Now that the weather is warming up, everyone’s looking for an excuse to get out of the house, break away from work and take advantage of the fresh air. Fortunate for us in Greenwich, some of those who came before us made the effort to put aside and protect some choice parcels of land that are perfect to visit and unwind at during these glorious almost-summer days.
It was more than 80 years ago when Edwin Binney (our local co-inventor of the Crayola Crayon) and his family had the vision to purchase 20 acres of Old Greenwich that were slated for residential development and create Binney Park.
Even back then, when open land in Greenwich was far more common, the townsfolk were excited by the premise of the conservation effort being spearheaded by the Binney family. They enjoyed witnessing a piece of marshy swampland being transformed into a place of beauty through the initiative and financial support of this generous Greenwich family. A 1928 article in a local newspaper noted, ‘when the landscaping is finished, the new park will present a marvel of scenic grandeur and beauty unsurpassed anywhere in the United States’.
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The park was formally dedicated On September 25th, 1933. It was noted in the town report that Binney Park was ‘a model of landscape architecture - a source of the greatest pride and happiness to the people in Old Greenwich. It will endure forever as the memorial to a man beloved in the community and town in which he lived.’
Over the years, the town acquired additional abutting land, eventually increasing the size of Binney Park to its present 32 acres.
All long-time Old Greenwich residents have fond memories of Binney Park. Running and hiding with childhood friends among trees and greenery. Quiet walks in the warm weather. Wind through colorful leaves in the autumn. The ‘good old winter days’ when the town organized trucks with lights and music to visit the pond so residents could skate beneath the stars - and think of the impact this little park had on Dorothy Hamill, who spent her early years practicing ice skating techniques in Binney Park and went on to ultimately earn an Olympic gold medal in the sport.
Today, Binney Park is a ribbon of green space in the heart of Old Greenwich. A duck pond. Winding pathways. Picturesque footbridges. A place for recreation and the mindful appreciation of nature. Egrets, cormorants and herons make frequent appearances - along with frogs, turtles, foliage, flower blossoms and some of the best sunlight Greenwich has to offer.
Do your part to keep a longstanding tradition alive. Steal away some upcoming day and visit Binney Park. Leave your cell phone at home. Unplug, walk around, take your time and notice things the way we all used to before the Internet arrived. Stop in at one of the businesses in the surrounding area. Grab Sunday Brunch at the Beach House Cafe. Grab an afternoon treat at Longford’s Own Made Ice Cream. Before your walk, enjoy some of the best bagels in town at Upper Crust Bagel Company. Acquaint yourself with the french press coffee and breakfast pastries at Sweet Pea’s Baking Company. Or make an early evening of it and finish with dinner at Le Fat Poodle or Osteria Applausi.
You’ll be amazed how re-energizing and invigorating it is to just break the workaday routine and play tourist for an hour in your own town - and Old Greenwich makes it easy!
Photos by Pam Grunow