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

Woodstock Writers Radio with Martha Frankel and guests

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.

This weekend: Grand opening party for the rebuilt Phoenicia Library

Above: The Phoenicia Library's snazzy new sign, via its Facebook page

After the Phoenicia Library burned down on March 19, 2011, it took almost four years for it to rise from the ashes. But rise it did, with the close-knit Shandaken community raising $800,000 to support the rebuilding project with state grants, insurance monies, bake sales, restaurant fundraisers, and large donations from neighbors.  

The library re-opened in its totally restored 48 Main Street building on Jan. 2. The structure now boasts a state-of-the-art design that cuts its energy costs to the bare minimum, and a lot of exciting architectural and technological bells and whistles. From a press release from the library's director, Liz Potter:   Read more

Family of three left homeless by Oliverea fire

Above: The charred and ice-covered remains of a double wide trailer on Route 47 in Big Indian. Photo by Julia Reischel.

A family of three, including an infant, was left homeless by a fire that completely destroyed their double wide trailer home on Oliverea Road in the Ulster County hamlet of Big Indian in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Jan. 14.

The two parents, a three-month-old baby and multiple pets escaped unharmed, but the home at 33 Oliverea Road was a total loss, according first responders.

“It was an accidental fire caused by a woodstove,” said Big Indian and Oliverea Fire Department Chief Jody Rossitz.

The fire was called in around 3 a.m. by one of the homeowners, who drove down to the firehouse in Big Indian and pressed the fire alarm button, sounding the station’s siren.

The homeowners could not be reached in time to report this story, but Rossitz said that they have relatives who live nearby and that the Red Cross has been alerted to their possible needs for shelter and clothing.

Assistant Chief Chuck Perez was the first firefighter to arrive at the scene around 3 a.m, when the temperature in the Oliverea Valley was below 0 degrees.

“I could see the glow as I left my driveway,” said Perez, who lives nearby. “It was quick.”  Read more

Windham town supervisor charged with felony eavesdropping

With the arrest of their sitting town supervisor on Monday after a long and mysterious investigation, residents of the Greene County town of Windham may finally start getting some answers.

Windham town supervisor Stacy Post, 51, was arrested by New York State police on Monday, Jan. 12 on felony eavesdropping charges.

Police say Post, who is also the former town police chief, conducted illegal electronic surveillance in the Windham town office building while serving as the town supervisor. Post was elected in November of 2013. 

Post faces three charges of felony eavesdropping, a class E felony, and one charge of possessing eavesdropping devices, a class A misdemeanor. Police say she placed an audio and video recording device in the Windham town office building to eavesdrop on employees and other visitors to the building.  Read more

With 121 eminent domain cases filed, another round of hearings for Constitution Pipeline

Above: An underground natural gas pipeline right-of-way after completion. Photo courtesy of FERC.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is holding public hearings on whether or not to issue a permit to the Constitution Pipeline, a natural gas pipeline that seeks to break ground through Delaware, Schoharie, Broome and Chenango counties this year. The agency has also extended its public comment period on the pipeline until Feb. 27, 2015. 

The pipeline cleared its main federal hurdle, approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), on Dec. 2. 

Since then, it has been moving aggressively to force reluctant landowners along the 124-mile route to cooperate. The pipeline has filed 121 eminent domain lawsuits against property owners along the route who don't want the pipeline to cross their land.  Read more

New early bear hunting season may have led to record kill numbers 

Above: A bear snacks on birdseed after smashing a bird feeder at a home in Andes in 2006. Photo by Peter Possenti (using a telephoto lens.) Used with permission

The spot Tim Meservey found at the base of a tree early one Saturday morning in September was a hunter’s dream. On a rise, it faced a gully that is a country lane for wildlife. A few hundred yards away is a farm where bears strip sweet, young corn from the stalk when no one is looking. 

Usually, bears are not on Meservey’s big game list. Not as plentiful as deer, they are also elusive, and it was rare to see one in the woods by the time regular hunting season arrived in November in Greene County, where the 39-year-old hunter and middle school art teacher lives. 

“They tend to head back up in the mountains in fall,” Meservey said.

But when the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) initiated an early bear season that started on Sept. 6 – the regular season opened Nov. 15 – Meservey said he finally saw an opportunity.  Read more

State scolds judge who jailed woman for cursing

The state commission that disciplines judges found that Judge Richard L. Gumo, the acting judge in the village of Walton, committed misconduct during a case in which he sentenced a Walton woman to 15 days in jail for swearing in public.

Gumo demonstrated “insensitivity to his ethical obligations” during and after the case, according to a determination of admonition issued by the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct on Dec. 30, 2014 and released to the public on Jan. 8, 2015.

Carl F. Becker, a Delaware County Court judge who received an “inappropriate” letter from Gumo about the case, filed the complaint with the commission. The letter contained “self-serving advocacy” and “sarcasm" and was written “in a fit of pique,” according to the commission.

Reached by phone, Gumo told the Watershed Post that he was “not permitted by law to make a comment” about the case.  Read more

The New York Times jumps on the visit-the-Catskills bandwagon

Above: A double rainbow over the Ashokan Reservoir in July 2014. Photo by Rebecca Balzac, shared in the Watershed Post Flickr pool. 

Joining the likes of Travel + Leisure and Fodor's, the New York Times has listed the Catskills as one of "52 Places to Go in 2015."

"Not your Bubbie and Zadie’s getaway," the NYT writes, ranking the Catskills #39 on its list. The paper names a series of Catskills establishments that have been enjoying fantastic press recently, including The Graham & Co. and the Phoenicia Diner in Phoenicia and Cucina and Woodstock Way in Woodstock--all of which were also recently lauded in a feature in Vogue.

There's also the inevitable comparison to Brooklyn:   Read more

Westwind Orchard's raw honey wins a 2015 Good Food Award

Above: Raw honey made by bees at Westwind Orchard in Accord. Photo via the Westwind Orchard website

Westwind Orchard, an organic farm in the Ulster County hamlet of Accord, has won a 2015 Good Food Award for its raw unpasteurized honey.

Farmers Fabio Chizzola and Laura Ferrara, city transplants who have spent twelve years turning their derelict apple orchard into a popular U-Pick apple attraction, should be proud.

Bees and apple blossoms go together well, according to Chizzola on the Westwind Orchard website  Read more

Walton man dies in car crash on his birthday

Above: Travis James Roloson with his son, Jaedyn Roloson, in an obituary photo.

Travis James Roloson was heading home to celebrate his birthday on Monday when his red 1997 Honda CRV drifted off the road and into a tree, killing him instantly, police and his family say.

Roloson, who turned 31 on Jan. 5, was driving north on East River Road from Walton towards Hamden with his girlfriend, 25-year-old Melissa J. Brannock, in the passenger's seat. Police responded to the crash around 7:42 p.m., according New York State Police spokesman Nathan Riegal. Family members say that the crash occurred around 4:42 p.m. 

"He’d just got off work and picked up his girlfriend," said Cathy Roloson, Travis's stepmother. "They were going to cook him a birthday dinner." 

Brannock was injured in the crash, Cathy Roloson said, breaking her leg in 13 places. She is being treated in a hospital in Binghamton, Roloson said. 

The cause of the crash is still under investigation, but road conditions near the crash were clear and dry at the time, police say. Roloson was pronounced dead due to a broken neck at the scene by a Delaware County medical examiner.   Read more