Ever since 1963, when Charles Hinkley and a group of Tri-Town businessmen came up with the idea for what we know today as the General Clinton Canoe Regatta, people lined the shores of the Susquehanna to watch the canoeists as they made their 70-mile trek from Cooperstown to Bainbridge.
While there were only 45 entries in that 1963 race, those numbers had grown to more than 500 by 1970. There was no really good place to watch or celebrate as the canoeists crossed the finish line, but that finally changed in the early 1970s with the establishment of General Clinton Park in Bainbridge.
At a special meeting held on Jan. 10, 1972, the Bainbridge Chamber of Commerce voted almost unanimously for the acquisition of a 45-acre tract of land along the Susquehanna, due to become General Clinton Park.
Clifford Wade headed a subscription committee, with a responsibility of raising $39,000 to purchase the land. The total cost of the land was $45,000, and the General Clinton Canoe Regatta committee already had some revenue generated from previous races.
The effort to make this land a park had begun the year before, as the Chamber had invested $4,000 in capital improvements to the land, including roads, grading, temporary restrooms and a refreshment stand.
With the start of the 1972 fundraising campaign, Harold Doyle, owner of the property, donated $500. Other major kickoff contributors came from Charles H. Eldred & Co., Demeree Chevrolet and James Mirabito and Sons.
The campaign wasn’t simply made by flat or anonymous donations, it became a loan process. Money would be paid back to bond holders each year on profits made at the annual regatta. Demand notes were issued to subscribers by Bert Bridge, treasurer, when they stopped by the Bainbridge office of the National Bank and Trust Co. Interest-free loans could be of any denomination.
The Tri-Town News kept a close watch on the total and listed new subscribers almost weekly. By Feb. 9 the campaign had reached its quarter mark, with the half-way point by Feb. 23.