The Cooperstown group Friends of the Park will celebrate the 75th anniversary of Fairy Spring Park this weekend at the park.
Fairy Spring, the 31.6 acre park that is in the town of Middlefield on county Route 31, but owned by the village of Cooperstown, opened just in time for Memorial Day in 1938. Owner Robert Sterling Clark offered it to the county and then to the village as a park as early as 1936.
“There is a real devoted following for that park,” said Cooperstown Deputy Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh, who is the chairwoman of the parks committee.
“I think Three Mile Point, which is in the town of Otsego, but owned by the village, is more of the park that attracts the tourists. Fairy Spring has got that vibe, maybe, of more of an insider’s park. It is like it is a secret place for locals to enjoy.”
Tillapaugh said the village has been doing small things to spruce up the park in time for the anniversary.
“We’re doing general sprucing,” she said. “Fixing railways, repainting bathrooms, stuff like that. We would like to do more long range, but the grants didn’t seem to be available right now.”
Part of the fame of the park is that it is the spot where James Fenimore Cooper describes Natty Bumppo’s cabin in “The Pioneers.” He mentions it again in a later novel, “Safe at Home” as the main characters, the Effinghams visit the spot and remember it as the hut belonging to Bumppo, also known as Hawkeye, Deerslayer, Leatherstocking, Pathfinder, the tracker and several other names.
“Natty probably chose that spot for his hut, on account of the vicinity of the spring,” the novel reads. Later Cooper adds: “Yonder little fountain that you see gushing from the thicket, and which comes glancing like diamonds into the lake, is called ‘the Fairy Spring,’ by some flight of poetry that, like so many of our feelings, must have been imported; for I see no connection between the name and character of the country, fairies have never been known, even by tradition, in Otsego.”
Although the 5.7 acres of the park on the lake side is the part most frequented by visitors, Fairy Spring also includes 26 acres above the road.There is a trail through the woods that, although unmaintained, is great for hiking.
“That’s very special, because it is truly undeveloped.” Tillapaugh said, “Not everybody knows about that part of the park.”
The park has a pavilion that was built as part of a 1930s Works Progress Administration project and is in need of repairs.
“It has a great, old cobblestone fireplace,” Tillapaugh said. “The big problem is that it is a big project to repair it. If we wanted to do something, we would have to get some grant funding. I have been on the lookout for a grant, but it seems like they are not available right now. I hope something will open up in the future.”