By Dave Sigworth, publicist of The Maritime Aquarium
Here’s a little bonus suggestion for when you visit The Maritime Aquarium: take a stroll outside afterward.
We hope you already know about all the nearby shops and restaurants worth walking to in South Norwalk. (They’re primarily just around the corner from our IMAX Theater, on historic Washington Street.) But there’s another nice opportunity for a walk that goes in the opposite direction, starting from our main entrance and leading up to the city’s Oyster Shell Park.
Park improvements were completed this spring, featuring native plantings (which offer habitat for native animals), large art installations, a clever hilltop plaza and lovely river views throughout.
It’s a big change from what the place used to be, up until 1979: the city landfill.
In 1988, the site was selected to become a state heritage park, as a way to improve (and give access to) the primo riverfront location, to celebrate its history (it once was a place where native Americans discarded oyster shells, hence the park’s name), and to connect the Aquarium & SoNo with Mathews Park (home to the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum and Stepping Stones Museum for Children) just on the other side of I-95.
The initial work included capping of the landfill and construction of the walkway, a fishing pier, interpretative signage, lighting and other improvements. The park officially opened in 2001.
Recently, “open space” needs for the city’s Reed-Putnam development brought new energy into making more park improvements. A new master plan was completed in 2006 and, in 2010, the park was selected as one of the first landscapes to participate in the Sustainable SITES Initiative, a new national program that will rate “green” landscape design, construction and maintenance. (Learn more at www.sustainablesites.org). Essentially, the park is very green – and will only get greener if and when Phase II is done.
The city’s Redevelopment Agency has worked with BSC Group of Glastonbury in designing the park, with a focus on art, education and the environment. The master plan received a “Merit in Landscape Analysis & Planning” award from the Boston Society of Landscape Architects.
So anyway … suffice to say that it’s a nice place for a walk, or a run, or to ride your bike.
From our front door, walk over to the picnic pavilion by the Norwalk River and then follow the sidewalk north. Stop and read the interpretative signs. Enjoy the views and the wildflowers and marsh grasses. Look for egrets and cormorants and – if you’re lucky – ospreys or herons.
Visiting the park just outside the Aquarium is a great way to connect with the message of appreciation, conservation and stewardship of Long Island Sound, which we preach inside the Aquarium every day.