Trail Tails: Pastoral postcard from The Parklands in Hopedale

Allan Jung

Since its creation in 1899, few parcels of land have received as much care and attention as Hopedale's The Parklands.

Tens of thousands of trees have been planted, the Hopedale Pond has been drained and dredged (in 1949), and bridges built and rebuilt. A beach and bath house as well as stone structures were added. It's easy to picture the stylish members of early-20th century society in large hats and parasols who once mingled on the banks of the pond.

The Parklands has weathered much over the years, including Mother Nature. An ice storm in 1908 and the 1938 hurricane devastated the tree population. Gypsy moths in 1909 and the Chestnut Bark Blight in 1915 also took out trees. Yet 10,000 red pines were planted in 1925 and between 1953 and 1955, Hopedale Boy Scout Troop 1 planted 2,700 spruce trees.

And, while The Parklands has waned in popularity since its heyday due in part to the large Canada geese population and aquatic plants covering the pond's surface little can surpass the beauty found here. The passing years have lent a maturity and peacefulness to the landscape. The many trees now blot out most of civilization and the countless birds provide an appealing soundtrack to your trek.

The nature trail, which loops around about three-quarters of Hopedale Pond, is the best walk in the area. The trail head starts after the large lawn area past the town beach and bathhouse at Hopedale and Dutcher streets. Watch out for the goose droppings. The only parking available at this end is along the grassy stretch of Hopedale Street (near the Little Red Shop) which runs between Freedom and Dutcher streets. There is a two-hour parking limit. The closed Draper Mill Complex overlooks this area of the park.

If you're here with a dog, this is the only section I would recommend on warm days. Leashes are required here. The main trail, which is quite shady, is about a half-hour walk from the trail head to the quaint, stone Rustic Bridge at the northernmost end of Hopedale Pond. The water is clearer on this stretch and often accessible directly or by the occasional small path.

The Rustic Bridge, popular with fisherman, is a great stopping point. You can admire the sweeping view of Hopedale Pond while listening to the deep base of bullfrogs and the lyric chirps of red-winged blackbirds as they dart among the cat tails. My dog, Leo, loves to watch the dragonflies as they flit over the water lilies.

A quicker way to this peaceful haven is from the Hazel Street entrance (at a yellow gate) which is off West Street (Rte. 140). Just take the main trail and bear right after the large piles of discarded stone.

Past the Rustic Bridge, the trail runs for about 20 minutes beween the pond and the former Draper Corporation's old rail line. If you don't mind your dog getting muddy there are places for him to get a drink on this side of the pond, although I think it may be best to bring water. There are also many more water lilies here. The trail ends at the Freedom Street entrance and another yellow gate.

Be aware the biting flies are worse on this side of the pond. Bug spray and a hat may be effective for you but they'll see your dog as a four-legged picnic.

A vast and very informative Web site to check out is the exhaustive "Images of America: Hopedale" which took co-author Dan Malloy five years to put together. On his site you'll find much more Hopedale history than I could ever fit here, including everything you've ever wanted to know about The Parklands. Click on and then click on Park, Pond and Sports. Also, the 1913 map of The Parklands is fairly useful even today.

Another good site is by the town of Hopedale,

Another good map can also be found at /ma/hopedale/698334319.