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Chvisuk Strives to Preserve Peter’s Rock Park for Future Generations

By Marji McClure

Publication: Shore Publishing

Published March 19. 2012 4:00AM   Updated March 20. 2012 3:42PM
Photo by Marji McClure/The North Haven Courier
Sharing North Haven's hidden treasure-Peter's Rock Park-is Joanne Chvisuk's not-so-hidden passion.

To say that Joanne Chvisuk is an active person is an understatement. In both her personal and professional lives, Joanne is always on the move.

During the week, she's on the go as a medical sales professional, in the car traveling to each of her accounts throughout Connecticut.

During her spare time, Joanne spends a lot of hours at Peter's Rock Park. As a seven-year member of the Peter's Rock Association (PRA)-and current second vice president-she is on the move at the park, hiking the trails and helping maintain the natural beauty of the site. She is an avid hiker, frequenting Sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden and Westwoods in Guilford.

After moving to North Haven 10 years ago, Joanne became involved in the association when she saw an advertisement about an open meeting to discuss the future of the property. Since she lives near the park, Joanne decided to attend the meeting just to get information about those future plans.

"I went to meeting after meeting after that," says Joanne, who, along with the other members, is committed to maintaining and improving the property. Peter's Rock consists of 220 acres of open space. Its highest point is the summit at 373 feet.

Once a month, the association members work at the park, pulling weeds, raking leaves, removing brush, and performing general maintenance on the grounds. Earlier this month, though, members arrived to a very unpleasant sight. Vandals had spray-painted signs throughout the entire park.

"Instead of doing what we were supposed to do that day, we had to repaint the signs," says Joanne.

The vandals also pulled the railings off a bridge that goes over a stream. An Eagle Scout had built the bridge. Peter's Rock members had to repair the bridge immediately, since the missing railings posed a safety issue.

Joanne and the other members are disappointed that vandals have caused damage to a place they enjoy and want others in the community to enjoy as well.

The park is open to the public, but for those who want to participate in a more formal gathering, the PRA is holding an early spring hike on Sunday, March 25 at

1 p.m. Hikers are asked to meet at the main entrance of the park at 133 Middletown Avenue, behind the First Fuel Gas Station.

Joanne says it's a great time of year to visit the park because the view is not obstructed by trees.

"The panoramic view is phenomenal," she says.

Joanne says an association member guides the hike, so people don't have to worry about navigating the park themselves.

"Most people want to see the summit. The summit is the highlight of the hike," says Joanne. "It's one mile up and one mile back."

Joanne says another hike is planned for June. A January hike had to be cancelled due to bad weather. The association members want people to attend these hikes and more.

"Our goal is to have people use the park seven days a week," says Joanne.

As the association's program member chair, Joanne works on a fall festival held in October as a thank you to the membership. The festival features free food (from hot dogs to snacks) and hikes.

During the festival and at all times, park visitors can enjoy the improvements the association has made to the picnic area, which include an expanded parking lot. A cupola that replicated the old hermitage on the park property was placed on top of the pavilion near the parking area. Past Person of the Week Walter Brockett assembled the cupola and other members helped set it in place earlier this year.

The association is working on another parking area now. The group received a donation for a shed, which will be located in that area, along with an amphitheater, which Joanne says the association expects will be in place by the end of the year.

The amphitheater will enable the association to invite groups, such as those of school children, to come to the park and conduct lectures on nature topics.

"Hopefully, [the children] will take ownership of it and take their families there," says Joanne. The park "really is North Haven's best-kept secret," adds Joanne. "We go to Earth Day at the middle school and many people say that they never knew it existed."

Joanne is working to change that. She is a liaison between the association and the high school. She says high school officials are going to assess if it makes sense for the school's cross country team to use the park for training or as a home course. The association has also issued an invitation to the middle school to see if it would like to start a hiking club.

Joanne encourages people who are interested in joining the association to do so at Sunday's hike. They can also visit the association's website (www.petersrockassociation.org) for more information.

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