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Concord – Winant Park

winant-pageTrail Map
Fisk Road
85 acres of forest and trails
Public access
February 2009

In 2009, this scenic 85-acre city park astride one of Concord’s highest hills was created in honor of former New Hampshire Governor John Winant and his wife Constance. The park is a gift to the City of Concord from the late governor’s son, Rivington Winant, and his wife Joan. The transfer and conservation of the property was made possible through collaboration among the Winants, the City, St. Paul’s School, and Five Rivers Conservation Trust.

The City owns and manages the public park, subject to a conservation easement held by Five Rivers Conservation Trust that ensures the property will be protected in perpetuity. Rivington and Joan Winant generously donated the conservation easement to Five Rivers and then conveyed their property ownership to the City. St. Paul’s School, through a separate easement conveyed to the City with an executory interest to Five Rivers, graciously allowed construction of a parking area, trailhead, and an access trail from land the school owns along Fisk Road to the landlocked Winant property.

Former Governor Winant attended, taught at, and is buried at St. Paul’s School and served for three terms as Governor of the State. He cared deeply for both, noted his son Rivington Winant in announcing the gift to the City, and with views of both the school and the capitol, it serves as a fitting memorial.

Rivington Winant grew up on the Winant property near what is now Concord Hospital. The 85 acres is the remnant of a larger estate on Pleasant Street. The land encompassed by the new park is dominated by pine-oak forests, and includes the former estate’s bridle trails. Over the years, nearby residents have privately maintained and used the property’s extensive trail network for hiking, cross-country skiing, and mountain biking.

Construction of an official park entrance on St. Paul’s land off Fisk Road included an off-road parking area, a foot bridge across Miller’s Brook, and an informational kiosk recounting the history of the park and a biography of Governor Winant. The Unitarian Universalist Church, located on Pleasant Street, also kindly provides user access through its driveway across an existing right-of-way.

As set forth in the conservation easement developed by the parties, the park is intended solely for non-motorized recreational uses such as hiking, skiing, and bicycling. The intent of the gift is to preserve the wild nature and native habitat of the park; no park buildings, sport facilities, or other formalized structures or fields will ever be built there.

In addition to the land gift and easements, Mr. and Mrs. Winant generously funded the initial construction costs for the parking lot and clearing the trails, the kiosk, and trailside benches. The city assumes responsibility for maintaining trails and the parking area, and for other park management. Five Rivers has responsibility for monitoring and enforcing the terms of the two easements.

Winant Park provides a special open space resource for Concord, with its forested lands, trails, and open summit with views of Concord and distant countryside. It is an island of peacefulness, located right in the heart of our state’s capital city, enriching the fabric of this community.

A Brief Biography of John Winant

John Gilbert Winant was born in New York in 1889 and attended St. Paul’s School, graduating in 1908. He attended Princeton and returned to St. Paul’s, where he taught history. He left to serve in World War I, then returned to St. Paul’s to teach. While there, he became interested in politics, served in the State Legislature, and in 1925 became the country’s youngest governor. After Winant completed his governorship, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed him as the first chairman of the Social Security Board. In 1937 Roosevelt asked Winant to go to Geneva as the senior US member of the International Labor Organization, of which Winant later became director-general.

As World War II loomed, Roosevelt appointed Winant as the American ambassador to the Court of St. James in London. Winant and Prime Minister Winston Churchill became close friends. On Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, Winant was in the room when Churchill turned on the radio and heard that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor.

Throughout the war, Winant frequently traveled throughout England and is still remembered for his likeable and reassuring nature. He was presented with the ceremonial keys to a number of English cities, and at the end of the war King George VI presented him with the Order of Merit, Great Britain’s highest civilian honor.

After the war, Winant retired to Concord to write his memoirs. He is buried in St. Paul’s School cemetery off Hopkinton Road.