I found the name of this park, hidden behind downtown, off of Nashville Road, to be doubly appropriate. Yes, there are several sites where one can look over downtown and the distant hills of Danbury. Even more fitting is that this not so small preserve is often overlooked.
I know I tend to scurry off to either Huntington State Park or Wolfpit Preserve for my “nature fix” only because these are adjacent to our property. But not all Bethel residents are so fortunate. There is also an extensive protected area located within Clarke Industrial Park. This too is little known, seldom visited, and lacking parking. It also lies on the southwest corner outskirt of town.
The wonder of Overlook Park is its location, literally in the backyard of Caraluzzi’s Markets and all the Greenwood Avenue shops. It is a short walk from the former O’Neil’s. Imagine a wooded picnic area a stone’s throw from downtown. There are several picnic benches in the park and a 15 foot tall chimney/fireplace where it is possible to grill some dogs and burgers and unwind from the day’s stress and constant barrage of noise and stimuli. (Noise from town just doesn’t seem to penetrate this densely wooded area.)
What surprised me is the enormity of the woodland. The entrance and parking area lead you to believe this is a quaint little square of trees nestled behind houses on Nashville Road and South Street. You must take the time to investigate the entire park. Overlook may be a square set between several residences yet it is considerably larger than what can be viewed from the parking lot. There are two trails that lead around the perimeter and several offshoots that split off of these main footpaths directing you to the central part of this mini hardwood forest.
As you amble along the fringes, though you are aware of rooftops, you get the sensation of being alone, peaceful, in the woods. And don’t be fooled thinking the size necessitates flat, open tree land. As soon as you leave the parking area you will notice steep outcrops of rock on both sides. Taking one of the secondary footpaths toward the rocks you will soon find yourself progressing hand over hand, almost climbing through narrow passages between large boulders and granite crags. With autumn leaves now covering the landscape you will, at times, have to search for a foothold while clutching a limb or slender tree trunk for balance.
Upon summiting the rocky knoll in the heart of the park, you will experience your first overlook. Far below you will notice the tops of the condos on South Street and those of the row of stores along Greenwood Avenue. Yet, even with these downtown vistas nearby, you will nonetheless have the impression of being far from civilization. The plants, leaves, and trees seem to absorb all the sounds attempting to penetrate from the street below.
Follow the boundary trail to the backside and turn off toward an opening in the trees. As you approach the edge of a moderately steep and high cliff, in the distance will come into view grassy hills of Danbury and what looks to be a farm on the side of the knoll. Beyond are the peaks that lead into the Catskills of New York.
Overlook Park is a small treasure found conveniently in close proximity to the center of town. Besides hiking, birding, and picnicking, the facility can also be used for group or private camping during the summer. Simply contact the Parks and Recreation Department to reserve a night and obtain a permit. This is an easily accessed park there for our use anytime. Pick up a hot bowl of soup and half a sandwich with an iced tea to go from Caraluzzi’s and spend a quiet, peaceful afternoon or lunch break in Bethel’s version of Central Park.