CGP Community Stories

Pamela Washburn, November 18, 2009

Title

Pamela Washburn, November 18, 2009

Subject

Cooperstown, NY
Cooperstown Parks
Friends of the Parks

Description

Pamela Washburn, originally from rural Ohio, arrived in Cooperstown in 1970 and has been involved in a number of community-oriented projects throughout the village since that time. A member of the League of Women Voters and a teacher, she has worked with the Regional Council of Historical Agencies, Bassett Hospital, and the Baseball Hall of Fame. From 1985 to 1997, Washburn was a driving force in the formation and operations of Friends of the Parks, a Cooperstown organization that worked hand-in-hand with the village Parks Committee. Analyzing the parks’ resources and targeting key renovation and accessibility projects, the Friends of the Parks obtained several grants for improvement and made many updates and upgrades to Cooperstown’s parks during this period.

Washburn’s recollections about the Friends of the Parks include the time of its formation, drafting its first twenty-year plan, key members, the politics of change, specific memories of renovations in Lakefront and Three Mile Point Park, and information about working with a Spring 2009 Cooperstown Graduate Program class to research and compile information about the parks. She shares some insight into Cooperstown’s winter festivities, including the lighting on Main Street, Santa’s house in Pioneer Park, and the custom of Cooperstown’s village ice-skating.

Creator

Emilie Arnold

Publisher

Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University of New York-College at Oneonta

Date

2009-11-18

Rights

New York State Historical Association Library, Cooperstown, NY

Format

audio/mpeg
27.4mB

audio/mpeg
27.4mB

audio/mpeg
27.4mB

audio/mpeg
5.45mB

image/jpeg
1408 x 1056 pixels

Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Image

Identifier

10-083

Coverage

Cooperstown, NY
1970-2009

Interviewer

Emilie Arnold

Interviewee

Pamela Washburn

Location

New York State Historical Association Library
Cooperstown, NY

Transcription

Cooperstown Graduate Program
Oral History Project Fall 2009

PW = Pamela Washburn
EA = Emilie Arnold

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]

EA

This is the November 18, 2009 interview of Pamela Washburn by Emilie Arnold for the Cooperstown Graduate Program’s Research and Fieldwork course recorded at the New York State Historical Association’s library classroom in Cooperstown, New York. Pam, I’d like to start out by asking you what got you involved in the parks.

PW

Okay. When I came to Cooperstown after I’d sort of retired from my job and started my family, I was looking for activities, and so I joined the League of Women Voters, and I was very much involved in that over the years. In 1985, out of the blue, I was contacted to see if I would fill a term on the village board. There was one year remaining, and the board can appoint a person to fill a vacancy. So I did it, and my first assignment was to be on the Parks Committee. That was it. It changed my life.

EA

How long had the Parks Committee been established in Cooperstown?

PW

Well, the Parks Committee consisted of two board members. One of the members had been on that the previous year, but that was the first problem I saw, that there was no carry over. It was a one-year assignment, and so nobody really got into it. And that’s when I immediately saw the need to have a group that was consistent—a group of community representatives that could really assess parks and come up with ideas for changing them. Certainly that was not going to happen while it was just a political appointment. That’s what happened in December of 1985. We held our first community meeting and created the Friends of the Parks.

EA

Was that the Village Trustees?

PW

Yes.

EA

Are the Board and the Trustees the same thing?

PW

The Board of Trustees, yes. And so there was still a Parks Committee appointed, but the Parks Committee now had the advantage of getting input and reports from the members of the Friends of the Parks. They were much more involved in assessing needs and looking at all of the parks.

EA

Did you have public meetings? How did you get input from the community?

PW

Yes, we did have public meetings, especially whenever we were considering a particular park. We would hold a public meeting and ask for input. We would send out mailings so that all of the residents would be informed that a meeting was taking place.

EA

And was Three Mile Point Park the first park you really got started on?

PW

Actually, no. The immediate need that we all saw was the fact that the Indian Hunter statue in Lakefront Park was completely covered with corrosion, and we were really concerned about the metal being eaten away. And at that time we had the Cooperstown art conservation program still in town, and we contacted one of the graduates of the program who had done work on bronze statues. Her name was Marianne Russell, and actually she was in Buffalo at the time. I’m not a hundred percent sure that the program was still here in Cooperstown, but I think it was in 1985 and 1986. So she outlined what needed to be done and gave us the quote and all of that, and we followed the village procedures in getting bids on the job. She won the bid and did the work. So that was our first fundraising project, to raise money to pay for that so that it wouldn’t come from village funds. It would come from area residents. This is the project that Ted Peters was heading. He had joined our Friends of the Parks committee, and because of his scientific background and the science involved, we felt quite assured that we were giving the statue the best possible treatment. We raised the money, and we did it.

EA

What was Ted Peters’s scientific background?

PW

He was a researcher at the hospital. I can’t tell you which field, but he was a scientist working for Bassett’s research institute. We were very glad to have him doing that.

EA

How long did it take you to get the statue redone?

PW

I can’t even remember whether we did it in ’86 or ’87. I can’t tell you for sure. We might have even done it that summer of 1986. Probably ’87, but I’d have to look at my files.

EA

Okay, we’ll save that for the second part of the interview. What other changes were made to Lakefront Park?

PW

The next thing that we saw that really needed to be done there was to construct a new bathroom, because the one that was there had been constructed in the 1930s, and it was very rustic. It was a flush toilet, though. It bordered on the backyards of the people who live adjacent to the park. At first we thought we would just rebuild it in the same place, but then the neighbors who lived there thought it would be a much better idea to move it across the park, near the parking area. We agreed that that made sense, and that cost a bit more money because we had to put in a new sewer line, coming from Pioneer Street. It had to go all the way across the park. And [we had to put in] water lines, which we wouldn’t have had to do. But in the end, that public input was great. I think everybody was happy.

EA

So that’s an example of the community working with you.

PW

Yes.

EA

When did that take place? Was it long after the Indian Hunter?

PW

No, I don’t think so. It was the next one. Because then our major project began—working on Three Mile Point.

EA

I visited Three Mile Point the other day. It was gorgeous. I can see why it was a major project for you. What was that renovation process like?

PW

Well, we had to get the approval of DEC and the Department of Public Health. We couldn’t put in flush toilets because there are no sewer lines going along from Three Mile to the village, so it had to be some kind of composting toilet. We had to educate ourselves and educate the community about it. That was extremely important, and when we received approval for it we were really grateful and we could move ahead with it. We had to find an architect to design the building. I must say that none of us had any kind of experience doing this before. Really, I don’t think any of us had built our own home so that we had been through that. It was a new experience. And when you’re working with a municipality, you have different rules and regulations. It involved a lot of work, but, as you said, it was so wonderful, the result. It made it so worthwhile. We were very happy to be able to provide a park where children could come and swim—it’s the best one for children—and having those sandy beach areas and the area designed for fishermen. It was a very fulfilling service that we did.

EA

I noticed that there was a pier that was handicap-accessible as well.

PW

That was part of the project, making it for the fishermen to be able to access it. The plantings were all new. We had to remove a couple of willow trees, which was sad, but they actually blocked the view. We moved them in, away from the edge of the lake, so that you could have the benefit of being in the shade, but you would also be able to see the lake. We had to work with the Busch family and the Hagers, because they share Three Mile Point. They have the other half of it. We wanted to make sure they were on board and in agreement about the project. A couple of us met with the family and discussed the plans and all of that. They accepted them. Again, it involved working with lots of people. One of my biggest memories is of our loyal member, Ann Rath. She was the gardener, a member of the garden club. If you looked along the driveway, we had put in different tiers of stonework with plantings on them. We did the plantings. All of it was an act of love—pitching in and getting the best quality we could for the lowest price.

EA

Do you remember a lot of volunteers from Cooperstown coming to help with any particular tasks, in the renovation?

PW

I think there were. Staining the inside of the building… I think that’s where we used their services. I can’t remember about the exterior. That was just too many years ago. I can’t remember that.

EA

I was looking at the Three Mile Point park binder, and I did find an article that mentioned a father-daughter team coming to help with the woodwork, I believe. It was really interesting. Clearly, the community came out.

PW

Yes, they did. And then finding the caretaker [who] would live there… We had created [the caretaker’s cottage] for a family. Up until then, we had had caretakers, but they were young, single people. We really thought that this was a family park, and we wanted a family to live there. It would be ideal for a teacher’s family. That’s what happened. We were very lucky to have the Kaiser family come. They loved it and they stayed there for many years. They were just perfect for it.

EA

Is there a caretaker living there now?

PW

In the summer time, I believe there is. I didn’t go this summer, so I don’t know who is doing it. There was a change because Ken Kaiser died. His wife decided that without Ken, they really didn’t want to do it, so there was a turn over, and I really don’t know anything about it since then.

EA

I heard somebody mention there was a dedication for Ken Kaiser. Was that at Three Mile Point? Someone might have mentioned Five Mile Point, but that almost doesn’t make sense.

PW

No, Three Mile Point. That’s where it would have been. I did not attend that, but they certainly loved it. And everybody loved going to the park. That’s what it was all about.

EA

Do you recall at all any controversies about those changes? I was reading in the binder and I found letters to the editor about some of the changes, and I was wondering if you recalled anything about that time.

PW

No, I don’t recall. I’m sure there are always people with different ideas.

EA

This was specifically about parking.

PW

At Three Mile. Yes, I do remember that, because people would have to walk a greater distance to get to the beach. We widened the area and created that crossing so that people could park their cars and walk a bit. I guess the complaint came from a mother having to carry lots of children’s equipment. It was change, and that’s one of the things you learn in public service, that you do your best, and not everybody’s going to be happy with it. That was the major complaint, I think, just the distance, and the fact that they couldn’t drive up and drop the things off. Is that what the article was about?

EA

Yes, it was a mother. It might have indicated that there was a loss of parking spaces. Was that a possibility?

PW

Yes, it could have been. We didn’t think it ended up being a problem. When it was really crowded in the height of summer, people could park along the road. There was never a problem. The driveway has a very wide mouth and people could park on both sides of that up at the top. You had to get there a little bit earlier, maybe, to get your parking spot. We also encouraged people to carpool. If you were meeting friends up there, you wouldn’t have to each have a car. You could carpool, and that made a lot of sense. There are always pros and cons.

EA

Were the Friends of the Parks responsible for the interpretive boards that were placed in the parks as well?

PW

Yes, and inside the caretaker’s, there were two glass cases with information, a display area specifically to inform people about either the park or the water or whatever issue was important.* We were very glad to have that also. There were picnic tables inside the pavilion. You didn’t get in, right? Was it closed?

EA

It was actually open.

PW

So you got in. Oh, good. It felt very cozy, I think, and comfortable. It was a big change over the changing rooms. Knowing what had been there and what was there now, it was the difference between night and day.

EA

How do you think the renovations might have connected Cooperstown with the history of the park?

PW

Well, we certainly studied the history, all of us of the Friends of the Parks, and we loved having the Smith and Telfer photographs. There were some nice pictures of the park. We knew how important it had been to the community because the residents really wanted it to belong to the village. We were grateful that one of the family members of the Coopers sold it to the village. We were very happy to have that. I remember once suggesting that we might sell the park. It wasn’t in the village, and why do we really need the park? All the ideas come up and you have to consider them and think about them and then think this has been important to the community, and it continues to be very important, to have this place to take children, to have a get-together, where you don’t have to hike into it like you do at Fairy Spring. You can really drive up to the picnic pavilion. It was much easier to make it handicap accessible than Fairy Spring Park. We felt it was important to keep that. Fortunately that idea didn’t go anywhere.

EA

That is fortunate. Did you ever bring your family to the parks?

PW

Yes, I did. I had children who loved swimming and they spent a lot of time there in the summertime. It was great. My children used it mainly before the renovations, because in 1991, my son graduated from high school, and that’s when we did the project. His memory is of the old park and not the new one. It was an act of love for us to do it. We were very happy that we could make an improvement and improve the fact that there was probably leakage coming from the holding tanks because they had been there for fifty years. We thought it was important for the village to take care of not being a polluter.

EA

These were the restroom holding tanks?

PW

Yes. They would be pumped every year at the end of the season. A big truck would come and pump out the tanks. But they needed to be replaced. They could have just been replaced with holding tanks. Composting was really in its early days. I know some other people along the lake put in composting toilets after we had done that.

EA

You set a precedent, you think?

PW

We set an example, maybe. As the lake organizations became more and more concerned, they started inspecting people’s systems. They could look to the fact that Three Mile Point had been improved. I think it was the first that I know of to be improved with a composting toilet.

EA

Did you have a lot of involvement with the lake organizations as you were making plans?

PW

We tapped the SUCO Biological Field Station for information. We got their input as I recall. It was mainly working with the Department of Public Health out of Oneonta that provided us with what we could do and what we couldn’t do, that sort of thing. I really do think if the Trustees had not supported the creation of the Friends of the Parks, it would have been many years later that this sewage system would have been approved. I’m grateful to them for supporting our desire to have them.

EA

What kinds of freedoms to the Friends of the Parks have compared to the Trustees? How does the board for the parks operate differently than the Friends of the Parks?

PW

The original Friends of the Parks was an organization of the village. It was not created as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3). Our bank account was through the village. And that’s part of what had to be changed. We learned that it could not continue to be part of the village. It needed to be a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization. I was very grateful to the next generation of Friends of the Parks for doing that. Ann Rath and I were on the original committee, supporting that effort. But Jessie Ravage was the one who did it with the help of new people coming in. It was a group of five people, maybe, that consisted of the two of us from the original Friends of the Parks and then new people.

EA


How do you recall Ann Rath getting involved initially? She’s a gardener, you said.

PW

Yes. She had brought up her children in the area. She was also the one who had started the Cooperstown chapter of the League of Women Voters. She was just that kind of person. I met her through the league. I knew about her gardening interest. When I became a trustee and working with the parks, Ann was the first person I talked to. “What can I do? Are you interested in doing it with me?” Yes. That’s one of my biggest blessings of working with the Friends of the Parks. I worked with different age groups. Ann was an older generation, and Ellen Tillapaugh came in as a graduate of the museum program. She was younger than I. The three of us worked very hard. It was Ellen and I working together who wrote the long-range, twenty-year plan, which was something that we needed to have in order to apply for grant money. Ellen’s training was great. She knew how to do it and we did it together. It involved a lot of work. Have you looked at the plan?

EA

No, I didn’t see it.

PW

Well, I did bring it.

EA

Oh, you brought the plan. I was just about to ask about the plan. [START OF TRACK 2, 30:00] I wanted to ask what kind of goals you set right when you were starting out.

PW

Can I get it out?
EA

Sure.

PW

[Taking out and opening the plan.] I found it at the last minute. You can see how well marked it is. And the Indian Hunter was our featured emblem. At this time we had created the Board of Park Commissioners. I had immediately seen the need for that because when it was a committee, it only had two trustees, and nobody else from the community. By creating a Board of Park Commissioners, you would have one trustee, and the rest would be community members. We felt that was very important, to have overlapping terms and to have residents of the village be part of the parks board. It’s kind of unusual to have the Friends created first and then the Parks Board created secondly, but that’s the way it happened.

EA

And the Friends pushed for that?

PW

[Turning pages throughout.]
Yes. Okay, one of the things we started with was this plan. In fact, Ann Rath has another connection. Her husband was on the planning board, and he was the one who had really helped the village see the need to have a long-range plan. We started with that and used that as the basis for our doing a specific parks and recreation plan.

EA

So this was a plan through 2008? Is that twenty years?

PW

From ’88? Yeah. In fact, I wonder if they’re working on a new one, an updated one. I think they may have been working on one. So this is where Ellen’s expertise came in, helping us find out what a plan … the chapters that you needed and the work that you needed to do. The first one was the inventory. That was very beneficial for us to be able to inform the public, to have a publication, because there was no one book. But this book that anyone could get from the village office had the history, basically, of the parks. We felt it was very important to do. We had to include all of the community recreational activities in here. And then we had to do the population analysis. Nothing had been done in the village like this since the 1962 study and so it was beneficial.

EA

Population growth…

PW

And we had to explain the demand analysis, what community residents desired, and so we had an opinion survey. Then New York State had a state-wide plan and we used the standards outlined in that for the village plan.

EA

What does that say?

PW

It says, “Add in the little league field,” that had been built, “Kid City, and the village garden.” I didn’t put a date.

EA

What is Kid City?

PW

Kid City is … I think that’s what they were calling the playground that we wanted to create. The park on Beaver Street was where Kid City was going to be.

EA

It didn’t pan out?

PW

It did, for awhile. It did, and they still have it. Now the park is called Badger Park, and that has the playground on it.

EA

So it was outlined in your plan, and… that’s a recent park, isn’t it?

PW

It wasn’t outlined in the plan originally.

EA

Oh. That’s why the Post-It’s there.

PW

That’s why the Post-It’s there, yes. And the community had really begun raising their voice about the need for one, and the big debate was whether or not it should be at Lakefront Park. The community basically wanted it at Lakefront Park. We debated that and we really felt that the beauty of that park is being able to sit and enjoy the peacefulness of it. The beauty and the peacefulness. And somehow the playground was incongruous with that. So we looked for other options and felt that Badger Park, once it was given to the village, was the perfect place to do it. So a lot of people had made up their minds; they thought it should be in Lakefront Park. So that was another issue for the community to discuss and decide about. So then we came up with the action plan. It includes the history of when the Friends of the Parks were created in December of 1985, and then the Board of Park Commissioners was created in April of 1988.

EA

I see.

PW

It took a little bit of time for us to really see the need and convince the board of the need to have a parks board. Then we came up with our plans and what we wanted to do. … Detailed.

EA

Very detailed.

PW

A lot of man hours—woman hours, here. And then we had to prioritize which things we thought were the most important, and the first one we felt was constructing the pavilion at Three Mile Point. This was 1988. We had done some initial things already. It was Three Mile Point that needed new electrical service, needed the new bathrooms. Then our next plan was for Lakefront Park, and again, we had to do landscaping, and we needed to update the park’s electrical system. There were other needs that came up, like repairing the bandstand, and people following up after I had left were involved in doing that—restoring the bandstand. The greatest joy of mine is that it’s carried on, that it’s viable, that it’s an important part of our community.

EA

When did you leave?

PW

I’m not sure. I think it was ’96. I think—it might have been earlier. Details. Can’t tell you that detail. I could look it up. It’ll be in the files.

EA

Oh, I’m sure.

PW

Okay, so this is … what is this? This is the county … Oh, we called upon the county planning department to help us, because we needed to have a public opinion survey. We were very grateful that they were willing to do that and [that they] did this study for us. Well actually, I’m wrong. They did this in ’78, so it was a long time before. It’s what we used and included in the study because something hadn’t been done since, but we did discuss it with the county and the county planning board. But their study had been done in 1978. So that had been ten years before. This is the New York State Outdoor Recreation Plan. It included parts of that. And then, in the back, I think I have a history—the appendix. “Excerpts of park history taken from a History of Cooperstown by James Fenimore Cooper, Samuel Shaw, Walter Littell, and Harold H. Hollis.”

EA

I’ve read that book. Parts of it.

PW

In fact, we looked at it just last night. We were looking at something about the orphanage that existed in Cooperstown. So this is what we got on Three Mile Point, and then on Council Rock Park, Fairy Spring Park, Lakefront Park, [and] Pioneer Park. This was the original proposal that we presented to the Board of Trustees on October 15, 1985, requesting that they create a Friends of the Parks account, so that money that we raised could be saved in that account, dedicated to that account, and then used for our various projects.

EA

That’s an enormous amount of research. How long did it take?

PW

I can’t tell you. It took, you know, probably a winter. It was a big project. We had to do that before we could apply for the grant.

EA

Which grant was that, do you remember?

PW

From New York State, we received a grant that allowed us to do the project. We had to raise funds also, but it was the grant writing … that’s another thing that Ellen Tillapaugh and I did. We wrote the grants. That was a new experience, and it’s been beneficial in other areas of my life. Writing grants was something I learned by volunteering and had success at.

EA

What was the biggest grant you think you went for?

PW

The one for Three Mile Point. I can’t remember—it was $97,000 or something like that.

EA

Wow … and you got it?

PW

And we got it.

EA

That’s great.

PW

I mean, I don’t know the amount. I wouldn’t swear to it. Details.

EA

Oh, I’m sure it’s in the files.

PW

Yes, in the files. That pretty much covers the plan. You can see what we did. And then I have this file called “History of the Friends of the Parks.” And this is from 1990, and it gives the accomplishments to date. Hugh MacDougall wrote a history for us.

EA

Who is Hugh MacDougall?

PW

Oh, Hugh MacDougall is … I’m not sure if he’s a native of Cooperstown. I can’t say that. But he is the historian for Cooperstown, and he has a column in the weekly paper. Every week, he has history—something about the history of this area. When we were scheduling a celebration on the fiftieth anniversary of Lakefront Park, he wrote this, and we were very grateful to him for documenting—he gave the history of Lakefront Park, and then the story of … it does say that 1987 is when we had [the Indian Hunter statue] repaired, done by Marianne Russell.

EA

So how did you get him involved, to write this?

PW

Oh, I think he did it voluntarily. It was just … he wanted to contribute to the celebration, and that’s his interest, knowing Cooperstown’s history. In fact, he is a part—I wish I could tell you, but he’s a part of some organization—oh, the Cooper Society, that’s what it is. The Cooper Society is a national organization, and he has been very much involved in that. Anything to do with Cooperstown fits in with the Cooper Society. So we have that, and I hope that a copy of it is in the file—I’m not sure that it is.

EA

Was it published?

PW

I’m not a hundred percent sure. Oh, as he said on his note to me, “Here’s the Journal version.” So it was published in the newspaper, I think. It should be in the study that was done. It was wonderful to have this history. And that’s my dream, that someday someone is going to write a book on the history of the parks. And maybe I should still talk to Hugh about that. He’s taken step one here, but I’m really interested in seeing a book on the parks, because it’s a unique place, and so historic, with the history behind—from Three Mile Point to Fairy Spring to Lakefront … all of them. Pioneer Park, Council Rock—of course, you couldn’t be more historic than Council Rock.

EA

I actually have a question about Pioneer Park. I was wondering—do you know how it became kind of Cooperstown’s Christmas hub?

PW

Well, you know that the Freeman’s Journal building was there, and it burned down in the early 1960s. It was developed with the help of the Garden Club, I think, designing it … I remember when the house—when Santa’s house was built and moved, and that was a wonderful accomplishment, having that as part of our Christmas celebration.

EA

So that happened while you were with Friends of the Parks?

PW

I believe so. I can’t tell you what year it was. I don’t know for sure. But because it was another organization, the Christmas Committee, that came up with doing that, they just had to get permission to use the park, which they did from the Board of Park Commissioners. It was done by another organization. But a great use of the park. Now you haven’t been here yet, to see…

EA

I haven’t been here for Christmas yet.

PW

No, so this will be your first year. Okay, well, the question is whether or not it will be a white Christmas. The changes that have taken place, though, have been in terms of the light bulbs in the town. You’ll see, when the village is decorated, we used to use the old-fashioned lights, and then they changed to the energy-saving light bulbs. And they cast a blue cast and people were pretty unhappy with that. So they changed, somehow or other they found another alternative. But for a couple of years, they were blue lights. At least we were helping to save the environment.

EA

Right, right. It doesn’t sound very cozy for Christmas.

PW

No. So, I think I’ve covered it all. Do you have any other questions?

EA

Well, I was a little curious also about ice-skating at Lakefront Park, and issues with that—how long that’s been a tradition. Do you know?

PW

Yes. It was the tradition in the village—I can’t tell you for how long, for many years, but—do you know where the original ice skating rink was?

EA

No, where was it?

PW

It was on Lake Street, behind the Cooper Inn. If you walk by that block—you know, the Cooper Inn on Chestnut Street—if you walk in that block between Chestnut and Pioneer, you’ll see there’s an opening that leads down, down a hill, and you’ll see a flat area. And that’s where the skating rink was for many years. Everybody loved it there—it was just great. Then, I guess—I can’t explain the exact reason, but that was private property, and it was time to—since the village was running the skating rink, it was time to look at village property and see about where we could have it. We decided that really the only adequate place was on Fish Road, down adjacent to Lakefront Park. Actually, they may have had it someplace else for a while. I think they had it up on Chestnut Street across from the Fire Hall. I think it was up there, too, while we were looking for places. But then it ended up being down on Lakefront Park. And then, once Badger Park was donated to the village, they moved it there, and that was the perfect place to have that. That way we weren’t taking up parking spaces.

EA

Oh, so now Badger Park is where [the rink is set up now] … I see. Because I saw pictures in one of the binders of skating at Lakefront Park, and I wondered if it still happened here.

PW

No.

EA

That’s too bad. It just sounds like it would be so picturesque, skating on the lake.

PW

Oh, yes. Yes, it is.

EA

One more question before we look at the boxes. Why do you think researching the parks is important?

PW

Well, researching the history? Well, the community is … the way of life of a community is what’s important. These various properties have been so important to the people of this community that it was just incumbent upon us to know that history, and it’s just important to know it so it helps you appreciate it. There’s always the need for assessing the needs and trying to improve them. There’s one project that has not yet been done that I hope that will happen sometime soon, and that is the Council Rock Park—the edge of it is eroding. And it really needs to be preserved by putting rocks along it. We had an assessment done by the Soil and Water Conservation department of the county and they basically prepared a plan and this is what they recommended. It’s in the file, somewhere. It needs to be done. That’s the major remaining project that I’m concerned about.

EA

And those rocks would have been historically appropriate, I’m assuming.

PW

It’s very easy to find.

EA

It’s just replacing what’s missing.

PW

No, there are no rocks there.

EA

Oh. Were there, in the past?

PW

Probably not, no. Just the whole park is smaller than it used to be because of natural erosion, and that can be prevented. I mean, eventually, it may get to the point where you can’t walk when you go down the steps into Council Rock, and you have the platform there, and there’s steps down to the shore line. Well, the concern is that eventually you won’t be able to do that. The shoreline will be moving back, and back, until there’s a footpath and then maybe the hill.

EA

I have noticed it’s quite small.

PW

And the lake is high now. It really does need to be attended to. Now that’s one thing we haven’t talked about—putting in the new sea wall at Lakefront Park.

EA

That’s right.

PW

That was a huge project. We were very concerned because the concrete wall that was there was cracked, and hunks of it were missing. In the spring, when the lake would melt, you’d have water coming into the park—many feet, into the park, and you’d have to wait for the lake level to go down so that that water would go back into the lake. Not a good situation. After we had done Three Mile Point, the next major project was to look at repairing or replacing the sea wall. And that’s a really wonderful story because the Friends of the Parks had researched this and we had come up with a plan. It turns out that two students at Cooperstown High School took on the project of trying to find the best solution for this sea wall. They interviewed an engineer from Oneonta and they came up with this plan that was completely different from our plan, and as we went to DEC and all of that, it looked like their plan was actually the best plan, the better plan. And so we changed and adopted their plan. Those two students, one of them was named Sarah Parsons, and the other one … I’m blanking on his name right now. Oh, I wish I could think of it, but we were really very happy to have that kind of input so that we ended up with a better sea wall. That’s one thing I think about having [START OF TRACK 3, 1:00:00]—the benefit of having a not-for-profit, rather than the Parks Board, just the Parks Board doing it. But by having the not-for-profit, you have so much more input about things. That was the last of the major projects that we did.

EA

And after that, smaller projects … you just went through the list that you’d made in the plan?

PW

Yes. We started cleaning up Badger Park. It was completely overgrown, it was wild. That took community volunteers. Oh, I—Kid City was the name of the playground that they built at the elementary school. That’s what Kid City was. I’m confusing it because they were wanting another Kid City kind of place in Badger Park. They wanted it for children not yet in school and basically because other people couldn’t go and use school equipment during school. In the summer time, they could—the public could go there. That was one of the things where we were building it for our community. That was one of the complaints—if you put it in Badger Park, visitors to town don’t know about it. We already had Kid City, but still there was another need, so it ended up being there.

EA

Well, if you’d like, we could take a look at the boxes. And just in case something interesting comes up, I want to leave the recorder going.

PW

Let me see this report on Lakefront Park.

EA

Actually, can I ask—how did you get involved with CGP’s class to work on these [binders of information about each of Cooperstown’s parks]? I know they got research from you, I was just wondering how…

PW

I was contacted by a student, and then I agreed to work with them. It ended up that the professor [Cynthia Falk] came to my house, and I explained the files and all of those things, and she carried them off and that was it. It was not much on my part, just giving the files.

EA

Well, it seems to me that they all came up with a timeline—a selection of newspaper clippings, a historical description of the park … let’s see.

PW

A history of the ownership.

EA

Right, the chain of title … and they got a pretty good sense of the character and everything surrounding it.

PW

Okay. I just wanted to take a peek. I wonder if the current Friends of the Parks [have] seen this, or have a copy of it.

EA

That I don’t know.

PW

Ideally … it doesn’t have to have all of these different tabs, but something to help new members when they join the Friends of the Parks.

EA

Oh, is it a membership … non-profit membership …?

PW

No, I mean when they join it … when they agree to serve on it.

EA

I see.

PW

They are appointed by the village board. [Turning pages throughout.] Oh, wait a minute, this one’s Lakefront. Well, I won’t take time looking at all of it, but it’s great having all of these photographs, too.

EA

The pictures in here are extensive.

PW

Yes, thanks to Smith-Telfer. You still have the slides, right? They should have had a slide show?

EA

They might have had a presentation, but it wasn’t with the binders that I could tell. It could be burned on a CD someplace.

PW

If you need more information, look for the CDs to see these. You’re right, more photographs than I’ve ever seen.
[Incidental conversation]
Oh yes, the pictures of the Fish family … this is another thing that Ann Rath did. She and I, we created the wrought iron fence, the low-lying wrought-iron fence, and then she planted all of those plants.

EA

Oh, is that around the Indian Hunter?

PW

Yes.

EA

Oh, I see. And that’s to keep people from climbing, I assume?

PW

Yes.

EA

Was there a problem with people climbing up there?

PW

Oh, yes. There were always people sitting—every child that came to town and saw the park wanted to be up with the Indian Hunter. That was something that Marianne Russell had told us about, protecting—trying to protect the statue. … My hope is—I think there was a slideshow. I’m not sure.

EA

There probably was.

PW

We should have it shown every other year, or something. Pick a park, every year—one park. Because the people … I don’t know about the current people, but I know how much the residents of the village—my contemporaries—how much they loved it. They love the parks. It’s just so important to them. That’s what encouraged us and gave us the impetus to accomplish these things.

EA

There it is, that was the picture I saw, ice-skating at Lakefront Park.

PW

Oh my gosh. I know all of these kids. [Laughter.] Oh dear, oh, how neat. He was our next-door neighbor. Oh, that is great.

EA

1988.

PW

Yes. Oh, I’m so glad I saw that. … Oh yes, I recognize my handwriting.

EA

Is this the sea wall?

PW

Yep, the new sea wall.

EA

Now, how tall is it?

PW

I don’t know, I can’t recall.

EA

But it does protect it from flooding.

PW

Yes. So this was in ’99, the bandstand. I was still keeping the clippings after my time.

EA

Is there a limited number of years or terms you can serve?

PW

No. … Oh, I remember that well.

EA

What is this? Oh, planting?

PW

Yes, we planted Norway spruce down there once the bathroom had been built.

EA

What is that? … is this [newspaper clipping about] controversy about the swing set?

PW

I think so. I’m not sure.

EA

I’m not sure what to make of that one.

PW

It was part of the controversy. This is March 20th and this was March 27th. She was responding to this article that was written by the mayor. And see, here’s more, swinging through the parks, the issue of whether or not to have swings at Lakefront Park. There was controversy.

EA

Is that where the agreement [came about] that Lakefront Park is a peaceful, contemplative place?

PW

Yeah. It was a hard—it was not easy to make that decision. But there was an alternative spot, and it was … who knows. Was it the best decision? There are pros and cons in all of these decisions.

EA

Absolutely.

PW

You have to just … I guess I was still involved in ’97. My name’s on the list. So I know that I was on [the committee] through the finishing of the sea wall. [Continued turning through pages.]

EA

Oh, a grant.

PW

Yeah, so it was for $70,000—oh, that was for Lakefront. That was our second big grant.

EA

What a victory. Let’s see, where did it come from … oh, the EPA.

PW

Parks and Recreation.

EA

Oh, I see.

PW

And Historic Preservation. … Oh, okay. Well, the money originally was with EPA, but the grant was given by the office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

EA

And that was another grant you wrote.

PW

Yeah. … The history is right here, thanks to last year’s students. Now, it was a group of students who did it, right? I don’t see them given any credit.

EA

I think it says on the cover which students did this particular report.

PW

And what’s in the bibliography … some parks have more than others.

EA

It seems like some people photocopied more than others as well.

PW

And where there was more work done, there was more information. … So I wonder how the photos were arranged.

EA

There may be an appendix in the beginning of one of these that has a list of all of the photographs and where they came from. I think I might have seen that the other day, when I was looking at it.

PW

I was looking for bibliography, but that’s before the appendix.

EA

Ah, there we go.

PW

[Turning pages.] Private collection. That must mean …

EA

I see you right there, too. … That’s just Lakefront Park.

PW

That’s just one, yes. Okay, this is kind of interesting, reminding me of all these things. So do we want to look at the files?

EA

If you’d like.

PW

I just might.

EA

All right.

PW

I want to look at these.

EA

I’ve been wondering about those [two plan-sized paper rolls with the box files]. I didn’t unroll those.

PW

This [one] is the new restroom facilities at Lakefront Park. December of ’86. So we got right to work on that. But that was the village, doing this. [Unrolling paper.] I wonder if they have a picture of the former bathroom in Lakefront Park.

EA

Let’s see if I can find Three Mile—this is at Three Mile? Oh, no, this is at Lakefront. They might.

PW

Yeah, with all of those photos.

EA

This is Fairy Spring.

PW

So it would be under … what do you think it would be under? In one of the appendixes? [Turning pages.]

EA

I suppose it might be in the picture even if it doesn’t show up in the name.

PW

I was looking to see if the date of … now, see, that was removed. That wasn’t there.

EA

What was that building?

PW

I don’t know if it was for fishing—the fishermen? I don’t know what that was. No, I don’t think it’s there.

EA

Too bad.

PW

It might be in the files and they just didn’t … Those [photographs] are all historic. All right, I’ll give that up. So we were really happy that the village did this. [Unrolling paper.] I’m really grateful to this architect from Cobleskill, Scott Barton. [Rustling of paper throughout.]

EA

You didn’t have too many things change in the plans?

PW

No. … I’m so glad you got to go see the park [Three Mile Point] and it was a nice day.

EA

It was gorgeous. I could see Kingfisher. It was really beautiful.

PW

[Rustling of paper throughout.] So this [box] was [the] Parks Board. This is the local recreation plan that we … this was all the work that went into the plan. This is before computers. You had to type it. Well, I think we got our first computer at the same time, so maybe … but the village was certainly using typewriters. You couldn’t go online and get all this information, I know that.

EA

Did you spend a lot of time at the library?

PW

No, I don’t think so. We just spent … well, copying this, getting this, and then going through. Ellen and I would do this…

EA

It looks like accounting information.

PW

[Turning pages throughout.] That was my writing. This was Ellen’s writing. Look at the paper.

EA

I remember [tractor-feed] paper like that.

PW

Now this is really interesting to look at all of this. This to me is so fascinating—you look at the book, and then you look at [the files]…

EA

You see it forming.

PW

Yes. Jane Patrick was a president of the Friends of the Parks and I hadn’t mentioned her yet, but she was very important to leading us. [Turning pages throughout.] Look at this… the nitty gritty. … To me, it just all seems so familiar. It’s like … “Oh yes, I remember all of this.” Look at that. We had taken a survey, I guess. I don’t know whose writing this is … population analysis.

EA

Now, is Ellen still involved with the parks?

PW

No.

EA

No? Is she here still?

PW

Yes, and she’s very active in the League, and tonight is the big meeting about the future of MOSA, the League of Women Voters is having a meeting at the Presbyterian Church at 7:00, and Ellen is the leader of the League—president of the League. … If you could take things with you when you went … this is me, this is all my writing. [Turning pages.]

EA

How long did you keep all of these—I mean, you had these files pretty much since the beginning, until when—Cindy picked them up?

PW

Yeah, until last year. In my house, not even in the barn. So I was really grateful to her for taking them. [Laughter.] I couldn’t—I just couldn’t throw them away. … All right, well, that was fun. Let’s see what’s here. Hmm… This is a picture of the bandstand. It was literally falling apart.

EA

It looks a bit disintegrated.

PW

Okay, these are photos … So that was about the sea wall. … That’s Pioneer Park. Aha. … This is when I was at Saratoga, taking a picture of the water fountain. This was when we were planting the trees, and that’s Hugh MacDougall’s wife, Eleanor MacDougall, and the mayor at the time, Wendell Tripp, and these are garden club people, and that was our mayor, Mayor Waller. She wasn’t mayor yet.

EA

[There’s] construction back there.

PW

And this is somewhere else, looking at the … everywhere I went, where there was a bandstand, photographing the bandstand. I think again that this was up at Saratoga Springs. I didn’t write on it where it was. … And that’s when we were dedicating the trees, I guess. Well, that’s interesting. [Turning pages.]

EA

… Too much salt at Fairy Spring? Is that what that said?

PW

Yes. Because they would take all the snow they’d plowed and dump it out there. [START OF TRACK 4, 1:30:00] Very bad.

EA

I had a question—another one. I’ve seen … it says “Fairy Springs” in there, and I see “Fairy Spring” [here] …

PW

Yes. It was always “Fairy Springs” before we got involved. But in doing the study, we went up to the park, to the pavilion, and there’s a bronze plaque, and it says “Fairy Spring Park.” We had to figure out—why does that say “Fairy Spring,” and is that the right name, rather than “Fairy Springs”? People didn’t like the change, but technically, there is one spring there, and it’s called Fairy Spring Park. We changed what we called the park. Even today, you’ll see in articles in the paper, sometimes it’s “Fairy Spring Park” and sometimes it’s “Fairy Springs.” … Okay, the grant application… 1995. Ann Rath’s writing here. She helped with this. She and I did that. So you can see Ann and Ellen … we were all partners in doing this. One of the blessings in my life is working with the other people. [Shifting boxes.] We have swings, this is all the controversy, I saved all those articles …

EA

Oh, what’s that [picture]?
PW

Longwood Gardens. The children’s play area. [Flipping pages.] That’s the hard thing about trying to serve the public. You never know when something’s going to be controversial. That’s the tough part of the job.

EA

It seems like you have to be very careful, all the time.

PW

Yes, and even being careful doesn’t help. It won’t protect you from … you know, you make a decision based upon all the facts you can get, and you have to decide. And it’s hard. This is—have you heard of the Cap. Smith hikes?

EA

No, I haven’t.

PW

Okay. Well, that’s part of the history at Fairy Spring Park. In the winter time, they used to … this is from 1918, when the village library building housed the village club, they used to hike from there, start in the village building, and go out to Fairy Spring Park … Fairy Springs, in ’88. [Laughter.]

EA

And that still takes place?

PW

Oh, only periodically, when somebody gets inspired to reenact it. I don’t know that it … it’s part of Winter Carnival, I think.

EA

Oh, Winter Carnival. I haven’t experienced that either. I hear it’s a big deal.

PW

[A] big deal depending on how much snow we have.

EA

Oh, good point.

PW

If we have lots of snow, they make the most fantastic ice sculptures. It’s really neat. … Okay, division of labor. 1989. Oh, that was my job, that was Ann’s job … these were all of our committee members, and they were doing this. Ellen’s got the longest list there, including extinguishing the fires and closing up the pavilion. We were very specific.

EA

Yeah, I see that. Were fires ever a particular issue?

PW

Well, in the fireplace. You had to have a fireplace going to keep warm.

EA

Oh, I see. Which park was that?

PW

Fairy Spring.

EA

Oh, Fairy Spring.

PW

Okay, that was fun.

EA

We’ve got [the boxes here]. They should be catalogued at one point or another.

PW

Well, that would be great.

EA

Okay, well, thank you so much for your time. I’ll stop the recording.


-------------------------------

* Pam Washburn notes that she may have misinterpreted the question; Friends of the Parks created the interpretive panels inside the caretaker’s house, but not the panels that are mounted outdoors. Jessie Ravage created those.

Duration

30:00 - Part 1
30:00 - Part 2
30:00 - Part 3
5:57 - Part 4

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbps

Files

Citation

Emilie Arnold, “Pamela Washburn, November 18, 2009,” CGP Community Stories, accessed August 19, 2018, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/41.