SYNOPSIS: Two miles from downtown Carmel, Putnam County Veterans Memorial Park is one of the best places around to spend a day outdoors with your family. No matter what your interests, it seems to have something for everyone. Not a hiker? Try the Veterans Museum or visit one of the myriad memorials. Not a history buff? Go for a swim or play a game of horseshoes. Not an adult? Spend some time on the large playground or try fishing off the floating dock.
APPROXIMATE TIME: An hour or a day.
DIRECTIONS: To get there from exit 19 off Route 84, head west on Route 312 for one mile. Make a right onto Route 6 and go 2.1 miles. At the 3-way intersection, you will see Lake Gleneida in front of you. Make a right onto Route 52. Go 0.2 miles and make a left onto Route 301. Go 1.1 miles. Just as you finish crossing the long stone bridge, make a right onto Gypsy Trail Road. Go one mile. Just after a sharp left turn, you will see a church on the right.
There are two sections of the park, commonly referred to as the “upper park” and “lower park”. The entrance to the upper park is on the right, just before the church. This section of the park is used mainly for big events and community fairs. The entrance to the lower park, which is where most of the recreational opportunities are, will be on the left just after the church. Make a slight left to enter the park, heading through the gate and down a hill. At the ranger station, turn to the right to head to the parking area.
THE VISIT: Visit the lower park first. As you get out of the car, the first thing you notice is the Veterans Memorial, framed on one side by an M60A3 Tank, and on the other side by a Cobra helicopter that is suspended about 20 feet in the air. Crossed Navy anchors are next to the tank. Behind the memorial is a large, well-manicured grassy area with a lake and mountains in the background.
A paved road (that is closed to vehicles) heads north from the corner of the parking lot and provides access to public restrooms, vending machines and basketball hoops. There are picnic tables and grills in the shaded area on the hill.
Behind the tank, helicopter and memorial, walk across the grassy area, heading toward the lake. On the right there is a volleyball pit close to the treeline. On the left are a few buildings, a large playground that the kids will love, and a second volleyball pit. A big, beautiful weeping willow tree close to the water’s edge provides natural shade for the picnic tables surrounding the base. The lake offers supervised swimming at the sandy beach during the summer months.
At the south end of the lake there is a small bridge that takes you to a series of well-marked trails. There is a kiosk between the playground and bridge that has a map of the trail system. The Red Trail takes you to a gazebo on the other side of the lake that offers a great place to have lunch. Along the Orange Trail is a geological formation called an erratic – a present left by a long ago melted glacier.
Toward the other end of the lake there is a fishing pier. Kids under 16 can fish without a license. You can usually spot turtles, frogs and snakes from the pier as well.
For the warmer days, there are a series of small covered platforms providing shade and picnic tables. There is also a larger pavilion that is available to rent.
Scattered throughout the lower park are a number of memorials – the aforementioned Veterans Memorial, a Blue Star Memorial tribute to the armed forces, a Gold Star Mothers Memorial dedicated to mothers who lost a child serving our nation, an Angel of Hope statue dedicated to parents that have lost a child, a Boy Scout Memorial dedicated to scouts that have served in the military, well-kept Victory Gardens, and a plaque commemoration the establishment of the park. Each of them is well done, and the Gold Star Mothers and Angel of Hope statues are especially moving.
One of the newest additions to the park is a Veterans Museum, housed in a wooden structure near the park offices. The museum has limited hours, so call ahead to be sure it is open.
Next, take a ride to the upper park (it isn’t always open). The upper park has open lawns, and there is a large pavilion at the top of the hill. The reconstructed Red Mills Baptist Church sits at the entrance, and there is a monument that includes a memorial to Chief Daniel Nimhan (for more info on Chief Nimham, see the chapter on Mt. Nimham Fire Tower) and one To Honor All Native American Veterans.
Putnam County Veterans Park hosts a number of events each year, including dogs shows, the Daniel Nimham Pow-Wow, the 4H Fair, and more. Every spring the Putnam County Council VFW hosts a Loyalty Day Picnic in the lower portion of the park. There are games, music, food and drinks – and it is free and open to the public. My family has attended four years in a row, and it is one of our favorite events. It’s a great day in the sun, especially after a long winter.
HISTORY: Putnam County Veterans Memorial Park is owned by Putnam County. Spanning both sides of Gypsy Trail Road, the park is over 200 acres. It was the first county park in Putnam.
MAP & ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Our last visit was in May 2011, but we have been there dozens of times. A day pass for cars is $5. A season pass is $40 ($20 for seniors) and free for veterans with ID. Dogs are allowed in the upper portion of the park, but not in the lower park. It is open 10 am to 7:30 pm Memorial Day through Labor Day, and 10 am to 3:30 pm the rest of the year. For more info visit the Putnam County Parks website at www.putnamcountyny.com/parks or call 845/225-3650.
The Wappinger Monument at the entrance to the upper portion of the park has a long story. The monument was the 1994 brainchild of then Kent Historical Society (KHS) President Penny Ann Osborn and county historian Richard Muscarello. The granite slab of the main monument is from the old Boyd’s Dam which was built in the late 1800’s, courtesy of the efforts of Mr. Muscarello. The stone was originally taken from a quarry at the site of Van Cortlandt Park, near an area called Indian Fields – which just happens to be where Chief Daniel Nimham was killed (along with his other warriors) by the British at the Battle of Kingsbridge on 08/31/1778 during the Revolutionary War. Money was rasied by the KHS, and Richard Othmer erected the first portion of the monument, then the project idled for five years. In 1999 the Nimham Mountain Singers was formed, with one of its goals being to raise funds to finish the monument. In 2007, 12 granite stones from Vermont were purchased and engraved with the names of 11 Native American Tribes – the twelfth stone is dedicated “To All Native American Veterans”. Richard Othmer and Gil Cryinghawk Tarbox refinished the main monument in 2009. In 2010 the Children of the American Revolution raised the funds for the center firepit. In 2011, a grant paid for a new plaque on the main stone that included a bronze relief of Chief Nimham. The new plaque was placed in May 2012.
-Tarbox, Gil Cryinghawk. The Wappingers Monument. Eventful Magazine. Page 13. August 2012.