Ulster legislature OKs deal with DEP to build trail (and no rail)

A section of the 11.5-mile rail corridor along the north shore of the Ashokan Reservoir. Photo by Kevin Smith, the chairman of the Woodstock Land Conservancy.

On Tuesday, May 19, the Ulster County Legislature voted 17 to 6 to endorse a deal between the county and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection to build an 11.5-mile hiking, walking and biking trail along the northern shore of the Ashokan Reservoir. The vote begins the process of funding and planning the trail -- and dashes the hopes of railroad enthusiasts who want to preserve the tracks along the route.

The Catskill Mountain Railroad (CMRR), which operates a tourist railroad on other portions of the old Delaware & Ulster rail corridor that runs from Kingston to Boiceville, holds a lease on the right-of-way that expires in 2016. The CMRR has not run trains on the 11.5-mile Ashokan portion of the tracks for many years, but has still lobbied fiercely to keep the possibility open.

The CMRR, Ulster County Executive Mike Hein and the Friends of the Catskill Mountain Rail Trail have been involved in a public battle over rails v. trails since 2012.   Read more

This Weekend: Memorial Day in the Catskills

Above: Princesses in Liberty's 2014 Memorial Day Parade. Photo by John of Catskills Photography, submitted to the Watershed Post Flickr pool. This year, Liberty's parade takes place on Monday, May 25 at 10:30 a.m.

Ah, Memorial Day: a bittersweet tang, part remembrance, part celebration. The scent of gunpowder from ritual muskets mingling with the fresh blooms of late spring and a whiff of barbecue sauce. The unofficial beginning of summer brings a host of wonderful seasonal things bursting open at once.

Come out and imbibe the heady mix. Here’s our five county guide to the best of the Catskills this weekend, May 23 to 25.


Woodstock Writers Radio with Martha Frankel and guests

“It really saved me:” Survivors celebrate emergency responders

Above: Woodstock resident Joe Ali, third from right, was saved by first responders from Woodstock Fire Department Companies 4 and 5 after he went into cardiac arrest in December 2014. Ali was reunited with the people who worked to save him at Ulster County’s EMS Recognition Dinner on Friday, May 15 in Kingston. Photo by Bob Baker of the Woodstock Fire Department.

It’s National Emergency Medical Services Week, and communities across the Catskills are celebrating memorable “saves” by their first responders from the past year.

Left: Joe Ali at the Ulster County EMS Recognition Ceremony on May 15. Photo by Bob Baker. 

In Kingston on Friday, May 15, Joe Ali of Woodstock credited the quick reaction of first responders with saving his life when he went into cardiac arrest in December 2014.  Read more

Hang glider dies after crashing into Catskills mountain


Above: A photo of Scott Trueblood hang gliding, posted on his Facebook account. 

A hang glider with a newly minted pilot's license died after crashing into a mountain in the Ulster County town of Wawarsing on Sunday, May 17, according to a press release from the New York State Police. (Update: The Daily Freeman is reporting that Trueblood received his training at Ellenville's Mountain Wings Flight School.)

Scott Trueblood, a 44-year-old man from Connecticut, was flying near an overlook on State Route 52 when he suddenly veered into the side of a nearby mountain around 6:08 p.m., according to police and press reports.

Trueblood was pronounced dead at the scene. He had a new pilot's license from the Ellenville Flight school, according to the press release.

The Daily Freeman interviewed several of Trueblood's friends and fellow pilots, all of whom are baffled by the crash:

  Read more

Tennessee congressional candidate plotted militia attack on the Catskills Muslim community of Islamberg

Above: Hussein Adams, the CEO of The Muslims of America, speaks at a press conference in Binghamton on May 18 about Robert R. Doggart's plot to attack the Delaware County hamlet of Islamberg. Photo by Julia Reischel.

Above: Video taken at a press conference held in Binghamton on Monday by the Muslims of America, residents of the Hancock community of Islamberg. Video shot and edited by Jessica Vecchione of Vecc Videography.

From February to April of this year, Robert R. Doggart, a 63-year-old Tennessee man who ran for U.S. Congress in 2014, was hatching an elaborate plan to massacre the inhabitants of Islamberg, a Muslim community in the Catskills mountains of New York, according to the FBI and federal prosecutors.

Doggart was arrested on April 10, just before he was scheduled to travel to Islamberg, which is located in the Delaware County town of Hancock, to conduct reconnaissance for the attack, according to court documents.

Left: Robert R. Doggart in a campaign photograph, via Heavy.com.

Doggart has pled guilty to one of the charges, and is currently under house arrest in Tennessee while awaiting sentencing.  Read more

This weekend: Gardiner Cupcake Festival

Above: Cupcakes at the Gardiner Cupcake Festival. Photo via the Gardiner Cupcake Festival website

Ever since 2009, lovers of cupcakes have gathered in Ulster County for the annual Gardiner Cupcake Festival.

Now in its sixth year, the festival attracts thousands to the orchard at Wright's Farm to ogle and taste cupcakes of every variety, shape and flavor. 

Bakers, too, bring their A-game to the festival. Amateurs compete in a cupcake contest, and the pros set up stalls and sell their wares;  a dozen professional bakeries will be selling their cupcakes at the festival this year.

In addition to the cupcakes -- more than 30,000 of them -- the festival will feature a 5K, live music, a "human foosball game" and dozens of vendors selling crafts, wine and non-cupcake food. 

Gardiner Cupcake Festival. Saturday, May 16, 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wright's Farm, 699 Route 208, Gardiner, NY. 12525.  

This Weekend: Between the Lines Movement Fundraiser

On Saturday, the Catskill Mill on Main Street Catskill is hosting a dance performance (and a pre-performance auction and a post-performance dance party) as a benefit for the Greene County Council on the Arts.

The evening is planned with young, impecunious types in mind: tickets are on a sliding scale, and a DJ will turn the Mill into a club for the after party. (If you only come for the dance, you can get in for just $5.) Food is being provided by the Catskill Mill Food Truck. 

The centerpiece of the evening is a collaborative dance performance choreographed by a group of local dancers and accompanied by live music: 

The highlight of the evening is a collaborative dance performance inspired by sketches drawn especially for the event by Kiki Smith, and featuring live music by Michael Moss and Billy Stein. Nine dancers, a collection of seasoned pros from the area including Jean Churchill, Peggy Gould, Sondra Loring, Judith Moss, Donald Mouton, Nancey Rosensweig, Maria Simpson and Todd Whitley, will be creating and performing the piece.  Read more

Man burned in Delhi explosion dies

Above: Investigators examine the burned remains of a minivan, which exploded after it crashed into a propane tank in the American Legion parking lot in the Delaware County town of Delhi on Wednesday, May 13. Photo by Julia Reischel.

A man who was badly burned in an explosion behind the American Legion Post in Delhi on Wednesday, May 13 has died, police say.

Joseph Mueller, 19, died in the evening on Thursday, May 14, according to Delhi Police Chief Mike Mills.

On Wednesday, Mueller was driving a minivan when it crashed at a high speed into a 1,000-gallon propane tank behind the Legion around 8:15 p.m., causing an enormous explosion and fire.

About 70 people were in the Legion building playing bingo when the explosion occurred. All were safely evacuated.

The Legion building sustained minor damage from the fire, and several outbuildings were destroyed.

Mueller was alive and conscious but unable to speak and badly burned outside the vehicle when first responders arrived. He was taken by helicopter to Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse.

The cause of the crash is still under investigation, police say.

Previous coverage:  Read more

Governor extends burn ban to May 21

Above: The Roosa Gap fire threatens a house in the Shawangunks on May 5, 2015. Photo by Michael Wentland.

Due to a rash of wildfires across the state, including many in the Catskills, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday, May 13 that a ban on residential brush burning will be extended until May 21.

The ban, which goes into effect every year for the dry spring period of March 16 through May 14, was scheduled to expire this week. 

In his proclamation, the governor said that there have been 110 wildfires across New York state in 2015, which have burned 3,589.4 acres of land, destroyed one structure and threatened 91 homes.   Read more

Man seriously burned in Delhi minivan explosion

Above: A large propane tank was hit by a minivan at a high rate of speed in the parking lot of the American Legion in Delhi. The tank, in front, did not explode, but the minivan did, rattling windows for many blocks around town. The charred husk of the minivan is visible in the rear of the photo. Photo by Julia Reischel.

See video

Above: A video of the fire shot by Laura Gioffe and shared with the Watershed Post. 

A 19-year-old Delhi man was gravely injured in an explosion behind the American Legion building in Delhi around 8:15 p.m. on Wednesday, May 13. The minivan he was driving rammed into a 1,000-gallon propane tank behind the building and exploded, Delaware County officials and police say.

The man, 19-year-old Joseph Mueller of Delhi, was taken to O’Connor Hospital in Delhi and then was airlifted by helicopter to Upstate Medical University in Syracuse by LifeNet, according to Steve Hood, the director of Delaware County Emergency Services, and to a press release from Delhi Police Chief Michael Mills. 

The man was not affiliated with the Legion, nor had he attended an event there the night of the explosion, said Ed McGrath, the commander of the Delhi American Legion Post. The Legion was hosting a bingo night when the explosion occurred. 

  Read more

Catskills under both fire and freeze warnings today

Above: Temperatures will be close to freezing in parts of the Catskills tonight. Photo via the National Weather Service Binghamton's Facebook page. 

Fire might break out at any moment in the Catskills today, but you also should cover your seedlings to protect them from frost tonight, according to the National Weather Service.

There are both red flag warnings of high brush fire conditions and a freeze warning in effect in the Catskills today, Wednesday, May 13. 

NWS Albany has issued a red flag warning for the eastern Catskills, the mid-Hudson Valley and the Schoharie Valley that warns of "dangerous fire conditions" from noon to 6 p.m. today due to gusty winds and low humidity.   Read more

Florida murder suspect arrested after fleeing to Catskill

Above: Padron in a Florida mugshot, left, and in a mugshot taken after his arrest in the Greene County village of Catskill, right. He shaved his head and beard in an attempt to disguise himself while running from a Florida murder charge, police say.

A 25-year-old man wanted for murder in Florida has been arrested while hiding out in the Greene County village of Catskill, police say.

Jonathan D. Padron is a suspect in the murder of Thomas B. Nelson, who was shot to death in a vehicle on Saturday, May 9. The shooting occured in the parking lot of Genpak, a company that manufactures food service containers in Sebring, Florida, according to a New York State Police press release and media reports. 

Padron was Nelson's co-worker at the factory, according to a news report in Highlands Today.  Read more

Trails on Hunter Mountain re-open as fire, still contained, burns 133 acres

Above: Smoke was visible rising off a forest fire on Hunter Mountain on the afternoon of Monday, May 11. The spike in the flames was caused by high winds and a controlled burn managed by forest rangers. The Hunter Mountain fire is now in its sixth day. Photo by Ariel Woolheater.

A forest fire that has been burning on Hunter Mountain since Thursday, May 7 is still burning, but has not jumped its containment line, said New York State Forest Ranger Rob Dawson on Tuesday May 12.

In a sign of confidence that the Hunter Mountain fire is indeed under control, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has re-opened the hiking trails in Hunter that have been closed since Friday, May 8 because of the blaze, according to DEC spokesman Rick Georgeson.

The number of acres consumed by the fire is now 133 acres, Dawson said. A team of forest rangers managing the fire conducted a controlled burn on Monday afternoon, May 11, which has added to the acreage, he said.

"We did a little burnout up top to burn the fuels out," Dawson said. "Around the same time, the hot areas that are burning every day flared up."

Dawson said that the controlled burn was intentional.  Read more

Leisurely ramp stroll turns into mountain-saving mission

Above: Firefighters battled feisty pop-up flames during a small brush fire in the Delaware County hamlet of Halcottsville on Thursday, May 7. Photo by Rebecca Andre.

Rebecca Andre, a resident of the Delaware County hamlet of Halcottsville, witnessed one of the many brush fires that have plagued the Catskills in the past week while she was out on a walk near her home last Thursday, May 7. Andre is a professional photographer (check out her work at Mountain Girl Photography and Design), so she took photographs of the blaze and sent us this report. Halcottsville Fire Department Chief Jeff Slauson confirmed that the fire was caused by a tree limb falling on an electric line. A tree-trimming crew from NYSEG has trimmed other branches in the area to prevent more incidents, he said. - Ed. 

A deliciously beautiful Catskill day turned dangerous on Thursday, May 7 when a spark from an electric line ignited the top of a sap-covered birch tree, causing a small forest fire in the Delaware County hamlet of Halcottsville. 

On Thursday, May 7, I was finishing a foraging hike – ramps are in season now – when I heard the tone for the Halcottsville Fire Department echo through the tucked away hollow of Maegers Road.

Above: Fighting flames along the burn line. Photo by Rebecca Andre. 

Less then five minutes later, when the trucks start passing my home on the private, dead-end road, I assumed they were lost. Shoes slipped on, camera in hand, I started up my driveway, only to be met by Burr Hubbell and a firefighter kicking up dust as they raced to the scene in Mr. Hubbell’s vehicle. I hitched a ride, and soon found myself at the scene, less then half a mile from my own property.

  Read more

SUNY Delhi welders craft 12-foot stainless steel bronco

Above: Welding instructors Chris Mignier and D.J. Stein show off their creation: a 12-foot-tall bronco sculpture that will be installed on the SUNY Delhi campus. Photo by Robert Cairns.

Those attending the SUNY Delhi commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 16 will be greeted by a new addition to the campus – a 12-foot-tall sculpture of the school's bronco mascot logo, rendered in stainless steel.

The idea for the sculpture was crowd-sourced from among students, administrators and a campus beautification committee. The implementation fell upon welding instructors Chris Mignier and D.J. Stein.

“They asked what we could do,” Mignier said. “We started looking at the logo and decided to make the two-dimensional thing a three-dimensional thing.”

Mignier and Stein began experimenting after class hours and created a scale model, which they presented to college President Candace Vancko and others in March.

“We had no idea what the reception would be. They seemed really pleased with it,” Mignier said.

Vancko confirmed that she liked the model and said she gave the sculptors one more instruction. “I told them, 'Oh, I want it big. I want it really big,'” she said.  Read more

Roscoe Beer Company opens new tasting room

Above: The staff of the Roscoe Beer Company and Sullivan County dignitaries at a ribbon cutting for the brewery's new 1,600-square-foot tasting room in Roscoe on Friday, May 8. Photo by Julia Reischel.

The first thing that catches your eye when you walk into the Roscoe Beer Company’s brand new tasting room in the Sullivan County town of Roscoe is a large aquarium full of trout.

It’s not what you expect to find in a local brewery — usually the malt and hops take center stage — but the Roscoe Beer Company is serious about being local. And local, in Roscoe, means trout.

The town won the designation of “America’s Ultimate Fishing Town” in 2011, and swarms of anglers flock to the legendary Beaverkill each year to fish.

Above: A tank of trout sits in the center of the Roscoe Beer Company's new tasting room. Photo by Julia Reischel.   Read more

Hunter forest fire is contained but still burning, officials say

Above: A helicopter fights the Hunter Mountain fire on Saturday, May 9. Photo by Ariel Woolheater. 

Four days after it was sparked in a remote Greene County Valley, the largest forest fire to burn in the Catskills town of Hunter in living memory is fully contained, according to officials at the incident’s command post at the Lanesville firehouse at noon on Sunday, May 10.

The fire, based in the Greene County hamlet of Lanesville, is one of the largest of many that have sparked in the dry, hot Catskills this week, including a brush fire that consumed almost 3,000 acres on the Shawangunk Ridge and a burn at the Delaware County dump.   Read more

Fire at Delaware County's landfill quenched with foam

Firefighters were called on Sunday afternoon, May 10 to the Delaware County Solid Waste Management Center in Walton, where a smoky fire was burning in a pile of construction and demolition debris.

The "C & D" pile contains wood, plastic and other debris that is not processed through the county's composting plant.

James Olmstead, a deputy coordinator and investigator with the Delaware County Department of Emergency Services, said the fire was reported at 12:47 p.m. and had likely been brewing for some time.

"There was probably something in there that heated up over the years and made its way to the top," he said.

Olmstead said firefighters had trouble getting water to the scene, and eventually quenched the flames with foam. He said there was no damage to anything other than the C & D pile.

Firefighters from Walton, Delhi, Franklin, Trout Creek, Treadwell and Downsville fought the fire.

Large brush fire burns on Hunter Mountain

Above: Fire on the mountain. A helicopter pours water on a forest fire, visible as a plume of white smoke rising over the ridge, on Hunter Mountain on May 8, the second day of the blaze. Photo by Douglas Senterman.

Updates at bottom of post. -- Ed.


forest fire lanesville. heavenly valley road.  Read more

This Weekend: Spring on Main in Margaretville

Above: Flowers at Margaretville's 2012 spring festival. Photo by Julia Reischel. 

Celebrate the end of mud month and the beginning of spring in the Delaware County village of Margaretville this Saturday during the village's Spring on Main Festival. Organizers promise baby animals, music and storytelling and a rhubarb cooking contest, as well as historical tours, handmade confections, locally-made cheeses, a "hay bale garden" and vendors and crafts galore.

The rhubarb contest should be especially interesting. Rhubarb is an iconic spring plant, and it takes a good cook to turn its sour tartness into something that everybody enjoys. Cooks are invited to drop off their entries into the rhubarb contest at Home Goods of Margaretville at 784 Main Street by 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 9 for a 2 p.m. tasting and judging. 

Spring on Main. Saturday, May 9, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Various locations on Main Street Margaretville. mainstreetmargaretville.com.   Read more