The gentleman in question, Carl Briggs, is the grandson of Harry
A. Briggs, a civil engineer who worked for Winston & Company,
the construction firm in charge of the Ashokan project in partnership
with MacArthur Brothers, starting in September 1908, when they
brought in heavy equipment from the location of a previous project
at Cross River Dam in Westchester County.
"There’s a lot of photographs of the dam under construction
from beginning to end," Carl Briggs said from his Mansfield
home, acknowledging that his grandfather probably took a number
of the shots himself. "Many of them look as though they
were professionally taken and, somehow, he retained them. They
may have been passed around to the engineers at the time. There
were photography company names on some of them.
"They were tucked away on a shelf in the cellar, as things
tend to get put aside and held on to, in my father and mother’s
homestead, built around 1932, where I was brought up,"
Briggs explained. "They were finally discovered when my
nephew, now heir to the property, was trying to make some room
for his own things and found this box full of memorabilia from
the Ashokan Reservoir. It had been given to my father from his
father, probably sometime in the 1940s or 50s, and hasn’t
been opened or touched until I got ahold of it. I took a few
months to make a date with Silvia, to bring it out to her, and
we finally got a day when the family could all go, meet with
her and have a nice tour of the reservoir area."
The Briggs’ tour was augmented by the expertise of Mark
DuBois, who took a half day off from his job with the DEP to
accompany Silvia and her visitors around the local sites. DuBois’
own knowledge of antediluvian Olive was such that he could point
to a specific spot on the reservoir’s surface and identify
it as the former location of the Brown Station School, which
Carl’s father, Carlton, who had been born in 1900, had
indicated with an arrow on one of the photos as the school he
had attended as a boy.
"I find collections, scan them and make them available
for people to view and copy," DuBois said. "This Briggs
collection is a nice one containing perhaps 200 pictures and
I’m looking forward to making it publicly available; scanned
at 600 dpi, everything cropped, straightened, labeled and identified.
I’ve done quite a few collections and this is really an
"My father was only a small boy when the dam was being
built," said Briggs’ sister Marian Wrightington from
Attleboro, Massachusetts, where she serves on the local historical
commission, undoubtably a factor in the decision to return the
photos to their place of origin. Marian and sister Beverly DesLauriers
arrived with the Briggs on the 17th. "He lived with his
parents in- I guess they called it a ‘camp’ that
was there for the people working on the dam. They had lived
in Clinton, Massachusetts before that, where Winston & Co.
worked on another dam (for the Wachusett Reservoir on the Nashua
Briggs said the family was pleased to be able to contribute
the collection to Olive. Having looked it over and taken some
of their own memories from it, they wanted to passed it on to
those who might better utilize it. Rozzelle finds it interesting
that many who do use the local archive are from other areas
of the country.
"We want people to know that we take pride when people
return a piece of our history to us," Rozzelle said. "The
town has so few records because when you tear up a town, destroy
it and move it, you lose so much stuff...So, anytime we can
find something to piece together the past, I’m ready with
my arms open to accept it. I, technically, don’t have
to but I just feel it’s a moral responsibility to the
"A lot of people don’t think to look back at the
way it used to be but I think we need to never forget that.
It’s our responsibility to maintain the past, so we can
have it for the future. Basically, a town archive should be
just documents and history but, when you build a good archival
program for the town, people feel comfortable about contributing
collections because they know that housing them in a nice heat
and humidity-controlled environment where the materials will
be made available for public research benefits everyone. The
biggest thing about developing an archive is that it’s
going to be there for future generations."
Rozzelle does express some "techno-insecurity" about
the means available for the preservation of historical materials.
Technology moves in leaps. Can you still play an 8-track tape?
How about a cylindrical record of that turn-of-the-century waltz?
Have some of your CDS stopped playing?
"I love all the things a computer can do but some things
scare the hell out of me," Silvia declares. "You can
open a book from 1824 and actually read the town board minutes
but I’m wondering if, another 180 years from now, you’re
going to be able to look at a diskette and figure out what’s
on it. We’ll scan the documents but I prefer keeping a
hard copy. I’m ‘old school’ and you’ve
got to show me that history’s not going to be altered."
One step toward a solution to the preservation of the "real
thing" rather than copies of questionable durability becomes
rather obvious when you look at the limited space in the town’s
"We need a real museum that has its own house, staffing,
hours," Rozzelle says. "When we have that then a lot
of these collections can be transferred."
The same thought has occurred to town board member, Helen Chase,
who is also president of the Olive Historical Society. She has
been hoping to find time for a "capital campaign"
to find space for items in the Society’s possession beyond
the small portion of the library basement they now occupy.
"There are things that need to be displayed but no place
to put them," Chase sighs, mentioning a currently vacant
location with "a lot of space and parking possibilities"
which might make a likely target for a fund-raising campaign.
"I would like to see one of the older houses turned into
Space for treasures like new views of olden days in a box of
photographs taken during the great turning point of Olive’s
history. Pictures from a torn landscape of uprooted trees, demolished
homes and dispossessed people reforming into a vast emptied
space ready to be filled by the waters of the Esopus. Images
from the time that James O. Winston, aVirginia-born, cigar-chewing
son of a Civil War era Confederate colonel directed his own
small army of workers in the transformation of a rural valley
into a stretching and beautiful landmark. Dramatic images of
a process of change which have, through the kindness of the
Briggs family, popped back out of the memory hole they had found
in a Massachusetts cellar.
FAD’s A Finality Now
But upstate agencies like the Coalition of Watershed Towns and
the Delaware County Board of Supervisors fought the EPA proposal,
claiming it gave the City too much time and too little incentive
to listen to the concerns of upstaters as that time went on.
Both entities wanted the EPA to go back to the five year time
frame discussed last year during a review period of the EPA
But in the EPA filtration avoidance determination (FAD) released
on Monday, July 30th, EPA made clear the way it would be, all
but slapping away the Coalition despite the recent chest thumping
by the advocacy group’s chairman, Pat Meehan.
“With regard to the term of the FAD, it is being issued
for a ten-year term,” the determination states. “With
nearly fifteen years of experience with the New York City filtration
avoidance program, and with much program implementation completed
or underway, EPA is comfortable with the issuance of a longer
term FAD. In addition, the City’s long-term commitment
to its land acquisition program helps to justify the longer
term of the FAD.”
The City is now armed with $300 million to purchase more land
in the region, despite the complaints from the Coalition and
the Board of Supervisors, which argued that the EPA was allowing
the City too much money and too much time to use it.
“EPA has long supported an active land acquisition program
as one of the most effective mechanisms to permanently protect
the watershed, and we are pleased that the FAD includes a ten-year
commitment to this program,” the determination states.
Delaware County Supervisor James Eisel said Monday that he is
outraged over the EPA decision. He plans to ask the Board of
Supervisors to make yet another money contribution to the almost
broke Coalition to help fund the lawsuit the agency has filed.
At this time Eisel hopes the Board offers $25,000.
The Coalition’s member towns have also been asked to contribute.
While Olive has kicked in $2000, Shandaken is yet to come up
with anything, but that may change if Supervisor Robert Cross
Jr. has any say.
Cross, who is also a member of the Coalitions Executive Board,
said Tuesday that the FAD “was done very underhandedly
and sneakily,” and should be challenged. He intends to
ask his town board at its August 6th meeting to give the Coalition
up to $2000 toward legal fees.
Coalition lawyer Kevin Young said Monday that lawsuit remains
active. In a news release Young supported some aspects of the
FAD, but said until more progress is made on addressing the
scope of land acquisition, he could not support the agreement.
“The Coalition remains strongly opposed to the 10 year
land acquisition program with a total funding commitment of
$300 million that is included in the FAD,” Young said.
“Until some progress is made on these land acquisition
issues, the Coalition will not and cannot support the 2007 FAD.”
At a meeting of the Coalition of Watershed Towns two weeks ago,
Meehan claimed that all was well after he had a frank discussion
with DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd. Meehan indicated that the
session was an enlightening one for Lloyd, and that she had
begun to see things the way Meehan wanted. While upstate was
not going to everything it asked for, Meehan insisted, good
news was coming. Apparently he was wrong.
Upstate did get some concessions. Alan Rosa, the Executive Director
of the Catskill Watershed Corporation, is reviewing EPA’s
determination. He said Monday that some of the suggestions found
their way into this final FAD that will benefit CWC and our
Rosa said that CWC’s existing programs, including the
popular Septic Program that has assisted over 2,500 homeowners
to date, would continue. In addition, CWC will now manage a
new septic program to assist small businesses in the Watershed.
Outside of the hamlets that either received a wastewater treatment
plant or fall under the Community Wastewater Program, CWC was
only able to offer low interest loans to small businesses that
have a failed septic. Now, Rosa said, CWC will be able to provide
reimbursement for costs of designing and repairing a failed
septic system serving an existing small business. Finally, EPA
is also requiring the City to provide funding to CWC for a new
cluster system program for existing smaller hamlets.
EPA has also required the City to continue the Community Wastewater
Management Program, Rosa said. Under this program, CWC is designing
community septic solutions for the hamlets of Hamden and Bloomville
in Delaware County and a wastewater treatment plant in Boiceville
in Ulster County. “The FAD calls for three additional
communities identified in the MOA for inclusion in this program
and possibly an additional five in the second five years…..”said
Under the Watershed Regulations, many institutions are required
to cover their winter salt piles. CWC will also be managing
a program to provide sand and salt storage sheds for colleges,
hospitals, and schools in the Watershed.
Rosa said the CWC will receive funding to employ an individual
to act as an advocate in helping businesses and individuals
comply with the City’s stormwater regulations.
Meanwhile, it should be remembered that before approval of the
FAD, the EPA weighed in on the controversial Belleayre Resort
project, suggesting it avoid any building on its eastern half
so as not to endanger the City’s water. To date, that
opinion has not changed.
Parcel No Vote
lack of unanimity on the matter reflected a tighter 4-3 vote
against a resolution put forth by Shandaken-based board member
Maxanne Resnick, and seconded by Woodstock’s Herb Rosenfeld,
that asked that the matter be tabled for two weeks so the vote
could be publicized to residents in the school district, and
more information could be brought forth for a meaningful discussion.
That matter was brought up after introduction of the first resolution,
with Board Vice-President Cindy O’Connor backing Resnick
and Rosenfeld’s request for more information, stating
that any such request by a board member should be respected.
“This gives us an out on a difficult issue,” Resnick
read from a prepared statement. “We have not been given
ample time for discussion, plus no numbers to discuss…
It is our obligation to collect taxes, and that is effected
Rosenfeld, noting that the original premise by which the law
was enacted four years ago was probably moot because of the
Town of Olive’s revaluation of its tax rates two years
ago, said that he welcomed a meaningful discussion of the matter
that would look into new ways of funding education in the state.
Board member Rita Vanacore, who seconded the original motion,
answered the two by sharply speaking about “misperceptions”
regarding matters of equality, noting how a report put together
by new Board President Mary Jane Bernholz’s husband Michael
had proved that there never had been inequalities between town’s
taxes “beyond a doubt.”
“To bring this up seems a waste, to me, of the board’s
time,” she added emphatically.
No one else offered any discussion regarding their votes.
In other matters throughout the meeting held at the Junior/Senior
High School in Boiceville, quiet and efficient unanimity was
the order of the day.
Bernholz, chairing the evening with a quick but friendly efficiency,
noted that henceforth public input would be limited to two 15
minute sessions, one before and one after the board’s
regular business was handled.
“With each speaker limited to two minutes, that would
mean “a likely maximum of seven speakers,” she added.
Those wishing to speak would have to sign up to do so with the
Board’s Clerk beforehand, she late added.
Meetings, she announced, would have preparations one time, and
then discussion and voting two weeks later.
“We’re trying to encourage more people to participate
and be more efficient on the board,” she explained.
District superintendent Leslie Ford noted that she and the board
had just spent a number of hours in a retreat, and would be
holding a special session on August 28 to “develop more
goals” beyond the three currently outlined on all the
During public be heard, two Phoenicia School parents again questioned
the board’s decision to shift the district to accommodate
a 5-8 Middle School, which most assume will result in the closure
of an existing elementary school… most likely Phoenicia.
Laurie Osmond suggested that promoting community schools might
be part and parcel with an even greater new goal: to increase
local enrollment figures by attracting new residents via better
Rosenfeld later brought up the idea of quality education a second
time when he asked that the board set aside time among its coming
sessions to discuss the recent story that came out in Forbes
Magazine which listed Ulster County and its schools amongst
the lowest in the country.
Others countered by questioning the vaulted economic magazine’s
criteria. No firm date was set, though.
New board member Michelle Friedel asked for detailed information
on Regents Test scores, wondering whether she could find out
what specific elements of the curriculum, and by assumption
which teachers, might need to be bettered.
Ford noted that such matters were not divulged in”an item
by item analysis.”
Friedel’s fellow freshman boardmember, Richard Wolff,
asked whether the board could take five minutes before some
of its meetings to make building inspections of facilities around
the district. Vanacore pointed out such a thing might entail
a policy change.
Each time an issue arose from a board member requesting discussion,
Bernholz would wrap things up with a quick, “I need a
Except, that is, with Large Parcel.
The board’s next meeting is at the Junior/Senior High
School in Boiceville on August 14. Start time is 7 PM.
Seated before a screen that they’ve been watching dailies
on in the new media lab created for this project at the Catskill
Mountain Foundation in Hunter, their digital photography teachers
from the International Center of Photography (ICP) and digital
video mentors from New York’s Educational Video Center
(EVC) to the side of them, the kids speak about their experiences
learning media craft, watershed politics, and the intricacies
of getting to know others like you even though they come from
completely different experiences.
They’re all excited about the upcoming show of the photos
they’ve taken, and the film they’re still working
to finish, that came off successfully on Wednesday, August 1,
from 3 PM to 6 PM, at the Hunter Movie Theater. But more importantly,
they’re jazzed about all they’ve been up to.
“It’s a lot of work but I’m learning so much…
about making films, shooting photographs, where water comes
from,” says Emmanuel from Brooklyn, words spilling over
themselves as he tries charting all that’s got him excited.
Kaelani of Chichester explains how the current opportunity came
to she and the other Upstate kids via the Indie Program, now
at all three schools, and had been put together by ReelTeens
Film and Video Festival director Barry Kerr of Saugerties, who’s
on the sideline cheering on the students with the enthusiasm
that seems endemic to the room.
“This really teaches us how to use the tools we’ve
been learning in an active and creative way,” she adds.
Xzen, from Brooklyn, saunters into the darkened media room in
Hunter and describes how learning the ins and outs of the editing
system Final Cut Pro has been “pretty sweet.”
Several kids speak about how they’d at first figured that
the subject of water would be either a breeze to deal with or
just plain boring. They were more interested in getting to work
with others like and unlike themselves with professional equipment.
Then they started shooting interviews, on the street in New
York and with town, county and regional officials up here. They
learned the history of the watershed from Last of The Handmade
Dams author Bob Steuding, and Diane Galusha of the Catskill
Watershed Corporation. They found that requests for interviews
from the city’s Department of Environmental Protection
were being stonewalled.
They realized they’d stepped into a political hornet’s
Kiernan, from Boiceville, talks about having shot an interview
with a local barber still angry about the city’s land-takings
90 years ago while the man who’s hair he was cutting kept
silent, only to later note that he was “one of the enemy”
when leaving. Others note the footage they got of kids playing
in front of No Trespassing signs by reservoirs and other DEP
lines… things they’d never noticed or thought about
Anna, a Brooklyn girl who wants to be called Blue, talks about
what a revelation it’s been to spend time under stars,
swimming in clean water, getting to appreciate nature.
Juan, from Queens, talks about having had his eyes opened up
to “a much bigger picture” and how he wants to return
to work on other nature-oriented projects with his new friends.
“We’ve got eight days to finish. That’s some
pressure…” says Aaron, another Brooklyn kid in Hunter.
It seems the city students are speaking up more than those here
from more local haunts.
Everyone’s staying in dormitories in town, so it all feels
new. Alyx, from West Shokan, speaks about that, and what it’s
been like to learn the collaborative process after making her
own videos for years.
Kerr speaks about how that day they’d all been to the
Ashokan Reservoir, where the DEP provided two officers to escort
them to scenic places for shooting purposes. Then he gathers
the teachers around a computer, letting the students go for
the evening, while he proudly shows off the still photographs
people have been getting… beautiful close ups, courageously
individualistic angles with a deep sense of emotionality, a
vivid realization of the emotional impact of the stories they’re
The students are asked: are they gaining from this a sense of
commercial possibility or a passionate feeling, a bit of revolutionary
The latter, all agree emphatically. They’re excited about
what they can do to change things, to get the full human story
of the world they’re readying to enter.
A Jar Of Olives
Water is valuable. I was thrilled that it rained last night
and this morning because I could plant the pachysandra that
Sue Miller gave me in the moist dirt. I didn’t have to
drag out the hose or carry water to the garden. The rain, measuring
three inches in my $1.69 frog rain gauge, also filled my dog
Diva’s little swimming pool. And, let’s not forget,
the all important refreshing shower and toilet flush of early
morning. Then there is that pot of coffee. Water is so necessary
In summer, when electricity is subject to overuse and brownouts,
it is not the heat so much as the lack of water. Water is our
essence, our recreation, and our future.
Yesterday, when my husband and I cruised up the Hudson to a
little boat beach, he remarked how clean the river was this
year. Perhaps it is the steady supply of rain we’ve been
getting in afternoon thundershowers.
For Peggy, George and Bridget Haug who are celebrating graduation,
birthday and anniversary in one big party this week, I will
once more use my broken and limited Spanish to translate the
title of this article. We were all in Punta Cana, Dominican
Republic, when I managed to disconnect the hose bringing fresh
water to the toilet in our villa. I was all alone as the hose
snaked around spewing water all over the tiled bathroom. I quickly
called room service and got someone who did not speak English.
In my attempt to tell what happened, I screamed, “ Aqua!
Aqua! Todos el mundo. Aqua, Aqua! Squish, Squish!” He
got the message and came to my rescue.
Did you know that the water in the Ashokan Reservoir is not
considered in its assessment? (Perhaps it should be!) Good thing
for the DEP and residents of New York City who would have to
pay $8.00 a gallon times umpteen million gallons. I’m
sure a person in Manhattan is not even aware of from where their
tap water comes. For that matter, many of us here with drilled
or pounded wells, give much thought to that precious liquid
that flows so easily out of our faucets.
Well, I am off to put out food and water for my friend Judie’s
cats since she is in Cape Cod. Perhaps I will swim in the clean,
refreshing water of her pool while I am there. How fortunate
we are to have an abundance of clear, fresh water. We don’t
have to purchase it from Coke and Pepsi who sell purified municipal
water under brand names of designer bottled water. Think about
how much water it would take to fill that pool! My typical day
of water consumption would cost much more than I could ever
afford on social security and retirement pension.