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    Thursday, July 18, 2024

    Quest Day brings treasure hunt-style hikes to New London and Groton

    Fort Trumbull in New London (Photo courtesy of the Thames River Heritage Park)
    Quest Day brings treasure hunt-style hikes to New London and Groton

    Did you know that the red Ebenezer Avery House at the bottom of Fort Griswold State Park was used as an infirmary for injured soldiers at the Battle of Groton Heights? Did you know that a member of the Pequot Tribe was killed in that battle? Did you know that the little brick house within the fort was used to heat cannonballs? Conceivably, those might be easy facts to overlook or forget, but those are just some of the small details that you’ll learn, or relearn, if you take part in Thames River Heritage Park’s first Quest Day — a self-guided treasure hunt-style educational hike organized in recognition of Connecticut Trails Day.

    Quest Day, which was organized by the Thames River Heritage Park and Connecticut Sea Grant, takes place June 2 and features three separate hikes to complete in either Groton’s Fort Griswold State Park, New London’s Fort Trumbull State Park or New London’s Waterfront Park. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can partake in all three.

    Go on one of these hikes, and you’ll lead yourself through a bevy of clues and riddles, all related to local history and ecology. Choose Fort Griswold, and you’ll meander up and down its steep hills and through the twisting path known as the Covered Way. At Fort Trumbull, wander throughout the fort’s parapets. Or at the Waterfront Park, walk along the piers and enjoy the sounds of the train and ferries leaving port. All three parks offer sweeping views of the river from different vantage points. All three quests touch on variations of local lore.

    “Families are going to be outside and engaged in a fun educational experience while learning about American history, our region and of course our environment,” Amy Perry, executive director of the Thames River Heritage Park, says of the event.

    “This is also an opportunity for a lot of the people that live in this area, especially kids, who have never seen their hometown from the vantage point of the Thames River, to do that with the water taxi,” Perry says, referring to the Thames River Water Taxi that will be running between all three locations throughout the day. “If we can get people on that boat and get a look at where they live, they will have a much nicer appreciation for home and for the history of this area.”

    In addition to all-day service, the water taxi will run free between 10 a.m. and noon — offering an opportunity for families to participate in the day free of charge, if timed right.

    Having first heard of the idea of a “Quest Day” from Judy Benson of Connecticut Sea Grant, Perry says she was immediately thrilled by such a prospect.

    “I thought, 'Fun. What a great idea. Great exposure for our sites and just the kind of thing we are trying to do,'” she says.

    Benson had conceived the idea after traveling to Oregon for a conference in September. There, she took part in a Quest Day along the Oregon Coast.

    “I thought it was such a great idea that I had to steal it,” Benson says. “Working with the Heritage Park, then, seemed like a natural tie in with the idea.”

    Making the idea come together was a fairly straightforward process from there. Benson created hikes for both the New London Waterfront Park and Fort Trumbull, while Marian Galbraith, president of Heritage Park and former mayor of Groton, wrote Fort Griswold’s.

    “It wasn’t too hard to write them, actually,” Benson says. “It was pretty fun once I got started with it. The interpretive signs around the parks are what I used for the guide, and I went naturally along the paths that were already created there, and I just looked for interesting details. I didn’t want to make it too easy or too hard. Some of the things are easy, and some you have to think a little more about it.”

    Prospective Quest Day-goers are asked to register for the free event on the Heritage Park website. Maps for each quest will be available for printing through a link provided over the website on June 1.

    Aside from Quest Day itself, Perry says she hopes that hikers will take the initiative to explore downtown New London and Groton’s Thames Street, including their museums, galleries and restaurants.

    “You don’t have to leave after you do the Quest,” she says. “So stick around and enjoy everything else there is in the area.”

    m.biekert@theday.com

    If you go

    Where: Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park's quest begins at 301 Thames St., Groton. Fort Trumbull State Park's quest begins at 90 Walbach St., New London and Waterfront Park's quest begins at 1 Water St., New London at City Pier.

    When: All day June 2. Quest maps can be found and downloaded June 1 at www.thamesriverheritagepark.org.

    Price: Free

    Transportation: The Thames River Water Taxi will run between all three sites from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday. Free rides will be available from 10 a.m. to noon. An adult round trip is $10, an all-day pass is $15. Children and active military round trip is $5, all-day pass is $10. Children 3 and under ride free.

    Contact: info@thamesriverheritagepark.org 

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