Rye Town Park opened to the public in 1909. The park is owned and operated by the Town and City of Rye. The entire park property was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. The park’s 62 acres includes 28 acres of parkland, and a large wildlife pond, as well as 34 acres of beachfront and swimming area, which have historically been known as Oakland Beach and Rye Beach.
The beach is open for swimming from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. The park is open year-round. No restroom facilities are available from November through March. As you walk along the beach path, you will encounter 25 trees directly along the way. An updated inventory of all the park’s trees determined that as of November 2015 there are 327 trees of 59 species.
If you start your walk at Edith Read Sanctuary or Playland, you will be following this guide in the reverse order.
Starting from Dearborn Avenue, you will first encounter what is known as the south beach entrance gate. There are two other entrances along the way. Back in the early 20th century there was a pier extending out from Dearborn Avenue where steamboats brought park goers to and from New York City.
Next, come two pavilions on your right. These are used for special events, such as concerts, art shows, or public benefit events. They can also be rented for private functions, such as reunions, graduations, weddings, and birthdays.
You will notice that the administration (towers) building on your left, as well as the pavilions and restaurant on your right, are of a “Mission/Spanish Colonial Revival” style. The building architects were Upjohn and Conable. The landscape architects were Brinley and Holbrook.
Several of the trees by the pavilions are hybrid cherry varieties (166, 167,171).
As you proceed along the path you will pass the middle entrance to the beach. This entrance is left open during the off-season so that people can walk, jog, play in the sand, or just sunbathe, year round.
On your left you will see a gully that passes under the path to the beach. This is the overflow stream bed, which allows water to come from the park’s pond to the Sound in times of heavy storms. The pond receives runoff water from the park and two storm drains on Forest Avenue. It serves to remove pollutants and nitrogen before the water reaches the Sound.
On the right you will see the lifeguard and first aid station.
Looking out toward Long Island Sound, you will notice a conglomeration of large rock outcroppings, with a breakwater extending beyond them to the of the park’s beachfront property. These rocks are the nesting home of two shorebird colonies -- American oyster catchers and common terns. Their habitats are protected by state law, to promote the regeneration of these threatened species of birds.
In the spring, you will see fairly large numbers of mating horseshoe crabs on the beach. Unfortunately, their numbers have been declining in recent years.
On the left side of the path, behind some trees, is a small pavilion which was designed to be a “folly” -- which the dictionary defines as "a costly ornamental building with no practical purpose, especially a tower or mock-Gothic ruin built in a large garden or park.” This folly was designed to look like an artesian spring, such as those in the gardens of Saratoga Springs.
The building is now being used as a “prop” in the Lawnchair Theatre’s production of Shakespeare plays in the summer.
Among the species of trees that you will encounter along this part of the path are: Scholar tree (340), honey locust (242), sycamore maple (225), Norway maple (162), mulberry (161), elm (164), and ash (228). You will also see several linden tree (253) saplings that have been planted over the past few years.
A large London plane tree (254) can be seen near the north end of the park, across from the north beach entrance and snack bar.
A number of benches have been installed along the beach path, providing visitors an opportunity to take a break and enjoy the beautiful views of Long Island Sound.
The beach walk continues northward, out of the park, and onto the path leading down to the boardwalk at Playland Amusement Park.