Only a few thousand feet from one of the world’s largest casinos is one of the best maintained parks in Connecticut.
The park, formerly known as Fort Shantok State Park, was purchased by the Mohegan Tribe, operators of the Mohegan Sun Resort Casino in Uncasville, and many changes have been made to transform this piece of property.
The park is now named Shantok, Village of Uncas, to put more emphasis on the historical aspect of the park acting as an Indian village rather than as a fort where the tribe defended itself against enemies.
The new Freedom Forest section of the park, opened during the summer of 2006, includes a gravel trail that branches off a small gravel road branching from the entrance road of the park.
The small gravel road leads to additional parking, several picnic tables, views of a small dam, and a field near the railroad tracks along the Thames River. BandarQ Online history should be disclosed to the gamblers at online websites. The selection should be done after checking the ratings and reviews at online search engines. The placing of bet will be great at tables. The playing will be great with the right approach.
While it is possible to walk down to the railroad tracks, it is strongly discouraged since this rail line is still active and occasionally is used to haul freight.
It also leads to a view of the two-lane Mohegan Pequot Bridge, also known as Route 2A which goes over the river with half the bridge in Montville and the other half in Preston.
Additionally, there is an outstanding view of the decaying brick buildings of the sprawling Norwich State Hospital campus in Preston with a small portion in Norwich, which closed in the late 1990’s and has since been left to decay,
The owners, the State of Connecticut, were unable during the course of a 12 year period to attract anyone to the site leaving this task to the town of Preston where much of the campus is located.
The campus is slated to become a Utopia project featuring an indoor theme park, movie studios, hotel, conference center, retail stores, an arts college, and will feature a marina with Thames River access.
While the Montville side turns into a four-lane highway allowing Mohegan Sun traffic to use an exit ramp at the end, the Preston side ends at a stoplight forcing Foxwoods patrons to take windy country roads through the village of Poquonock, a population of 1,592, to get to Route 2, the main road which travels to the front door of Foxwoods, the world’s largest casino located in Preston on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation.
On the Freedom Trail, visitors bearing left will notice a large pond with two six feet fences, probably to prevent people from fishing in the pond or disturbing the creatures making the pond their home.
A large rock has a picture of a large tree on it with the words “Freedom Forest” only a few hundred feet from a plaque dedicated to those who fought for our country during Operation: Desert Storm.
The trail has two side paths, one going from the main trail to the Fort Shantok Road and one going to a vista area where there are two half circle stone benches.
Perhaps one of the most unique aspects of the park is the dam with a small pedestrian bridge, and a large wooden pedestrian bridge spanning a man-made pond near a gravel embankment.
Those walking on this large pedestrian bridge can hear the traffic up above and look at large busses traversing a sharp exit ramp from the Route 2A highway to the Mohegan Sun Casino.
At the end of the bridge are views of various waterways in the park along with tranquility.
The park has several trash receptacles in addition to a beautiful stone building housing with small opaque windows with men’s and women’s restrooms on either side.
The restrooms, unlike some state parks, are fairly new, clean, nice, and most importantly have working toilets, sinks, soap dispensers, and hand dryers.
The trash cans are emptied on a regular basis thus not attracting the number of insects found on trash cans in some parks.
Beautiful bench areas in front creates a beautiful entranceway to the building and a payphone and water fountain are directly between the restrooms.
A playground is next to the restrooms with a variety of different rides for children including one that has movable letters and a slide.
There are benches near the playground for parents along with two green fence walls near the perimeter road providing limited access for entering and leaving the playground area to increase safety for the children.
Across the road from the restrooms are a large barbecue pit and many picnic tables along with small barbecue pits.
A small trail system with seashell chips goes down a hill and offers a magnificent view of the Thames River and then allows visitors to go back up the hill to the main picnic table area.
A small trail also leads to the Mohegan Tribe’s historical cemetery with graves of many leaders including Gladys Tantaquidgeon, who at age 106 passed away in 2005 known as the Mohegan’s Medicine Woman.
Another cemetery which is newer is located near the junction of Fort Shantok Road and the park’s perimeter road on the side of the park closest to the Freedom Trail.
Those ready for a game of baseball can take advantage of the park’s baseball field on the other side of the park.
The field features dugout benches for both teams and is far enough away from the playground to ensure children playing there are safe.
Across from the perimeter road here, one can see an area marked “Emergency Exit Only: Do Not Enter” on an old green gate leading to an area grown up in weeds and bushes.
Looking closely at the green bar, one can see a “DEP” sticker, one of the only reminders that this park used to be a state park.
When it was a state park, there were rumors around town that teenagers would have parties here and one would find beer bottles scattered about the park.
Today, Mohegan tribal security does a good job of protecting the park, keeping it clean, and it is one of the cleanest parks I have ever been to.
Many from the community use this park since it is near a large housing development but because of its quaint setting and lack of publicity, it never experiences large crowds except during the Mohegan Wigwam Festival usually held during a Saturday and Sunday at the end of August.
Fairgoers are encouraged to park at the Thamesview Garage at Mohegan Sun and go to the parking garage bus lobby on the ground level of the garage to pick up a bus to take to the festival.
Mohegan Sun customers go to the casino’s bus lobby to get transported there.
The festival includes Native American dancing in traditional clothing, vendors from Native American tribes selling items such as Native garb, Native jewelry, and paintings of Native Americans and who could forget the food?
Food vendors typically are Native American Tribes selling Native foods such as Indian tacos, fresh Blueberry and Raspberry drinks, Turtle soup, Buffalo burgers, Smoked Salmon, corn on the cob, and small potato wedges.
The park is an example of how the Mohegan Tribe gives back to the local community in providing a facility that is open to the public from sunrise to sunset almost every day except during special celebrations sponsored by the Tribe.
Those traveling from Interstate 395 can use Exit 79A to get to the park. This exit is marked “Route 2A: Preston Ledyard” and puts motorists onto a four-lane highway lasting only a few miles.
Drivers should use exit 1 marked “Route 32: Uncasville/Norwich” and take a left at the light at the bottom of the ramp.
Going past a number of businesses on the right hand side including Golden Dragon Chinese restaurant, a 7 Eleven/Citgo gas station, and Fort Shantok Package Store, visitors should take a right at the light immediately after the Best Western hotel.
Drivers will be driving down Fort Shantok Road for about 2.5 miles and underneath the Route 2A overpass and should take the first or second driveway on the left to access the park.
The first left offers best access to the cemetery and Freedom Trail while the second left is closer to the barbecue pit, picnic tables, ball field, restrooms, and playground equipment.