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Massacoe State Forest

Overview/History

In the midst of suburban development, Great Pond’s 297 acres of open space are a welcome relief. Here nearly five miles of trails help you explore the relatively flat, quiet woodlands and provide access to Great Pond itself which, at 36 1/4 acres, is Simsbury’s largest open water body. And it isn’t by accident it is preserved today.

Part of the legacy of Connecticut pioneer forester James L. Goodwin is that he recognized the need to preserve forest spaces long before others. The James L. Goodwin State Forest is dedicated to his work in eastern Connecticut, but his legacy spreads statewide, and Great Pond is a part of that. Here Goodwin began a commercial nursery in 1932. On 35 acres he developed a varied-age white pine plantation, the vestiges of which can still be seen in the pine grove south of the pond. It was his land, willed to the state after his death, which became the nucleus of today’s state forest.

Bird watching has been popular here as the pond increasingly attracts resident and migratory populations of birds and waterfowl. Spring and fall are particularly popular. A network of trails probes the 297 acres. The most popular is the pond loop trail which, at 1.25 miles, is a generally flat and easy to negotiate pathway.

The 73 acre Massacoe block has a history unto itself. This section, about 1.25 miles SW of the Stratton Brook State Park’s beach area, abuts and is most easily accessed by Stratton Brook’s popular bike and walking rail trail. Here Goodwin set out to prove that land repeatedly burned by sparks and ash fly from the passing railroads could be productively renovated with proper forestry practices. This experimental area is now forested with diverse deciduous trees including red oak, black oak, scarlet oak, white oak, red maple, sugar maple, birch, hickory and yellow poplar. Though seemingly a small block, these 73 acres abut 319 acres of Simsbury open space, most noticeably Onion Mountain Park, which adjoins immediately to the west.