While walking along the Putnam County Trailway a while ago I noticed a path going off into the woods. I followed it for a while, but at that time the trees were bare, snow was on the ground and the trails were icy so I didn’t go too far. This time I approached the sanctuary from the other end (near where the old fairgrounds and racetrack used to be). In fall it’s a very pleasant place to walk. All told we walked for about two hours, covering all of the leave trail, yellow trail, and turtle trail.
According a brochure found at the trailhead:
Fred L. Dill came to Carmel in 1933 after graduating with an Accounting Degree from Bentley College in Boston, Massachusetts. His father, Carl Dill trained and drove trotting horses and had moved his family from Goshen, NY to work at the horse racing track which was part of the Putnam County Fairgrounds located on a portion of this property. A faint outline of the old race track is still visible and is labeled “old racetrack” on the park map.
Upon completion of his first summer “swiping” horses and “mucking out” horse stalls, Fred decided the horse business was not for him. His dream was to be in business for himself. When working as office manager for American Oil in Carmel, he had the opportunity to manage Dain Supply and within 3 years was a partner in Dain and Dill. Eventually, Dain and Dill became Lloyd Lumber, a cash and carry lumber yard which grew into a chain of 21 stores in NY and CT.
Fred had achieved his dream of becoming a successful businessman, and he enjoyed using his financial success to benefit the Putnam County Community. The Fred Dill Wildlife Sanctuary and Outdoor Education Center is the last project Fred worked on before his death in 2004 at the age of 91. This property brought Fred to Putnam County and it gave him great pleasure to think of the many people who would walk the trails, enjoy the quiet, and learn about our local wildlife and history.
Around 1865 this property was acquired for the County Fairgrounds. A large building for exhibits was erected and a half mile race track was built on the low land directly in front of the exhibit building. A grandstand was later added. The original intent of the fair was to display prize livestock and produce. The decline of farming in the area left horse racing as the most important part of the fair. The Gleneida Racing Association held regular races at the track until 1932. Automobiles races on the track for a number of years in the 1930’s. Horses ere kept at the track and trained for harness racing until the 1960s
The fairground and racetrack have now been completely reclaimed by a marsh and other assorted brush. As mentioned above a “faint outline of the old racetrack” is still supposed to be visible, but I was unable to find it (I didn’t look all that hard though).