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May 23, 2013

Fairy Spring's anniversary to celebrate 'insider's park'

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.”

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