DEP: Artists, come get our driftwood

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection is hosting an odd event this Friday, Jan. 23: A driftwood giveaway.

The DEP has a driftwood glut on its Ashokan Reservoir, one of the city's upstate lakes that supplies NYC's drinking water. A portion of the reservoir's west basin is dubbed "Driftwood Cove" because of the large amount of wood that piles up along its shores after washing down the Esopus Creek through the Catskills, according to a DEP press release. 

For years, the DEP has given its driftwood away to artists, who use it in sculptures and crafts. But in that past, the DEP has also burned some driftwood, which has disappointed some artists who wanted as much of the wood as they could get.

A 2010 article in the Daily Freeman interviewed sculptor Rita Dee, who is known for large horse sculptures made of driftwood, about her desire to use Ashokan Reservoir driftwood in her work. The story made the DEP sound like a "Kafkaesque bureaucracy of driftwood-hoarders," as we termed it in a post at the time.

Dee isn't the only local artist interested in driftwood. In the town of Catskill, artist Matt Bua created a 15-foot-tall bobcat sculpture made of salvaged wood in 2010 that now serves as the "Catamount People's Museum." Barrytown artist Andres San Millan uses driftwood to craft large humanoid sculptures. In Neversink, Brooklyn artists Ellie Irons and Dan Phiffer created a driftwood sculpture as Wildcat Fellows in 2011

Clearly, demand for driftwood among creative types is high. This year, the DEP is making it easier for artists to get it. Instead of having individual artists call to ask for it, the agency is hosting a public event to distribute the driftwood to all comers. From the press release:  

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection today announced that it will offer a limited supply of free driftwood from Ashokan Reservoir to artists and craftsmen later this month. The driftwood will be distributed on Friday, Jan. 23, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at a staging area on Beaverkill Road in Olivebridge, just a few hundred feet from its intersection with Route 28A. DEP staff will be on hand to answer questions and assist artists as needed ... The wood will be given away on a first come, first served basis.

The idea is proving popular.

"The interest in the driftwood has far outpaced our expectations," said Adam Bosch, a DEP spokesman. 

A post on the NYC Watershed's Facebook page about the event has been shared 465 times and has many comments from people who are interested in free driftwood.

Better get there early. 

DEP driftwood giveaway. Friday, Jan. 23, 10 2 p.m. near the intersection of Route 28A and Beaverkill Road, Olivebridge.