Rattlesnake found in Mount Tremper yard

Above: Environmental Conservation Officer Myles Schillinger and Nuisance Wildlife Agent Roy Lane removing a three-foot Eastern Timber rattlesnake from a Mount Tremper home on July 1. Photo via the NYS DEC.

An environmental conservation officer and a snake wrangler were called in to remove a rattlesnake from the yard of a home in the Ulster County hamlet of Mount Tremper on Friday, July 1, according to a press release from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The snake was a three-foot-long Eastern Timber rattlesnake, a species that is listed as threatened in New York State. Hikers in Ulster County know to be mindful of encountering rattlesnakes on trails in the Catskills, but reports of rattlesnakes turning up at private homes are rare.

The Mount Tremper homeowner who discovered the rattlesnake called for help around 7 p.m. Friday, July 1, according to the press release. Environmental Conservation Officer Myles Schillinger responded to the call and contacted Nuisance Wildlife Agent Roy Lane, who is an expert snake wrangler.  Read more

One Catskills newspaper closes, two more cut reporters

Weekly newspapers in the Catskills region have had a bad month. One local weekly quit publishing entirely, while two more that are part of a regional chain laid off veteran reporters.

The Delaware County Times, a newspaper that traces its lineage back to 1839 in Delhi, published its last issue on Friday, July 8.

The paper employed three people in its Delhi office on a part-time basis and relied on a cadre of freelance journalists, including the author of this article, to cover local news. Contributors were notified on July 8 that the paper would cease publication.

Donald Bishop, the publisher of the paper, did not return a request for comment. Cathy Roloson, who coordinated the news gathering and layout of the paper, said that a companion publication, the semiannual Kaatskill Life magazine, will continue to be published online and that she will continue to work in the Delhi office. She also indicated that the Delaware County Times may resume publishing in the future.  Read more

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Seward announces re-election bid as two Democrats vie to oppose him

Above: New York State Sen. James Seward on the floor of the New York State Senate. Photo via the Seward re-election campaign. 

New York State Sen. James Seward announced on Monday, July 11, that he will be seeking his 16th term in office this November. The Republican state senator, who represents a portion of the Catskills, will face two Democrats who are gunning for his seat.

Seward made the announcement just months after successfully battling bladder cancer.

Seward hails from the Otsego County town of Milford, where he once served as town justice.

Left: Audrey Dunning, a Democrat running against Seward for New York's 51st Senate District seat. Photo via the Dunning campaign website.  

First elected in 1986, for 29 years Seward has represented New York’s expansive 51st Senate District, which contains portions of nine counties (including all of Cortland, Schoharie and Otsego counties) and is roughly the geographic size of Connecticut.

Seward submitted nearly 3,800 signatures on nominating petitions for his re-election, and will appear on the GOP, Conservative Party, Independence Party and Reform Party lines against his eventual challenger.

In a official statement announcing his candidacy issued last week, Seward said that he would focus on key issues for his constituents in his re-election bid.

"My focus is on the concerns I hear from people every day—property tax relief, economic development, aid for our neediest schools, resources for our local roads and bridges, and the crushing heroin epidemic," Seward said.

“It takes a combination of experience and vision to meet the challenges we face—my record of service coupled with my proposals for future growth fulfill those requirements,” Seward’s statement said.

  Read more

Retired doctor dies of heart attack while fishing the Esopus

Above: The Esopus Creek. Photo by Flickr user ScubaBear68.

A 78-year-old retired doctor from New Jersey had a heart attack and died while fishing the Esopus Creek near the hamlet of Phoenicia on Thursday, July 14, according to a press release from the Shandaken Police Department.

Iuliu Todoran was a retired physician from Englewood, NJ, police say.

Around 2:45 p.m. on Thursday, police received notice that Todoran had not returned from a fishing trip near the Ulster County hamlet as expected.

After searching the roads near the Esopus Creek, police found Todoran’s vehicle parked on Plank Rd. just west of Waterworks Rd., according to the press release.

They then searched the banks of both sides of the creek, but did not find Todoran, police say.  Read more

14-year-old girl charged with setting string of car fires in Summit

New York State Police have announced the arrest of a teenage girl on Thursday, July 14 in connection to a series of car fires and vandalism in the Schoharie County town of Summit. State Police, flanked by members of the Schoharie County Sheriff's Office, the Summit Fire Department, and other cooperating entities in the multi­agency investigation, made the announcement at Troop G Headquarters in Latham on Friday afternoon.

The girl, who was not identified by State Police, was charged with a laundry list of felonies and misdemeanors, including reckless endangerment, criminal mischief, and arson. She is only 14 years old and is being held at a juvenile detention center.

Between June 26 and July 11, state and local police received five separate reports of arson and vandalism to cars on Baldwin Road. In one of the incidents, three cars were set on fire near an occupied house, which was also damaged by the fire. 

All incidents took place on Baldwin Road in the town of Summit.  Read more

Explosion in Masonville destroys home, leaves man in critical condition

An explosion that was accidentally set off by a man attempting to light a propane water heater destroyed a Masonville home on Route 206 on Wednesday night, leaving three people injured. 

Masonville firefighters responded to a 911 call made at 9:26 pm on Wednesday, July 13, according to a press release issued by Delaware County Emergency Services. When firefighters arrived on the scene minutes later, the house was already destroyed and engulfed in flames. 

The explosion sounded "like a gunshot," and could be heard for miles, a neighbor told WBNG.

Three people were injured in the blast. Shayne Charles, 31, who was in the basement attempting to light the hot water heater, was transported by LifeNet to the burn unit at Upstate Medical University Hospital in Syracuse, where he remained in critical condition as of Thursday afternoon. According to Delaware County Emergency Services, he was rescued from the house by two passersby.   Read more

Tackling the trash problem at Peekamoose Blue Hole

Above: A dumpster full of trash at the Peekamoose Blue Hole trailhead in Denning on July 7. Photo by Joe Ferrara. 

Volunteers are invited to help clean up trash and litter this Sunday, July 17 at Peekamoose Blue Hole, a popular swimming hole in the Ulster County town of Denning that has been ground zero for conflicts in the Catskills over the growing popularity of the region's natural attractions.

Blue Hole was so overrun with visitors and the trash and parking issues they bring with them last summer that in May the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued emergency regulations banning littering, glass containers, camping, fires, generators, barbecue grills and boomboxes from the swimming hole. 

In addition, DEC forest rangers are stationed at Blue Hole, and a dumpster and a kiosk have been installed.  Read more

Less controversy over renewing NYC’s watershed permit at second Catskills forum

Above: Vernon Benjamin of the town of Saugerties addresses New York State Department of Health staffer Pamela Young and a colleague at a public forum on New York City's Filtration Avoidance Determination on June 29 in Hunter. Saugerties isn't in New York City's "west-of-Hudson" upstate watershed, Benjamin said, but rather is in its “east-of-west-of-Hudson-watershed.” Photos by Julia Reischel. 

The second of two Catskills information sessions about New York City's Filtration Avoidance Determination (FAD), which is due to be renewed in May 2017, was a quiet affair held at the Kaatskill Mountain Club hotel in the Greene County town of Hunter on Wednesday, June 29.

A similar meeting in the Delaware County town of Delhi on June 21 was packed with rebellious comments from local officials upset with certain aspects of the agreement between New York City and its upstate watershed.   Read more

Tow truck driver knocked over utility pole and fled, police say

A Deposit man driving a tow truck knocked over a utility pole and fled the scene while intoxicated on Monday in the Delaware County town of Tompkins, police say.

Above: Adam K. Buteau. Photo via the Delaware County Sheriff's Office. 

Thirty-year-old Adam K. Buteau was driving a 2002 International Harvester flatbed tow truck owned by Buteau’s Economy Auto of Deposit when he rammed into a wooden utility pole on County Road 47 on Monday evening, July 11, according to a press release from the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office.

The impact severed the pole, which fell across the road and blocked traffic, police say.

Buteau fled the scene in the truck, and then abandoned the vehicle and was found walking along the road about three miles from the crash scene, according to the press release.  Read more

Crash kills 20-year-old man in Blenheim

State police say that a Preston Hollow man died in a one-vehicle crash on Friday, July 8 in the Schoharie County town of Blenheim.

According to Trooper Mark J. Cepiel, the public information officer at Troop G headquarters in Latham, troopers were dispatched at 7:56 p.m. on Friday to investigate the crash on Route 30 in Blenheim.

According to the accident report, 20-year-old Jacob B. Pruiksma was headed north on the highway when his vehicle veered onto the right shoulder and then overcorrected, overturning several times. 

Pruiksma, who was not wearing a seat belt, was partially ejected and the vehicle landed on top of him, according to the police report.

He was declared dead at the scene by a Schoharie County coroner and taken to Albany Medical Center for an autopsy. The cause of death was listed as massive head trauma.

Cepiel said that Pruiksma was alone in the vehicle and that there were no witnesses to the crash, which was reported by a passerby.  Read more

Lost hiker prompts search in West Shokan before being found safe

Above: County Road 42 in Ulster County, near Moon Haw Rd. in the town of Olive where a hiker was lost on Monday, July 11. Photo by Doug Kerr, via Flickr.

New York State Forest Rangers and local first responders spent Monday, July 11 searching for a hiker who was lost in the woods in the Ulster County hamlet of West Shokan, according to a spokesperson for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The man, a 62-year-old hiker from New Jersey, is not being identified by the DEC, according to Wendy Rosenbach, a spokesperson for the DEC’s Region 3 office.

The man was reported lost around 3:30 p.m. on Monday in the forest near Moon Haw Rd., Rosenbach said.

A local first responder involved in the search said that the man had begun hiking in the area on Sunday and was believed to possibly have spent the night in the woods. The DEC could not confirm this detail.  Read more

Four-year-old boy drowns at Sullivan County bungalow colony

A four-year-old boy from Brooklyn drowned on Sunday, July 10 in a partially-filled swimming pool at a summer bungalow colony in the Sullivan County town of Bethel, local newspapers report.

The child, whose name has been alternatively reported as Shimon Weisz, Shimon Weiz, and Shimon Weiss, wandered away from his family around 6:15 p.m. on Sunday evening, according to Voz Iz Neias.

He was found around 6:45 p.m. floating facedown in an above-ground swimming pool on the bungalow colony property that had just been opened for the season, according to the Times Herald-Record  Read more

Drunk driver rams tent at Ukrainian camp while doing donuts, police say

A 32-year-old Massachusetts man was arrested on Saturday, July 9 after he drunkenly drove his car into an occupied tent at a Ukrainian summer camp in the Ulster County town of Wawarsing and then threatened to use a firearm, police say.

Yuriy Plesnik of Stoughton, Massachusetts was reportedly “doing donuts”—driving his car in tight circles—at the Oselia CYM Ukrainian Camp in the village of Ellenville around 9:55 p.m. on Saturday when he drove into another camper’s campsite and hit a tent, according to a press release issued by the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office.

The tent was occupied when Plesnik hit it, police say. In an altercation that followed the crash, Plesnik threatened to use a gun, according to the press release.

Plesnik’s blood alcohol content was measured at more than .18 percent when he was arrested, police say.  Read more

Fatal crash, drowning and bizarre shooting happen in Greene County over weekend

One person drowned, another was killed when an SUV flipped over and a third was found riding in a car with a gunshot wound in a series of odd incidents in Greene County over the weekend, according to media reports.

Only sketchy details are available from police about all three incidents.

First, on Friday, July 8, a person drowned in a “small body of water” near Route 145 in the town of Durham, the New York State Police told the Daily Mail.  County officials have ordered a toxicology report in the case, but police have released zero information about the victim, the circumstances of the drowning or even exactly where the incident occurred.

On Saturday, July 9, in the nearby town of Cairo, police had a shock when they pulled over a vehicle on Route 145 for a traffic violation, only to discover that one of the four men inside had been shot, the Daily Mail reported. The man was hospitalized, and no more information about the incident or the victim is available.  Read more

Man killed by deer in Roxbury crash

A 49-year-old man has died of injuries sustained in a crash with a deer that happened on Wednesday, July 6 in the Delaware County town of Roxbury, according to the Daily Star, the Catskill Mountain News and the Associated Press.

The Catskill Mountain News has the most detailed report.

According to the CMN, Roxbury resident John Peters was sitting in the passenger seat of a car being driven by his fiancée, Renee Wojciechowski, on Route 30 around 6 p.m. on Wednesday when the crash occurred.  Read more

Police investigate suspicious car fires in Summit

Above: A screenshot from an Albany News 10 report about the suspicious fires in Summit. 

A multi-agency investigation is underway following a string of suspicious car fires in the Schoharie County town of Summit.

Schoharie County Fire Coordinator Matt Brisley said that that five vehicles and a garage have been damaged or destroyed on Baldwin Rd. over the past 10 days.

"All five vehicles that have been damaged or destroyed by fire were incendiary in nature and began within a quarter-mile radius of each other at around the same time," Brisley said.

Brisley explained that the first car fire occurred around 2 a.m. on Saturday, July 2. Two more vehicles and a garage were set aflame around 1:45 a.m. on Tuesday, July 5, he said, and then two more cars were set on fire at 2:15 a.m. on Monday, July 11.

"We have collected evidence and have submitted it to the forensic lab for analysis," Brisley said.  Read more

Catskills sheriffs skeptical of new heroin legislation

Above: Close to 500 bags of heroin were found in a car headed from the Bronx to the Delaware County village of Sidney last summer, according to a police report. Photo via the Delaware County Sheriff's Office. 

Besieged by a worsening heroin and opioid crisis, New York State lawmakers passed a package of legislation designed to increase prevention and treatment for the abuse of the narcotics last month at the end of the legislative session. But the heads of several Catskills Sheriff’s Offices say that the new laws don’t include enough enforcement measures.

”These laws are made in what I think is a feel-good manner,” said Schoharie County Sheriff Tony Desmond. “Words are put on paper and then put into law . . . so we have a lot of laws and no money for enforcement."

Sheriffs from Ulster County and Delaware County in the Catskills, a region that has seen a steep spike in opioid-related arrests and deaths in recent years, also expressed ambivalence about the legislation.  Read more

Pros and newbies rub shoulders at Catskills open mics

Above: The Open Eye Theater in Margaretville hosts a monthly open mic night on every first Friday of the month. Tonight, Friday, July 8, the venue hosts its July open mic night starting at 7 p.m. The event was pushed back a week due to the Fourth of July holiday. Photo by Rebecca Andre. 

Across the Catskills, open mic nights offer audiences a chance to see veteran and amateur musicians, poets, storytellers and comics, usually for free.

The level of talent of the performers varies, as does the age and choice of instrument, but that unpredictability is part of the fun. Guitars, keyboards, banjos, fiddles, egg-shakers and plan old spoken word: You can hear it all in one impromptu variety show.

For four years, musician Ben Rounds has hosted an open mic night at every Tuesday at the Emerson Resort and Spa in Mount Tremper.

“I am proud of the fact that this weekly open mic gives performers a place to try out new material, play at least one show a week, or expand their fan base,” Rounds said.

Melissa Zeligman, a local chef, poet, and filmmaker, is a regular.  Read more

Mount Tremper Arts leaps into year-round programming named for NYC's watershed

Above: Alok Vaid-Menon and Janani Balasubramanian, the members of Darkmatter, a trans south asian performance art duo that will appear at Mount Tremper Arts on Saturday, July 16. Image via the MTA website.

Mount Tremper Arts is expanding its public programming from a summer festival to year-round events.

The gorgeous artist-run space, tucked away on a maple-thick hillside off Plank Rd.–i.e. Old Route 28–in the Ulster County hamlet of Mount Tremper, begins its ninth performance season on Saturday, July 16 with South Asian trans duo DarkMatter, followed in August by theater company 600 HIGHWAYMEN. Both groups are based in NYC. 

In the past, that would’ve been it for the year, performance-wise. (Since its 2008 inception, MTA has hosted year-round residencies, retreats, and rentals, and continues to do so.)  Read more

Man planned to sell heroin and cocaine from Delaware County motel room, police say

Above: Heroin, cocaine, cash and marijuana seized from a hotel room in Davenport on Tuesday, July 5. Photo via the Delaware County Sheriff's Office. 

A 21-year-old man from the Bronx was arrested with heroin and cocaine packaged for sale in a motel room on Route 23 in the Delaware County town of Davenport on Tuesday, July 5, police say.

Left: Twenty-one-year-old Peter Balde of the Bronx. Photo via the Delaware County Sheriff's Office. 

Peter Balde of New York City was arrested on Tuesday morning and charged with possessing narcotic drugs with intent to sell out of a room at the Rock Inn Motel, which is located just outside the city of Oneonta, according to a Delaware County Sheriff’s Office press release.

Ozzie, the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office’s prized drug-sniffing dog, searched the hotel room and found 65 bags of heroin, 17 individual crack cocaine wraps, about two grams of powdered cocaine, a small amount of marijuana and over $1,000 cash, police say.  Read more