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Ulster County legislators vote for trail over rail

Above: Catskill Mountain Railroad equipment repairing a portion of the track on the old Delaware & Ulster corridor last week. Photo by John Marino and posted on the CMRR's Facebook page.

In the long-running battle of rails versus trails in Ulster County, the trails just won big. 

In an 18 to 4 vote, the Ulster County Legislature passed Resolution 275 on Tuesday, August 19, supporting the conversion of an old Ulster & Delaware railroad right-of-way between Kingston and Boiceville into a hiking, walking and biking trail.

The Catskill Mountain Railroad (CMRR), which runs a tourist railroad on the rail corridor and holds a lease on the right-of-way that expires in 2016, has been lobbying hard to keep railroad tracks running all the way from Kingston to the town of Shandaken at the other end of the county.  Read more

Flash flood watch for eastern Catskills

Above: A post from the Albany office of the National Weather Service's Facebook page today. 

Parts of the Catskills could get "torrential" rainfall of as much to 1 to 2 inches per hour tonight, according to the National Weather Service.

The eastern Catskills -- Ulster, Schoharie and Greene counties -- are under a flash flood watch issued by the NWS's Albany office. The rains are expected to begin close to midnight tonight, Tuesday, August 12. The flood watch expires at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, August 13.   Read more

The Catskills are hot (again)

The cover of August's Hudson Valley Magazine.

Brace yourselves: The Catskills are having their biggest moment since the height of the Borscht Belt resorts in the '50s.

Hudson Valley Magazine has dedicated its entire August issue to the region, declaring that "The Catskills Are Back," and featuring the pool at Phoenicia's The Graham & Co. hotel on its cover.  

[T]he big story of the day is that the Catskills have seemingly overnight transformed from a sleepy, somewhat rundown region to a hip ’n happening hangout for all types of urban culture vultures and — dare we say it — hipsters.

What is this we hear? It seems that every season, at least one new boutique hotel throws open its doors — and more and more city folk flee upstate to the forest. Cultural offerings abound, gastropubs serve up farm-to-table fare, you can even stay in a luxury yurt. Yes, glamping has come to the Catskills.  Read more

The Catskills with a dog in tow

Writer Heather Rolland with a few four-legged hiking companions. Photo by Candid Canine Photography.

Outdoor recreation opportunities abound in the Catskills, running the gamut from strolling on rail trails to expert-only wilderness bushwhacks. Whatever your adventure level — or your dog’s — there’s plenty to do with a pup in tow here in the Catskills.

What to do

HIKE. Most dogs love to hike, and the many trails that wend through Catskills forests are wonderful places for you to enjoy nature: balsam firs, bald eagles, tumbling cascades and vistas that have inspired generations. Be sure to match your outing to your buddy’s current level of fitness.

Catskill Park regulations do not require dogs to be leashed at all times. Voice control is acceptable in many areas; check the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s website (dec.ny.gov) for details. Some great trails to try are Overlook Mountain (watch out for timber rattlesnakes), Slide Mountain, Giant Ledge and Rochester Hollow.  Read more

TMI Project: Voices in Action plays Rosendale

Above: TMI Project stage manager Erica Pivko, left, talks with founder Julie Novak. Photo courtesey of the TMI Project. 

"I had constructed these pants when I was in one of my nuthouses," Joanee Tarshis says in a video produced by the TMI Project. "I had been refusing to make a wallet in occupational therapy. Only crazy people make wallets."

Stories like this, from mental health patients, at-risk teens, and domestic violence survivors, are the heart of "Voices in Action," a monologue show produced by the TMI Project that comes to the Rosendale Theatre on Tuesday, July 29.  Read more

See video

Transition Catskills proposes 'Catskills dollars,' tool libraries, and farmers' markets

Above: A design for a local Catskills currency created by members of Transition Catskills.

About two dozen people attended the first public forum of Transition Catskills, a group dedicated to making the Catskills more economically resilient, on Wednesday night at the Open Eye Theater in Margaretville.

“This was our first effort to organize a conversation,” said Jeff Tomasi, a former partner at Goldman Sachs who helped found the group.

There will be another film screening and public forum for the Transition Catskills movement on Saturday, July 26, at 4 p.m. at the Roxbury Arts Center in Roxbury.

Tomasi, who owns a second home in the Delaware County town of Middletown, also lives in London, where he first got word of Transition, an initiative that began in England around 2006 and addressed issues of oil dependence and economic instability.

“I’m not a leader, I’m a facilitator,” Tomasi told the group. “I’m not here to tell people how to live. Just here to start the dialogue.”  Read more

Olive firewood dealer busted for selling logs infested with emerald ash borer

Above: An adult emerald ash borer. Photo by Jared Spokowsky, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Bugwood.org, via insectimages.org.

Firewood sold on Route 28 in the Ulster County town of Olive was infested with emerald ash borers, a destructive invasive species that is destroying ash trees in the Catskills, according to a press release issued by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

State environmental and agricultural officers destroyed 14 full cords of infested, cut and split ash firewood and 64 infested ash logs at the site of an unnamed Olive firewood dealer, according to the press release. The officers were alerted to the infested firewood by a tipster.

"If the infected materials were sold or transported off-site, it could have led to the further spread of this invasive species in the region," the press release stated.  Read more

Guide me a river: The art of Catskills wilderness guiding

Longtime Catskills wilderness guide Charles “Sonny” Somelofski has earned a few more gray hairs since this photo was taken — and caught countless more fish. Photo courtesy of Catskill Outdoor Adventures (catskilloutdooradventures.com).

Charles “Sonny” Somelofski of Catskill Outdoor Adventures in Margaretville (catskilloutdooradventures.com), remembers when the licensing process to become an outdoor guide in New York state was a simple paper questionnaire with a $2 fee that asked whether he could swim, handle a boat, and read a map and compass.

“That was it, back then,” Somelofski says. “Bang! I was able to take people out and do it all.”

Today, being a state-licensed outdoor guide requires a bit more: taxable income disclosure forms, a physician’s statement, and certifications in first aid, CPR, and water safety. Those are the just the basics. Guides can be licensed in a number of different categories, ranging from camping and fishing to whitewater rafting and ice climbing, each with different licensing requirements.

The heart of guiding, however, has remained the same: proving to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) that you can reliably take paying customers out into the great outdoors and bring them back again in one piece.  Read more

Here comes the rain again...and wind, too

Look out, Catskills: Yet another round of thunderstorms is taking aim at the region, with the possibility of high winds, damaging hail and even the chance of a tornado. 

As of late Tuesday afternoon, a line of storms is organizing in western New York and Pennsylvania, and moving steadily eastward across the region. A severe thunderstorm watch is currently in effect across Central New York, including Delaware County in the Catskills region, until 8 p.m.

Storm trackers at the National Weather Service caution that there is a slight chance the storms could spawn a tornado or two as they swirl across Central New York. 

The eastern Catskills are not yet under severe weather watch, but thunderstorms are expected this afternoon and evening. Locals should keep an eye on the weather as the storms move eastward.   Read more

Hanover Farms plans a move to Shokan

Above: A sign on the shuttered site of Hanover Farms announces the farmstand's plans to reopen in a new location. Photo by Lissa Harris.

Hanover Farms, a Route 28 farmstand that has been embroiled in legal battle with the town of Shandaken since 2012, is looking for a fresh start -- a new town, and a new name.

Outside the shuttered farmstand, a new sign has appeared, announcing that the farmstand is re-opening at the "old bank" in Shokan. Eight miles east on Route 28, at the Shokan bank building that formerly housed a Bank of America branch, another sign has sprouted up: "Opening Soon: Greenheart Farmstand."

But the farmstand's announcement is unnerving officials in the town of Olive, who are hoping the business's father-and-son owners Al and Alfie Higley do things by the book this time.

"[Al] Higley was in yesterday to put in an application for a site plan. But there's no permission from the town of Olive for him to do anything at all," said Sylvia Rozzelle, supervisor of the town of Olive. "If he opens without a permit, that's not a good thing."  Read more