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A view of history: Catskills fire towers

Hunter Mountain Fire Tower. Photo by Gordon Hoekstra, chairman of Friends of the Hunter Mountain Fire Tower.

Once upon a time, 23 steel fire towers dotted the high peaks of the Catskills. They were staffed by fire tower observers, who scanned the horizon for smoke and filled their downtime with shimmying up the steep steel struts, taming bears and sharing space with pet snakes. (Those stories and other fire tower tales are collected in the book Fire Towers of the Catskills by Martin Podskoch, published by Purple Mountain Press.)

The job of the fire spotter vanished decades ago, and the towers fell into disrepair. But between 1997 and 2000, thanks to the efforts of Catskill Fire Tower Project volunteers, five of the original fire towers of the Catskill Park were renovated and opened to the public.

They are:

Balsam Lake Mountain in Hardenburgh
(3,723 feet)

Red Hill in Denning
(2,990 feet)  Read more

Hail in Hamden, tornado warning in Albany

See video

Above: Video of hail falling in the Delaware County town of Hamden on Thursday afternoon, taken by local videographer Jess Vecchione. 

Intense, fast-moving thunderstorms are moving through the Catskills region, bringing rain and, in some places, hail. 

Around 3:39 p.m, forecasters at the National Weather Service in Albany declared a tornado warning for parts of Albany, Montgomery, Saratoga, Schenectady and Schoharie counties, in effect til 4:15 p.m. A second tornado warning was issued, in effect until 4:30 p.m.

Severe thunderstorm warnings have been posted for Delaware and Schoharie counties, where forecasters were calling for quarter- to ping-pong-ball-sized hail. The rest of the Catskills region is under severe thunderstorm watch

Got hail or other intense weather in your neck of the woods? Let us know at editor@watershedpost.com.

Below: Live social-media reports of weather in the Catskills and Capital Region. A tornado may have touched down near Delanson, where a home was destroyed, and two tractor-trailers were overturned on I-88.

 

  Read more

Our guide to a Catskills Memorial Day Weekend

In Tannersville, Memorial Day means it's time once more for rubber ducks and crazy boats. Photo from the Great Northern Catskills website.

Everybody knows when summer really starts: this weekend. Monday will be marked by official Memorial Day observances in many towns, but all weekend long, there’s plenty of unofficial fun to be had, from music fests to boat races to town-wide yard sales. Here’s our five-county guide to the good times.

AROUND THE CATSKILLS

The five restored fire towers of the Catskill Park open for the season this weekend: Balsam Lake Mountain in Hardenburgh, Red Hill in Denning, Tremper Mountain in Shandaken, Overlook Mountain in Woodstock and Hunter Mountain in Hunter. Volunteer staffers will be at the towers every weekend from now through Columbus Day, to help fill you in on fire tower history, mountain know-how and more. Lace up your hiking boots and dust off the binoculars for those 100-mile views.  Read more

Local school budgets pass

Voters went to the polls Tuesday to decide the fate of local school budgets, and elect members to school boards

In the five counties of our Catskills coverage area -- Delaware, Greene, Schoharie, Sullivan and Ulster -- all school budgets passed, most with wide margins. 

In last year's school elections, voters rejected school budgets in Marlboro, Middleburgh and Cairo-Durham. All three districts saw their budgets pass this year; the narrowest vote of the three was in Marlboro, whose budget passed 1,102-1,026.

Here are a few links to detailed coverage of local school election results:

All Ulster budgets get voter approval - Times Herald-Record)  Read more

Catch up with Catskills food trucks

Above: Heather Williams of Pippy's Hotdog Truck greets customers in Palenville. Photo by Clancy Nolan.

The geographic spread of the Catskills region creates often-daunting distances between would-be diners and their dinner plates. One solution to that problem: mobile meals. The food truck scene is growing exponentially here, both in numbers and in variety of cuisine. Artisanal hot dogs, all-sliders-all-the time, Alsatian flammkuchen—there’s a food truck specializing in each of those things, traveling the hills feeding hungry customers. During warm months, they gather for a monthly rodeo in Saugerties called the Hudson Valley Food Trucks Festival; during the winter, many of them operate as catering kitchens that come right to your work or home for parties and events.

Specializing in roasting whole pigs to serve hungry throngs at weddings and parties in Delaware County and beyond, Catskill Mtn. BBQ is a mobile unit (formerly parked in Gilboa), now open in a permanent spot in Grand Gorge also. Pork, brisket, chicken and ribs are marinated and slow-smoked for 14 to 24 hours. Grand Gorgecatskillmtbbqteam.com

Black-Eyed Suzie’s is a travelling food stand and caterer with a local, seasonal menu that changes weekly, celebrating the seasons and using fresh, beautiful local ingredients from neighboring farms. Woodstockblackeyedsuziesupstate.com @BESupstate

  Read more

School voters go to the polls

Tuesday, May 20 is election day for school districts across New York State. Today, voters go to the polls to decide the fate of school budgets, elect candidates for local school boards and vote on school propositions. 

Statewide, increases in school taxes are slowing, according to a report from the NYS Association of School Business Officials (NYSASBO). Schools are under pressure to keep tax increases low because of a statewide tax cap passed in 2011, which restricts the growth of the annual tax levy unless voters pass an override at the polls. The average school tax levy increase in the state this year is 1.8 percent -- the lowest increase in six years, according to NYSASBO. 

Here are a few of the most interesting school races around the region this year:   Read more

Slush fund: NYS doles out extra cash to fix weather-battered roads

Upstate New York is notorious for its rough winters. But even for those inured to feet of snow and frozen mountain passes, the winter of 2013-14 was a brutal one, marked by long stretches of subzero temps and winter weather that lasted well into April. 

Amid the storm clouds was a silver lining: Towns and villages are getting a little bit of extra cash from the state to fix up roads that took a beating during this year's unusually harsh winter. This spring, the New York state budget included a one-time $40 million fund for winter weather recovery, in addition to $438 million in the state's regular highway budget.  Read more

Letter to the Editor: To the Voters of the Onteora School District

Open Letter to the Voters of the Onteora School District:

My name is Tanya Davis. I am a mother of three, attorney, business owner, and candidate for Onteora Board of Education Trustee. My husband is an Onteora graduate, and I have been a resident of the Onteora District since 2001. My children have attended Bennett and Phoenicia elementary schools. My daughters are both sixth graders at Bennett, and my son is a freshman in the high school. One of my daughters is a special education student in a self-contained classroom.

I have focused my professional career fairly equally on education and the law. I have taught at every level from pre-school to law school. I have advocated for families with special needs kids, I am chair of the District-wide Special Education PTA, past President of the Bennett PTA, and current member of the NYS Bar Association’s Special Needs Planning Committee, Committee on Issues Affecting People with Disabilities and Estate, Trusts & Tax Committee.  Read more

Letter to the Editor: From the Onteora Superintendent

Dear Community Members of the Onteora Central School District,

I’d like to encourage you to come out to the District Budget Vote on Tuesday, May 20, from 2 to 9 PM at your local elementary school. This year there will be three items on the ballot: the 2014-2015 proposed budget, a no-tax-increase Capital Reserve Proposition, and the Board of Education elections.

The $51,876,125 proposed budget represents a 0.52% increase over last year. There will be a 0% increase in the levy.  Read more

Letter to the Editor: Vote in the Onteora school election on May 20

Dear Onteora Community Members,

The Onteora Board of Education is pleased to announce that, for the third year in a row, our proposed annual budget will see no increase in the tax levy. There are no cuts in programs, but rather an increase in the number of High School electives, an additional course in the Middle School, the continuation of a summer Academic Intervention Services (AIS) program for Kindergarten-Grade 8, and some much-needed immediate repairs.

We are also pleased to present to voters a proposal for a Capital Reserve Project that would tackle major, long-term structural repairs and upgrades to our aging facilities. While the vast majority of the work is set to take place at the Middle School/High School, the project also calls for replacement of the Phoenicia Primary School building’s boiler with a dual oil/biomass (wood pellet) system. This will significantly reduce our fuel expenses and carbon footprint, using renewable, sustainable fuel produced here in New York, keeping more of our energy dollars local.   Read more