Abbey O’Leary ’24
As residents of Hartford during the school year, we all know that it is a diverse and vibrant city that has worked hard in recent years to establish itself as a lively urban center in New England. Over the past few years, the city has made efforts in development and has structured its downtown center to become a much more user-friendly and active district. With plenty of activities to choose from, including Yard Goats games at Dunkin Donuts Park in the spring and fall, checking out some of the many restaurants surrounding downtown Hartford, or catching a UConn basketball game in the winter, there are plenty of fun attractions right down the street from Trinity’s campus. Perhaps a lesser-known attraction, but one worth noting, is Hartford’s Riverfront Park. Right in the center of the city, this park is a beautiful space that offers a great way to get outside and enjoy both the city and nature year-round.
Established in 1981, the Riverfront Recapture project entered Hartford with the hope of connecting people with the Connecticut River and the surrounding environment in general by providing clean and safe outdoor spaces. The Riverfront Recapture project now runs and maintains four different waterfront parks as well as their surrounding trails. After the first few years gained traction, the project was approved by the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund in 1983, granting Hartford and East Hartford the means to construct a joint park. After years of construction and development, Charter Oak Landing was officially opened in 1989. Finally, in 2003, the downtown Hartford park was launched and opened to the public for use. Even after launching the park in the city, Riverfront Recapture has continued to implement improvement programs and continues to acquire more land and space to revitalize both the Connecticut River and the city of Hartford, making it a safe place for residents and visitors to go and relax, exercise, and enjoy nature.
The Riverfront Park in Hartford is connected by an extended river walk that runs from East Hartford to Mortensen Plaza in downtown Hartford. Beyond just an open outdoor space, Riverfront Recapture attracts guests to the park regularly with community events, resources, and activities. On one end of the river walk, the Greater Hartford Jaycees Community Boathouse is home to a bay of boats and a boat launch which houses a large community rowing program. From summer training camps to both youth and adult competitive teams, the Riverfront Boathouse is an active part of the local community. Additionally, the Boathouse hosts an annual regatta in the fall, Head of the Riverfront, where a number of different crew teams traveling from all over New England and surrounding states come to race. However, the Riverfront Boathouse does not require skill to use the water. Options for free community rowing and kayaking are available to the public as well.
Aside from rowing, Riverfront Recapture also hosts many different community events as well. For instance, the park has a few upcoming music and athletic attractions this fall. On September 15th, “Changes in Latitudes” will be hosted at seven o’clock pm, a musical tribute to the late Jimmy Buffet, at which a tribute band will commemorate some of Buffet’s most celebrated songs. The festivities continue on to the next day, September 16th, when a Gospel Festival will take place at the park at five o’clock pm. This festival will be full of energy and excitement, celebrating faith and unity through music and community engagement. Continuing on to the next weekend, the Riverfront Dance Fest will be held on September 21st at six o’clock pm, in which local student and professional dance groups will be highlighted. And, on September 23rd, the Hartford Healthcare Community 5K will be held for the first time. The run will kick off at Mortensen Park and will trail along the riverside and through the parks and trails. Finally, the above-mentioned Head of the Riverfront regatta will take place on October 1st at eight o’clock a.m.
The Riverfront Recapture project has transformed downtown Hartford and has fostered the growth of a community that comes together to share in and celebrate the city and surrounding areas. Just down the road from Trinity, the Riverfront parks offer a great space to escape campus and join in some fun and engaging events.