20 Green Spaces, 1 Trail
The East-West Trail embodies everything that is great about Worcester: rolling hills, wooded forests, unique neighborhoods, and the urban streetscape.
The Trail (and the City's character) is largely attributed to the character of its individual parts. Many of the green spaces along the East-West Trail have storied pasts and have long been a part of Worcester's public landscape. It is our hope that these overviews will inspire you to get outside and check out one of these unique spaces and hike a part of (or maybe the whole 14 miles of) Worcester's East-West Trail.
Coal mine brook
The Coal Mine Brook is located along Plantation street and N Lake Ave, and neighbors Lake Quinsigamond. There are technically two parcels of land that comprise this green space - on either side of Plantation Street.
Coal Mine Brook was a fully operational coal mine from 1828 to 1838 fueled by Worcester Industry. It was planned that coal be loaded onto bags and floated down the river to Lake Quinsigamond, but the mine was eventually shut down in 1838 due to flooding. Both parcels are owned by the Greater Worcester Land Trust - the first parcel was acquired in 1998, and the second parcel in 2003.
Trinity Woods is located just north of the Green Hill Golf Course behind the Notre Dame Long Term Care Center.
Trinity Woods was acquired by the Greater Worcester Land Trust in 2011. Trinity Woods is not public use land - it is a restricted conservation area and the East-West Trail skirts its edge.
Green Hill Park
Green Hill Park is Worcester’s largest park at 482.4 acres and it has a storied history. The Adams family, later the Green family, and finally the city of Worcester managed and maintained the land. It was transformed from wooded hills, to farmland, to a country estate, and finally to the public park that we know today.
Green Hill park has numerous resources, both geographic and man made. It contains two ponds, a zoo, a picnic area, a playground, a little league field, basketball courts, an 18-hole golf course, handball courts, a restaurant, a pavilion, and a number of hiking trails. Additionally, the Worcester Parks Department headquarters is also located at Green Hill.
The land that is now Green Hill park was first cleared for settlement over three hundred years ago. Aaron Adams, an Englishman and one of the proprietors of the initial land grant, was one of the first to start managing the landscape.
In 1713, a group of settlers, Aaron Adams of Sudbury, England included, purchased eight square miles from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Adams eventually acquired 81 acres of land and built the first structure in 1714, establishing a farm on Millstone Hill. Around 1724, 100 acres adjacent to the farm was purchased by the town of Worcester to use as a quarry. In 1754, Dr. Thomas Green purchased 180 acres from Adams. This land and land that was added on at a later date became known as ‘Stormont’ or ‘Green Hill’
The son of Dr. Thomas Green, Dr. John Green, inherited the land and built the first Green family homestead in 1757. A generation after this, the Greens had expanded their landholdings, adding fifty acres and forming a small pond in the Bear Brook wetland, where Green Hill pond can be found today. William English Green added more to the property, when he purchased the quarry (although a court decision stated that the public could still mine quarry stone). His son, Andrew Green was given the family land totaling 287 acres in 1848. He increased the property size to 312 acres, transforming the site from a country farm into a large estate. Andrew Green went on to become Commissioner of Central Park in 1857, his roots in Worcester and support of landscaping and gardening playing a role in the development of his desire to improve city life through the development of parks and cultural institutions. In 1850, Andrew Green divided the original family home and built a new ‘mansion’ in between. His brother Martin Green came to live at the estate and manage it in 1872. Trained as an engineer, Martin Green made the decision to damn the Bear Brook valley and form the present day Green Hill pond.
Andrew Green died in 1903, leaving the estate of 529 acres to his nieces and nephews, who ended up selling the land to the city of Worcester. They contributed $50,000 towards the purchase price of $104,900. The land officially became Green Hill Park on December 27th, 1905.
The Green family mansion remained in the park until 1957, when it was demolished. Vandalism, damage from the hurricane of 1948, and maintenance costs all played a role in the decision to demolish the mansion.
Only a year after the land became a park, two rooms of the mansion were open to the public for use as ‘resting rooms’ for women and children. One room was used as a laboratory for students to study birds and another room was used as a lecture and meeting room by the Worcester Historical Society. In 1906, attendance at the mansion reached a height of 912 people. Also, in 1906 the Worcester City Missionary Society used the upper two floors of the mansion as a vacation spot for mothers with sick children and for those in need of convalescent care. Two large tents and a portion of the former Crawford Farm barn were also used a children’s hospital during the summer of 1906.
A 9-hole golf course was first constructed in 1919. It was later expanded to 18 holes.
In 1927, construction began the Memorial Grove, a living monument to the citizens of Worcester killed during WWI. It was dedicated in 1928. Unfortunately, many of the trees did not make it to the 21st century, but thanks to work by the Green Hill Park Coalition and the Worcester Tree Initiative, many have been replaced and all of those lost since the original planting will be replaced in 2017.
The Parks department building, on the former site of the Green Mansion, was dedicated in December of 1976. That building costs about $80,000 and was located on Crown Hill. That building was later removed, although the paved roadway can still be seen traversing the hill, from the Green Hill Parkway entrance. There was also a toboggan run on this hill sometime ago.
In 1929, a bowling green was opened at what is now the small playground area as seen from Lincoln Street. The bowling green was replaced by a pool, basketball courts, and archery practice area.
The park lost considerable land over the years. 7.24 acres of the park, the highest land at the park located on the top of Millstone Hill, was transferred to the State for the National Guard Armory in 1957. In 1967, the state took another 5 or so acres to construct 290, drastically altering the park land and resources at the Holland Recreation Area. More parkland was also lost for the construction of Worcester Technical High School.
The quarry, located to the left of Skyline drive if you are heading into the park, was used as a dump for many years both legally and illegally and in 1968 it was ordered closed. Considerable dumping took place there during the 40s and 50s and in the 60s the city used the quarry as a dump for building material that was often times burned, creating pollution that disrupted life for those living in the adjacent neighborhood. The quarry was reopened in 1971 as a sanitary landfill managed by the city. It was completed in 1973, graded and revegetated. This is the area on the top of the hill that is now a sports field, across from Worcester Tech. There is also a skate park there!
The Barnyard Zoo opened in 1974 after being refurbished. There were once buffalo, but not after 1974.
The Parks Department headquarters later moved to the Armory building on Skyline Drive, where it is still located today.
In 2002, Green Hill park became the home of the Massachusetts Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The memorial itself is four acres of pond, walking paths, flags, and large elegant stones inscribed with the names of each Massachusetts resident who died in combat or as a result of wounds suffered while in action in Vietnam. Some of the stones also display the text of letters written home by some of the soldiers who died.
Green Hill Park is supported by the Green Hill Park Coalition, a non-profit, membership organization dedicated to preserving the remaining acreage of Green Hill Park, to enhancing the park's natural and cultural resources, and to protecting the park through a conservation restriction
Grant Square Park
Grant Square is a small park of 1.5 acres is located on Green Hill off from Lincoln Street.
The City of Worcester acquired Grant Square as a gift in 1853. In 2016, the the Green Hill Neighborhood Association celebrated the official reopening of the park at their Annual Community Picnic. In 2015, the city completed stage one of the park’s rehab, installing a state-of-the-art playground, a brand new basketball court, and community garden beds.
Grant Square Park is supported by the Green Hill Neighborhood Association, a member organization of Park Spirit of Worcester, Inc.
Originally spanning 24 acres on the outskirts of town, the Rural Cemetery and Crematory was incorporated by the city of Worcester in 1838. The cemetery features beautifully crafted headstones and mausoleums carved from granite, marble, limestone, and other masonic materials. The Cemetery has curvilinear paths, both paved and dirt, that make walking it fairly simple.
As of 2017 over 13,000 individuals have been put to peace throughout the 40 acres that the cemetery now encompasses. Among the deceased lay many significant individuals from congressmen, mayors, and governors to professional people and war veterans. Construction of a new crematory began in 2016.
Founded as a donation to Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) by Stephen Salisbury III, Institute Park was born in 1887. Salisbury, a great Worcester philanthropist, believed WPI lacked sufficient land for their campus. As time went on, the WPI’s campus expanded into other areas and reduce their need for the park land. Originally the land, specifically Salisbury Pond, was used as a power source for Ichabod Washburn’s thriving wire business.
In 1912 Trustees of the Worcester Art Museum donated 6.4 acres to Institute Park further expanding its presence in Worcester. Many park amenities have been added through the years including: Tennis courts, swings, as well as the Levenson Concert Pavilion, which hosts the Massachusetts Symphony Orchestra for a few nights during the summer.
Salisbury Park is a beautiful 11.8 acres a top of Worcester's Prospect Hill. The park is named after famous Worcester businessman and philanthropist Stephen Salisbury III.
Salisbury Park features one of Worcester’s most unique attractions, Bancroft Tower. The tower is has medieval qualities and is 56 feet tall, boasting one of the most spectacular city views that Worcester has to offer. Stephen Salisbury III decided to erect the tower in 1900 after the passing of the great Worcester resident George Bancroft. Bancroft was famous politician, statesman, and writer (and the childhood friend of Salisbury III's father). Among many other accomplishments Bancroft is a founder of the United States Naval Academy and served as the U.S. Minister to Britain.
As city park and public amenity, respectfully, the city of Worcester own Salisbury Park and Bancroft Tower. Park Spirit opens Bancroft Tower to the general public on Sundays in October.
Newton Hill at Elm Park
Newton Hill at Elm Park was established when the city of Worcester purchased 61 acres of land, previously privately owned by Colonel John Wetherell and John Sterns. In the 1960s, the City of Worcester took 20-acres of park land to construct Doherty Memorial High School. The City has performed limited maintenance activities at Newton Hill since the early 1900s.
In 2001, the Friends of Newton Hill at Elm Park (FNH) was formed by neighbors in an effort to restore the park for public use and to beautify the space and maintain the trails. FNH has cleared and maintained a network of 6 wooded trails, installed a 18-hold disc-golf course, installed a 12-station fitness circuit, and installed a flagpole at the summit of the hill, among many other accomplishments.
Beaver Brook Park
Beaver Brook Park is one of Worcester’s most heavily used parks. This park is the home to Ted Williams Little League and the Worcester Vikings Football program.
Beaver Brook features ball fields, an inline skating rink, two playgrounds, a football field, and walking paths. Many of these amenities were recently redesigned to maximize the park’s usability and minimize injury. Located along Chandler Street across from Foley Stadium, the park is named, of course, for the natural Brook that runs through the park.
The Hadwen Arboretum is located on Lovell and May Streets. Bequeathed to Clark University by Obadiah Hadwen for historical and ecological purposes upon his death in 1907, the University created the interdisciplinary ‘Hadwen Project’ for students to document the various flora.
The Arboretum is home to over 40 different plant species and features several ‘heritage’ trees dating over 100 years old.
Knights of Columbus Park
Formerly known as the Knights of Columbus Property, this is one of Worcester's newest parks. It features Reed Field, located on the former Knights of Columbus property, a rectangular field for soccer and football, a new playground, and ample parking. It has been a city park since 2005, the new field and other amenities being completed around 2012.
The announcement for the Knights of Columbus Property was made by former Presidential Candidate and Mass Governor Mitt Romney. The Romney administration earmarked $500,000 for the city’s purchase of the seven acres of former Knights of Columbus woodland. That contribution paid for almost half of the $1.7 million dollar pay tag. The rest of the funds from the city, who paid some and also borrowed a bit in block grants to pay for it, and also the Greater Worcester Land Trust donated $145,000.
The Knights of Columbus property is one of the quintuplicate parks that surround Coes Reservoir, the others being Coes Pond Beach, Coes Knife Property, Columbus Park, and the Fenton parcel (the Fenton parcel is a city property but not technically a park).
Columbus Park is a small linear park on the back edge of Coe's Reservoir. It was a gift to the city from the Columbus Park Neighborhood Group in 1935.
This park features hiking trails, scenic views of the pond, and a beach (not supposed to be used for swimming). Swimming is available at Binienda Beach across the pond on Mill Street. You can access Columbus Park from North Circuit Ave off from Lovell Street.
This new park was named for the industry that preceded it, as it is located on the site of the former Coe's Knife Factory, at which the monkey wrench was invented in 1840.
The city acquired the property not too long ago to become park land, since the factory had been long removed. The site features a newly installed bridge connecting Coe's Knife to Columbus Park, historic Stearns Tavern to be managed on public land by the Seven Hills Foundation, and a new and million dollar multi-generational, all accessible playground.
John J. Binienda Memorial Beach
Formerly known as Coes Pond Beach, the Binienda Memorial Beach is a small park of just under two acres located right along Mill Street.
An acre and a half were taken away from the park in 1962 for the relocation of Mill Street. The beach was filled in and cribs and floats installed in 1929.
Tetasset Ridge is a woodsy plot of land located off from Mill Street in Worcester Massachusetts. This area is considered to be one of the best places to hike in Worcester largely because of its natural beauty and folklore associated with the area. If one hikes deeper into Tetasset Ridge they will find themselves located in God’s Acre, a 10 acre section of land that was dedicated to God by Solomon Parsons Jr. in 1840. The folklore associated with this area comes from Solomon Parsons and all the strange events that have taken place in God’s Acre. Tetasset Ridge also connects to Logan Field. The property has been owned by the Greater Worcester Land Trust since 2012.
John W. Spillane Field
Tatnuck Square’s Spillane Field, the former Bailey Prouty Playground, is on land that was originally leased from the Worcester Airport. It was historically operated by Jesse Burkett Little League, which still uses it as a field.
In 2009, Bailey Prouty Playground was revitalized, thanks to a donation from the Spillane Family. In light of that $50,000 donation, the park was renamed John W. Spillane Field. The city also provided $150,000 from the capital budget to fund new fences, landscaping, a new backstop, a scoreboard, safety improvements, and new playground. The late John W. Spillane was a lawyer and businessman from Worcester whose family often used the field.
Boynton Park is Worcester’s most enigmatic park - in the sense that it is a Worcester city park that is located in Paxton. It’s also Worcester’s second largest park at just over 114 acres.
Boynton Park was given to the city as a gift through the will of Charles D. Boynton. Boynton deeded the space to the city for one dollar, under the intentions that it would be used as a park, hospital or sanitarium for the people of Worcester and Paxton. The city actually debated whether or not to accept the gift, as it was thought that it was too far removed from the population to be much use (this is despite the fact that the trolley stop was located 100 yards away from the park entrance).
Boynton Park is unique, forested, public resource that it abuts or is connected by trail to several other municipal parks (Cascades Park) and publicly accessible yet privately owned green space (Cascades West, Cascades East, Cascading Waters, Cooks Pond), to which large maps at Boynton refer to as Worcester’s Northwest Parklands.
Cascades West was acquired by the Greater Worcester Land Trust in 1991 and it features a 3 miles of hiking trails, Kettle Ponds, and the Silver Spring. A stone amphitheater was created here, and it overlooks the Silver Spring and hiking trail of Tetasset Hills.
Accessed from Cataract Street off from Mower Street in the Tatnuck Square area, this park has some really cool history. The park land was once held by George Newton, when the Tatnuck area was a summer community with summer cottages for people looking to escape the city’s industrial center. It was gifted to the city from Newton in 1926. Prior to the role of the Cascades area being a hiking, summer recreation destination, the area was inhabited by Native American tribes. The park features picturesque cascading water (after a good storm), has an amazing network of hiking trails as well as a number of geographic feature, like the enormous boulders at the top of the waterfall area, resulting from glacial activity, and given the name Wunneompset, which means good/beautiful rock.
A Greater Worcester Land Trust property with a conservation restriction since 2005. The trail head to the East-West and the Northwest Parklands trail system and the home of the GWLT caretaker shelter.