BEACON FALLS — After a lot of hard work, sweat, and hours were poured into an overgrown and trash-covered piece of land, Beacon Falls has a new gem for passive recreation.
The land around the pond was covered with brush, which made the pond nearly inaccessible and not a place most people set out to.
However, Richard Minnick, who was named steward of Toby’s Pond earlier this year, has been leading an effort to change the landscaping and perception of the area.
“What was done is Charlie Edward and Brian Swan did the grating along the road and mowing of the main field and along the edges, clearing brush and shrub. They were using their heavy equipment doing that. John Smith and Jeff Smith helped dig post holes to put in signs,” Minnick said. “Mike Bouchard was cutting and clearing brush, and his daughter Annalie was helping us with that and helping clear up garbage.”
Minnick pointed out that there were many other people who came when they had the time to help transform the park.
“People come down when they can just to devote some time,” Minnick said.
The work has paid off in the amount of activity that the pond now sees.
“There’s fishing, kayaking, canoeing, a hiking trail and a number of people that go there that look at wildlife,” Economic Development Commission Chair Jeremy Rodorigo said. “There are people who go out there because they want to bring their dog for a walk. Some people want to do serious kayaking or canoeing. Some people say they pull out some good fish out of there.”
It is not just a few people who are now using the pond.
“There are many people down there. Two Saturdays ago there were three kayakers down there at 6 a.m.,” Minnick said.
Minnick explained that people are constantly using the park throughout the day and, during the weekends, it becomes very busy.
“Every time you go by you can look and see kayakers down there,” Minnick said. “The public is using it, and they’re really keeping it clean.”
This park is not attracting only the public, though. A scout from Troop 138 is planning on extending the trail and creating a camp site on the eastern side of the pond for his Eagle Scout Project, according to Minnick.
Camping is not currently allowed at Toby’s Pond. The park is under the jurisdiction of the Board of Selectmen, and it would be up to them to decide whether to allow any additional activities at the park, Minnick said.
The pond runs parallel to the Naugatuck River, just south of the intersection of Route 8 and Route 42.
O&G Industries deeded the pond to Beacon Falls in 2009 as part of a deal with the state Department of Environmental Protection. Before it became Toby’s Pond, the area was a sand and gravel operation for several decades. As part of the deal, O&G converted the area into a recreational park and is responsible for maintaining the barrier between the pond and the river as well as the inlet and outlet spillways to the pond. O&G also provided funds to the town for the upkeep of the area.
Until this year, the area has sat relatively untouched.
Now, the pond is beginning to draw people from surrounding areas as well as from town.
“A lot of people that go there are not from Beacon Falls. There’s a good mix of people from Beacon Falls and outside of Beacon Falls that go there. People are starting to learn there are things in Beacon Falls that are of interest. That’s good in a development sense. Hopefully when they go there they will spend money in town,” Rodorigo said.