Third cousins Horace Linsley and Eunice Maria (Parmelee) Parmelee
Horace: Moses, Asahel, Lemuel, Nathaniel, Nathaniel, John, John
Maria: Rufus, Cornelius, Josiah, Nathaniel, Nathaniel, John, John

Hartford (Conn.) Courant, Nov. 5, 2010

Nature's Path & Way to Go

By Peter Marteka

Killingworth, CONN. -- During the 1950s, an old farm off State Route 148 was known as the "Farm in the Dell," a summer resort complete with swimming pool and lighted shuffleboard court. One of the destinations for those looking for some fun in the sun back then must have been the gorge with its waterfalls in the heart of what is now known as Parmelee Farm.

The 132-acre farm was purchased by the town in 2000 and went from being the site for a potential recreation complex with 14 athletic fields to a place that speaks to the volunteer spirit of this town. With three miles of trails, a community garden, a circa-1847 house that will become the a museum, restored barns and farm buildings, Parmelee Farm is a great example of how a community can guide the development of its open space.

Bruce Dodson, vice chairman of the Parmelee Farm steering committee and former president of the Killingworth Land Conservation Trust, spent a few hours with me walking the trails he designed across fields and through the forested portion of the farm. With his Irish wolfhound Patric tagging along, Dodson pointed out old farm fields saved from being overrun by invasive species and an early successional forest, a spectacular gorge with waterfalls and a huge white pine forest planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.

There are two loop paths — the milelong Parmelee Trail and 1.7-mile Pavelka Trail — named after the property's longtime farmers. Portions of the trail run along an abandoned road that was built before the construction of the Haddam and Killingworth toll turnpike in the early to mid-1800s. Vestiges of the original road can be seen on the Parmelee Trail, along stone walls and across several crossings made of huge, flat stones.

"The Parmelees built their house on this road so they could avoid paying the toll," Dodson said with a laugh.

The Parmelee Trail loops through woods and uplands filled with chestnut, oaks and blueberry bushes. A short, yellow-blazed trail leads to Patric's Overlook — a high, rocky outcropping with views of the surrounding valley.

But the highlight of the visit was a trip to the gorge along the Pavelka Trail. Dodson pointed out that the formation — huge granite slabs and boulders with a clear stream passing over them — is like a miniature version of Vermont's Quechee Gorge.b"This whole area is relatively impermeable — little water soaks in with most of it running off. When it is really wet in the winter and spring, the waterfalls are amazing," he said.

The trail swings through the forest, where more than 35 varieties of trees have been identified, and past a huge vernal pool. The loop returns visitors to the old farm fields that at one time were slated to become baseball and soccer fields, until a community stepped in and saved it.

To get there, take Route 9 to Exit 9. Go south on State Route 81 for several miles and look for the entrance to Parmelee Farm on left shortly after passing State Route 148. If gate is closed, park in the first lot at the middle school and walk along a trail just to the east of the baseball field.

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