Sherwood Island State Park covers just over 235 acres in the Greens Farms section of Westport. It is bounded on the west by the Mill Pond and on the east by New Creek. Centuries ago, another creek (Gallup’s Gap Creek) ran roughly down the middle, with an island to its west (Fox Island) and marshland to its east.
In the 1600s, a group of farmers settled on land east of the present park. They shared the surrounding salt marsh and farmed what was then called Fox Island. At the same time Thomas Sherwood, a miller from Nottingham England, arrived in nearby Fairfield with his family.
In 1787, Sherwood descendents settled on Fox Island and acquired an existing gristmill on the Mill Pond. Through the 1800s, on what came to be called Sherwood’s Island, the Sherwoods grew abundant crops. Onions and potatoes in particular were sent by ship to New York in great quantity. The gristmill serviced local farmers until grain farming in the area declined.
In 1914, after surveying the coastline, the Connecticut State Park Commission determined that the Sherwood’s Island area was the only location in Fairfield County suitable for a shore park. By then, the land had many owners. For help in making acquisitions, the Commission turned to William H. Burr Jr., a Westport produce farmer, former state legislator and an activist for historical preservation.
Because the first property purchase was made in 1914, Sherwood Island is said to be Connecticut’s oldest state park; but many years passed before it was accessible to the public. By 1923, with William Burr acting as intermediary, the State had acquired 48 acres of land on the marsh. However, neighboring landowner objections held up further funding to buy uplands for parking and park facilities. Through continuing advocacy by Burr and several regional associations, funding for the key parcels was approved, but not until 1937. These purchases were instrumental in creating momentum that lead to additional acquisitions and recreational improvements.
Video Tour of Sherwood Island State Park (link to ‘The Outdoor Enthusiast’ - CT Public Broadcastings’ Media Lab online project)
Learn more about the park’s past by visiting the Friends of Sherwood Island history pages.