Open Space Map (3mb)

City of Shelton Open Space Marker

open space marker

This marker is used to identify Public Open Space owned by the City of Shelton.  It does not mark the exact location of the property line and may be as much as 100 feet away from the boundary, depending on site conditions.  The Conservation and Pedestrian Easements markers have a similar look but different text.

Land Trust Marker

The Land Trust is a private, non-profit group that owns 364 acres of open space in Shelton, marked with these signs.  People frequently confuse the Land Trust with the City of Shelton.

Wetlands Marker

These rectangular wetlands marker may be found in some newer subdivisions, usually on 4x4 posts. They mark the location of areas regulated by the Shelton Inland Wetlands Commission. These are generally on private property and are not related to open space. 

Reclaiming the Pearl Bach Open Space
May 2021

A sliver of land known as the Pearl Bach Open Space has been reclaimed for the residents of Pine Rock Park. The property had been used as a cut-through by summer crowds looking to spend the day at Stratford’s so-called “swimming hole.” After years of escalating problems with litter, noise, and parking, an 8-foot chain link fence was installed to separate Pine Rock Park's tiny open space from Stratford’s much larger Far Mill River Park, where the “swimming hole” is located (in spite of the name, swimming is prohibited).

The Pearl Bach property was donated by the Estate of Pearl Bach in 1996 to be used as a small park for the Pine Rock neighborhood, which is densely populated. The park consists of a 40-foot strip of land running for 350 feet alongside Manhassett Trail, comprising just a quarter acre.

Stratford’s Far Mill River Park park dwarfs the Pearl Bach property. The 58-acre park runs along the river for a full mile. Fifteen of those acres are located within the City of Shelton, but confusingly owned by the Town of Stratford. The park was purchased from the water company in the 1960s as a natural scenic area and intended for fishing and nature watching. Summer crowds were never anticipated, and there is no infrastructure to support them.

Parking on the Stratford side has been limited to one or two cars, and walking through the thick vegetation has been difficult. Historical access was via Pine Rock Park, mostly fishermen and nearby residents in relatively small numbers. The real problems began in the 1990s as the Internet grew in popularity. People as far away as New York and New Jersey began to learn about the Swimming Hole from online discussion boards and websites. Parked cars blocked the narrow streets of Pine Rock Park, and there were problems with litter and people disturbing the peace.

In response, the Police Department strictly enforced parking prohibitions and towed illegally parked cars. City officials first considered the idea of a fence in 2002, but held off installation due to the cost and concerns about blocking fishermen and residents from accessing the river.

In 2007, the Conservation Commission asked for public access to the Far Mill River as a condition of approval for a proposed office/retail building at #865 River Road. The goal was to relieve the parking stress from Pine Rock Park while still allowing the public to access the scenic river. The Shelton Trails Committee created a trail connecting the office building parking lot to the existing trail along the river, and multiple litter cleanup efforts were held.

The new public access worked well for a short time, but coincided with the rise of social media, and within a few years there were twenty or thirty cars parked there on the weekend. Enormous piles of litter were left behind in Far Mill River Park as well as the parking lot. The situation was untenable, so the public access was shut down and blocked with a security fence.

Photo: River access at 865 River Road was shut down.

People continued to try and get inside Far Mill River Park. A loaded car would pull up in front of the Pearl Bach property and a group of people would emerge with coolers and grills. The driver would leave, find a place far away to park, and walk in.

The summer crowds surged significantly in 2020 due to the pandemic, as they did in many parks. People needed to be outdoors, and some regional parks were shut down or only open on a limited basis (there was no swimming at Indian Well State Park, for example). Complaints about late-night parties escalated, and the Pearl Bach property was degraded with litter and rogue trails leading to the river. The installation of “no trespassing” signs had no impact. The Town of Stratford responded to the complaints by designating their two parking spaces as limited to Stratford residents only.

All were in agreement that a security fence needed to be installed. , with funding coming from a Pine Rock Park beautification fund. Conservation staff managed the project, with site preparation completed by Public Works and a fencing contract secured by the Purchasing Agent. The fence chosen was 8-feet tall, since people had proven to be very resourceful in their efforts to reach the Swimming Hole. It was coated with black vinyl to keep the neighborhood attractive, and the abutting neighbors were asked how they wished the fence to end at their properties. And a locked gate was added for emergency access.

Going forward, people seeking access to the river will be instructed to contact the Town of Stratford.