One of the gems of West Springfield is Mittineague Park. A major portion of the land, which now makes up the park, was granted to West Springfield settlers in 1663, soon after it was bought from the “Agawam” and “Woronoco” Indians. The 300-acre park became town property in three sections. In 1934 Charles H. Churchill gave the eastern 63-acre portion to the town in his will. This parcel is of particular importance since it includes almost three acres that lie along the bank of the Agawam River. The land along the river has been developed into a canoe launch area, the only place in the park where this is possible.
The 300-acre park became town property in three sections. In 1934 Charles H. Churchill gave the eastern 63-acre portion to the town in his will. This parcel is of particular importance since it includes almost three acres that lie along the bank of the Agawam River. The land along the river has been developed into a canoe launch area, the only place in the park where this is possible.
The western section was originally part of the John C. Robinson estate. In 1937 he deeded the land to the State of Massachusetts for use as a park. In 1963 the state gave the land to the town with the provision that the town acquire the Aschenbach Farm, which was situated between the Churchill and Robinson parcels. That same year the town voted to buy the Aschenbach property, which had been farmland for 300 years and was still an active farm at the time the purchase. With the acquisition of the Aschenbach property, Mittineague Park took on its present size and shape.
Shortly after the town took possession of the Aschenbach property the old homestead and barns on the site were torn down. Many residents were sorry to see the historic buildings removed but all was not lost because the town fenced in the area where the house stood and an organized archeological dig was conducted on the site.
The park is used by people of all ages. It has picnic grounds, tennis courts, ball fields, and marked trails for hiking or cross-country skiing. It has a large pavilion, used for gatherings and concerts and a building, constructed by members of the UNICO Club, that is used as a Summer Camp for children with special needs. In addition, during the school year, elementary students use the park as a learning laboratory.
An interesting feature of the park is the “Old Stone Bridge Picnic Area”. The bridge spans the brook, called Tawtumsquassick by the Native Americans and Block Brook by the first settlers. The southwestern part of West Springfield is still called Tatham, a name derived from the Algonkian name for the brook.
The 1795 map of West Springfield shows a sawmill at the site of the Stone Bridge. Power to operate the mill was derived from the waterfall near the bridge.
By 1870 the sawmill had been replaced by a quarry, perhaps related to the 1841 construction of the railroad along the Agawam River, and in the 1930s the area was the site of the town’s first swimming pool, a WPA Project built following the Depression.
To visit the “Stone Bridge Picnic Area” and the former swimming pool, turn left at the bottom of the hill while exiting the park.
A detailed Self-guided Nature Trail brochure, showing hiking trails and other points of interest, has been developed by the Friends of Mittineague Park and is available at an information kiosk near the Stone Bridge. Copies are also available at the Recreation Department Office in the Town Hall on Central Street.