The place we know as “Cope’s Corners Park” has a long and respected history of being an asset of the town of Butternuts.
It will surprise many to learn the place was a recreation center of the area, popular for fishing, swimming and picnicking, camping, family reunions, etc. since long before the Civil War, more than 150 years ago. The park land is located on the lower end of an ancient Indian “highway,” and its cross roads going north east and south west. Known as Upton Park, the hamlet was a busy center of commerce and manufacturing since earliest days of the township. At that place, a tollhouse keeper charged for travel on the turnpike westward to a bridge near Mount Upton. A busy Inn and livery stable occupied the south west corner of the intersection and the local school was around the corner. The 7 acre “park” property was part of a farm acquired by Rev. Edward Cope and his family years before the Civil War.
Generations of the Cope family, neighbors and friends, loved that spot on the Butternut Creek. The Copes were generous in sharing its use for recreation, part of it being fenced off for use by family heifers. Years later, after the county developed the park, locals were known to complain, “…don’t see why we have to pay to use the Park. Your father always let us go there to fish and camp and stuff for free!”
The Cope family, to ensure that people could continue to use the place for recreation long after they were gone, offered the property to Otsego County to develop as a public park. The county accepted and received the property, in 1968, for $1.00. It was to include facilities for both day use and overnight camping, picnic pavilions, water system, rest rooms, campsites, roadside picnicking, children’s play area and parking for thirty-five cars. A beach area on the Butternut Creek was to accommodate about 100 swimmers. New York offered a matching grant for the recreational development and the county matched that amount, a total of $30,000. The park opened in 1971.
Depending upon County interest, Cope’s Corners Park has operated more or less successfully in the intervening years. The length of the camping season, commonly May 1st to September 30th, has depended upon the whims of the county. A number of years saw extremely successful late fall operation serving out-of area hunters through the end of November.
For 40+ years of operation, use of the park has made a significant contribution to the economy of the township. It is the only business which consistently draws paying tourists to the town. Campsite rentals have provided additional support to those selling and serving food, gas and hardware as well as a seasonal statistical increase of Post Office use. The past several years of limited or no camping at the park has taken a toll on those types of businesses in the township.
Cope’s Corners Park is a major asset of the township and its presence as a successful concern is of major importance to the well-being of the town.
Leigh C. Eckmair, Historian
Town of Butternuts, 16 Oct 2014