From the Start: Trowbridge Environmental Center

Visitors learn about East Rock's wildlife, geology, and history at the Trowbridge Environmental Center that was created thanks in part to funding from the Hayes Q. Trowbridge Fund at The Community Foundation was established by bequest of .

Photo credit: Angelena Delaney

How do you honor a man who was instrumental in developing so many of the parks in the City of New Haven? For almost 40 years, Hayes Q. Trowbridge was a commissioner to the New Haven Parks Commission. During his time, he sponsored public projects that included park tours, holiday carol parties, and special lunches. While he served as a Proprietor of the New Haven Green, East Rock Park — a jewel in the crown of the New Haven park system — was Hayes Trowbridge's favorite park.

When Trowbridge died in 1965, a New Haven Register editorial wrote, "New Haven, for a city its geographical size and population, has one of the finest park systems in the nation. The man largely responsible, Hayes Q. Trowbridge… is dead…Many monuments built by man has [sic] been destroyed by time. The park system Mr. Trowbridge was so instrumental in developing will not topple if the men who follow him show the same dedication of purpose." Four years later, his wife Olga M. Trowbridge died. Her will established the Hayes Q. Trowbridge Fund with the expectation that it would create permanent improvements to East Rock Park in honor of her husband and support the broader community they loved.

In 1996, The Foundation Board of Directors awarded $258,000 to the New Haven Parks Commission for the construction of the Trowbridge Environmental Center at the College Woods section in East Rock Park. Besides providing funds to construct the Center, The Foundation directed $200,000 to hire staff, initiate programs and maintain the center for 10 years. All funding came from the endowed Trowbridge Fund.

The Community Foundation worked in partnership with the city's parks and recreation department and an architect, to design a center that fit physically and programmatically into East Rock. Three years later, the environmental center opened in honor of the longtime park advocate. Visitors learn about East Rock's wildlife, geology, and history. The Trowbridge Environmental Center introduces New Haven's kayakers, scouting troops, bird watchers, and families with young children to a park that Hayes Q. Trowbridge helped preserve for their enjoyment and for generations to come.

Per the wishes of Mrs. Trowbridge, the fund has also supported the broader New Haven community. Funds have been distributed to develop youth, support the arts, meet basic needs and address other challenges throughout the region. Funds have also been deployed to support mission-related commercial ventures provide start-ups and small businesses access to the capital they need to grow and strengthen the local economy and create jobs.

Did you know?

Seventeen percent of New Haven is dedicated to parks and open space, a ratio that ranks it on par with such park-friendly cities as San Francisco and Boston. Source: Greater New Haven Parks: An Enduring Legacy

This article is part of a series of stories celebrating The Community Foundation's 90th Anniversary.