Revitalization of 7.6-acre nature center is hoped to be a template for private-public partnerships in West Haven, Connecticut

On April 28, 2020 in West Haven, Connecticut—after months of planning and review with city officials, neighbors, corporate sponsors and the Hubbard Family Association—revitalization of the 7.6-acre Hubbard Nature and Education Center got underway.

I am thrilled this much-needed revitalization is starting,” said Mayor Nancy R. Rossi. “The Hubbard Nature Center is such a beautiful area for West Haven residents to use for a short hike, a picnic or to just enjoy being outdoors.

We are grateful to the Hubbards for their commitment to one of West Haven’s most scenic nature preserves. Thank you also to Barry Cohen for his efforts in moving this wonderful project forward,” she added.

Under the guidance of Councilman Barry Lee Cohen, R-10, the initiative was approved by the Parks and Recreation Commission on March 2 and is being spearheaded by Steven Johnstone, the owner of Hubbard Farm’s Wood and Snow LLC, who is also the project’s lead sponsor.

Jose Amaya, the owner of Above the Ground Tree Care LLC, is the co-sponsor and a licensed arborist. Parks and Recreation Director Mark E. Paine Jr. and City Council Chairman Ronald M. Quagliani, D-at large, were also engaged in moving the project forward.

During the major renovation, the West Shore park will remain closed to ensure the safety of residents and workers.

The work is being done under the supervision of Public Works Commissioner Tom J. McCarthy and Tree Warden Leo Kelly.

All labor and materials to reestablish the front trails, clear brush and debris, replace fencing and beautify the main entrance are being provided by the sponsors at no cost to the city. In addition, the Hubbard Family Association is donating a new sign to replace the existing, weathered one.

Johnstone, who is also the vice president of the Hubbard Family Association, said, “I told Mayor Rossi that my grandparents and great-grandparents would be ashamed of me if I didn’t take on this project given that I’ve been fortunate to build up the tools and the resources over the years to reestablish the integrity of the park.

Cohen, who represents the district that includes the Hubbard Road nature center, said the sponsors are taking special precautions to enforce social distancing and proper hygienic practices as the project progresses.

Cohen added, “When Steve and Allie Johnstone invited me to their house last January to discuss their idea and seek assistance, I was and remain absolutely thrilled to assist as the park has been an ongoing concern of the 10th District for quite some time. The commitment made by the Hubbard Family and the corporate sponsors is a testament to their love for West Haven. It’s my hope that this park revitalization might serve as a template to foster future private-public partnerships to maintain other recreational areas throughout our wonderful city.

About one-third of the 7.6-acre park, nestled between Jones Hill and Benham Hill roads, is being revitalized this year. Pending any potential delays due to the coronavirus pandemic, the park is expected to reopen this fall.

The Hubbards have lived in West Haven for 200 years,” Johnstone said. “There is still a lot of pride left in the tank. I know it’s not the skating pond like many fellow Westies remember, but I think a lot of people are going to be quite surprised and impressed when the park reopens later this year.

A cleanup is being planned for the following spring, when organizers will determine the next steps in moving forward on the remaining acreage while ensuring the preexisting renovations are strictly maintained, Cohen said.

Photo courtesy of (City Photo/Barry Lee Cohen).

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