Local activist Noel van Swol dies in car crash

Above: Noel van Swol, in a screenshot from a 2011 YouTube video from Energy In Depth's Northeast Marcellus Initiative. In the video, van Swol cites the Anti-Rent Wars as a precedent for the pro-gas-drilling movement in upstate New York, and tells an interviewer, "We are not an economic colony of the Delaware River Basin Commission, New York City, Philadelphia or Trenton. We own this area. We have property rights."

Noel van Swol, a 70-year-old Long Eddy man who was well-known in the area for championing pro-drilling activism and other causes, died in a car accident Monday. The Times Herald-Record reports:

The Long Eddy resident was retuning from a pro-gas drilling rally in Albany when he apparently went into a diabetic coma while driving and went off the road and crashed not far from his home, said his mother Tuesday morning.

“He was a wonderful son,” said his mother who was too distraught to speak after answering the phone.

Van Swol was the president of the Sullivan-Delaware Property Owners Association.

The River Reporter's Fritz Mayer has more on van Swol's long history with community activism, which ranged from property rights to local school issues:

The Long Eddy resident was also a fierce critic of the formation of the Upper Delaware River into a Wild and Scenic River managed by the National Park Service (NPS). In a document dating back to 1986, reporter Tom Rue wrote that van Swol was one of a number of NPS opponents who turned out to a meeting and shouted loudly for 90 minutes preventing any individuals from offering testimony about the plan for the proposed River Management Plan,

Rue wrote, “After about 90 minutes, van Swol took the speaker's microphone and announced, ‘We're going to suspend the rules and run a democratic meeting here.’" He then delivered remarks and introduced other unscheduled speakers.

van Swol was also a critic of the merging of the Delaware Valley, Narrowsburg, Jeffersonville-Youngsville school districts into the Sullivan West Central School District 1999, and was voted onto the Sullivan West School board in a wave of voter disenchantment with the merger in 2006. Later that year he called for and eventually received an investigation by the NYS Attorney General into whether there were voting irregularities into the voting that resulted in the merger.

Van Swol will be missed deeply in Sullivan County, even by some who didn't agree with him. Local activist and writer Liz Bucar, a longtime foe of gas drilling who often crossed swords with van Swol, wrote a tribute to him on Facebook today:

It's impossible to believe that such a force could be stilled in a single moment. For thirty years we engaged as allies or opponents on the major issues that have shaped decades of Sullivan County history. We argued endlessly, shared Christmas cards and brought everything we had to the battle. Farewell, traveler.

Adam Bosch, a former Times Herald reporter who currently works for Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress, also commented about van Swol's death on Facebook:

Incredibly sad news. I got to know Noel a little while covering Sullivan County for three years. Some people agreed with his strong views, some people detested them. But in light of his tragic death, you have to admire him for doing what so many others shy away from - getting involved and contributing ideas to the region where he lived.