Barnard Nature Center is the newest building in the New Haven Parks System. The Nature Center features a state-of-the-art classroom, green roof and park ranger office. The building also houses numerous amphibians and reptiles for educational programs. The Center has a partnership with the Barnard Environmental Magnet School across the street. The nature center allows access from the school to the park using a walking bridge that goes over one of the busiest roads in New Haven. This allows students access to play fields and ability to study the unique ecosystem that is the West River Watershed.
Originally inspired by the Mall in Washington, what is now West River Memorial Park was acquired by the city after World War I to create a park in honor of New Havenís war dead. An ambitious plan for a towering monument reflected in the waters of a lagoon was conceived but never realized.
A lagoon was dug, providing the fill necessary to construct Marginal Drive, which parallels the river above its west bank and runs from Orange Ave to Derby Ave.
A memorial statue stands at the northern entrance to the park, dedicated in 1937 to Corporal Timothy Ahearn, a native hero of World War I. This was sculpted by Karl Lang under the Works Progress Administration Famous Artists program of the Depression era.
Originally the sculpture was erected on Route 34, near the Yale Bowl, which was appropriate, since it was in that area, known as Camp Yale, that Timothy Ahearn and 3,500 members of the Army National Guard, 102nd Infantry Division, left New Haven for active duty in Germany. The sculpture was later moved to West Memorial Park.