How to build a park? Here’s exactly what Copake’s done

COPAKE—When Copake Memorial Park soon turns 35, the whole town will have itself to thank.

The now much-loved and indispensable park came together over the years through the hard work and dedication of those who call this place home.

In the clerk’s office at Town Hall, there’s a yellow loose-leaf notebook, thick with old newspaper story clippings, correspondence on Town letterhead, photographs of grinning Little League teams and hands-on volunteer construction work, a thank-you note with signatures scrawled in pencil by kids who now are 30-some-odd-year-old adults, the first Copake Parks and Recreation Commission report, old tickets for fundraising events and raffles, maps and a program marked: Dedication Copake Memorial Park July 25, 1982.

Black capital letters glued on front of the notebook say: “HISTORY COPAKE MEMORIAL PARK 1979 – 1984” and its contents chronicle how the park came to be.

The faces looking out from its pages are those one might have seen while strolling to the post office or the general store 35 years ago—some now gone and some still here working to make the park the best place it can be.

Copake Memorial Park, named in memory of many beloved townspeople, started out as a five-acre parcel with access off Mountain View Road, sold to the town by Sidney Quinby, father of current Park Commission member Chris.

The price tag was $13,500. Copake residents were asked to vote on a referendum for the purchase of the land on Election Day, November 6, 1979, not because they would have to pay for the purchase but to see if they were in favor of establishing a recreational site “to provide a Community Park for all residents of Copake to enjoy leisure time activities.”

Money for the purchase was already set aside in the town budget from Federal Revenue Sharing Funds, so the purchase would result in no additional cost to the taxpayer, according to reports in the Roe Jan Independent newspaper at the time.

With voter approval of the land acquisition–the vote was 557 in favor to 324 opposed–the town got busy appointing a park commission, which in turn set about soliciting public donations for funds, material and labor. The plan was to install a little league and softball field, a playground and equipment, a picnic area, shuffleboard and basketball courts, a comfort station and parking area.

An army of volunteers put on car washes, golf tournaments, auctions, dances, raffles, movies, trash and treasure, balloon, cotton candy and bake sales to earn money.

On July 25, 1982, 300 people gathered at the park for its dedication. A mobile platform was set up with a few chairs, some balloons and a podium, from which then Supervisor Alfred “Butch” Near welcomed the crowd.

Speakers included Columbia County Board of Supervisor’s Chairman John Hess, Columbia County Sheriff Paul Proper, Sr., Copake Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Robert Jorgensen and Copake Councilman Harold Boice.

During the ceremonies, areas of the park were dedicated in memory of:

*The Dr. R.L. Bowerhan playground; Dr. Bowerhan practiced medicine in Copake for 41 years and specialized in obstetrics

*The Peter J. Braunsdorf picnic area; Mr. Braunsdorf was a professional land surveyor, who donated his services to survey, layout and design the park

*The Frank Stang softball field; Mr. Stang was a lifelong Copake resident, who for generations ran the local garage and gas station and mentored area youth

*The Harold Carman, Jr., soccer field; Harold was a young outstanding soccer player at Taconic Hills. His parents dedicated the field in his memory.

According to an editorial about the event in the Roe Jan Independent by Deborah Shepherd, despite some pain for the loved ones of those being honored… “it was a joyful day, a day for kids, balloons, singing, dancing, baseball, picnicking, and generally celebrating life…and celebrating a dream…and celebrating that a lot of people in Copake cared enough to make that dream come true.”

Over the years more park land was purchased and some was also donated bringing the park up to the nearly 18 acres in size it is today.

Now there are two little league fields; softball, soccer, football and volleyball fields; an ice skating rink; a skateboard park; tennis and basketball courts; a tractor pull area; and a playground outfitted with equipment appropriate for a wide range of ages, Copake Parks and Recreation Commission Chairperson Liana Roberts told The Columbia Paper this week.

The town’s annual Summer Recreation program takes place at the park, along with the Easter Egg Hunt, summer Music in the Park concert series, the Haunted House and Halloween Party, Holiday Light Parade and Party.

Buildings include the Community Park Building dedicated to former Highway Superintendent and current Town Clerk Larry Proper, a garage, a pavilion, concessions stand and outdoor bathrooms.

Ms. Roberts said the upcoming 35th anniversary celebration Saturday, August 5 will be cause for the entire town to celebrate. The commission hopes everyone will turn-out for this all-day, town-wide extravaganza with businesses and organizations throughout the town participating.

Festivities begin at 8 a.m. with the Copake Fire Company’s Trash and Treasure Sale and car wash. From 10 a.m. until noon, FM 93.5 will broadcast and play “oldies” in the hamlet. A car show happens from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the old KeyBank parking lot and behind Dad’s Diner.

At the Copake Grange, live music and an art show take place from noon till 4 p.m. The Copake Revitalization Task Force helped facilitate the event, which is being organized by Slink Moss.

Merchants in the hamlet will offer special promotions to mark the celebration. In honor of the occasion, Catamount offers all Copake residents a three-hour Adventure Park pass worth $53 for $35, good all day August 5.

Festivities in the park kick off at 1 p.m. with free activities for kids: a bounce house, water slide, magic show, balloon tying, face painting and horseback rides.

The Oldies Show,” a popular nine-piece band from Albany, plays from 2 to 4 p.m. and again from 7 to 9 p.m. Christina Dellea vocalizes from 5 to 6 p.m.

All the food at the park will be sold at “retro” (1984) prices. Games for kids will cost $1 and every contestant will win. A scavenger hunt features local businesses and a local “goodie” bag prize. The winner and all raffle drawing winners will be announced at 9 p.m. Raffle tickets are available for sale from any Park Commission member and also at Town Hall.

For the grand finale, the day concludes with a fireworks show at 9 p.m.

Sponsors of the day include: magic show by Peck and Peck; balloon tying by the Copake Veterinary Hospital; bounce house by Jim’s Auto Body; horse rides by Copake Lake Realty; face painting by Karma Carpentry; Christina Dellea by Sunset/Sunrise; fireworks by Waubeeka Family Campground and the Town of Copake; The Oldies Show by Waubeeka Family Campground, Roe Jan Auto and Copake Wine Works.

Copake Memorial Park offers residents the option of taking the kids to an open area where they can run around or explore the playground, said Ms. Roberts.

All ages come to the park for the summer music series, some even get up and dance, she noted.

Yet the park is a peaceful place, dedicated to the memories of many loved ones. It’s a place where people can meet each other, get outside and enjoy the summer. It’s a place with that “hometown feel that we need to get back to,” she said.

Now, if they could only find that time capsule.

To contact Diane Valden email

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