It’s almost September and families are flocking to the beaches to get in their last days of summer sunshine. One of Connecticut’s most popular summer spots is Rocky Neck State Park in Niantic.
The stretch of beach was not always a designated area for sunbathing, swimming, or hiking. In the 1800s, long before beachgoers were able to enjoy the park, the 710-acre property was used as a stone quarry and dairy farm. A railroad track and pier were installed in the 1850s to help transport stone from the quarry by both land and water.
In the early 1900s, a fish mill was located on the site. The stench of the industry was so horrible that residents complained to the state legislature. The company eventually went bankrupt in the 1920s, and the land was purchased by a group of conservationists who felt strongly that the area should be preserved and used for recreation.
The General Assembly purchased Rocky Neck in 1931 and campsites, beaches, and administration buildings were developed and built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. A large pavilion overlooking Long Island Sound was erected using materials from local state parks. Trails were developed leading to caves and rocks where men used to hide to avoid joining the army during the Revolutionary War.
While most people go in the summer to enjoy the campsites, beach, and picnic areas, the park remains open year-round, and can also be enjoyed in the off-season, when the beaches are empty and only wintering birds, including loons and grebes, are to be found swimming in the Sound off the beach and rocky headland.