West Rock Ridge Drive to overlook and cave reopens
The situation for the motoring public turned around dramatically last week when directors of the West Rock Ridge Park Association brought the matter to the attention of State Sen. Joseph Crisco, D-Woodbridge, and asked for his help.
The best view in southern Connecticut and the cave that sheltered two famous 17th century fugitives will once again be accessible to motorists when the south drive on West Rock Ridge is reopened on weekends and holidays beginning Saturday, July 28, through September - at least.
The drive was not opened for the season on Memorial weekend as usual because state funding was not available until the beginning of July, too late to hire all the seasonal help needed.
Park Supervisor Alex Sokolow last week said he had been informed by the Park Division of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Control that additional patrol assistance will be available from the department's law enforcement division.
The state park, which is located in Hamden, Bethany, Woodbridge and New Haven, is open all year to those on foot, bicycle and skiis.
The situation for the motoring public turned around dramatically last week when directors of the West Rock Ridge Park Association, the citizen group that spearheaded the creation of the state park in 1975, brought the matter to the attention of State Sen. Joseph Crisco, D-Woodbridge, and asked for his help.
Crisco, who is senate chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said he "took the job" because, "My job is to help grass roots people and expedite the process" as well as "work together for the benefit of the people of Connecticut."
Crisco commended the latest citizen effort for the park, saying, "I think it's another great testament to grass roots efforts and advocates for parks."
Crisco said he spoke to Commissioner Arthur Rocque of the DEP as soon as he learned of the park's plight. Rocque, whom he had known for many years, is a cooperative person to work with and responded to the problem, the senator said.
The south overlook view extends from Sleeping Giant and East Rock on the north and east, to New Haven, its harbor and Long Island on the south to the hills of Woodbridge and Bethany on the west.
Judges Cave, a massive fractured boulder left from glacial times, once provided makeshift shelter to two of the 59 men (some were judges) who signed the death warrant of Charles I. of England when Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan followers upset the royal line for a decade.
When Charles II, the son, came to the throne he sent troops to capture the "regicides," who fled on the restoration. Most were captured and killed. Three, Edward Whalley, his son-in-law William Goffe and John Dixwell fled to the New Haven Colony and were able to keep one step ahead of their pursuers with the help of the still-British citizens.
On two occasions Whalley and Goffe took refuge in the "cave" on the then wilderness ridge. Today, a plaque on the rock tells the story, ending with, "Opposition to tyrants is obedience to God."
The other summit road, 5-mile-long Baldwin Drive, is not open to motor traffic, but provides excellent biking and walking. The rugged Regicides Trail parallels most of it.
Picnic tables are available at Judges Cave and the overlook area. The park entrance is on Wintergreen Avenue, just south of the West Rock Nature Center. Cars also can park at the lot at the north end of Lake Wintergreen on Main Street, Hamden.