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May 21, 2013

Copes Corner Park gets new lease on life

By Joe Mahoney Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — The job description for town supervisor doesn’t normally include mowing grass, but that’s what Charlie Eckelmann found himself doing the other day over at Copes Corner Park in the hamlet of Gilbertsville.

Like an abandoned pet rescued from the local humane society, Copes Corner Park, acquired this year by the town of Butternuts, is getting the kind of attention from its new owner it hadn’t received in years.

For decades, the park had served as Otsego County’s only public campground. But two torrential storms over the past decade took their toll on the park, and county officials grew fatigued with the costs of making the repairs and maintaining the green space.

Enter Eckelmann, the town supervisor of Butternuts, who saw the park on the banks of the Butternut Creek as a natural resource his community of 1,750 people could use.

The county transferred the deed to the park to the town, and now Eckelmann and others are working to get it in shape for the upcoming summer season.

This summer, the park can be used as a picnic area free of charge and three pavilions can be rented out at nominal charge for family reunions and other special occasions. But the campground won’t be in operation until next year, said Eckelmann.

“There is just too little time to put everything in place for the camping,” Eckelmann said.

He said a chlorination system for public water must still be installed and approved by the state Department of Health.

The town has authorized spending up to $3,000 to make improvements to Copes Corner, an expense that Eckelmann said will be defrayed by the rental of the pavilions. The smaller of the three pavilions can be rented for $40 per day while the two larger ones go for $60.

No longer will people be charged for parking at Copes Corner, he said, noting: “We didn’t want to be nickel-and-diming the people.”

Eckelmann said the town has already lined up a live-in caretaker for the park, though that man won’t be moving into the cabin at Copes Corner until after the Health Department has approved the water system.

The man has agreed to mow the lawn and do other chores there in return for getting a rent-free space in summer.

In the meantime, Eckelmann he has been mowing the grass to keep it from becoming overrun with weeds.

A former resident of Brooklyn, Eckelmann said he moved to Butternuts 20 years ago.

“I have no regrets moving here,” he said. “We want to keep things in Butternuts nice and beautiful, just the way it is. Things are certainly moving forward here.”