Beaverkill Community Church – Summer Sermons 2020

As reported, despite the pandemic, the Beaverkill Community Church held Sunday morning services from June through August. Outdoors with masks and social distancing observed. Only one week was cancelled by rain. Transcripts of five of the sermons delivered this year are linked below, all given by local FOBC members.

DEC Meets With Local Environmentalists To Address Increased Use of Sullivan County Recreational Sites

This past Friday (August 7), Bill Rudge (Natural Resources Supervisor for the NY State Department Of Environmental Conservation) met at the Covered Bridge Campsite  with Ramsay Adams and Wes Gillingham (Catskill Mountainkeeper) and Lisa Lyons (Catskill Forest Preservation Advisory Council). Patricia and John Adams were also in attendance representing the FOBC.  The meeting was to discuss the impact of the Corona Virus on the Beaverkill Valley generally, and specifically the increased use of public campsites and day use areas in the Sullivan County section of the Catskill Park. 

The focus was on using what is currently available from the DEC to address the potential over-use of state lands resulting from the increased tourist traffic, plus set a plan in motion to add resources to that effort.   The DEC currently provides guidelines/regulations, enforced by .State Forest Rangers, and  Stewards (hired for the summer months only) to monitor and control use in some (but not all) public access day-use sites. Plus there are a few non-profit organizations such as The Catskill Center and Catskill Mountainkeeper who work alongside the DEC. 

Although issues at the Covered Bridge Campsite were specifically referenced, the meeting was primarily to develop an overall approach to protecting all of the recreational areas in the Western Catskills. These areas,  which for many city and suburban dwellers are important as an experience in nature, have lately become in need of an improved program of ‘crowd control .’ It was also noted that some level of back-up support from law enforcement officers is now essential for the Rangers (who maintain the public use areas by regulating the volume of visitors, clean up, and parking) to properly carry out their stewardship of the more popular day-use locations.  

The meeting opened up the  opportunity to raise funds and find support – to bring needed relief to the various existing lake and river parks experiencing significant increases of visitors this summer. As one component of the initiative, Catskill Mountainkeeper is prepared to organize a co-ordinated study with the DEC to identify and develop additional alternative destinations for campers, swimmers, hikers and general weekend visitors within the Forest Preserve.

 The meeting was a good start on a long term plan which will prepare our Sullivan County recreational resources for increased use over the coming years.   We will provide updates on this site as the planned studies are developed and implemented.

  • reported by Patricia Adams

The Hemlock Wooly Adelgid

Hi all you tree huggers out there…if you haven’t already, meet Kate O’Connor. Kate is here in the Beaverkill Valley all year mapping and educating the area on the mighty hemlock tree and its imminent threat from the hemlock wooly adelgid (HWA) – an invasive forest pest native to Japan.

Kate is on a year-long assignment to our region via the Cornell Department of Natural Resources and the NY State Hemlock Initiative. A research technician and field representative, she is based out of the Catskill Mountainkeeper office on Main Street in Livingston Manor – but spends most of her time out in the field, surveying local hemlock stands, educating property owners, facilitating management strategies and scouting for biocontrol release sites. Kate works on private properties and with the DEC in their public lands and forests (e.g., the Covered Bridge Campsite, Balsam Lake Wild Forest, Willowemoc Wild Forest, Delaware Wild Forest, etc.)

As many of you know, the hemlock was an abundant and iconic mainstay of the Valley back when settlement and upstate migrations began in the 19th Century. The trees were not harvested for their wood, but for the bark – which was an essential component of the animal skin tanning process of that era. The Beaverkill Tannery was one the last to survive (still operational in the 1850s) before modernization of tanning processes began utilizing synthetic chemicals and – unfortunately – its appetite for the bark resulted in much of the local hemlock population being decimated. Only a few trees survive from before the turn of the 20th Century (the “pre-disturbance original growth”), which are now quietly protected by folks like Kate, along with her fellow researchers and forest managers. There is, however, now over a century of second growth trees – some of which have emerged from under the forest canopy to become quite large and majestic residents of the Valley.

For lots more information about hemlocks, the wooly adelgid and the biocontrols Cornell is developing, check out this website: https://blogs.cornell.edu/nyshemlockinitiative/

Also, a fine map and even more information is to be found in Michael Kudish’s book “The Catskill Forest: A History”. Available at the Morgan Outdoors shop (Livingston Manor) and on the Catskill Interpretive Center website.

You can also, and are encouraged to, reach out directly to Kate. She will gladly set up an appointment to stop by your property to examine any hemlocks you have (or think you may have) and assess what measures may be in order to keep them healthy and robust.

Katharine O’Connor – ko267@cornell.edu

Beaverkill Community Church – Summer 2020

Sunday morning services are back at the Beaverkill Community Church – just down the road from the Covered Bridge on Craigie Clair Road. Mary Hall and Bob Jones are presiding again this season. Every Sunday through Labor Day – commencing around 10:00am. For now – taking place on the outdoor lawn, social distancing and masks required. Bring your own chair. All are welcome, and its a lovely setting to spend an hour with your neighbors….so far the weather has been very cooperative!

Slow Reopening – Mid June

The Valley remains well populated during the pandemic, with most of the summer and weekend homes now with full time residents riding out the crisis in relative safety from the urban centers. New York State regulations and recommendations are finally allowing the local establishments to get back in business – and serve the locals and visiting tourists. The Farmer’s Markets are in full swing in Roscoe, Livingston Manor and Liberty on the weekends, most restaurants have take-out curb-service, and even some outdoor seating, at least a few days a week. A resourceful new addition to Main Street is Sunshine Colony and Have Knife Will Travel’s joint effort – serving grilled lobster lunches right on the sidewalk on Saturday afternoons This week we will also be announcing the relaunching of summer Sunday services at the Beaverkill Church (albeit out on the lawn!). Despite it all, its still a wonderful time here in the Catskills.

Mystery of the Primroses

We first noticed the little yellow flowers along the stream banks only a few years ago. I mistakenly called them trout lilies, but soon learned that these little flowers were primroses.  Primroses I am familiar with  are not really a wildflower but are cultivated in home gardens and bloom in midsummer.  So, what were they doing blooming in late April on the banks of the brook that runs alongside Campsite Road?   (I am not sure what this brook is called. Tim Foote once referred to it as the Schoolhouse Brook. )  

Mermer Blakeslee cleared up the mystery of their origin here.  She  told me that they were originally planted by Hazel Kelly in her garden up in Laraway Hollow. The house in Laroway Hollow was where Rudi Mayer lived for years. It  is located about a mile up from the Beaverkill Road and has no electricity, central heat or running water in the house. It is still completely ‘off the grid’, with cell or radio service.

  John Kelly wrote about buying this “Hardscrabble Farm” in our (FOBC)  book, Stories of the Beaverkill.…..

           “About all that was left of the farm when we took ownership were a rotting shed, sheep fencing around the perimeter, now welded into the maples and a peril to chain saws, and an inordinate number of horseshoes in the area around the barn site.”

 John described the kitchen: “There was a large kitchen stove. . .that leaked smoke to such a degree that it could  well have flavored a bird, . . There was also a large oblong heating stove, a “schoolhouse”, in the living room that could accept very large logs and branches and provide glorious, if brief, heating but which leaked even more than the cookstove.

”Hazel and John and their two daughters, Clare and Krista, enjoyed summers up there. There was a beautiful meadow, pond (with pet trout) fed by a spring of pure water, woods, and multiple fruit trees

Hazel was a great flower gardener and they also had a vegetable garden. John  built beautiful structures and maintained the pond, creating a lovely small waterfall cascading down toward the Creek. Here in the small meadow, Hazel planted the primrose.  However, John says they called it Cowslip.

  High water and spring floods carried the primrose/cowslip down the brook all the way to the banks of the Beaverkill river where It continues its march for miles downstream.

  It’s fun to think of these flowers as cowslips and be reminded of  the song, in Act 5 of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. It is sung by Ariel, a spirit, who is told that soon he will be freed from the service of his master Prospero,

Ariel sings

Where the bee sucks, there suck I.

In a cowslip’s bell I lie;

There I couch when owls do cry.

On the bat’s back I do fly

After summer merrily.  

Merrily, merrily shall I live now

Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.

               John and Hazel still own the property with their daughters. It is wonderful to think of Hazel and John who took such loving care of their place in Laraway Hollow and brought the cowslips we all enjoy.

Submitted by Patricia Adams – 8 May 2020

Birthdays Not On Pause

Judith Katz wrote to us this weekend – from her living room overlooking the Beaverkill….

The pandemic has rewritten the rules and understanding of every aspect of our social experience. It has incisively gutted the institution of the Birthday Party Celebration. A gathering that formerly would have been held in a restaurant or home with multiple friends and family swept up in the fun and angst of that particular year. In my adult life I have cycled through it all: the mega gathering (minimum 50 plus participants) the select 8 friends scooped up at a favorite restaurant, the quiet dinner with me and my husband Mike. 
So when my birthday rolled around this year on April 16th I had no plan or secret hope or wish that the day would be any different than the day before. We are currently hunkering down up in the Catskills in our weekend house that we have owned for the last twenty years. The area is beautiful in a stark unmanicured way. We live in a place of narrow valleys and wild rivers and very few inhabitants. 
Our closest neighbors are Toby Poser and John Adams. A dynamic couple in their early fifties. I have known John since he was a maniac eight year old terrorizing me with frogs and snakes that he kept hidden in his shirt pocket. Toby is beautiful inside and out. And we share the same birthday.
John sent a text the night before. Mike and I were invited to come to the edge of our driveway at 2PM on Thursday the 16th. We accepted. John and Toby and their 15 year old daughter Zelda were standing at the bottom of their driveway. We were about twenty feet apart on different sides of the road. On our driveway was a large candle in a towering candle holder and the matching candle-candle holder at the base of their driveway. Placed in the middle of the road was a plate covered with a red and white checked cloth. At John’s instruction we all belted out an Ethel Merman worthy version of Happy Birthday. Toby and I bent towards one another with our fingers aching to connect just like on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. After the song and dance movements were completed we took turns going to the plate equidistant from our respective driveways to inhale the delicious home baked chocolate chip cookies made by Toby. By 2:07 the party was over.It was a heart expanding celebration worthy of a velvet rope – that is how precious and exclusive it was. 
For years I have been neurotic about managing and celebrating my birthday. I have over thought it, tried to ignore it, planned huge celebrations which always went in an unimagined and fraught direction, and made efforts to go with the flow when truly speaking that was never in the cards for me. So this past Thursday was the balm the corrective I had always been unknowingly seeking. The joy and love that manifest on our driveways was undeniable. The experience of those electric seven minutes has not short circuited or receded. The spontaneity of the gathering in tandem with the lack of artifice wrapped in the horror of this time in history freed me to be in the moment. A moment that is enduring in it’s ability to sustain and buoy.

Life in the Valley – Coronavirus Day 26

As our Governor advises – we are now entering what will hopefully be the top end of a flattened Covid-19 curve. Every home in the area, permanent and vacation, seems to have a least a couple of cars or trucks parked outside. So many full and part-time residents must have made the wise move to shelter-in-place up here in the Catskills. Local businesses remain open, if possible, but the streets in Roscoe and Livingston Manor remain quiet. Curbside pick-ups are still available at various local restaurants – but almost all orders must be placed in advance on the phone. Down in the Manor Pecks is reasonably well stocked now, but you won’t see anyone in there without a mask. The Catskill Food Hub continues delivering boxes for pick-up on Thursday afternoon (ordering and paying is easy on-line). They have reported a 600% increase in sales – so one piece of good news for the local farms. And, of course, breweries and wine merchants have been designated “essential services” in Albany – so no shortage there.

We’re very pleased to see that the Roscoe Community Nursing Home is still fully operational and applaud the local staff there. Heroes indeed.

Trout Season 2020 – Coronavirus Day 15

The Trout Fishing season launched today under a markedly subdued atmosphere. Despite a bit warmer than usual opening day temperatures (mid 40s) only a few intrepid anglers were to be seen on the Willowemoc and Upper Beaverkill. FOBC Members John and Sandra Conolly stayed safe but took full advantage of fly-fishing’s natural proclivity toward social distancing.

Trout Town looked more like Ghost Town – even the Orvis Shop was closed.

Compliance is the word – and we’ll all get through this soon.