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Warfare Redux: Fort Trumbull State Park

If only there was a Connecticut state park where could pit your video game skills as a submarine SONAR operator against an enemy vessel; catch films on America’s wars, from the Revolution to U-boat combat; see real nuclear submarines coming and going; soak up magnificent maritime views; enjoy arguably the best saltwater fishing from shore in the state; walk or jog along the water; picnic; peer into the depths of a Civil War brig and powder magazine, and a Cold War era undersea warfare laboratory.

If only there were such a place.

Oh wait – there is. It’s Fort Trumbull State Park in New London.

“Soldiers, Sailors, Scientists and Submarines” is the motto of Fort Trumbull State Park, a multi-faceted fun center opened in 2000. It’s smack in the middle of downtown New London, near the mouth of the Thames River. State-of-the-art exhibits in the museum at the visitor center show the evolution of the fort through the nation’s history. The fort’s interior has been carefully restored, including 19th Century living quarters and a brig.

It all began when Governor John Trumbull ordered building of a blockhouse, captured when British troops under Benedict Arnold burned New London six weeks before the American Revolution ended. The present structure rose between 1839 and 1852. It’s one of 42 such coastal defense forts called the Third System of Fortifications.

From World War II through the Cold War era, undersea warfare research laboratories – which helped develop SONAR – were housed there. One of these is also on display.

Fort Trumbull was the site of the Maritime Officers Training School between 1939 and 1946, until it transferred to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy on Long Island. It also housed the U.S. Coast Guard Academy from 1915 to 1932, before being moved a few miles upriver. The Coast Guard’s training barque, Eagle, receives visitors when docked at Fort Trumbull two or three times annually.

Next to that pier, the park’s 400-foot-long public fishing pier gives anglers a shot at several species. Fishing for scup and fluke heats up starting in July. Bluefish run until fall when blackfishing is excellent. The pier has rod holders, lights and cleaning stations. Bring a long-handled landing net.

The pier also provides a close-up view of submarines coming and going from the U.S. Navy Submarine Base upstream. That view also reveals the picture postcard charm of the New London waterfront, nestled in a graceful arc along the river, backed by the steeples and towers of the city and low hills beyond. To the south, the view is seaward to the Race channel and Long Island.

These days, the old enlisted men’s quarters houses a gift shop run by the Friends of Fort Trumbull (www.fortfriends.org), which raises funds for park facilities and holds historical programs. The visitor center and fort are open Memorial Day to Columbus Day, Wednesday to Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adult entrance is $6, children 6 to 12 years, $2. Grounds and walking paths are open sunrise to sunset all year, as is the fishing pier, 24 hours a day.

Image Credits: Photo courtesy GB Photos

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