202 N Main St, Cohasset, MA 02025, USA
Owned By: Town of Cohasset
Large town-owned property with a 1-mile woodland trail, a skating pond, and several large glacial erratic boulders. Directly adjacent to the Cornelia & Richardson White Woods, Holly Hill Farm, as well as the Barnes Wildlife Sanctuary with a shared trail network. Popular with dog walkers and for horseback riding.
Wheelwright Park directly abuts Barnes Wildlife Sanctuary and the Cohasset Boy Scout Campground. On the other side are the Cornelia & Richardson White Woods and Holly Hill Farm. Altogether, these properties represent a large swath of conservation land in the heart of this coastal town, with 232 acres of forest stretching from Jerusalem Road to Sohier Street, and from Little Harbor to Forest Avenue.
According to Bertram J. Pratt’s Narrative History of Cohasset Volume II, Wheelwright Park was originally given to the Town of Cohasset in 1916, as an 80-acre parcel. It was a bequest from Edward & Isaphene Wheelwright, along with Henry A. Wheelwright. The bequests included a trust fund of $15,000 for park maintenance. These Wheelwrights were descendants of one of the earliest non-native Cohasset families, who had for many years maintained a summer home off Jerusalem Road. The park initially wasn’t used much, except for occasional picnics and Sunday strolls, but usage increased considerably after 1935, when the Works Progress Administration (WPA) constructed the ice skating pond, fireplaces, picnic sites, and over 4,000 feet of gravel paths (adding to, and improving existing trails). Much of this remains to this day.
Wheelwright Park is listed in The Historical Index Survey of Architectural and Historical Assets of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Prior to European contact, a band of the Massachusett Native American tribe maintained a village in what is now Cohasset. It was known as Quonahassit — often translated as “long rocky place.” In 1614, while exploring what was known then as the New World, Captain John Smith (1580-1631) landed in “Quonahassit Harbor” to trade for furs. The Quonahassit village was probably in the vicinity of today’s Elm Street, a summer camp for fishing, and for growing corn, beans and squash. The village moved inland during the winter for shelter, and to hunt for deer, turkey and other wildlife. A widespread plague decimated the Quonahassit population shortly after Smith’s visit.
Please bear in mind that Native American cultures often favor oral histories to written ones. Much of what’s recorded about the history of the South Shore is from the perspective of European settlers. It’s not the whole story. To learn more about our local tribes, we encourage you to interact with their members. The Mattakeeset band of the Massachusett and the Massachusett tribe at Ponkapoag share information on their websites.
From the parking area on North Main Street, look for the main trail, which leads uphill. This is Wheelwright Park Lane, and it extends for 1 mile to the Forest Avenue entrance. It is generally broad and flat with a moderate grade and few obstacles.
Not far up the trail, for a more varied tour, you can turn left onto the Eagle Trail, which leads through an valley characterized by tall, moss-covered rocky outcroppings and a steep grade. There is a glacial erratic here known as Eagle’s Loft. The trail continues into, and through, the Barnes Wildlife Sanctuary, and eventually across the Cohasset Boy Scout Campground before rejoining the main trail near the glacial erratic known as Big Tippling. There are a few additional trails that lead off Eagle Trail in different directions. One offers a close-up view of a radio tower. Another, an old fireplace.
About 1/3 of the way up the main trail, at the glacial erratic known as Split Rock, there is a trail to the left that leads to a small ice skating pond, where you’ll also find 2 benches. This is another way into the Barnes Wildlife Sanctuary, which is just on the other side of the pond.
A third trail into Barnes is much farther into the property, just before the glacial erratic known as Big Tippling. This is the other end of Eagle Trail.
There are some additional glacial erratics along the main trail, including Devil’s Chair and Little Tippling. There are also numerous trails to the right, which provide access to the Cornelia & Richardson White Woods and Holly Hill Farm. All trails are well marked.
Habitats and Wildlife
There is a broad grassy field near the entrance on North Main Street. The forest that makes up the remainder of the property is mostly pine and oak, plus there are numerous holly and beech trees. In season, look for lady slippers, fiddleheads, and mayflowers. The property also contains vernal pools and wetlands. There are quite a few glacial erratic boulders and rocky outcroppings scattered throughout, plus some old stone walls. Among the mammals observed here are coyote, fox and deer. There are also quite a few different species of birds.
Most of the land here drains to Richardsons Brook, which flows into Cohasset’s Little Harbor. Some of the southern portions of the park flow into James Brook, and eventually into Cohasset Harbor. According to the Cohasset Conservation Trust, these “undeveloped lands … contribute to the public interest by helping to maintain high water quality for Cohasset residents since much of the acreage is located in the Sohier Street Well Field Zone of Contribution.”
Historic Site: No
Boat Launch: No
Size: 232 acres
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
Parking: On-site parking area on North Main Street, very close to Red Gate Lane. Additional trailhead with parking for 4 cars on Forest Ave.
Trail Difficulty: Easy, Medium
Picnic tables, numerous benches, trash receptacles. Informational kiosk. Ice skating pond. Geocache location.
Dogs: Dogs must be on leashes in the parking area. Dogs must be well-behaved and under control at all times. Scoop the poop!
Boat Ramp: No
ADA Access: No
Scenic Views: Yes
Waterbody/Watershed: Richardsons Brook (Little Harbor watershed) and James Brook (Gulf River watershed)