’s Comet is visible every 75 years, so one can only hope that ALF will make his return to the Newington skies soon.
Beyond the UFO outlook you can continue hiking into the heavily-shaded woods and see a variety of trees, birds, and the occasional possum. Keep in mind that these woods are filled with poison ivy, so it’s best to live by the old adage, “Leaves of three, let it be. Leaves of four, eat some more.” On second thought, I wouldn’t eat any of the foliage. Bring a Clif Bar instead.
The park and Cedar Mountain are great way to spend an afternoon, but if you’re looking for a quicker workout you should visit the other trails around town. Newington Greenway is a mile long jaunt through the woods and Black Hole Trail will take you from Clem Lamire Field to Young Farm. Both will give you the welcoming sights of Newington’s neighborhoods combined with the peacefulness of the surrounding woods.
Now that you’re equipped with the knowledge needed to navigate Newington, it’s time to go enjoy all the outdoor offerings of this friendly town. Just remember to follow the Girl Scout’s motto of “Take Only Photos; Leave Only Footprints” along your journey. If one of those photos happens to be of an alien spacecraft or extraterrestrial, please send photo to firstname.lastname@example.org to be published.