On our way to my sister’s house last week, we took a detour through the back roads of Windsor County. I was searching for Amity Pond Natural Area State Park in Pomfret, which was donated to the state 45 years ago. As my husband drove, I scanned the map on my iPhone to find the fastest route to the property. The road I was searching for wasn’t clearly marked online, so I wasn’t entirely sure where we were headed.
Amity Pond Natural Area State Park includes 182-acres of woods, open meadows, and trails for hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, and limited camping.
Richard and Elizabeth Brett donated the property to the State of Vermont in 1969 to provide a natural environment for quiet relaxation and peaceful recreation. Radios and all machinery are barred from the land, as well as motorized vehicles, road and mountain bikes.
What You’ll Find at Amity Pond Natural Area
Amity Pond Natural Area State Park features hiking trails, ranging from a half-mile to three miles in length. There’s also Skyline Trail, a 6.3-mile cross-country ski touring trail that eventually connects with private lands that lead to Suicide Six Ski Area.
The property includes ponds as well. If you dig into the land’s history, you’ll find that dry ponds were also created on the property by the Bretts as an experiment in water conservation. According to the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, the ponds were designed to be empty in the fall to hold back the snowmelt and the spring rains that would otherwise run off the land. The ponds were intended to be full of water in May, with water gradually seeping into the soil. Some water also evaporated, but the hope was to save roughly six inches of run-off by holding the water where it falls for as long as possible. (Where these dry ponds exist on the property, and if they still work, remains unclear.)
A Peaceful Place to Escape
What I find most interesting about the property is the Brett’s philosophy for keeping the land protected and open to the public. After donating the land, the Bretts lobbied to make the property a designated state natural area, which it later became in 1983. In a proposal Richard Brett drafted for the state in 1971, his concerns and frustrations about the world now ring true more than ever.
“There was no place in our world which was both accessible and free from the noise, the trappings, and the confusion of our economic and technological culture. Without going to some far place, a family could not camp out without being constantly aware of machines; a man could not walk without hearing and smelling off-road vehicles,” he wrote. “It is tragic that man has become so enmeshed in his own devices. It is tragic that enjoyment and understanding of the natural world is becoming increasingly difficult.”
When you travel to Pomfret, you feel time slow down a little bit. The dirt roads are quiet and beautiful, and it’s a little easier to take a deep breath and be in the moment, just as the Bretts wanted.
It also turns out that I didn’t need the map on my iPhone to find the park after all. Thanks to an old paper road map and a little bit of luck, we were happy to disconnect and find our way.
**If You Go: From Interstate 89, take Exit 2 in Sharon. Follow Route 14 to River Road to Howe Hill Road, and head west on Allen Hill Road in Pomfret. Limited parking and trail access is on Allen Hill Road, just past the intersection at Skyline Drive.
For a detailed map and more information, visit www.vtstateparks.com.