When winter comes, and the golf is done, Rockledge Golf Course, in West Hartford, transforms into a series of walking trails open to the public.
It's been that way for the last 10 years, said Helen Rubino-Turco, West Hartford's director of leisure services and social services.
The idea, she said, was to use the open space, which has become rarer to find, when it isn't being used for anything else. Rockledge has three different marked trails of different lengths, one is 0.6 miles, another is 1.6 miles, and the longest is 2.2 miles.
"We wanted to open it up to the community," Rubino-Turco said about the town-owned golf course. "We want them to enjoy the trails. This is another way of opening a green park to the community. The people in the neighborhood love it."
This is all part of a national initiative that Rubino-Turco said she and her department believe in.
"It's the 10 minute walk idea," Rubino-Turco said. "Everyone should be a 10 minute walk from a park. Our town was designed around neighborhood parks. When you think about Wolcott Park or Fernridge Park, there's a community that lives within a five minute walk or a 10 minute walk from that park."
Rubino-Turco said she loves seeing communities take stewardship over their parks.
"We want to encourage people that live close to a park to develop a sense of stewardship over their local park," she said. "We've been very successful with Fernridge Park, because there's a neighborhood group called Friends of Fernridge Park. They created a nonprofit and they advocate for their park. They raise money for their park. That's what stewardship is all about. These things bring value to our town."
The trails at Rockledge get plowed a day or two after snow storms, but before they get to that, Rubino-Turco said it's common to see people snowshoeing and skiing on the trails, something they encourage.
One of her favorite parts is all the wildlife that calls the park home. The only wildlife they don't want are geese, and people walking their dogs can help keep them away, reducing the damage geese can do, she said.
"There is a lot of wildlife in this park," she said. "That includes a fox, a coyote, and a bobcat. Obviously, there are also hawks. There are a lot of birds here too."
Rubino-Turco said her department has worked on enhancing the experience over the years. There's more signage, better trails, and map guides available.
"We've added a number of amenities this year, such as dog stations for bags for cleaning up after your dogs," Rubino-Turco. "And last year, we worked with the West Hartford Garden Club to do tree identification. The trees are marked. That's a nice kind of community partnership we did with them."