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Catskills villages head for the polls March 18

Illustration by Flickr user Adreson Vita Sá; published under Creative Commons license.

'Tis the season for green beer -- and rural voting. The day after St. Patrick's Day, New York State's littlest municipalities head for the polls to pick their elected officials.

Most of New York State's villages will hold elections on Tuesday, March 18, although a few opt to hold them at the same time as local elections in November, or at another time in the year. 

In the Catskills, most village elections are a sleepy affair, with few contested races. A couple of local villages this year have open posts for which no one is running, leaving the race wide open to write-in candidates. 

On the other hand, this year's election showdown between incumbents and Rural Heritage challengers in the Sullivan County village of Bloomingburg promises to generate more than enough drama for the whole region. Early Thursday morning, FBI agents swarmed the village, targeting properties owned by controversial developer Shalom Lamm, who recently bought several buildings and has apparently filled them with newly registered voters. If the FBI finds evidence of corruption in Bloomingburg, Lamm's apparent effort to sway election results in the tiny village of just over 400 residents could backfire. 

  Read more

Rabid raccoon found in Stamford

A raccoon that attacked a dog in the Delaware County village of Stamford has tested positive for rabies, county health officials announced Thursday.

It is the first animal in the county to be found with rabies in 2014. No rabid animals were found in Delaware County in 2013, according to county health educator Heather Warner.

The raccoon was captured and killed, and sent to the state rabies laboratory for testing. On Thursday, March 13, the laboratory reported that the animal had tested positive for rabies. 

According to a press release from Delaware County Public Health Services, the dog's owner said that the attack occurred during the day, which is unusual behavior for healthy raccoons.  Read more

A dog's untimely death in the Catskills sends a message

Above: Alan Via and Bookah on the trail. Photo by Joanne Hihn, who also took the photos used in the Times Union's story; reproduced by permission.

In her nine brief years on the planet, the four-legged Bookah racked up more hiking experience than most humans. With her owner, author and well-known local outdoorsman Alan Via, Bookah scaled all 35 of the Catskills' tallest peaks, earning the chocolate lab her own 3500 Club certificate.

But Bookah's mountaineering skills couldn't save her from a fate every dog owner dreads. While on a hike with Via in a remote and trailless area in the southwestern Catskills, Bookah ate a piece of meat that had been laced with the fast-acting poison strychnine, and died before Via could get her out of the woods.  Read more

A very Catskills St. Patrick's Day

Above: The Edward Maloney Memorial Pipe Band marches in the 2013 St. Patrick's Day Parade in Delhi. Photo courtesy of the Delhi St. Patrick's Day Parade committee.

‘Tis time again to celebrate the Irish, those poetic and tenacious folks who’ve brought so much to the cultural feast. Suffer mightily they may have done, but as Irish fighter Bobby Sands put it, “Our revenge will be the laughter of our children.”

When folks like that party, it’s not to be missed. Here’s our guide to the region’s various St. Paddy's Day festivities.

DELAWARE COUNTY

On Saturday, March 15, come out to Plattekill Mountain in Roxbury for an all-day "St. Platty’s Day" celebration, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. They’re cooking corned beef and cabbage to go with the Irish drink specials and live entertainment. Outdoors, there will be a barbecue and a Shamrock Hunt.   Read more

Another snowstorm takes aim at the Catskills

Above: Still deep winter at the icy cathedral of Kaaterskill Falls. Photo taken March 5 by Rebecca Balzac; shared in the Watershed Post's Flickr group pool.

The Northeast is bracing for yet another late-season snowstorm, due to hit the Catskills region on Wednesday and continue into Thursday. 

Winter storm watches have already been issued for most of the Catskills region. A watch issued by the National Weather Service in Albany covers Greene, Schoharie and Ulster counties; the NWS's Binghamton office has issued a winter storm watch that covers Delaware County along with much of Central New York.   Read more

Catskills edibles shine at NYC trade show

Above: Slickepott's Pam Lamont and Betty Acre Farm's Aissa O'Neil talked up their products at the Pure Catskills booth at a New York City trade show on Monday afternoon. Photos by Jennifer Strom.

For three days this week, you could sample Slickepott sweets and Catskill Food Co. sausage from Delhi, Catskill Provisions honey from Long Eddy and sweet Belgian waffles from Pika’s Farm Table in Lake Katrine, all in the same room.

Granted, it was a giant room: Those were just a few of the vendors who made the trek downstate to represent the Catskills food, farm and restaurant scene at the International Restaurant and Foodservice Show of New York, an annual trade show held in the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan.  Read more

Hollywood vet Bill Pullman chairs the Catskill Mountains Film Festival

Top:  Bill Pullman with Jessica Vecchione, the founder of the Catskill Mountains Film Festival. Photo by Riikka Olson, via the CMFF Facebook pageAbove: Bill Pullman explains his relationship to the Catskills. Video shot by festival founder Jessica Veccchione. 

Bill Pullman, a Hollywood vet whose best-known role is a stalwart president facing down aliens in the 1997 blockbuster Independence Day, is the honorary chairman of the new Catskill Mountains Film Festival, which is launching this May. 

The festival, which was founded by local videographer and filmmaker Jessica Vecchione, is accepting submissions until March 21. (Pullman has an adorable call for submissions on the festival's website.)   Read more

DEP to remove 15,000 storm-damaged trees near Cannonsville Reservoir

Above: Storm-felled trees on New York City-owned land on Houck Mountain, northeast of the Cannonsville Reservoir in Beerston, NY, in May of 2013. Photos courtesy of NYC DEP.

Blame it on the rain -- and the wind, and the torrential flooding. In the past several years, extreme storms have taken a toll on Catskills forests, leaving many trees in the region toppled or damaged. 

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection, which owns and manages thousands of acres of land around the city's upstate reservoirs, recently announced the start of a major forestry project to remove about 15,000 storm-damaged trees from 120 acres of land on Houck Mountain near the Cannonsville Reservoir. 

About 60 percent of the trees at the site have been felled or damaged by Irene, Lee and Sandy, said DEP spokesperson Adam Bosch.

The trees will be harvested by a local contractor who bid for the job, Ostrander Logging of Walton, and milled into lumber. Many of them are valuable hardwoods, like black cherry.  Read more

Perfect landing

Above: A chickadee touches down at a backyard feeder, while an American goldfinch looks on.

Local photographer James McCracken took this shot in a neighbor's yard in South Kortright last week, with the aid of a GoPro Hero 3 camera and a color-enhancing Instagram filter. For more of McCracken's stunning mid-flight shots of backyard birds -- and more photos from around the Catskills -- check out the Watershed Post's Flickr group pool

Alleged Delhi Express Mart burglar flees -- but not far

A Hobart man who allegedly robbed the Express Mart convenience store in Delhi in the wee hours of Friday morning didn't get too far from the scene of the crime before his arrest. 

At 4:12 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 21, a man stole cash from the register at the Express Mart, at the corner of Kingston and Main Streets in the village, and then fled the scene in a vehicle. He was unarmed, police said.

"He went to purchase an item. When [the cashier] opened the register, he pushed her out of the way, took the cash and ran off," said Delhi Village Police Chief Michael Mills. 

As Delhi police were responding to a 911 call, state troopers from the Margaretville station heard the incident over the radio and began patrolling for the suspect's vehicle. At 4:36 a.m., the troopers stopped a vehicle traveling on County Road 18 in the town of Stamford, and arrested the driver: 41-year-old Jamel Wilson of Hobart.

The proceeds from the burglary were in the vehicle. Police say Wilson was found to be under the influence of a controlled substance.  Read more