Frank G. Dwyer
August 1, 2002
Sometimes our close proximity to the ocean and our wonderful beaches here in Newburyport can make us forget some of the other terrific outdoor activities to be found around town. Maudslay State Park, located on Curzon Mill Road, is one of the gems that make our city great. The park offers a wide variety of activities to visitors on a year-round basis, including both recreational and cultural events for all ages.The Commonwealth purchased the 480-acre park in 1985 from the descendants of E.S. Moseley, a wealthy Boston financier who made a family retreat of the land along the Merrimack River. Besides being a great place for a variety of outdoor activities, the park offers some very dramatic and lush 19th century gardens along with boasting one of the largest naturally occurring strands of Mountain Laurel in the Commonwealth. As I’m no expert on flowers, and I was not entirely certain as to what exactly Mountain Laurel was, I did a touch of research and learned that the Mountain Laurel is the state flower of Connecticut and according to many, the most beautiful of native American shrubs. Its pungent fragrance and the massed richness of its white and pink blossoms so vividly contrast with the darker colors of the forests and the fields that they have continually attracted the attention of travelers since the earliest days, according to the State of Connecticut’s web site.
But I digress. Over the many years that I have lived in Newburyport, I have enjoyed Maudslay in a number of ways. Whether it is taking the dog for a leisurely walk with my family, or mountain biking on the wonderful trails that the park has to offer, I’ve never been disappointed with a visit. There was the one time several years ago that I had a nasty spill on my bike and broke my elbow, but that’s the only negative I have encountered at Maudslay, and it was certainly not the park’s fault.
Many people use the park as a fitness club, either enjoying a run or bike ride through the woods, or some great cross-country skiing in the winter. The large fields of Maudslay also afford themselves to great games of wiffle ball and touch football. In addition, there are 10 miles of horse trails and on any given weekend, many horses can be seen at the park, something my daughter enjoys immensely. The horse trails are shared with the mountain bikers, hikers and runners, so it’s important to pay attention.
Paying attention can have dividends other than avoiding a trail collision. You may see a variety of wildlife on any given visit to the park, including red-tailed hawks, migrating bluebirds, foxes, bald eagles, wild turkeys, deer and perhaps even a coyote. I’m not sure if there are coyotes, but I recently saw one, or a very mangy dog.
In addition to the wildlife you can see in the park, the Department of Environmental Management, the agency that manages the park, offers exciting programs throughout the year related to wildlife. A few weeks ago we were treated to a program which allowed my daughter to get very close to a hawk, snapping turtle, snake and capuchin monkey.
While saltwater fishing remains king in the area, the Merrimack River affords some excellent freshwater fishing as well, allowing an angler a chance at a wide variety of fish including bass, catfish, carp, shad and even the occasional Atlantic salmon. Many of the trails of Maudslay offer tremendous vistas of the Merrimack River from high above, but there is also accessible shoreline to the determined angler.
Seasonally, you can enjoy events at the park like hayrides, horse drawn sleigh rides and Family Day, which takes place at the park as part of Yankee Homecoming. Beyond the recreational and outdoor activities Maudslay offers, the park also has a thriving arts community offering musical and theatrical performances.
The Maudslay Arts Center, which according to their brochure has been described as the “mini-Tanglewood”, is a natural amphitheater allowing audiences to enjoy perfect acoustics and sight lines. If weather is inclement, the performances are moved into a nearby barn. The Center offers Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon concert series throughout the summer with some great jazz, folk and popular music performances. You can pick up a schedule at the park or by calling (978) 499-0050.
If you find yourself with a free afternoon, pay Maudslay State Park a visit and enjoy one of the great parks in Massachusetts. Maudslay State Park is open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset. There is a restroom adjacent to the ample parking lot off Curzon Mill Road. The phone number for the headquarters at the park is (978) 465-7223.