By Marjorie Turner Hollman (courtesy of Bellingham Bulletin)
Hopedale Parklands, or “The Parklands,” as it’s locally known, is located at 162 Dutcher Street in Hopedale, and offers nearly four miles of walking trails on 273 acres, which surround Hopedale Pond. The broad open pathways give one the sense of walking on the carriage trails of Acadia National Park, which was being formed around the same time as “The Parklands,” at the turn of the last century. But rather than requiring a six-hour drive to Maine, it’s an easy trip on Route 140 to nearby Hopedale to reach this lovely outdoor space.
The Parklands has three entrances. The main entrance, where the town swimming beach is located, is on Freedom Street, easily accessed directly from Route 140. (Directions are included at the end of the article.)
Each access to the Parklands has a different feel to it. The main entrance is more heavily used, since it’s close to numerous houses and town schools. The Hazel Street entrance is the most remote, requiring a quarter-mile walk through woodland to reach the pond. The Freedom Street entrance is quieter than the entrance at Hopedale Street; the carriage path has some ups and downs but is mostly closer to water level.
The Parklands closes at dusk. Swimming is allowed in the summer only when a lifeguard is present. Portable toilets are provided by the town from March to October, but only at the Town Park, which is kitty-cornered to the beach area of the Parklands. Dogs are welcome, with clear leash laws posted. And yes, cleaning up after your dog is expected.
This is an ideal place to bring smaller children who are curious and need to stretch their legs in the outdoors without the worries of traffic; there are no fences to confine them. There are a few picnic tables and benches on the Hopedale Street side of the Parklands. Here the water is visible, but the shoreline on this side is raised, making it challenging to get directly to the water (other than at the town beach area). Large glacial boulders on this side of the pond are great for budding mountain climbers or curious geologists.
The wide walkway is a gravel path, so mountain bikes will do fine, but young children would struggle with their smaller bikes on the unpaved walkway. Motorized vehicles of any kind are prohibited. There is a small boat ramp at the town beach, but only non-motorized boats are allowed.
The pond is the Parklands’ focal point. Visible from almost every spot, it is narrow enough to allow views to the other side, with trees along most of its shores. Private property along the shore of the pond near the mill prevents a complete circumnavigation of the pond by footpath. The paths on the far side of the pond, accessed from Freedom Street, stop at the small parking lot. From there, one must walk along the street toward the sidewalk at the mill bridge to get back to the town beach area on Hopedale Street. We walked from Hopedale Street along the length of the pond to the stone bridge at the far end, where the inlet stream enters (and creates) the waterway. After reaching this bridge, we turned back, preferring to stay on the woodland paths. As we retraced our steps, the afternoon light lit the beech groves and created a stunning show for us, which we attempted to capture with the camera.
Even in winter you can tramp along the trails in the snow, keeping thoughts of spring in mind.
Directions: To access the main entrance, after going past Milford Regional Medical Center on Rt.140, continue to the next light (just past Shaw’s) and turn left onto Freedom Street. Continue on Freedom to Hopedale Street. Either turn right onto Hopedale Street till you see the pond (parking is allowed all along Hopedale Street), or continue straight on Freedom Street past the Draper Mill. Freedom Street bears sharply right immediately past the mill. Just past a small neighborhood, about 1/2 mile, is a gated entrance to the Parklands on the right, with room for about four cars to park. One additional entrance is on Hazel Street, a short, dead-end road accessed from Route 140 (past Freedom Street). Hazel Street is on the left just before the Milford Geriatric Center entrance. Near the end of Hazel Street are a yellow park gate and parking for about seven cars. Happy Traveling!
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and has completed two guides to Easy Walking trails in Massachusetts, “Easy Walks in Massachusetts 2nd edition,” and “More Easy Walks in Massachusetts.” A native Floridian, she came north for college and snow! New England Regional Chair for the Association of Personal Historians, she is a Certified Legacy Planner with LegacyStories.org, and is the producer of numerous veterans interviews for the Bellingham/Mendon Veteran’s History Project. http://www.marjorieturner.com