Trout Ponds Park
Trout Ponds Park is more than a century old. The idea was conceived by John Davidge, a tannery owner who also owned the land called Davidge Tract. Soon after the Civil War in 1869, the development was started. It is said that it took no great wizardry to make a park as the Davidge lands literally bubbled with springs, ponds and a quiet brook. Mr. Davidge soon acquired a partner, Norman K. Waring, who had helped bring the southern Central Railroad (now O.H.R.R.) to this area. Under his direction, the ponds were built up and opened to the public as an amusement park and picnic grounds in June of 1870. The ponds were originally about 6.5 acres. They were said to be one of the best parks in the state at the time.
This was a headline for an article from the Owego Gazette on June 8, 1871. A group had traveled from Owego for opening festivities and was very impressed by the work that Messrs. Waring and Davidge had done. In the space of two years, thirteen ponds had been completed “literally alive with beautiful trout” that were from eight to fifteen inches in length and weighed between one-quarter to two pounds each. At the terminus of the ponds, there was a hatching house, where 60,000 trout had been released the past season.
Norman K. Waring, a builder of wooden bridges throughout the United States, had principal charge of the works and had definitely applied his handiwork to the grounds. There was an elegant pavilion capable of accommodating 300 to 400 people, a bowling alley, a croquet court and a baseball diamond. Mr. Waring had not forgotten the natural world: “The grounds are splendidly shaded with an abundance of trees of natural growth and are covered over with comfortable seats beneath stately forest trees, and by the side of cold refreshing springs . . .”
There were two good hotels in Newark Valley at the time — the Newark Valley House (the present site of the Municipal Building) and the Dimmick House, near the Depot of the Southern Central Railroad. The Dimmick was not quite complete, but was still open for customers.
The writer for The Gazette believed that 800 people came on opening day. He felt he was speaking for the group when he said that the Trout Ponds “offer greater attractions to pleasure seekers, than any other resort in this region of country.” Remember, this was four years before Hiawatha Island. Music for the occasion was provided by Messrs. Paris and Smith, assisted by members of the Ahwaga Cornet Band.
As with many facilities in rural America, the Trout Ponds went into decline reaching a low point in the 1940’s and 1950’s. In 1954, the Trout Ponds were sold to the Village of Newark Valley for $1 and clean-up began in 1957.
Today, the Trout Ponds Park is a site for community events equipped with pavilions, playground, basketball court, baseball diamonds, and summer entertainment. Weddings have been held on the beautiful gateway bridge followed by a reception held at a pavilion. To reserve a pavilion for your family reunion, wedding reception, or just a picnic, call the village office to make your reservations, print out the Community Use Form,and return it to the village office along with the payment due.
If desired, print and return the Alcohol Permit Form.