Spring brings so very many wonderful treats to all of us. The birds are singing. The flowers are blooming, right? April showers bring May flowers. The saying holds true but what if it's no April showers but March showers that didn't stop through April and never drained the winter snow. Oh and eight floods of the park after Labor Day 2018? To put it kindly, we are wet.
Originally, back in the 1940's when Frank Harden built the park (as then a home and weekend retreat from New York City) the South end of the park was basically wetlands. A big swamp. Much of the land was filled in with loads of dirt delivered daily to the property. It may sound crazy by today's standards but back then, it would have been regular practice, reasonable and acceptable.
The funny thing about our dear friend Mother Nature is that she reclaims what is hers. One way or another and at her own pace. So after almost 80 years, she is now reclaiming HER park a bit with all of this rain. We get it, we understand and respect her completely and we ask that you do the same. Be careful where you park and even walk at times.
The park is wet. The park is gorgeous and green but the grass will be a bit high until we can actually mow it. The ground is just too soft to get the machines on it. So while we apologize for some of the overgrown appearance it is certainly not for a lack of trying or neglect. It is simply Mother Nature telling us to wait it out. So we will wait and address the growth when we can. We are sure that you understand what's going on but if you have questions, Mother Nature is readily available. :)
At least it's green, growing and not cold, right?
My earliest recollections of coming to Harrybrooke Park as a child revolve around three things.
I loved feeding the fish in the pond.
I loved burning my butt on the "giant" slide.
And above all else, it was the coolest thing to see the peacocks. They seemed to be from another planet and where else could a young boy in the 70's get to see such a magnificent animal? Maybe on Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom if I was lucky enough to catch that episode, or in an encyclopedia. But we weren't going to the zoo too often and certain no one had them in their yard in my neighborhood.
In the coming days we will be announcing the "Welcome Home" party for the peacocks as they strut their way back into Harrybrooke Park. Yes, they ARE coming BACK in May.
I am having a hard time putting it into words what this means, personally, let alone what it means for the park or for the community of New Milford. I think the word is nostalgia.
"Can we go see the peacocks?" was question asked by so many children for years. The word peacock heard throughout my life was always synonymous with Harrybrooke and frankly still is. This memory is so deeply rooted in so many of our childhoods that it was one of the first things I lobbied the board for when I first started working here over three years ago. These birds are so very important to us and I began to question why, and why they ever left.
Ok, so to see something so rare to our area was pretty special right? It'd be like seeing an elephant or a kangaroo in the park today. That might actually freak me out a little. Peacocks are elegant. Peacocks are so unique and beautiful that they fee regal and majestic. They had had such impact throughout history all over the world. In Greco-Roman mythology the peacock tail has the "eyes" of the stars. In Hinduism, the peacock is associated with Lakshmi who represents patience, kindness and luck. In Persia the peacock is seen as a guardian to royalty, and is often seen in engravings upon their thrones. In Christianity the peacock represents the "all-seeing" church. So the Hardens who gave us Harrybrooke Park may not have been royalty, but in doing the research were connected to such royalty in Ireland and certain come from opulence which translates, in this case, to the peacock.
For me, it was a bit of a quest and responsibility. I felt as if I owed it to the next generation, and all of those within the last 30 years, to allow them the same opportunity that we had so long ago.
I researched the board of managers' notes and cannot see any discussion of them being sick, or dying off. It appears as though they had lived their life here and when they died, the board (at the time) expected the concept to die with them. That is certainly not the case.
As I mentioned I have been here for over three years now (which feels unreal, I still feel so new here) and people ask me at least 3-4 times per week when they are coming back.
The current Board of Managers for the park, I have to say has been quite understanding to what the public wants. So we are cleaning the peacock shed, built a new cage and are well on our way to preparing their new home. The size and security of the enclosure should be sufficient for them to have space. I will be picking them up from a family man who has raised them his whole life in PA. And yes it's a "them" as we are bringing a mated pair.
Then we had to decide what to call them. They do need names and while the farmer's son had his own name for the male, the female didn't have a name. Considering they represent all that I mentioned above, there really was no option but to name them Frank and Liz, the first names of the Hardens. It is my hope that their names might spark conversation so that more people may learn of the Hardens and understand what an incredible gift they left us here in New Milford.
So keep an eye on the website and social media in the coming days as we announce the PROUD return of the peacock (and peahen) to Harrybrooke Park. In all sincerity, it is one of the top things (if not the top) I am so incredibly proud of when it comes to the work in the park.
We all hope you enjoy seeing them back home, where peacocks should always belong.
Growing up in New Milford, I heard kids making fun of our "bodunk" town. It always stung to hear the Danbury kids call us a cow town for whatever reason. I could tell they were trying to insult us in some way, but I never really could figure out why that was a put down. Cows rock. I love milk and ice cream and cheese. I guess they don't. I dunno! I was proud at a young age of our town because it's simply pretty amazing. Or as we'd say in the 80's it was "totally awesome, dude." And y'know what? It still is totally awesome.
We have our Spring cleanup here this weekend. I was involved in my first Spring Cleanup at the park about 8 or 9 years ago which is long before I worked here. I am still amazed to see our friends and neighbors (odd that we separate those isn't it?) show up with rakes and leaf-blowers and help clean up the park. I get it, people are busy and it's Spring so every yard and house needs that cleaning to get that stench of Winter behind us. I'm not being flip when I tell you it brings a tear to my eye and I literally get goosebumps when I see families showing up to put a little sweat equity into "The People's Park." I have had to stop and collect myself as it's overwhelming to see what an amazing community we are all a part of. Yes, I ended that sentence with a preposition. It happens.
April is such an interesting month. The cold snaps and the sun comes back out to get it all going again. Flowers begin to pop up and the energy level simply rises, like a morning sun. It's a beautiful month. The Clean-up really kicks off what was always considered "park season" around here. The egg hunt has grown into something far bigger than we had ever dreamed of and last year welcomed over 600 kids. Every kid got a book and had the chance to meet with the Easter Bunny. No one "missed the fun" or was turned away. it was truly a joy to see. As a private park, we do not receive help from the town in cleanup or in funding so it's really difficult to maintain a 48-acre park on a smaller budget with growing expenses. Our community is responsible for our success. And what is success? Success is a safe, clean and natural place for activity. That's how I see it anyway for us. And I believe in that regard, we truly are successful, but we also need so much help.
At the end of the month, we are taking part once again in Give Local. This is a 36-hour online donation event. A bunch of Western CT takes part in this event and some don't know what it really is. To break it down to simple terms, the CT Community Foundation organizes this event where every donation made by someone in the public is met by a percentage of matching dollars from some large corporate sponsors. In the past we have received about 12% more in each donation. So if someone gives $50, we receive $56. It doesn't sound huge, but it IS because it all adds up. We hope that you consider a small (or large) donation to Harrybrooke Park this year to help us maintain that "success" I mentioned earlier. And yes, we hope you contribute to other groups that you hold close to your heart. I know that I do, and we can all give a little to make a BIG LOCAL difference.
So what is this community? It's not just the tangibles. It's all of the intangibles. It's the giving of sweat equity. It's including your kids to help clean up their park. It IS a small contribution financially when you can spare it. A community is people coming together for one another and giving us all those goosebumps that are a sign from the universe that we are simply getting it right. Thank you all for your continued support. It does NOT fall on deaf ears. It is greatly appreciated ... and yeah, peacocks should be here very very soon :)
The first day of Spring and it feels like we have hit the ground running. Harrybrooke Park is lit with bright sunshine as the wake-up call to the entire place saying "It's SHOWTIME!" I have to say, boy is it ever. We have loads to do and can't wait to dive in. The last 6-8 months have been quite challenging and let me share a bit of what's going on.
I have recently spoken with our friends at Candlewood Valley Country Club (just across the lovely Still River) who are facing many of the challenges that we are. Since Labor Day we have faced 8 floods of the park and many of them froze over. Tremendous amounts of water and ice can truly cause damage and they have. It will take us some time to recover and we ask for your patience in this process.
The good news? Well I'm so very glad you asked!
The rumors are true, and the majestic peacock (and a peahen) are returning to Harrybrooke Park for the first time in about 30 years!
I get asked almost daily "When will the park bring the peacocks back?" Well I have been here about 2 and a half years now so that's a lot of asks! I am so proud ... proud as a peacock ... to shout to the word, they are on their way back home to Harrybrooke Park.
What's even more amazing is that they will return to the place where they once were as well. The original peacock shed will once again house our feathered friends.
Ok so here's the "catch" from our wonderful board of managers to make this happen. We must receive support from the public in order to keep them. We will need volunteers to help feed and care for the birds and this will also take earmarked dollars contributed to the birds' care. Both time and money are necessary to keep them here.
Simply click the link below and you can drop us a donation:
It's that easy.
If you'd prefer to give time, it is certainly of equal value and simply respond to this and we will put your name down as a peacock volunteer.
Thank you for all of the peacock love and support and know that all of those inquiries are what made this happen. Your continued support will keep them here.
We have had a long and cold winter. Very long for some of us. The best thing about Spring is how quickly it arrives, but sadly the worst is how fast it disappears. The park has a usual flood in early Spring, but it quickly soaks back in and the flowers bloom. We are past that point now and from the Magnolias to the Dogwoods, the Rhododendrons to the "Forget-Me-Nots", everything comes up quickly and beautiful here in Harrybrooke.
Spring also brings "Who Are You Carrying?" on the day before Memorial Day. This event is one to participate in, and certainly to be a spectator for. Each team completes 2,500 reps of our "Hero's workout" in memory of Jason D. Lewis. Jason's Mom (A Gold Star Mom) and his family will be on hand as well. The ceremony of the day opens with our welcoming of "Old Glory" to the park for the season. This year we have received a new American Flag donated by our local Chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution. This will be raised by local veterans in honor of all who have given their lives for our great nation. The teams are as large or as small as people would like as the complete the workouts in memory of someone they carry in their hearts with their names on their back. It's a moving event, sure to bring tears and wonderful memories. As a spectator or participant, you do not want to miss this event.
This Spring also brings repair and new things to Harrybrooke. You will see the roofs of the caretaker's cottage AND the barn being replaced. For the barn, this is the first time this has ever been done since it was built in 1943. This is only possible thanks to the love, affection and giving of our great community. We will be working on many new projects at once to beautify and repair. We ask your forgiveness for our mess and noise at times but it's all for the betterment of your park.
Finally, we are looking to begin "Phase 2" of the memorial brick walkway at the close of Spring. This is your last chance to get your brick that will be placed in the gated garden. Click the link here to order yours today:
Thank you. Spring isn't the same without seeing our friends return for a walk or a jog, to see the kids learning to ride their bikes and to see ALL of our friends returning to take it all in. Thank you all so very much for supporting the park in so many ways.
Hello you crazy friends (and friends we have yet to meet) and thanks for stopping by. 2018 is set to be a huge year for Harrybrooke Park. Below is our NEW Newsletter. We are going to try to do them quarterly this year and if possible, monthly. If you'd like to receive our newsletter electronically or via good ole USPS, drop us an email and we will make that happen! If you'd like to be featured or to be a sponsor of it, LET US KNOW we'd love to have you on board!
"I don't have time."
"We have just so much going on."
"They don't need OUR help."
We all know the excuses and some are truly justified. We don't argue that. People say it all the time. But let's help break down where we are as a community and why the number 168 should matter to anyone. Grab an old fashioned piece of paper and a pen ... I'll get to that in a minute.
Last week, I had a young woman approach us and say "Something in my life has been missing and I would like to volunteer at the park." Heartwarming words and I know that we can deliver and help her find that family and friendship right here in the park. SO many of our volunteers are finding us in their 30's, 40's and 50's because life is moving fast and they wanted to be a part of the community. Part of ... something.
When I was a kid, my parents were always involved in 100 things. March of Dimes, Scouting, the firehouse, the lodge ... this list goes on and on. I was raised in a family that gave to the community so it was never an options, we just did. I didn't realize until years later that this wasn't "normal" for most families. I firmly believe that is what's missing in MANY lives in ANY community and that's the feeling of involvement. Yes, we are all busy but I don't have any more time than you do, and you have no more time in your life than your neighbor. 168.
168 is the number of hours in a week. 24 times 7 equals 168. Ok big deal, I can do math right? So here in an exercise for you to do. Grab that old fashioned piece of paper and a pen (or pencil, go really old school number 2 pencil) and write "168" at the top. Now write the word "sleep" ... under that "eating" ... "work" ... and so on for every activity that you do each week. A row for bathroom or hygiene. I want you to account for your day. TV time. Walking your dog. Account for every hour of the week. When you're done, add them up and subtract from 168. The overwhelming majority of people cannot account for 25-40 hours of their week. That's a massive amount of time.
Now ... what do you plan to do with the time you just found? Do you want to exercise more? A great idea. Do you want to learn a new language or take a college course? You can! You are finding time! You are LITERALLY MAKING TIME! Ok, so what if you took 2 or 4 hours/week and helped out in the community? Rewarding. Making new friends. Finding new interests.
We become a better and safer community when we work together to do so. There are MANY non-profits in town. MOST of which would love a phone call or an e-mail saying "how can I help?" Walk the dogs at Animal Welfare? Hand out flyers for a fundraiser? Plan an event? We all enjoy the help.
There is a peace found in giving of yourself for the betterment of others. Our park (yours and mine) requires about 10,000 hours of community volunteers to help us keep it looking good and feeling safe. We would love to be just one of your 168 ... or of your 672 (4 weeks or a month) if you'd like to come outside and be a part of what I feel is the greatest gift ever given to our town's people.
Volunteers aren't paid because they're worthless but because they're priceless. Would you like to be a friend of Harrybrooke? We love new friends.
When Frank Harden built what is now Harden House Museum, it was no whim. Frank lived in NYC and wanted an escape. He wanted a getaway into the country that would remind him of where he grew up, in Northern Ireland. He searched NY, NJ and into CT and all over New England. He refused to settle and then was shown this property along the Still River here in New Milford. The property was that of the Golembeski family and had been used as farm land, but only a part of it. The rest was swampland and quite unusable. Frank didn't see it that way. He saw opportunity. What sold him most on the property is in this photograph taken by Tom Allen of New Milford this past week. The bend of the Still River at the falls (referred to as the Great Falls or Elbow Falls) reminded Frank of Ireland, which was where he grew up as a boy. If you visit it today, aside from the condos through the trees, you might say the same. Back when he made the purchase, Frank could see only a couple old barns in this same location. They likely had belonged to the old Still River Iron Works, but overall it has the feel of old Irish country.
Frank purchased the property and built the house to view the Elbow Falls. The house was built by HH Taylor and Sons, here in New Milford and completed by 1942. The New Milford Times featured a front page story featuring the Hardens' house on April 30, 1942 as it was almost completed. What I love is how this was a simpler time where people could read a story about a home on an estate. It's truly a wonderful story.
This hidden area of the falls was not well known to anyone in Lanesville or any of New Milford but can now be seen any day of the year here in Harrybrooke Park. Frank built a weekend estate off of the beaten path and today, we are still considered by some to be the "Hidden Gem" of New Milford.