Putnam County has quite a few parks and preserves that are over 1000 acres. You could spend hours, even days exploring what just one property that size has to offer. Preserving these big natural attractions so close to NYC is one of the things that make Putnam so special, but what we do with the small public spaces in our downtowns matters also. Take, for example, an old gas station.
Traditionally, downtown areas were the center of economic, political and social activity for a community. But times change and for various reasons, including the widespread use of the automobile, downtown areas suffered. Since then, some people have sought to rejuvenate these places.
It seems to me the downtown areas that have successfully revitalized themselves are the ones that make visiting the downtown an experience. Aside from good restaurants, ample parking, built-in history lessons and unique businesses, a successful downtown should have parks and common areas where visitors can sit, relax and be “in the moment”.
The Spain Cornerstone Park in Carmel is a good example of an effective downtown park. At the corner of Gleneida Avenue and Fair Street, this property was a gas station in a previous life, but is now a great place to stop for a few minutes while visiting the downtown area.
A brick wall with iron gates outlines the property, providing a nice barrier from passing traffic. That barrier means that as a parent, you can let your guard down for at least a few minutes while stopping in the park. There is no playground – it is not that type of park, but the kids still find plenty of ways to amuse themselves. Luckily, bugs live just about everywhere.
Paving stones line the walkways and there are a few benches sprinkled around the property. There is a 9/11 Memorial with the names of eight local residents who lost their lives that day. A cross cut from World Trade Center steel is part of the display. Standing in front of the monument, my kid’s natural curiosity led them to ask questions that provided me a chance to explain to them what happened that day without sounding like I was lecturing.
The building at Spain Cornerstone Park is used for special events and meetings. There is a historical exhibit inside if you are lucky enough to go when there is a scheduled activity, but there are no set hours.
It is a small park, so I would not recommend making this your sole destination, but there are a few other sites nearby. From Cornerstone Park, it is just a short walk to the Sybil Ludington Monument in front of Lake Gleneida, or to the restored Putnam County Courthouse, or one of the old cemeteries where our ancestors lay. And a nearby nature trail that takes you along the edge of Lake Gleneida.
Spain Cornerstone Park officially opened in 2004. For more info, including some old photos of what it looked like before it was a park, visit www.preserveputnam.org. In addition to info on Cornerstone Park, there are a number of slide shows and essays on local history.