En pointe en plein air: The Ballet Project

Above: A ballerina in a hay field in Liberty. Part of "The Ballet Project," a series of portraits of ballerinas in Catskills and Hudson Valley vistas by Erik Christian.

In the right light, the landscapes of the Catskills and the Hudson Valley can take on a kind of mythic quality. Mountaintops, forests, ponds, cliffs, caves—and it helps if you throw a ballerina in the mix.

That's the concept behind “The Ballet Project,” a photo series by Monticello photographer Erik Christian in which he captures his dance-inclined daughters against a dramatic variety of natural surroundings. His dreamlike images transform the Ashokan Reservoir into Swan Lake and the Neversink Gorge into Giselle's forest glade.

We caught up with Christian to talk about the project, which he’s been creating in collaboration with his kids (now 13, 10 and 7) for three years and counting. (Christian asked us not to identify his children in this story.)

Q. Where did the idea for “The Ballet Project” come from?  Read more

This weekend: The Margaretville Cauliflower Festival

Above: A head of purple cauliflower sold at the 2013 Cauliflower Festival. Photo by Diane Galusha.

The annual Cauliflower Festival celebrates the wonders of the palest cruciferous vegetable this Saturday in the Delaware County village of Margaretville, which was once the epicenter of the cauliflower growing industry in New York State. 

Munch on fried cauliflower and cauliflower soup, buy a bushel of cauliflowers, learn about the history of the cauliflower trade, and catch the popular tractor parade, in which area farmers will show off their finest agricultural vehicles and compete for a "Best in Show" trophy.

Kids' activities, folk and blues music, and vendors round out the festivities. Keep an eye out for exotic varieties of cauliflower, like the purple specimen above, which one local farmer brought to last year's festival. 

Margaretville Cauliflower Festival. Saturday, Sept. 27, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tractor parade at 11:30 a.m. Village Park, Margaretville. cauliflowerfestival.com

Field Trip: The Rail Trail Cafe

Above: The Rail Trail Cafe. Photo by Charlene Martoni.

A nook off the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, a 24-mile hiking and biking path through Ulster County, is the last place you’d expect to find a food truck. But that’s just where to look for the Rail Trail Cafe, a non-motorized food cart with a decidedly rustic take on mobile dining.

The kitchen is housed inside a 96-square-foot cabin made of reclaimed wood; a hand-built clay oven sits nearby, and the dining area opens to the lush green canopy overhead.

Husband-and-wife proprietors Brian Farmer and Tara Johannessen have been serving freshly made pizzas, dumplings and baked goods out of the cafe since May. Most of their menu items are made using local products, including microgreens sourced from their own farm, the Farmer’s Table, located a quarter of a mile away. Farmer, who has experience as a professional chef, says that using produce that they grow themselves makes the distance from farm to table even smaller.

Plus, according to Johannessen, it’s just good business practice.  Read more

Sisters tackle Kaaterskill Clove's trash problem

Trash under Moore's Bridge on Route 23A on Sept. 21, 2014. Photo by Courtney Brower.

Route 23A in Kaaterskill Clove -- a narrow road that winds down a deep notch known simply as "the Mountain Road" by locals -- is one of the most breathtaking drives in the Catskills. It's also covered with trash.

When two Haines Falls sisters, Colleen and Courtney Brower, spent Sunday, Sept. 21 picking up litter along the road, they were shocked at how much trash they encountered.

"We filled about 25 30-gallon trash bags with trash," said Courtney Brower. "We filled six bags at the first parking lot."

Left: Courtney and Colleen Brower picking up litter at Kaaterskill Clove on Sept. 21. Photo by Courtney Brower.

In two-and-a-half hours, the women filled a pickup truck with a mountain of rubbish, all gathered from less than a mile along 23A, from just below Fawn's Leap to Moore's Bridge.  Read more

Construction (finally) begins on the Catskill Interpretive Center

Above: Retired Congressman Maurice Hinchey, third from right, helps break ground at the site of the future Catskill Interpretive Center in Mount Tremper on Sept. 23, 2014. The center is named in his honor. Photo via the Town of Shandaken's Facebook page. 

Construction has begun on the long-awaited Catskill Interpretive Center, a $1.3 million, 1,700-square-foot project that has been in the works for decades.

At 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 23, representatives from local nonprofits and state agencies gathered in a field in Mount Tremper to celebrate the center's groundbreaking. The center is slated to open in the spring of 2015.

The plan to build a facility to welcome visitors to the Catskill Park has been 30 years in the making. Money and staffing have been pieced together from a large array of groups, according to a press release.  Read more

NYC's Cannonsville hydropower plan is bittersweet news for local co-op

Above: The spillway at the Cannonsville Reservoir, where the New York City Department of Environmental Protection plans to build a 14-megawatt hydroelectric facility.

For half a century, a valuable source of local energy has gone untapped: the billions of gallons of water that pour each year through the release works at New York City's Cannonsville Reservoir and flow into the West Branch of the Delaware River. 

The Cannonsville will soon start to generate clean electric power -- and more tax revenue for the town of Deposit, where the plant will be located. But for a local electric co-op that once hoped to develop hydropower on city reservoirs, the news that the city is moving forward with the project is bittersweet. 

On Monday, Sept. 15, the New York Times broke the news that the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was planning to build a 14-megawatt, $72 million hydropower facility on the Cannonsville; the DEP officially announced the building project the next day  Read more

Fleischmanns Theater may be reborn as historic dinner theater

Above: The Fleischmanns Theater, which may soon re-open as The Maxbilt dinner theater. Photos courtesy of Erik Johanson.

A Brooklyn couple who moved to the Catskills full-time in April has convinced the state of New York to nominate the derelict Fleischmanns Theater to the state and national registers of historic places.

It's the first step in Erik Johanson and Fernando Delgado's plan to re-open the property as The Maxbilt, a dinner theater featuring local food and independent film. 

"We're really interested in supporting what's already here," Johanson said. "We came upon it with fresh eyes as newcomers here, saw it as a gem, and want to bring it back to everybody."

On Friday, Sept. 19, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the theater is one of 22 properties across New York State that is being nominated for the historic designation. 

Left: Delgado and Johanson.

The theater's nomination to the State Register of Historic Places must be approved by the New York State historic preservation officer, who will then nominate the building to the National Register.

Official listing in historic registers would make the theater eligible for matching state grants and state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits, which would in turn open the door to outside investment, Johanson says.

  Read more

More than 50 pot plants seized in Hancock; Colchester man arrested

Above: Lieutenant Timothy Buckley posing with one of the seized plants in Hancock on September 17, 2014.

Delaware County Sheriff's deputies arrested a 58-year-old Colchester man on Wednesday, September 17 in connection with a raid on a large marijuana grow operation in the town of Hancock, according to a press release.

After receiving a tip, officers found more than 50 marijuana plants in the raid along with a quantity of dried, processed weed.

James R. Nelson was arrested and charged with felony criminal possession of marijuana and misdemeanor unlawful cultivation of marijuana. The criminal possession in the third degree charge, a class E felony, may be upgraded to a more serious charge once the exact amount marijuana recovered is established by a crime lab, the press release stated. 

Nelson will appear in court in the Town of Hancock on September 29. 

Undersheriff Craig DuMond asked tipsters to continue to use the Sheriff’s Office toll free tip-line, (888) 914-9111. "Tips definitely make a difference," DuMond stated in the press release. 

This Weekend: Big Eddy Film Festival

Above: "Dig," a short film about a man who digs hole while his neighborhood watches, will screen at the Big Eddy Film Festival in Narrowsburg this weekend. 

The third annual Big Eddy Film Festival kicks off Friday night and runs all weekend long in a 1930s-era Art Deco movie theater in the Sullivan County hamlet of Narrowsburg.

Twenty-seven new indie films will be screened at the festival, including a documentary about Jewish comedians, a short film about digging a hole, several documentaries about dementia and memory loss, and whimsical Japanese feature about a recluse who is obsessed with the movie "Fargo."   Read more

More review in store for the Belleayre Resort?

Above: Gary Gailes, a spokesman for Crossroads Ventures LLC, shows Watershed Post reporter Lissa Harris details of a scale model of the proposed Belleayre Resort in 2013. Photo by Julia Reischel.

For months, backers of the long-planned Belleayre Resort project have been eagerly anticipating the end of the state Department of Environmental Conservation's lengthy process of environmental review.

The developer, Crossroads Ventures LLC, is eager to break ground on the project, which has been in the planning process for almost 15 years.

Town planning boards in the towns of Shandaken and Middletown, which the resort will straddle, are anxious to begin their own review process. 

But before the state DEC can sign off on the project, clearing the way for permits to be issued, at least one more hurdle remains -- and it may not be a trivial one.

A legal process set in motion years ago to have an administrative law judge examine potential issues raised by the project is still open, and until it is officially dismissed or carried out, the Belleayre Resort cannot move forward.

Environmental groups that sought to downsize the project years ago will now have another chance to weigh in, and may seek to keep that process open in an effort to make further changes.  Read more