Trails- Fenton-Ruby Park & Wildlife Preserve

Trail Map (pdf)


Once this property was part of Ashford. In the early 1700s, travel was hard and roads were poor. Residents of the mile-wide strip including the present park had to travel a great distance to go to the Ashford church. They petitioned the government of Connecticut for the town boundaries to be changed, so they could attend the closer Willington church. This was granted in 1727.

Houses on Property

There are two sites in the park where houses once stood. One was built on the knoll near the park entrance by the Fenton River. Four granite markers, one at each corner, mark its location. It was built by Zebediah Marcy around 1783. He and his wife had many children, one of whom, Zebediah Marcy, Jr., received the land from his father in 1796; he served as a Selectman in 1808. The house and some of the land passed to his son, Newman, in 1845. It was purchased from him in 1861 by Philo Wright, who served as Selectman from 1878-1880 and 1883-1885. The property was owned by the Wright family until 1908 when it was sold to Wilbert C. Ruby, owner and operator of the Ruby Lumber Company, an important part of the town's economy at the time. Wilbert, whose father, William, had served as Selectman for 21 years, was a Selectman from 1913-1923 and First Selectman from 1924-1951, a total of 36 years of service. Clarke Ruby, his son, was born in the house. Just off the Ruby hiking trail from Burma Road is the foundation of the old Taylor house. The large stone at the park entrance was taken from near this house. This piece of land was given to Thomas and Patty Knowlton by Zebediah Marcy, Patty's father. They built their house around 1809. In 1907, John D. Taylor, a well-known man in town, acquired the place. While he was living on Jared Sparks Road in the late 1800s, Taylor was editor of Willington's first and only newspaper, published first in 1879 as the Nation's Hope. The name was later changed to the Connecticut Herald, but a New Haven paper had the same name. So, it became The Voice of the Oppressed, a newspaper dedicated to women's suffrage. In 1880, the Tolland County Advertiser came out, followed by the Home Messenger in 1881 and the Grape & Canister in 1882. A paper in 1886 would cost 4 cents a copy or $1.00 a year, a small income to balance the costs of paper, labor, and the printing press, so advertising was depended on for most of the newspaper's income. Taylor had financial problems for most of his life, and one time it got so bad that his "magic lantern" was taken away. The "magic lantern" was a device used for projecting pictures painted on glass onto a screen. John Taylor must have gotten his lantern back because Clarke Ruby remembered sitting on his father's lap and being fascinated by the images when he visited his neighbor down the road. Some pictures shown would probably have been of Taylor's orphanage, "Our Hillside Home," opened in 1880 on Jared Sparks Road. The Ruby family acquired the property after John Taylor's death in 1932. The house built by the Knowltons was burned down by vandals on a Halloween night in the 1960s. Clarke Ruby and his wife, Margaret, sold the property, containing about 225 acres of forests, grassy fields, marshes, and ponds to the Town of Willington in 1994 to be maintained as the Fenton-Ruby Park and Wildlife Preserve.

Drobney Sanctuary

In 2001 the Town of Willington purchased from Amelia (Millie) Drobney 80 acres of land adjacent to the park on the north and boarding the Fenton River and Stiles Brook. This addition to the park is dedicated to the memory of Millie's mother, Julia Drobney Burdick. The property was part of a farm on Tinkerville Road sold by Willard Fuller to David Pearl in 1864. After several changes of ownership, it was bought by Frank Fermier in 1905. He sold the portion south of Tinkerville Road to Paul Lucas in 1914, but Mr. Lucas deeded back to him the fishing rights on the Fenton River, which he enjoyed until his death in 1945. Amelia Drobney purchased the land in 1949.


The Fenton-Ruby Park and Wildlife Preserve is managed by the Willington Conservation Commission, which is committed to maintaining its natural state and enhancing wildlife habitat, as well as providing opportunities for the public to enjoy its beauty. The forest is mostly mixed deciduous trees, including maple, oak, hickory, and beech, with some hemlock and pine. Most of the area was once grazing land for farms, as can be seen by the many stone walls. The park also includes Taylor Pond, a beaver pond, and some grasslands to the west of the Fenton River, as well as wetland along the river. Great blue herons, kingfishers, Canada geese, and ducks feed in the ponds and marshlands of the park. Fish and beavers also live in the ponds, and near them, salamanders and spotted turtles can be found. In the woods, deer, woodchucks, fox, raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, grouse, and other wildlife can be found. In the sky, hawks soar and a variety of other birds fly.


The Fenton-Ruby Park and Wildlife Preserve is located at the intersection of Moose Meadow and Burma Roads, about 1.8 miles north of Route 74. To get to the park from the Town Green, go north on Jared Sparks Road for 2.5 miles. Then turn right onto Moose Meadow Road and, after .4 miles, turn left onto Burma Road, the park entrance.