Up on the News
October 1 Deluge
even open for the day. Power outages were rampant, especially
in the West Shokan area. Everywhere, basements were flooded.
The Esopus was said to have risen 9 feet over its usual running
levels. Over in Sullivan County, the body of a woman who worked
in Ulster County was found 10 miles downstream from her car
in a reservoir. In Greene County, a man was rescued from the
top of his car after defying authorities and trying to drive
over a flooded bridge. The woman who died, Nancy Lavalle of
Willowemoc, had been commuting on back roads towards Marlborough,
in Southern Ulster. The man in Catskill was charged with reckless
endangerment. States of emergency were declared in the towns
of Shandaken and Hardenburgh, as well as the entirety of Delaware
County. It had rained the day before, it was to rain for a
few hours more...Total rainfall would end up exceeding 7 inches
in most areas in our neck of the woods. Local rainfall totals
included 7.72 inches in West Shokan, 5.85 inches in Phoenicia,
5.27 inches in Bearsville, 5.26 inches in Woodstock, 5.17
inches in Ellenville and 4.28 inches in Kingston. Art Snyder,
Ulster County's emergency management director, said closed
roads included state Route 214, Main Street, High Street,
Station Road and Plank Road, all near the Esopus Creek in
the Shandaken hamlet of Phoenicia. The Bridge Street bridge
in Phoenicia suffered structural damage and also was closed.
Capt. Todd Carr of the Shandaken Fire Department said 15 to
20 homes had to be evacuated in Phoenicia and along Riseley
Lane in the hamlet of Mount Tremper. Evacuees were taken to
the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center in Highmount, he said. In
Olive, councilman Peter Friedel later noted, Ratkin Road in
Traver Hollow had to be closed. The road over Peekamoose sustained
damage and was flooded over. It all crested about 7:00 AM,
at least in Phoenicia. The emergency personnel switched from
warnings and road clean-up to pumping out basements... everywhere.
At The Emerson Spa and Resort, it looked like there would
be a cancellation of that evening's massive Woodstock Film
Festival double screening and party. Maybe even evacuation
of the many VIP guests staying. But by noon on Friday, October
1, the rains had stopped. By sunset, there was some sun peaking
through the roiling clouds. By nighttime, the Emerson party
was back on schedule and The Princes of Serendip and Open
Book were playing Phoenicia Phirst Phriday at The Arts Upstairs.
Franz Edlinger, who took our front page photo of the clean
up Friday morning, edited together his images from the morning
and set them in flipbook fashion as a film on YouTube, that
quickly went viral. For music he chose Beethoven's dramatic
Fifth Symphony. Life began to get back to normal on Saturday
with only parts of Oliverea and Peekamoose roads in the towns
of Shandaken and Olive still closed, along with a section
of state Route 214 and Bridge Street in Phoenicia and some
smaller side roads in the town of Hardenbergh. Things started
reopening out in Delaware County, with a few exceptions. In
Greene County, a dispatcher from the emergency management
center said that all roads that were closed previously were
reopened on Saturday with the exception of state Route 42
in the town of Lexington. Central Hudson Gas & Electric
Co. reported about two dozen customers without power in its
coverage area as of 7 p.m. on Saturday. The American Red Cross
noted that the shelter they'd set up at Hunter Mountain to
accommodate people evacuated from their homes near Phoenicia
and Shandaken was never used. Everyone heaved great sighs
of relief as they e-mailed each other images of the messes
they had to clean up. "It was pretty hairy there for
a while," said Friedel. By Monday, it was raining again...
but everyone was on to other town business. Life in these
Tax Rates Waiver
At the September
28 Board of Education meeting at Bennett Elementary, McLaren
explained that out of seven school districts, Onteora's true
tax rate was $10.48 per $1000 per household. Preferring to
stay impartial, McLaren didn't list the school districts by
name, but instead numbered the districts for comparison purposes.
District five holds the highest tax rate at $19.47 per $1000,
nearly double of the Onteora district.
On the other hand, when it comes to local people having to
pay school taxes based on property values, the burden is not
always equally distributed. Based upon a statement made by
an Olive resident at a past board meeting, his school tax
increased substantially for the 2010/2011 school year, more
than the voter-approved 3.8 percent. This led school board
members to ask why.
McLaren explained that tax rates change as the value of a
property changes. The towns of Olive, Marbletown and Hurley
remained similar in property value compared to 2009, while
the towns of Shandaken, Woodstock and Lexington have decreased
in value. This shifted the burden of taxes to Olive, Marbletown
and Hurley. Taxes collected in 2009-2010 compared to 2010-2011
in the town of Olive increased by 8.7 percent, while Woodstock
saw a decrease of 0.7 percent.
In other business, the first hour of the overall abbreviated
board meeting was devoted to a forum on future district plans.
Interim Superintendent Charlotte Gregory directed the public
to past studies that are posted on the district website from
KSQ Architects, the Middle School Steering Committee and the
Future of the District Commission.
Public commentary included concerns over declining enrollment
versus grade configuration; time spent busing children from
various corners of the district; proposals for alternative
education including the International Baccalaureate program;
and the value of local grade schools.
At the board's next meeting on October 12, its members will
plan to iron out a directive for the new task force.
"We are looking for people who will be a good representation
of the district, who will work on the community task force,"
said School Board President Laurie Osmond during a later phone
conversation. "We are presenting work that's already
been done by people before and we really do appreciate it.
I know it can be frustrating that people put in all this work
and then nothing came of it."
Osmond explained that past studies make a good foundation,
but they may not stick with the proposals given.
"As Charlotte (Gregory) said, this is a time for creative,
out of the box thinking and solutions, and we should look
at other possibilities. We need to be open to as many viable,
creative suggestions as possible."
Osmond encourages people to join the task force. District
studies can be found by going to Onteora.k12.ny.us. Click
"boe" at the top of the page and scroll down to
"Past District Planning Comm.Work."
Also, the board discussed the first reading of a new bullying
policy including cyber and social network bullying. This includes
school related bullying off campus through the social networks.
"There is legal precedent for cyber bully that occurs
off campus, proven to contribute to substantial disruption
or threats within the school," said Osmond. "Such
conduct can be subject to disciplinary action in accordance
to the districts code of conduct and possible local law enforcement
The policy outlines what a safe and productive learning environment
entails and how bullying behavior is defined.
Prevention and intervention programs with staff training will
be implemented to raise awareness regarding bullying and cyber
Tetons To Ashokan
Finally, recent months have seen the approval, and basic funding,
for the building of a complete new campus on the Center's 300-plus
acres off Beaverkill Road and Route 28A in the Olive hamlet
of Brown's Crossing. Now, as of September 1, the Ashokan Center
also has a new Executive Director on hand. Although to hear
it from Wayne Turner, fresh from a recent move with his family
from basement quarters at the Center to a rental home in Lake
Hill, one should count his time at his new nonprofit charge
back to July, when he first learned he was hired... and first
started working at the complexities of his new job. Turner,
who has come to Olive and the Catskills from Teton Science Schools
in Jackson Hole, Montana - where he raised $40 million for the
building of a new campus for the same institution he attended
as a camper during his teens - is quick to admit that he'd not
been to our area before taking his new position. But he was
familiar with the Ashokan Center, both in its present and previous
incarnations. "My wife's best friend has also been in the
area for years," he added. Turner, who worked setting up
sustainable shellfish businesses and other not-for-profits in
his native Westport, Massachusetts - along the Atlantic Coast
- before heading West, said that the decision to come to this
area, and this new entity, was a natural. "There's a lot
of opportunity bursting forth all around Ashokan just now,"
he said. "We have our building projects, new programs,
and a series of good, complicated changes I'm excited to get
fully involved in." He said he brings with him to his new
position a lifelong love for the outdoors as a place of education
and inspiration. "I know it's an odd thing to say, but
I've always been excited about administration," he added.
"I enjoy putting the money together to make dreams happen.
It's all about fueling people's imagination...about coming up
with clever solutions." Unlike the West, Turner added,
he's excited by the closeness of the nation's leading population
centers and all they offer (and can utilize) a resource institution
as Ashokan's being shaped. But also aware of the opportunities
involved in being located in a relatively secluded and pristine
haven within that wider area. One of the challenges at hand,
he admitted, would be to complete the new campus within the
two years it has to get finished. When asked what his plans
might be in regards to programming for Ashokan, Turner said
the key, for now, was the building... and that the creation
of a clean, new facility would not only shift the nature of
who the Center drew, but also what types of programs fit its
mission. "All the pieces are coming together," he
added. "The Eco-Fest we ran last month was exciting, and
drew about 400 people. In a couple of weekends, we're looking
forward to having kids bring their parents along top our Fall
Festival (see more in our news briefs in the previous pages).
I just took my first hike up Ashokan High Peak and it was simply
marvelous." Turner added that here with him are his wife
Polly, an environmental educator, and their 21 month old daughter,
Phoebe. "The fall here is unbelievable," the new director
added. "We just feel so lucky, and also so enthused, so
inspired, to be here." For more on all things Ashokan Center,
The demise of the two papers, both owned and operated by publisher
Brian Powers, will leave the rural Catskills towns of Shandaken
(pop. 3,235) and Olive (pop. 4,579) without a hometown newspaper.
This week's issues of the Phoenicia Times and Olive Press, slated
for publication on Thursday, October 7, will be the last. These
are bleak times for newspapers both large and small. Powers,
who's been the papers' sole owner and financial backer since
the beginning, tells an all-too-familiar story. "The reality
is we, like every newspaper, have been having a very difficult
couple of years," he says. "Newspapers are the first
ones to feel the problems in the local economy. The last two
years in Ulster County and the Catskills have been very difficult."
In the context of the industry-wide meltdown that has seized
the news business over the last few years, the Phoenicia Times
is going out with dignity. That is, it's not going spectacularly
bankrupt, selling for a dollar, or being put up on the auction
block. "We have no debts," Powers says. "We'll
continue operating as we wind down the paper's business."
In the summer of 2001, Powers tapped Paul Smart, a veteran of
the local news scene, to edit the Phoenicia Times, which he
launched as a free bi-weekly. Two years later, Powers and Smart
launched the Olive Press, another free paper running twice a
month. Together, the two papers had a combined run of about
10,000 copies, about half of which were mailed for free to households
in their coverage area. More than most local newspapers in the
region, the Phoenicia Times has a big personality, charming
and colorful and a little rough around the edges - much like
the town itself. It's packed with oddments like the "Municipal
I Ching," a vocabulary column (in the September 23 issue,
we learned the words "zoosemiotics" and "rusticate"),
and a pastiche of overheard tidbits from around town called
"Heard By A Bird." The newspapers' lefty reputation
belies a more unpredictable tendency to seek out interesting
voices. Recently, Smart says, he earned the gratitude of a newly-formed
local Tea Party chapter for a sympathetic profile he ran of
their fledgling organization. In the August 26 issues, Powers
reached out to readers in a letter, in the hopes that investors
might come forward to help the papers get by. "I had many
responses to that public appeal, but none that would have made
it possible for us to continue," he says. Powers says he
hasn't entirely lost faith that the papers could rise again.
"I am not in any way ruling out the possibility of coming
back at the beginning of next year with a slightly reconceptualized
version of what we're doing," he says. The paper is planning
to hold a big Halloween farewell dance party on October 29,
with local music writer Tony Fletcher as DJ... to be held at
the Emerson Spa and Resort, of all places. Hopefully some of
the other newspapers in the region - the Woodstock Times, the
Catskill Mountain News, the Kingston Daily Freeman - will pick
up some of the slack in the Shandaken/Olive news department.
(We'll do what we can here at the Watershed Post to keep a steady
stream of news flowing in Shandaken and Olive.) But there's
no question that the loss of the Phoenicia Times and Olive Press
will leave a hole.
Now To Then
Everyone gathered at a deep spot in the stream when
it got hot. There were a couple of places you could find everyone.
A couple kids had horses, one had a donkey or burro - I'm not
sure which - named Sonya. If Sonya didn't want you on her back
anymore, she would just put her head down while trotting along
and then stop. You would slide right down her neck just like
you were on the slide of a swing set! We made real ice cream
in a churn - and took turns turning the handle. We hiked up
Little Mountain and enjoyed the view of the reservoir, as well
as watched from up high as neighbors mowed their lawns. We rode
bikes a lot. They weren't the fancy bikes you see everyone riding
today, just a one-speed bike. I remember pushing my bike up
over High Point Mountain Road because it was all down hill from
the top down onto West Shokan Heights Road, then onto Route
28 A and back to Davis Park. A bunch of us would ride to Boiceville
to get soft ice cream. There just wasn't a lot of traffic then
- it was a fun ride - and mostly downhill coming back, so a
nice reward for a hard peddle to get there.
"Country" was connected in ways that "city"
was not. Everyone knew everyone, everyone waved to everyone.
Everyone made eye contact which drew you in so you got to know
everyone. If you had a phone, you were considered rich if you
had a private line. More likely, three to seven others shared
your 'line', emphasized by an occasional "click" if
someone had picked up while you were talking. Finding out who
was sharing your line became important when someone on the "party-line"
forgot to hang up their phone. It would keep the whole line
"open" so no one else could make calls, either! Oops!
It usually didn't take long listening to the background noise
to figure out who's phone it was. Making a trek to the guilty
party and asking them to please hang up their phone was usually
greeted with a grin and a giggle. Calling someone on the same
party-line as you was somewhat tricky! You couldn't just call
their regular number - it would be like calling yourself. You
had to dial a special code and hang up. BOTH lines would ring
and you had to pick up when the ringing stopped or the other
person might think the call was a wrong number. Picking up too
soon would stop the ringing, and they might think it was a wrong
number and not pick up at all! More often than not, you had
to try this procedure at least twice.
By the time I married and started to raise my children, "Country"
was instilled in my mind, body and heart. No matter where we
traveled, I was no longer a "city dweller' but a "country
convert." Being able to see all the stars at night, watch
a deer nurse her fawn, or just walk down the road and feel comfortable
no matter what, has always been the part of "country"
that means the most to me. But also, country teaches us the
skills to survive. The planting of food, the harvesting, the
preserving. The raising of animals for food and for pets. The
responsibility, the hard work, the satisfaction that you accomplished
something, created something, built something... You can't always
get that from city life.
We had left the area for military service and eventually to
seek better opportunities for work and profession. Coming back
over the years gave us glimpses of the changes that were happening,
but did not really prepare us for how substantial the changes
were. Gone were the country stores, there were many more mailboxes,
but we didn't recognize many of the names. Gone were the farms,
the small repair shops that used to be around the "neighborhood".
Though many of the "old timers" were still here -
it seemed there were fewer kids. There were many more cars,
but no one waved - not many made eye contact. You could still
see the stars - the Milky Way was still out there on an especially
clear night... and the Big Dipper was hanging in the usual place...
But there was no denying it - things had changed.
We came full circle in 1994. What once had been three homes
on 1/4 mile, dead end road, was now 23. I marveled at the growth,
and then thought how lucky that my kids had been here when they
were. I see a few kids in the neighborhood - I see them playing
basket ball at the park and hanging at the pavilion. I smile
when I wake up after Halloween and find good old fashioned toilet
paper dripping from the trees along our street. It means there
are still some kids out doing 'normal' stuff. Not destructive,
but good natured stuff like we used to do. Now, the kids aren't
content to hang out here - they want to go to Woodstock. Any
place but here. It seems that the things that kept us 'busy'
and happy to just hang out together aren't "interesting"
The old ways have been disappearing slowly, and somewhat sadly.
You don't hear roosters crowing in the early morning hours anymore.
You don't see cows or horses in backyards like there used to
be when I first came here. Even the trails we hiked many times
have turned into graveled parking lots with outhouses to accommodate
all the hikers who have discovered our woods. Change. Family
structures changed. Moms went to work. Kids went to day care.
A crowd more inclined to ordering dinner than cooking it, or
stopping on their harried way to grab a quick bite "to
go". More likely, just a coffee and a Danish. I remember
taking the "back road" to Kingston to shop - to enjoy
the ride around the reservoir and to see the "sleeping
Indian" in the mountain range. It took a little longer
to get there, but you were more likely to see an Eagle or Blue
Heron or deer. It wasn't considered a hazard, but a privilege
- something of nature that you should enjoy, appreciate.
I still consider this country - but we've become a computerized,
texting world. Many of the families that now live here are without
children. They are grandparents, great-grandparents - and I
wonder if their grandchildren even know what it's like to walk
in the country and appreciate all that is around them. I wonder
if they visit each Sunday afternoon, for just a couple of hours,
returning to the city, hoping that they never have to live in
a place like this. I think they are missing the best experience
of their lives.