NATURE
by Kezia Bacon, Correspondent

This month the North and South Rivers Watershed Association’s “50 Places to Explore” contest, which encourages the public to visit conservation lands and other open space areas, features properties in Weymouth, as well those located on the land that used to be the South Weymouth Naval Air Station.

Weymouth is a large town, with 46 parks and recreation areas. I’m still getting to know them all! Below is a sampling of places you can visit when you’re in the mood for a walk. Some of these are wooded, others are coastal. All provide a welcome alternative to the busy streets of this densely developed town.

Webb Memorial State Park
This grassy peninsula between the Back and Fore Rivers is the only mainland portion of the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area. Its flat, easy walking trail — a 1-mile gravel loop — offers water views and a glimpse of the property’s military history. In the 1950s, a Nike anti-aircraft missile launcher was constructed here. It stood at the ready (never deployed) until the site was deactivated in 1974. Ample on-site parking at 361 River Street. Read more at
https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/webb-memorial-state-park/

Abigail Adams State Park / Kibby Property
Part of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation’s (DCR) Back River Reservation, these adjacent properties once housed a car dealership and a marine dredging operation. The Abigail Adams parcel was designated a state park in 2016. Both are part of the Back River Trail, a series of open space properties along the Weymouth Back River. A wide walking trail runs along the river’s edge for 0.7 miles. Plans are in place to extend it under the Route 3A bridge to Great Esker Park. The property also includes a large grassy field. Large on-site parking area on Bridge Street/Route 3A at the Hingham/Weymouth town line. Read more at https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/abigail-adams-state-park/

Great Esker Park
This beautiful park on the Back River features a forest-covered gravel ridge and an expansive salt marsh, with stunning views of the estuary. Follow the wide paved trail for about 1.5 miles along the top of the esker from Bridge Street to Osprey Overlook Park. Generally stroller and wheelchair friendly, some portions are hilly and steep. There is also a network of narrower, unpaved trails through the woods and along the edge of the salt marsh (6.3 miles altogether). Large parking area at 7 Elva Road. Read more at https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/great-esker-park/

Osprey Overlook Park
Recently transformed from a landfill to a scenic park with spectacular views of the Weymouth Back River, the property features an interpretative panel with information about the osprey that fish and nest nearby. Part of the Back River Trail system, Osprey Overlook Park links directly to Great Esker Park. The ¾ miles of paved trails offer access for all and link directly to Great Esker Park. Park at the end of Wharf Street. Read more at https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/osprey-overlook-park/

Pond Meadow Park
This large municipal park, jointly owned by the towns of Weymouth and Braintree, features a wide, paved 2-mile loop trail around a 20-acre pond. It is mostly flat, but some sections are steep and winding. Granite posts mark every half mile. Climb the stairs near the dam for far-reaching views. The park offers several additional color-coded trails through woods, meadows and wetlands. This is a popular spot for jogging, bike riding, and cross-country skiing. The Weymouth entrance, with limited parking, is on Summer Street. There is a larger parking area at the Braintree entrance, 470 Liberty Street. Read more at https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/pond-meadow-park/

Union Point Northern Gateway Trails
Two miles of trails on the former Naval Air Station property. A mix of natural surface, crushed stone, concrete and paved walkways through woodlands and meadows. While the landscape may not be visually arresting, it offers some insight into the property’s military past. Naval Air Station South Weymouth was commissioned in March 1942, remained active for several decades, and was selected for shutdown after the end of the Cold War in 1991. The final aircraft took off from the base in September 1996, and the official closure happened a year later. Park at Southfield Dog Park, 25 Memorial Grove Ave. Read more at https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/union-point-northern-gateway-trail-network/

Twin Ponds Trail
This property is situated in the corner of the former NAS land where Rockland, Abington and Weymouth come together. It offers nearly 2 miles of trails through the woods and around two small ponds. Looking north from the trailhead, the open field before you appears vast. It’s easy to imagine the runways that existed here not very long ago. There are numerous rocky outcroppings within this parcel, plus several old stone walls. Before it was a military base, the property was a hog farm. Follow the blue blazes. On-site parking area on Spruce Street, at the Abington-Rockland town line. Read more at https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/twin-ponds-trail/

Thompson Pond Trail
Right beside the Twin Ponds Trail property, and sharing a parking lot, this parcel offers nearly two miles of trails as well — this time through forest, and meadow, and around another pond. Thompson Pond, which is manmade, was created to help restore the natural wetlands that existed on this site prior to the Naval Air Station. The trail heads north through a meadow. You can follow a wide road or choose a narrower route through the grass. Red blazes lead the way, ultimately creating a loop that begins and ends beside the pond. Most of the trail is flat, but there are sections near the pond with a relatively steep slope. On-site parking area on Spruce Street, at the Abington-Rockland town line. Read more at https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/thompson-pond-trail/

Kezia Bacon’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to protecting our waters. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit www.nsrwa.org. You will also find 20+ years of Kezia’s Nature columns there. For more information about the 50 Places to Explore Contest,” visit https://www.nsrwa.org/get-outdoors/enter-the-nsrwa-50-places-to-explore-contest/