Bretzfelder Memorial Park
Charles (center) and Rosalie (on his left) Bretzfelder and his friends gathered at the Memorial Tree in 1936.
Educational program with Kim Pearson by Bretzfelder Memorial tree.
Winter mushroom walk
Firewood cut at the Park
The Bretzfelder Park Family Educational Series is held in August and February each year. For more information, please view The Rocks Calendar of Events, or call 603-444-6228.
Directions: From Interstate-93, take Exit 40. Follow Route 302 East for 3 miles, then turn left onto Prospect Street. Bretzfelder Park is approximately 1 mile down Prospect, on the left. Please see below for trails information.
Each February and August, the Forest Society offers the Bretzfelder Park Family Educational Series, featuring speakers and entertainers covering a range of Natural History topics. For more information, please see See The Rocks calendar.
The central focus of Bretzfelder Park is a giant white pine tree, estimated to be more than 200 years old. In the late 1800s, when Bethlehem was a haven for city folks seeking the clean air of the mountains, the tree became a popular place for visitors, who would wander down the quiet road and relax beneath the tree's branches, enjoying picnics in the quiet beauty of the forest.
One man in particular came to love the tree. Charles Bretzfelder, a New York lawyer, spent many summers in the White Mountains, and in 1920 purchased the property surrounding the great white pine tree. He built a summer cottage there and spent his days walking in the cool mountain air, swimming in the chilly brook, and resting in the shade of the pine tree. When a nearby tree fell and crashed into the giant white pine, Bretzfelder hired tree surgeons to patch his tree's wounds, remove dead branches, install retaining bars, and fix a cable to an overhanging branch. The patient emerged undaunted and continues today to soar above its younger neighbors.
So special was the tree to Bretzfelder that he wanted it to be his final resting place. Following his death in 1943, Bretzfelder's ashes were scattered around the base of the tree, and his family unveiled a memorial plaque that reads, "May his wisdom and light forever shine upon this earth."
Bretzfelder's family hired "keepers of the tree" for many years. In 1979, Bretzfelder's daughter, Helen, bequeathed the tree and surrounding 17 acres to the Forest Society as a memorial park. The Forest Society is dedicated to its role as the modern keeper of the tree and steward of the accompanying 77-acre property, which is maintained as a community park and natural history resource.
Several trails loop through Bretzfelder Park, allowing quiet exploration of the property in all seasons:
- Wildlife Habitat Trail - 1.5 miles/Easy - Meanders through woods and past the small pond.
- Nature Trail - .4 miles/Moderate - Brings visitors to the pond and loops back to the parking area, with natural history interpretive signs along the way.
- Pond Loop Trail - .75 miles/Easy
- Ski Loop Trail - 1.5 miles - A perfect loop for cross-country skiing. Wanders past the pond and through the demonstration forest maintained and managed by the Forest Society.
- Tree ID Trail - .12 miles/Easy - Leads visitors on a stroll of the Park, past markers sharing information about a dozen tree species growing here.