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The new hunter-gatherers: Foraging in the Catskills

Above: An Autumn Olive (Wildberry) Mojito. Photo courtesy of Marguerite Uhlmann-Bower. Make your own with the recipe at the bottom of this story.

Foraging for food that grows wild has long been a hobby for nature lovers out walking in the woods. But increasingly, more people are doing what their primitive ancestors did: picking up their spades and baskets and searching out edible flowers, leaves, roots, shoots, nuts and berries.

Left: Dina Falconi, a Catskills forager. 

Two upstate women—Dina Falconi and Marguerite Uhlmann-Bower—are leading the march into the forests and meadows. According to them, there’s plenty of free food out there for the picking; you just need to know what to look for.

Falconi, a Marbletown resident who grew up in New York City, has been steeped in the world of wild-plant identification, foraging and cooking for 30 years now. But growing up, she had no idea what was waiting out in the woods.  Read more

This weekend: Reservoir Cleanup Day

A boat launches from Chandlers Cove boat launch on the Neversink Reservoir in 2012. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Grimes.

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and a slew of other groups and volunteers will fan out across the Catskills on Sunday, Oct. 5 to clean up four of the NYC reservoirs -- the Pepacton, the Cannonsville, the Neversink, and the Rondout -- as part of a statewide effort to clean up New York's waterways and beaches. 

Volunteers are welcome at the litter pick-ups, according to a press release from the DEP. Captains in charge of each reservoir will meet volunteers at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 5 and will clean until 3 p.m.

Captains and locations for the four Catskills clean-up groups are below:

Cannonsville Reservoir: The cleanup effort will be led by Tina James, who leads the Future Farmers of America program at the Walton Central School District, and Nick Barone, president of the Deposit Chamber of Commerce. Volunteers will meet at Chamberlain Brook.

Neversink Reservoir: The cleanup effort will be led by Boy Scout Troop 97 in Neversink, which is run by Keith Mentnech. Volunteers will meet at the information kiosk on Route 55.  Read more

Man on probation charged with dealing heroin in Walton

Delaware County Sheriff's deputies and police from the village of Walton arrested 51-year-old James J. McGinn on Thursday, Sept. 26 and charged him with heroin trafficking, according to a press release from the Delaware County Sheriff's Office. 

This is the second felony drug charge for McGinn, who is serving a three-year probation sentence out of New York City in connection with a 2012 Queens County narcotic drug possession charge.

The Delaware County Sheriff's Office began investigating McGinn shortly before the 2012 charges, according to the press release. Last week, it charged McGinn with two class B felony counts of criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree. The sales reportedly took place in the village of Walton.

McGinn was arraigned on Friday, Sept. 26 in Delaware County Court and sent to the Delaware County Jail on $20,000 cash bail or $40,000 bond.

Explore the Catskills: Lark in the Park 2014

Above: “Big Indian Leaves,” taken in Big Indian by Michael LoBianco, the 4th Place winner in the 2014 Catskills Great Outdoor Experience Photo Contest.

The trees are popping into color like popcorn. If you haven't wandered somewhere outside in the Catskills yet this fall, get out there. 

Need a nudge? That's why the Catskill Mountain Club, the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the New York New-Jersey Trail Conference throw the annual Lark in the Park.

The Lark is a series of outdoor activities led by experienced hikers, paddlers, cyclists and anglers throughout the Catskills region between October 4 and Columbus Day, which falls on October 13 this year.

We've put together a calendar of the dozens of hikes, paddles, food tastings, movie screenings, bike rides, and picnics that make up this year's Lark in the Park festivities.   Read more

VW Parts fire ruled accidental

Above: The VW Parts junkyard on fire in Fleischmanns on August 26, 2014. Photo by Julia Reischel.

A fire that destroyed the VW Parts building at 717 Wagner Avenue in Fleischmanns on August 26 was an accident, according to Delaware County fire investigators.

Steve Hood, the director of Delaware County Emergency Services, told the Watershed Post in an email on Sept. 30 that the blaze was caused by stray sparks created by demolition workers who were removing items from the building.

The building, a former junkyard and auto repair shop owned by embattled junkyard operator William Hrazanek, is in the process of being sold with funds provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as part of a federal disaster remediation program.

Workers from Euro Nutz Inc. in Saugerties were cleaning out the building on August 26 before the fire began, according to Hrazanek and Hood.

"The final cause of the fire at the VW Parts building was determined to be accidental in nature, caused by workers from Euro-Nuts using a demolition saw to cut heavy pipes," Hood wrote. "The saw created sparks which went down into the wall on the side of the building next to the school."  Read more

Junkyard owner charged with felonies for Mount Tremper spill

Above: A baffle installed in a tributary of the Esopus Creek near 1420 Wittenberg Road in Shandaken, the site of a chemical spill, on July 11, 2013. Photo by Julia Reischel.

William Hrazanek, the embattled owner of multiple Catskills junkyards, was arrested on Tuesday, Sept. 23 in connection with a chemical spill on Wittenberg Road in the Ulster County hamlet of Mount Tremper last year.

Left: William Hrazanek in a DEC mugshot.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation charged 68-year-old Hrazanek with two felonies, according to Peter Constantakes, a DEC spokesman, in an email to the Watershed Post.

The charges were endangering public health, safety and the environment in the 2nd and 3rd degree and criminal mischief.

Hrazanek was arraigned on Sept. 23 before Shandaken Town Justice Thomas Crucet and was released on his own recognizance that same day, according to Constantakes.  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

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 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

Primary elections today

Above: A voting booth in Margaretville in May 2013. Photo by Julia Reischel.

It's an election year, and today is the day to vote in the primaries. 

The biggest race in the primary is on the Democratic ticket, where underdog candidate Zephyr Teachout is challenging New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo. Teachout is attacking Cuomo from the left by comparing his fiscal policies to those of Ronald Reagan.  Cuomo is doing his best to ignore Teachout's campaign entirely. (Literally. During a Labor Day parade in Manhattan, Cuomo managed to ignore Teachout as she stood directly in front of him.

Teachout's running mate, Tim Wu, is running for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor against Kathy Hochul, Cuomo's running mate. The race is its own separate primary, and if Wu wins, he could find himself in the odd position of being Cuomo's running mate in the general election.

As for local Catskills races, there are a few worth noting. 

Left: Bryan Babcock. Photo via Babcock's campaign. 

The Delaware County town of Franklin is holding a Republican primary for a town council seat. Bryan Babcock, the owner of Handsome Brook Farm and Bed & Breakfast who is also a professor at Hartwick College, is vying with Lisa Huyck and Donald Smith for one of two seats on the board. Babcock has criticized the town board for not implementing a comprehensive plan for Franklin.

"With several major infrastructure projects on the horizon in Delaware County," Babcock said in a press release. "it is essential that we protect our roads and utilities. To do this we need to be proactive as a Town Board. I feel that my experience as a business leader will help the Board be even more effective for Franklin residents."

In the Ulster county towns of Hardenburgh and Denning, the Sullivan County town of Neversink, and the Delaware County towns of Andes, Bovina, Davenport, Delhi, Hamden and Meredith, there is a Republican primary race for the 101st State Assembly District, which features a contest between Claudia Tenney and Chris Farber.  According to the Daily Star, the outcome of the primary doesn't matter -- both Tenny and Farber will make it to the ballot in November. 

  Read more