Updated 04/11/2013 03:51 PM
Your Hometown: Fair Haven State Park
Each summer, the natural beauty of Fair Haven State Park is on display for thousands of visitors who swim, camp and relax on its grounds. They park was officially created in the 1920s, but as our Candace Hopkins tells us in this week's edition of Your Hometown, the beautiful beaches surrounding Lake Ontario were one of the area's best kept secrets for decades before.
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FAIR HAVEN, N.Y. -- Beautiful Fair Haven, New York, a small village nestled on the banks of Lake Ontario, is the ultimate summertime getaway.
"It's a cohesive community where people care about each other and watch out for each other," said Susie Parsons, Fair Haven Village Historian.
As soon as summer arrives, the village's population swells by the hundreds, with visitors flocking to Fair Haven Beach.
"All the people, it's just amazing, to have so many things going on, and people being amazed at this little town, how we function, especially those from the city who can't believe we can do it," said Parsons.
While this area was a popular summer gathering site long before 1927, it was than that nearly 900 acres of land were set aside as an official state park site. With that designation, the Civilian Conservation Corp began the years long process of transforming the vast woods into a network of campsites and trails for all to enjoy.
"It invited more tourism because the park became much more comfortable, people could camp there and it was improved," explained Parsons.
During World War II, state parks in New York State and throughout the country took on new roles as prisoner of war camps. After their capture, German soldiers were sent to Fair Haven where they were housed through the end of the war.
"Around 475,000 prisoners of war were interred in the United States, and a few in Fair Haven, and they ended up staying at the same barracks that housed the CCC camp," Parsons said.
According to historians, despite these men being prisoners, they became an important part of the community.
Parsons noted, "Many of them worked on farms because there was such a shortage of farm labor because the men were overseas fighting."
After the war ended, the entire park was reopened to the public, and today draws thousands of visitors each season to dive into the waves, explore the shoreline, or to simply take it easy. Over the decades, those visitors have proved to be vital for the village's economy.
"The state park is just one of the most beautiful state parks in New York State. It brings people into town, it helps all of the businesses. It's strictly a tourist town here and it affects our business a great deal," said Carrie Bolton, co-owner of Harware Cafe and General Store.
All year round, it is the combination of tranquility and timeless beauty that have made Fair Haven and its state park a beloved destination for generations.
I Love My Park Day is a new statewide effort to celebrate and enhance the state’s parks and historic sites. It’s sponsored in part by YNN and Time Warner Cable Sports Channel and will take place on Saturday, May 4th.
Volunteers from across the state will be participating in cleanup and improvement events at parks throughout the region. If you would like to take part or donate to the cause, visit www.ptny.org.