The best stories from five years of the Watershed Post

Above: An illustration from our first and only April Fool's article, from April 1, 2011, depicting a fake floating casino on the Ashokan Reservoir. 

It's the Watershed Post's five year anniversary this month. (We're a little stunned about that, but yes, it was on January 19, 2010 that we formally launched the Watershed Post website.)

To celebrate, we took a look back at the stories from the past half-decade. It's been a wild ride, and we've grown a lot, transforming from a fast-posting news aggregator to a more thoughtful, longer-form online journalism outlet and, to our surprise, a print publisher. 

Here are our favorite stories from the past half-decade. Some are fun (that one April Fool's story we did back in 2011 was a hoot), and some are serious (we've had more than our share of floods and fires in the Catskills since 2010). We're proud of them all. In chronological order:   Read more

This weekend: Hymers Farm Fundraiser

Above: The fire that engulfed the Hymers Family Farm on Dec. 11, 2014. Photo via the YouCaring.com farm fundraiser for the Hymers

Musicians, Farm Catskills and neighbors throughout the region are throwing a fundraiser to benefit the Hymers family, who lost their Delhi dairy barn and some of their cows and calves in a fire on Dec. 11. 

The lineup includes live music by Becca Frame & Brian Shafer and the Stoddard Hollow String Band. Proceeds will go to a fund set up by Farm Catskills to help the Hymers get back on their feet. So far, $7,500 has already been raised.

Hymers Farm Benefit. Friday, Jan. 30, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., the Andes Hotel, 110 Main St., Andes. andeshotel.com. Donate to the Hymers benefit fund online here

Woodstock Writers Radio with Martha Frankel and guests

Delhi makes the finals of the America's Coolest Small Towns contest

Above: Flyers asking residents to vote for Delhi every day until Feb. 25 are appearing in businesses around Delhi. Photo courtesy of Christina Viafore. 

Delhi, the small Catskills town that serves as the county seat of Delaware County, has made it to the final round of the America's Coolest Small Towns 2015 contest, which is held every year by Budget Travel Magazine to celebrate towns nationwide with populations of under 10,000 people.

After an initial nomination round last fall, in which Delhi came in fourth, the town of 3,000 people is now one of 15 finalists in the contest.

Christina Viafore, the vice president of the Greater Delhi Chamber of Commerce, nominated Delhi for the contest back in October. Now she's gearing up for a campaign to get as many New Yorkers as possible to vote for Delhi in the finals. Ten winners will be featured in the magazine later in 2015.

"We are the only New York town, so we need New Yorkers to stick together and bring it home," Viafore said in an email to the Watershed Post.  Read more

The Catskills: The "locally cured bacon" vacation destination

Above: Locally cured bacon from Fleisher's, the artisanal Catskills butcher shop that has outposts in Kingston and Park Slope, Brooklyn. Photo via the Fleisher's Facebook page

Another downstate media outlet is tackling our question: Is 2015 the year of the Catskills? According to a thoughtful article in the Daily Beast today, the answer is a great big yes.   Read more

Police: Drug suspects tried to run down cops in Hurley Ridge Market lot

Above: Sean K. Moorhus and Kevin R. Hunter. Mugshots via the Ulster Regional Gang Enforcement Narcotics Team. 

When members of Ulster County's drug task force interrupted a heroin deal in the parking lot of the Hurley Ridge Market on Tuesday, Jan. 27, two suspects tried to run them over, police say.

Responding to a complaint, members of the Ulster Regional Gang Enforcement Narcotics Team (URGENT) approached two cars in the parking lot of the supermarket on Route 375 in the town of Hurley around 1 p.m., according to a press release.

Police say that 40-year-old Sean K. Moorhus of Saugerties and 36-year-old Kevin Ronald Hunter Jr. of Woodstock were in the vehicles, conducting a heroin transaction.

When the police walked up on foot, Moorhus and Hunter allegedly "placed the vehicles into gear and violently reversed toward the Detectives," the press release states.

Then things got scary. From the press release:   Read more

Spinning skaters at the ice carnival

John of Catskills Photography went to the Livingston Manor Ice Carnival on Sunday, Jan. 25 and took some great photos, which he shared with us in the Watershed Post Flickr pool.

Above are figure skaters Valerie Levine (left) and Victoria Calderone (right) spinning in tamden during their performance at the carnival. This is a detail of a larger photo -- to see the whole thing, click here. 

Zen Mountain Monastery abbot steps down after admitting affair

Left: Former Abbot Konrad Ryushin Marchaj in 2012. Photo by Dharma Communications, via Wikipedia. 

The abbot of the Zen Mountain Monastery in the Mount Tremper has stepped down from his post as the leader of the popular Ulster County religious center because of an extramarital affair and his “consuming involvement in shamanic traditions."

Former abbot Konrad Ryushin Marchaj explained his actions in a public statement posted on the monastery’s website on Monday, Jan. 26  Read more

January 2015 snowstorm updates

9 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 27: The travel ban in Ulster County (and in most other New York counties) has been lifted, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office:

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo this morning announced that the travel ban in the Hudson Valley (Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Ulster, Westchester counties), Nassau County, and New York City is lifted effective at 7:30 a.m. I-84 as well as the Thruway have been reopened. Drivers should use extreme caution and prepare properly as driving conditions remain poor and other states still may have travel bans in effect.

7:30 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 27: Snow much for that. Overnight, the storm tracked farther east than forecasters expected, and now the National Weather Service, Hudson Valley Weather and other forecasters have lowered their snowfall predictions for the Catskills and New York City. It'll be just another normal winter storm from here on out, with up to 6 inches possible in most parts of the Catskills. 

From the National Weather Service in Albany

This storm was east far enough by 50-100 miles to drastically alter the snowfall accumulations in the Albany forecast area. Some snow is still expected...but much lesser amounts at this time.

The team at Hudson Valley Weather has been up all night for this nailbiter:

While we are still under advisories and warnings for up to 6-12 inches of snow by the NWS, we fill that if the moisture does actually push west this morning into the afternoon, it will only produce light to possibly moderate snowfall totals. A general 2-6 inch snow fall with maybe a few higher spots seems much more logical at this point. No reason to believe this storm will discontinue its efforts to underperform the forecast.

HVW adds that it's been getting flack from irate readers: 

As a side note, attacks against HVW and forecasters alike will not bring the snow back, it would be much more productive for you to tackle your degree in meteorology. We realize that this was a major blow to the science and to forecasting in general and it will likely open the floodgates of criticism against what forecasters do. Kinda reminds me of the movie "The Weatherman" when Nicholas Cage is walking down the street and he gets hit with a milkshake, with that said, I prefer a chocolate frosty from Wendy's.

8:20 p.m. Monday, Jan. 26: There's some confusion about whether Gov. Cuomo's travel ban includes Sullivan County. The governor named Sullivan County as one of the counties with a travel ban in both press conferences he gave on Jan. 26, but his office's official list of 13 counties with travel bans does not include Sullivan County: 

For all local and state roads, a travel ban will go into effect at 11 p.m until further notice in the following 13 counties: Bronx, Dutchess, Kings, Nassau, New York, Orange, Putnam, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk, Ulster, and Westchester.

Sullivan County Manager Joshua Potosek issued a statement at 7:15 p.m. saying that there is no travel ban in effect in Sullivan County: 

County Manger Joshua Potosek has announced that there are no current travel restrictions for Sullivan County ... County Manager Potosek urges all County residents during the storm to remain indoors and off roadways whenever possible. If residents must drive, they are advised to exercise extreme caution when driving through this storm.

It looks like the only Catskills county included in the travel ban is Ulster, where drivers have been ordered to stay off the roads after 11 p.m tonight.  

5 p.m. Monday, Jan. 26: A travel ban on all roads will be in effect in Ulster and Sullivan counties, as well in more southern New York counties, beginning at 11 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 26.

"It is a total travel restriction ban," said Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a 4:45 p.m. press conference. "If you are in your car, and you are on any road after 11 p.m., you will technically be committing a crime." 

"State roads, local roads, city roads, town roads except for emergency personnel," Cuomo said. "If you violate this state order it’s a possible misdemeanor, with fines up to $300."

12 p.m. Monday, Jan. 26: Ulster and Sullivan county are under a state of emergency due to the looming snowstorm that is forecasted to bring up to 18 inches of snow to the eastern Catskills tonight, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced at a press conference at noon on Monday, Jan. 26.

There will be a tractor-trailer ban on the New York Thruway beginning at 4 p.m., and Cuomo's administration is considering issuing a total travel ban on all traffic on all main roads tonight. 

"I'm declaring a state of emergency effective immediately from Sullivan and Ulster counties south," Cuomo said.

The governor also said that there will be a tractor trailer ban on the New York Thruway beginning at 4 p.m. 

"We are considering at this time a travel ban on all main roads starting at 11 p.m. tonight," Cuomo said.

That decision on the travel ban will be made after 4 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 26, Cuomo said. 

"The closing of the roads is a safety precaution," he said. "It's never an easy decision." 

"This is not a storm to take lightly," he said. 

More updates below:

  Read more

Up to two feet of snow expected in Catskills during storm

Above: Projected snowfall totals in the Catskills and Hudson Valley by Hudson Valley Weather

Update, 1/26: We are tracking live updates on the progress of the storm through the Catskills and Hudson Valley. Click here to follow along.

The forecasters at the National Weather Service and Hudson Valley Weather say that up to 24 inches of snow could hit the Catskills during Winter Storm Juno (yes, it has a name) on Monday, Jan. 26 and Tuesday, Jan. 27. 

We're getting off easy. The predictions for New York City are dire.  Read more

Hundreds line up for free driftwood

Above: Tyler Borchet, center, searches the driftwood pile at the Jan. 23 driftwood giveaway in Olivebridge. Photo by Julia Reischel. 

Driftwood is the Catskills version of the iPhone -- people line up around the block to get it.

Hundreds waited in below-freezing weather in the Ulster County hamlet of Olivebridge on Friday, Jan. 23 for a chance to pick through a pile of free driftwood being given away by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.

The NYC watershed agency removes driftwood from the shores of its Catskills reservoirs every year. To get rid of the driftwood, the agency used to burn it. But this year, it tried something new: giving it away to the public.

Above: The line for driftwood. Photo by Julia Reischel.   Read more

This weekend: The Livingston Manor Ice Carnival

Above: The royal court at the 2011 Livingston Manor Rotary Ice Carnival. Photo via the Livingston Manor Rotary Ice Carnival's Facebook page.

For 56 years, Livingston Manor's Rotary has thrown a huge party in the depths of January. The annual Livingston Manor Ice Carnival is held for a full three days at venues around the Sullivan County hamlet.

On Friday, the Ice Carnival King and Queen will be crowned at the annual dance at the Livingston Manor Central School Gym. On Saturday, snow sculptors of all expertise levels are invited to compete in a "New York Landmarks" snow sculpture contest, held in the Rotary Park on Pleasant Street. (Organizers promise that "prominent VIPs" will be the judges, so bring your "A" game.)

  Read more

Police: Amsterdam man bilked Deposit woman out of livestock and trailer

There's been a lot of bad checks written in Delaware County lately.

A serial check bouncer left a trail of larceny across the county earlier this month, and now the New York State Police say that they have arrested an Amsterdam man for writing $30,000 in bad checks to a Deposit woman. 

Left: Spencer E. Harford. Photo via the New York State Police. 

On Wednesday, Jan. 21, the state police arrested 73-year-old Spencer E. Harford on a felony grand larceny charge. Police say that Harford wrote two bad checks in October 2014 to a Deposit woman who was selling him some cattle and a trailer, together valued at $29,800.00.

Harford "knowingly [gave] her checks when he did not have the funds," a state police press release states  Read more

DEP: Artists, come get our driftwood

Above: "Driftwood Cove" in the Ashokan Reservoir. Photo via the NYC DEP.

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.  Read more

Family of burglars caught by trail camera in Wurtsboro

Above: Rameek Alston and Teresa Wintermeyer. Photos via the New York State Police. 

A hidden trail camera caught a Wurtsboro couple red-handed as they burglarized an apartment with their 18-month-old child in tow, according to a New York State Police press release issued on Jan. 16.

A contractor who was renovating an apartment in Sullivan County began to suspect that the apartment was being burglarized when he noticed that tools and other items seemed to be disappearing, the press release states. So he installed a trail camera in the apartment to catch the burglar.

A whole family got caught in the act, police say. Thirty-year-old Rameek D. Alston, 31-year-old Teresa M. Wintermeyer and their 18-month-old child were all caught on tape breaking into the apartment and stealing property.  Read more

Toddler drowns in bathtub in Loch Sheldrake

A toddler vacationing at a camp in Loch Sheldrake reportedly drowned in a bathtub the morning of Tuesday, Jan. 20, according to multiple Sullivan County news outlets. 

A sergeant answering the phone at the Fallsburg Police Department said that no one was currently authorized to discuss the incident, but that a press release would soon be issued. 

According to reports from Yeshiva World News, JPUpdates and MidHudson News, the child, Benzion Zisha Lieberman, was the youngest of four children. The family is reportedly spending the winter in a weatherized home at Evergreen Estates Day Camp in Loch Sheldrake, and lives the rest of the year in Florida.

From JPUpdates:  Read more

Shandaken gets one more chance to weigh in on Belleayre Resort

See video

Above: The first of a three-part video from the Shandaken Planning Board's public hearing on Crossroads' proposed Belleayre Resort project. Source: Town of Shandaken's YouTube channel

For the past fifteen years, the public debate surrounding the Belleayre Resort project, a 629-unit luxury resort slated to straddle the line between the towns of Shandaken and Middletown next to the Belleayre Ski Center, has been fierce and bitter. 

But at a public hearing held Monday, Jan. 12 by the Town of Shandaken's Planning Board, at which the board took public comments about resort developer Crossroads Ventures' application for a special use permit from the town, little of that public acrimony was on display. There was plenty of standing and sitting room among the crowd of roughly 50 people who gathered for the hearing. Just 14 people spoke, there was little heckling, and the meeting lasted only about an hour.   Read more

Serial check bouncer left trail of larceny across New York and Pennsylvania, police say

Left: Lee S. McDonald. Photo via the Delaware County Sheriff's Office. 

A Walton man allegedly bounced checks and stole large sums of money from victims across six counties in two states, police say.

Lee S. McDonald, a 35-year-old man who owns a contracting business called Blue Moon Construction, was arrested on Thursday, Jan. 15 by investigators from the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office, according to a press release.

The Delaware County District Attorney's office charged McDonald with one count of grand larceny in the second degree and one count of grand larceny in the fourth degree. The exact amount of money McDonald allegedly stole is hidden inside a sealed grand jury indictment, but it is at least $51,000, and probably much more.  

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. In Delaware County alone, McDonald has been arrested three more times for passing bad checks from the checking accounts of Blue Moon Construction and Dam Broke Farm, another business he owns.  Read more

Ulster County makes new move toward eviction of Catskill Mountain Railroad

Above: Families board a Thomas the Tank Engine train in Kingston during a Catskill Mountain Railroad event in September. Photo via the Catskill Mountain Railroad Facebook page.  

Ulster County is preparing to file more litigation in an attempt to evict the Catskill Mountain Railroad from county-owned train tracks, according to Ernie Hunt, the spokesman for the railroad, and Ulster County Legislator David Donaldson. 

Hunt said that the railroad’s lawyers received notice on Tuesday, Jan. 13 that Ulster County would soon appeal a September decision by Ulster County Supreme Court Judge Richard Mott that prevents the county from evicting the railroad.  Read more

New Brooklyn bar named after Livingston Manor

Above: A Southside cocktail made with Warwick Gin at Livingston Manor, a new bar in downtown Brooklyn. Photo via the Livingston Manor website

Livingston Manor, the Sullivan County hamlet, meet Livingston Manor, the new bar in downtown Brooklyn.

The bar, which opened in December, is named after the town, and is meant to bring the Manor's "small town ethos" to the city. One of the bar's owners, Matt Roff, spent summers in the Catskills, according to an article in Brooklyn Magazine:   Read more

Follow us on Instagram

Above: An ice-covered plant, photographed by John of Catskills Photography and shared in the Watershed Post's Flickr pool and on our new Instagram account.

Sharing and regramming photos on Instagram is one of our New Year's resolutions. So far, we're sticking to it.  We're posting photos from our news stories and sharing images from the amazing photographers among our readers and neighbors from around the Catskills. 

Follow us and share your photos with us on Instagram by clicking here.