Ever since the state purchased the abandoned Sunrise Resort in 2009, it has been known as an attractive nuisance. The 82 buildings — from cabins to kitchens to dance halls — along with a giant pool, as well as pingpong tables and paddleboats in storage, attracted vandals and visitors.
Now, with nearly all the vestiges of the century-old resort removed, the 144-acre property along the Salmon River has lost its nuisance moniker and can just be called attractive. It now looks like Sunrise State Park – a new dawn for another outdoor playground and a homage to the property's not-so-distant past.
Like many of us who knew Sunrise in its heyday – I knew it when it was Frank Davis Resort – we've run the gamet of emotions over it, including hope that someone would come in and restore the property. We experienced resignation when it had deteriorated to the point where one would expect to see zombies or a guy named Jason wearing a hockey goalie mask come out of one of the cabins. And now perhaps relief – with a touch of melancholy — that the resort has leveled and finally been put out of its misery.
Since the state spent the past year demolishing and hauling away most everything associated with the resort, it will be difficult for anyone visiting the area for the first time to imagine the site began in 1916 as Ted Hilton's Hideaway. The only resort remnants left are rusted baseball backstops, old checkered floors and crumbling building foundations along with the shuffleboard, tennis and basketball courts.
But with all the buildings gone – cabins with names like "Empire State" and "Mid-Hill," as well as the old motel and halls where once square dances were held – the beauty of the park comes out. Old aspault roads serve as trails to the beautiful Salmon River. The infields of one-time baseball diamonds are filled with grass and young cedar trees are beginning to grow in the fields as the New England forest begins to reclaim the land.
The draw of the resort for me was always the Salmon River and the cove it creates before emptying into the Connecticut River. The state should put in a launching area for canoes and kayaks, because the area should be showcased. An old dirt road leads west across a field into the cove. The field provides panoramic views of the cove and neighboring hills.
Trails through deep ravines connect to the equally scenic 300-acre Machimoodus State Park to the south. Across the river are hundreds of acres within the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge to explore as well.
As I returned to the car, I slogged through an area that was once the resort's miniature golf course. I nearly tripped over a half-buried iron post noting "Hole 13" - a lucky number. And a sign that we should all consider ourselves lucky we can still explore Sunrise and remember the heyday of the resort when we close our eyes.
Parking for Sunrise State Park is located at Machimoodus State Park. Machimoodus is located directly to the south of Sunrise on Route 151, a mile west of the junction with Route 149. Visit http://www.ct.gov/deep/lib/deep/stateparks/maps/machimoodustrailmap.pdf for a map and access trails to Sunrise. Visit http://www.simonpure.com/resorts.htm for archival photos and brochures of the resorts.