Mill Hollow Park and Open Space Area
||1. Sturges Bridge
2. Unquowa Road at the South End of the Area
|| Google Maps
Location and Access
The Mill Hollow Park and Open Space Area consists of about nine acres on the east side of the Mill River, just downstream of the Sturges Road Bridge. The area is bounded on the west by the Mill River and on its other sides by Sturges Road and Unquowa Road. This is Fairfield’s southern-most tract of riverside open space and it’s within the tidally influenced zone of the river. Looking downstream from the south end of the park and open space area you can see the Connecticut Turnpike Bridge over the Mill River. Also, just south of the area at Unquowa Road is a Town historic site known as the Colonial River Ford.
Open Space Boardwalk
There are two points of access to the park and open space area. One is near the Sturges Road Bridge and the other is from Unquowa Road at the south end of the area. There’s no parking along Sturges or Unquowa roads but you can park across the Mill River off Mill Hill Terrace and then walk across the Sturges Road Bridge to the park and open space area.
In Colonial times, the Mill River Ford just south of the present-day park and open space area was an important crossing on the Post Road from Boston to New York City. It’s written that George Washington crossed the Mill River at this point.
Much later, this area was the site of a dog biscuit factory. The Town acquired the land in 1960 and the deed specifies that it is forever to be used for public purposes.
In 1966, a ground-clearing operation removed many of the trees and lesser vegetation from the east side of the river and lowered the height of the river bank in an effort to dissipate flood waters. Private groups and the Town then sought assistance from the U.S. Soil Conservation Service to prepare a management plan for the area that included revegetation and construction of a trail system.
Today, the park and open space area is managed by the Conservation Commission in coordination with the Fairfield Parks and Recreation Department as part of the “greenbelt” of Town lands along the Mill River.
The park and open space area is enjoyed by nearby residents and other visitors. During the months of March, April, and May, the trail system is used by many Fairfield elementary school students who participate in the River Lab environmental education program sponsored by the Mill River Wetland Committee.
In 1997, the Conservation Commission prepared and adopted its Multiple Use Management Plan for Coastal Open Space which includes management provisions to guide the beneficial use and conservation of the park and open space area which, for the purpose of that plan, is considered part of the Perry’s Mill Ponds Open Space Area.
There is little topographic variation in the park and open space as most of the area is within the Mill River’s 100-year floodplain. During exceptionally high tides, much of the area, as well as the parking lot west of the river, is inundated.
Vegetation and Wildlife
The park and open space area now has a variety of vegetation and wildlife habitat types, including red maple swamp, cattail marsh and Phragmites marsh. A small pond was dredged in the early 1970’s to enhance wildlife habitat. There are early-to late-successional forest species, a small meadow north of the pond, and mowed grass areas along Sturges Road and the slope adjacent to Unquowa Road. Within the area you’ll find deer, squirrels, other small mammals, and birds. On the river, you can see ducks, geese and swans, and fishing is allowed along the shoreline.
The trail system in the park and open space area was originally planned and established with assistance from the U.S. Soil Conservation Service in the 1960’s. If you enter the area from either the north or south, you’ll find a loop trail around the interior pond. The east and west sides of the pond are wet, so a boardwalk was installed along sections of the trail. The total length of boardwalk is about 1,000 feet.
The trail system allows visitors to walk through the park and open space area from the Sturges Road Bridge on the north to the Colonial Ford on the south, a distance of about 2,400 feet. Several short paths lead to the edge of the Mill River and are used by fishermen and those who wish to observe birds on the river.
Scroll below to view photographs of Mill Hollow Park and Open Space Area:
Page content from Frank Rice's 'Walking Through Fairfield's Open Spaces - A Guide to Fairfield Walking and Hiking Trails' published by the Conservation Commission in 2009.