Harold Parker History
Harold Parker State Forest in Andover, North Andover, North Reading and Middleton turned 103 years old this year. It was founded in 1916 on abandoned farmland purchased by the State Forest Commission. Harold Parker was raised in Lancaster, attended Phillips Exeter Academy and Harvard College, and was the first chairman of the commission. The 3,000-acre oasis has a rich history dating back to the last ice age.
Retreating glaciers from that era formed the many hills, valleys and rock outcrops that make up the park. After the glaciers’ retreat, the Pennacook people lived on the land until European colonists arrived in the 1600s and turned the forest into farmland. A gristmill, sawmill and soapstone quarry were built, the remains of which can be seen in the park today. During the mid-1800s, abolitionist William Jenkins ran the quarry and sawmill, and often helped escaped slaves find Underground Railroad hideouts in the surrounding houses.
When Midwestern agriculture overtook New England agriculture, much of the farmland in the area that became Harold Parker State Forest was abandoned. In the early 1900s, the State Forest Commission purchased almost all of that land to create the park. The Civilian Conservation Corps, a Depression-era federal work project, eventually restored the forest by planting trees, creating trails, campsites and picnic areas, and constructing nine of the 11 ponds in the park. Today Harold Parker State Forest is home to hundreds of species of plants and animals and is part of the Bay Circuit Trail & Greenway that connects Plum Island to Kingston Bay.
For more information, visit mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/massparks/region-north/harold-parker-state-forest.html
Photo courtesy Friends of Harold Parker State Forest.