A hero rests.

Jeff discusses Maurice Hinchey with Midge Maroni on WJFF's Making Waves

Midge Maroni:  Coming up next on Making Waves, it's our pleasure to speak with Jeff Senterman, Executive Director of the Catskill Interpretive Center in Arkville, NY, and we're going to talk a little bit about our late Congressman, Maurice Hinchey. Thank you for being with us tonight, Jeff.


Jeff Senterman:  Thank you for having me.

Midge Maroni:  Certainly. You know, I wanted to open tonight just by reading a little bit from this actually very thorough and beautiful press release that was announcing the idea that Maurice Hinchey would be laid to rest at the Catskill Center. If I could just read a little bit of that.

Jeff Senterman:   Sure.

Midge Maroni:   This press item says "The honorable Maurice D. Hinchey, who represented upstate New York in Albany and Washington for four decades, was laid to rest in a private ceremony November 29th, on the grounds of the Catskill Interpretive Center, a facility he fought for more than 30 years to create. As one of the leading progressive voices in Congress, Maurice Hinchey was a tireless defender of the environment, and an unwavering champion of working people everywhere, fighting to ensure economic fairness and human rights worldwide."

Midge Maroni:  Of course, Maurice Hinchey died on November 22nd. He had a fairly rare disease, I understand, frontal temporal degeneration, and I believe he had to leave office because of that disease, but on the 29th of November, last month just a few weeks ago, he was laid to rest there at your Catskill Interpretive Center. How did that come to be, Jeff?

Jeff Senterman:   It was a long process. You know, Maurice Hinchey and his family were very involved, like you read in the press release, securing the original vision of the interpretive center, and shepherding it through that 30 year process.

And the way that the Catskill Interpretive Center works is that it's a program that is a program of the Catskill center for conservation and development, in partnership with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. And so the Catskill Center actually owns the land that the Interpretive Center sits on, and we signed a lease and then an operating agreement with New York State, in order to have them build the building, and then to have us manage the site.

And so, many months ago the family approached both myself and staff members from the State, asking would this be something that would be possible. And we had multiple conversations. I brought it before my board of directors at the Catskill Center. Everybody agreed that it seemed to be a very natural thing, and we all felt honored that the family would ask that.

You know, there was some work that was done, but generally we were prepared and waiting. And then unfortunately when Maurice did pass away, we started moving ahead with the plans and putting them into action. And he was then buried there a few weeks ago, and now we're ...

Given the time of the year, there's not that much work that we an do on site in terms of landscaping and such like that, but we're looking to have the site be kind of quietly resting over the winter, and then in the spring there will be additional landscaping work done.

The family is planning a public ceremony to unveil the new headstone, and also just have the opportunity for the public to come out and think of Maurice, and say a few words about him, if it's a constituent that had a good experience, any kind of ... Or all kinds of things, I guess I would say.

So that's where we are now, that's kind of how we got to where we are. It wasn't a very sudden process; it was organic over the years, and then just seemed to become the most natural thing to do.

Midge Maroni:   It sounds like a beautiful idea, and it sounds like it's going to be a beautiful site for people to visit. And I could hear in your voice that you were probably pretty close to Maurice Hinchey.

Jeff Senterman:   Yes. You know, he has been a friend of the Catskill Center, and the family has too. Over the years, they have ... Like we said in our press release, Maurice really was a champion for the Catskills. He was a champion for his entire district, but he did tireless work for the whole region, and for the environment, and just for the constituents throughout the area.

Jeff Senterman:  And he really made the Catskill Interpretive Center possible. 30 years ago it was an idea. When he was first in the assembly, he fought very hard for it, and actually secured some funding. And some work was done. And Mario Como at the time was supporting it, and then unfortunately as administrations change in the State, the next administration didn't support it, and the work that was done kind of sat unfinished there on the site in Mt. Tremper.

Jeff Senterman:   And just before Maurice left office, he was able to secure Federal funding. And then Mario's son Andrew Como, the current Governor, was able to match that Federal funding with State funding, and that's really what made the Catskill Interpretive Center from a dream to a reality, so that the Catskills finally have an official Visitor's Center for the Catskill Park.

Midge Maroni:   And I notice that there will be, or there is already, a fund established, and that programs are planned to honor Maurice Hinchey's legacy. Could you talk a little bit about that?

Jeff Senterman:   Sure. So as part of him being laid to rest at the Interpretive Center, the family had asked, and the Catskill Center had worked with them to establish what we're calling the Maurice Hinchey Legacy Fund. And that's a Fund that will be managed by the Catskill Center, gifts made to it will be used ... A portion of those funds will be used for operating and programming costs at the Interpretive Center.

So currently the Catskill Interpretive Center, like I said, is a program of the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, and even though we've signed an agreement with the State to manage and operate the site, New York State currently provides no operating funding for us to do that. So all that funding currently comes from private donations and the budget of the Catskill Center. So this was one way that we all thought that we could continue to support the Catskill Interpretive Center, and make it better year after year.

Midge Maroni:   That sounds terrific. What about the programming? Do you have anything in mind?

Jeff Senterman:  You know, the Catskill Interpretive Center has been open since July of 2015, and we've created a really amazing mix of programming that's been happening there over the last two or so years, that's included ... We have a Catskill Book Fair, where we have all the local authors and local publishers from pretty much the whole Catskill region come together. This past year, in June, we had over 1,000 people come out to that Book Fair.

Jeff Senterman:  We have lectures and chats almost every couple weeks there, on a whole host of topics. Anything from how to live with bears as your neighbors, to information about invasive species, or Ranger programs at night. All kinds of things. And we've had also guided hikes on the trails that are there on the property. There's now a trail to the Esopus Creek across Route 28, so there's opportunities to do fishing activities.

This winter we're looking forward, fingers crossed, that our first snow is just a start for snow throughout the year, so we can do some winter activities at the Interpretive Center, like tracking, snowshoeing, an introduction to skiing.

The Interpretive Center is also the home to the ... One of the very few fully ADA accessible trails, so that's built to standards so that anybody of any needs, whether they're in a wheelchair or otherwise disabled, are able to use those trails. So we've been also doing activities like that, to get everybody out and enjoy the outdoors.

Midge Maroni:  All right. Well, that sounds terrific. We're going to have to let you go in a few seconds, but could you just tell us briefly how someone could find the Interpretive Center?

Jeff Senterman:  Sure. They can visit CatskillInterpretiveCenter.org, or visit us on Route 28 in Mt. Tremper, right in the heart of the central Catskills.

Midge Maroni:  All right. Thank you so much for being with us tonight, Jeff. It's a wonderful thing that you've done.

Jeff Senterman:   Thank you very much.

Midge Maroni:  Take care.

Sherret Chase and the Catskill Center, an environmental match

Sherret Chase (photo by Dion Ogust)

Sherret Chase (photo by Dion Ogust)

Part II

Last week, we explored the youth and professional life of geneticist and corn breeder Sherret S. Chase of Ashokan, now approaching his 100th birthday. Now we’ll take a look at the activities he has undertaken on behalf of his beloved Catskill Mountains, often in tandem with his daughter, Helen Chase, currently president of the Historical Society of the Town of Olive.

When Sherret was studying the history of the property his family purchased in Olive in 1921, he found deeds dating back to the early years of settlement by the Winchell clan. He wrote, “I was pleased and amused to note that an earlier version of the Winchell name was Van Winchell and, even earlier, Van Winkle!”

This quintessentially Catskillian observation opens an essay Chase wrote in 1967, when, at 49, he had focused his attention on forestry while on a fellowship at Harvard. The essay, entitled “The Catskills of New York: Past, Present, Potential” was reprinted in a local newspaper and caught the attention of Delaware County landowner Kingdon Gould, leading directly to the establishment of the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development (CCCD), with Sherret as president.

Sherret’s essay, after eloquently summarizing the geography and history of the region, suggested that the greatest danger to the Catskills lay in the increasing population. Sherret expressed confidence that the landscape could support more residents economically without devastating the environment, but “only if regional land use is carefully and responsibly planned.” He urged the creation of a regional governmental authority to coordinate the needs of the seven Catskills counties, and as well as alliances of various groups — what we would call today “stakeholders” — such as “historical associations, garden clubs, sportsmen’s clubs, farmers’ organizations, groups of resort owners, retail businessmen, manufacturers, etc.” Such alliances could study issues and develop solutions to problems, while also planning for the future.

In a letter, Gould later recalled the effect of reading this article: “It was wonderful to learn of a kindred soul willing to go public in opposition to the destruction of the countryside’s aesthetic qualities;…equally important was the need to foster harmonious economic development.” The Chases and the Goulds met, found much in common, and began working toward the formation of the CCCD. Sherret and his wife, Kenny (short for Catherine), had been living in the Midwest corn belt. They moved full-time to the family’s land in Ashokan in 1987.

Kenny, described by a fellow CCCD member as “effervescent,” was an enthusiastic supporter of the Center. “Kenny had a knack for knowing people and drawing the best out of them,” Sherret recalled. “Once we were late getting to a party. There were about 12 people in the room, and the hostess introduced us to all of them. Then she went into the kitchen. Another couple arrived late, and Kenny took them by the hand and introduced them to all the people she’d just been introduced to.”

Sherret cites a long list of people who contributed to success of the Center, the most familiar being historian Alf Evers, fly fisherman Art Flick, forestry expert Michael Kudish, and financier Armand Erpf, whose name is borne by the Center’s Arkville headquarters, the Erpf House. An early participant was Ruth Reynolds, who served as clerk, organizing many meetings and conferences. When interviewing Reynolds for the role, Sherret discovered “this modest ‘rural housewife’ had been a service pilot during World War II, flying planes to Alaska, to be transferred there to Russian pilots. The Center holds a tremendous debt to Ruth. She held us together.”

In the early days, the CCCD was run by its members, with decisions made at forums along the lines of New England town meetings. The members discussed issues and voted on recommendations to the executive committee and board of directors for action. Reports were brought to meetings by the heads of ten committees on such topics as the ski industry, planning and zoning, farming, and forestry. The weakness, as Sherret recalls, was that all the members were volunteers, so it was often difficult to follow through on actions undertaken.

In 1972, when the CCCD was seeking funding to solidify its operations, help came from former federal prosecutor John Adams, who two years earlier had cofounded the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the nation’s first environmental advocacy group. Adams, from the Sullivan County town of Roscoe, was impressed with the Center’s initiatives and provided a list of foundations to approach. While setting up appointments for Sherret to visit the organizations, Kenny established a rapport with the Kaplan Foundation director Ray Rubinow, leading to financial support of both the Center and the NRDC. The CCCD was able to hire an executive director and staff who continue to guide the organization with the support of membership.

Among the accomplishments of the CCCD over the years, Sherret cited the establishment of the Hanford Mills Museum in East Meredith, featuring an authentic water- and steam-powered sawmill. One of Sherret’s ideas was a forestry group that would help forest owners achieve their goals. The Catskill Forest Association now has several hundred members and holds a forest festival each July.

When the Thomas Cole House in Catskill was in decline, the CCCD helped keep the museum open to the public, despite funding cutbacks of the Reagan years. “Cole was not only a painter but a fine conservationist,” noted Sherret. “The Center was involved for 17 years, holding it together till the county could take over and preserve it.”

The CCCD similarly kept alive the idea of the Catskill Interpretive Center (CIC), which lost momentum for almost 30 years when funding dried up. Sherret, along with CCCD member Jim Infante, pushed to revive the project three years ago. The CIC opened in Mount Tremper in 2015 and was named after former Congressman Maurice D. Hinchey, who recently passed away.

“My connection with Maurice Hinchey was very close,” said Sherret. “Before he first ran for office, he came up here and we talked about the Catskills. We were parallel in a lot of our thinking. I had a high regard for him.”

“Maurice was such a forward thinker,” added Helen. “He secured the money for the Interpretive Center, and we were able to hold onto it until we could actually move ahead and get the facility going. He was a very important part of that process.”

Over the years, the CCCD has maintained a good relationship with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), despite the controversies that arise over the city’s control of the Ashokan Reservoir. “When we disagree with them, we let them know,” said Sherret.

In recent years, the city has bought up more land in the region, which Sherret considers beneficial from a conservation point of view, but he feels lands adjacent to the state forest preserve should be transferred to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). He is pleased that “the city seems to have woken to the realization that the public and the land in the Catskills are important to them, and they had better make friends rather than enemies. Both the city and the DEC have had public relations problems in the Catskills. It’s getting somewhat better. Local people resent the ‘foreigners.’ But a lot of income comes from tourists.”

One role the Center has taken is to support sound development and oppose development that members considered detrimental. When the Belleayre Resort Project was first proposed, the CCCD took the position that it was too large. Asked how he feels about the proposal now that it has been reduced in size, Sherret sighed. “They’ll build it, and we’ll live with it,” he said.

When Ulster County was grappling with the Catskill Mountain Railroad over building a rail trail, Sherret suggested the county construct a walking and biking trail along the south side of the reservoir, instead of using the rail corridor on the north side. He mapped out in detail the course the trail could take, much of it along the dikes, and circulated his proposal to county legislators. “They had no interest whatsoever,” said Sherret. “It would have had extraordinary views of the mountains, and the tracks would have been preserved. I’m not overly impressed with the views from the north side.”

A result of the CCCD’s advocacy has been the annual Catskill Park Awareness Day, when representatives of local organizations go to Albany and talk to legislators about measures that would benefit the Catskills. Helen attends on behalf of the CCCD and other groups. “I have my finger in several pies,” she said. “Scenic Byway, Town of Olive, the forest preserve. We now have a line item in the state budget specific to the Catskills that groups can utilize it as we need it, so we can count on a certain amount of money to spend in the region.”

Sherret Chase’s legacy will clearly persist.

Editor’s note: Several items from last week’s interview bear correcting. Sherret set up training programs for the crews of B-32’s, not B-52’s. He taught at Iowa State University in Ames, not the University of Iowa. His family’s land was purchased from Angelina Winchell, not Angelita Winchell.

Sherret Chase still active as he nears 100

Sherret S. Chase (photo by Dion Ogust)

Sherret S. Chase (photo by Dion Ogust)

Sherret S. Chase, whose research in forestry led to his co-founding of the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development (CCCD), lives on a mountainside in the Town of Olive. Although he will turn 100 next spring, he still walks without a cane, takes cross-country road trips with his daughter, Helen Chase, and offers advice to Catskills powers that be. Helen holds two masters degrees, in geography and international administration, and has given years of service to many community groups, including the town council. She is currently president of the Historical Society of the Town of Olive.

At a cottage on the family property in Ashokan, Sherret and Helen talked about the Chase family’s connections to the Woodstock and surrounding area, Sherret’s coming of age in mid-century America, and his ground-breaking research as a geneticist and corn breeder.

Carmelita Chase Hinton, Sherret’s aunt, was a Bryn Mawr graduate who worked as a secretary to Jane Addams of Hull House, the famous settlement house in Chicago. It was at Hull House that Ralph Whitehead, aristocratic Ruskin devotee, first conspired with Hervey White, Socialist and maverick, to found an arts and crafts community. In 1902, they chose Woodstock as the location for the Byrdcliffe Colony. Carmelita, also with Socialist leanings, went there to visit and ended up with a house called Camelot.

“Auntie Carmelita went walking one day,” said Sherret, “and hiked from Woodstock toward Bearsville, toward Wittenberg, through the Shultis farm, through Winchell’s Hollow and down over to this side. She found a farm that had been abandoned, except for Angelita Winchell, an old woman still living there. Carmelita suggested to her parents they might consider buying this farm.” Which they did.

Carmelita and her husband, Sebastian, were educators. He and his brother developed the jungle gym as a teaching tool, although “kids that used it didn’t realize they were being taught geometry,” according to Helen, who also reported that both men eventually committed suicide. Carmelita later taught at the innovative Shady Hill School near Boston and founded the Putney School, a progressive boarding school in Vermont.

While Carmelita was living at Camelot, Sherret’s father, Clement, also rented a cottage at Byrdcliffe. He was an engineer who had been given the task of strengthening the railroad bridge that crossed the Hudson River at Poughkeepsie — the bridge that is now the popular rail trail, the Walkway Over the Hudson. By the time Sherret was born, in 1918, the family had moved to Wayne, Pennsylvania, so Clement could work on Philadelphia’s Ben Franklin Bridge, which had the longest single span of any suspension bridge in the world when it opened in 1926. The family spent summers on the farm in Ashokan, visits that Sherret credits with developing his appreciation of the mountains, flora, and fauna of the region. When Clement died while inspecting the underpinnings of the Franklin Bridge in 1933, the family moved to Ashokan.

The summer after Sherret’s freshman year at the University of Arizona in Tucson, a call came from Carmelita, reporting that his cousin, Bill Hinton, had seen a lecture at Putney on mountain climbing in British Columbia. Bill had asked to join that summer’s expedition as a packer, hauling food and supplies up the mountains, and one more packer was needed. Sherret was game. He and Bill crossed the Klinaklini Glacier, bridged Tumult Creek, and were members of the first expedition to scale Mount Silverthrone.

As Sherret was leaving for British Columbia, his mother suggested that on his return he transfer to Yale, where he could study forestry. “While I was gone, she went to New Haven and entered me in Yale,” said Sherret. “I didn’t know till I got home. I thought it was wonderful.” When he graduated in 1939, he went to Cornell to work on a doctorate in botany. His thesis was on aquatic flowering plants of the Najas genus, unusual in that their flowers are pollinated underwater.

Grad school was interrupted by World War II and service in the Army Air Corps. “I was sent to flight school, but I had trouble landing planes,” confessed Sherret. “I dropped out and was entered in navigation school. I like maps and like to know where I am. That was a better choice for me than being a pilot.” His crew was about to ship overseas when Sherret decided to get married.

At the age of 17, he had met 13-year-old Catherine Compton, called Kenny because a younger brother could not pronounce her first name. A chance meeting at a mutual friend’s house began, recalled Sherret, when “Kenny came in with a bag oranges, looked at me, tripped on the rug, and spilled the oranges.”

Helen continued the story of her parent’s romance: “Mom was 19. Dad was standing with some classmates from Yale. Mom walked up and said, ‘You must be Sherry Chase.’ They had a lot of friends in common and had been hearing about each other through the years. They corresponded after that but only saw each other about four times before getting married. When we were growing up, the names Kenny and Sherry were very confusing to our friends’ parents.”

Sherret was not granted leave to go to his own wedding, but the ceremony was arranged at a venue near the army base in Savannah, Georgia. “His whole crew went AWOL for the wedding,” said Helen, “and no one missed them.”

In December 1943, the newly married Sherret headed off to Italy, where he served as navigator on 50 bombing missions, most of them focused on oil fields in an attempt to disrupt the supply of oil to Axis forces. He was sent to Houston in late 1944, to train crews for B-52 bombers, which the U.S. was in the process of launching. Kenny joined her husband in Houston, and their first child, Catherine, nicknamed Cici, was born on August 7, 1945, between the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“We were close to the atomic effort,” said Sherret. “My wife’s uncle was head of the Manhattan District, the first organization created toward building the atomic bomb. My cousin Joan Hinton was a physics student and an expert on cloud chambers. She went to Los Alamos during the war and worked with Robert Oppenheimer. We knew something strange and decisive was underway, but we didn’t know what it was.”

When the nuclear bombs were dropped, killing at least 129,000 Japanese people, the end of the war came as a big relief to Americans. In the aftermath, Sherret agreed with those who suggested it might have been better to demonstrate the bomb on an uninhabited island, “so the Japanese could come and see what was done. But the war overrode all other thoughts. It was a difficult decision.”

Sherret was released from the service and returned to Cornell, where his bottles of Najas root tips and flower stems preserved in alcohol were still in storage. He conducted research alongside future Nobel prize-winning botanist and geneticist Barbara McClintock. Upon graduation with a Ph.D. (and a second child, Helen), he received job offers from Columbia, Cornell, and the University of Iowa. He had become interested in corn, and the Iowa job seemed to offer the most flexibility, so he moved his little family to Ames, Iowa, where three more children were born.

Sherret S. Chase standing with Henry A. Wallace in Wallace’s hybrid strawberry field in South Salem, NY. Wallace, who bred corn, strawberries, irises, gladiolas, and poultry, served as FDR’s vice president for two terms.

Sherret S. Chase standing with Henry A. Wallace in Wallace’s hybrid strawberry field in South Salem, NY. Wallace, who bred corn, strawberries, irises, gladiolas, and poultry, served as FDR’s vice president for two terms.

“He was teaching at the cutting edge of genetics,” noted Helen. Sherret’s investigations into haploids of corn — plants with a single set of chromosomes — contributed to a revolution in plant breeding, accelerating the speed of selection for desirable characteristics and producing purer strains. To support the growing Chase family, Sherret accepted a job with DeKalb AgResearch, a producer of hybrid seeds, later bought by Monsanto. As a research geneticist and director of international seed operations, he supervised corn breeding for North American and international markets such as Argentina, India, and Australia. The ultimate goal was the increase of crop yields. In a proposal, Sherret stated that freeing our time from intensive food production is what allows civilization to progress.

“Other people have picked up my work on haploids,” he said, “making my work eminently practical. Now there are at least five major groups using the method.”

In 1965, Sherret went to Harvard on a fellowship in forestry. When his paper on the needs and potentials of the Catskills was reprinted in a Margaretville newspaper, the local response led to his deeper involvement with the region. Sherret and Kenny, their kids now grown, settled on the farm in Ashokan in 1987.

A second installment of this interview will deal with Sherret’s initiatives in the Catskills and his thoughts about the future.

DEC Confirms Oak Wilt in Two New Locations in Schenectady County

State to Establish Protective Zones to Limit Spread of Fungal Disease that Kills Oak Trees

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Department of Agriculture and Markets (DAM) today announced that oak wilt, a deadly fungal disease that kills oak trees, has been detected in two new locations in the town of Glenville in Schenectady County.

"People can unknowingly transport tree pests and diseases long distances if they do not practice sound firewood management and follow orders that prohibit the movement of oak and firewood out of the infected areas," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "Keeping wood local is a simple action that can help protect the trees and forests we love. New York is working strategically to prevent devastating losses of oak trees in our state where oak is a widespread and valuable hardwood."

"Oak wilt can harm trees very quickly, so it is important that we all do our part to help protect our vital tree population," said State Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball. "If you see a tree that may be infected with this disease, report it immediately to DEC and as a best practice, never transport firewood outside of an infected area."

The disease was identified by the Cornell Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic after samples were collected from symptomatic oak trees by DEC Lands and Forests staff.

The new infections are in Sanders Town Preserve and on private property on St. Jude Lane. The first was found by DEC staff conducting aerial surveys, while the other was reported by a homeowner. DEC is in the process of issuing orders to establish protective zones encompassing the two new locations in the town of Glenville. The emergency orders will prohibit the removal of any oak wood or firewood of any species from the protective zone.

Oak wilt had previously been found in a different area of Glenville in 2008 and 2013. DEC has been and will continue to monitor the areas around the known infection sites annually. Out of the 130 samples taken this year, the two Schenectady County finds were the only new detections of oak wilt in the state.

There is no known treatment to kill the oak wilt fungus other than to remove the infected trees. DEC will be managing these new infections on a site-specific basis. Management options may include removing and destroying infected trees, cutting down a buffer of adjacent trees, and/or digging trenches to cut root connections. DEC will assess the situation and adopt methods that are feasible at each location.

Property owners in affected neighborhoods will be contacted with information about the disease and the protective zones. DEC will schedule a public meeting to address questions and concerns once the extent of the disease is determined and management activities have been identified. DEC is collaborating with the town of Glenville, Schenectady County, and the local parks department in this response.

Glenville will assist with outreach efforts by including oak wilt information in their newsletters and will work with local developers to reduce the potential spread of oak wilt.

"We're taking this threat very seriously and are working with the DEC to support them in their efforts to mitigate any impact to our trees,"said Glenville Supervisor, Chris Koetzle.

DEC will provide outreach to tree care professionals on the identification of oak wilt and how to prevent its spread. DEC urges tree care professionals and homeowners to conduct any planned oak pruning and cutting during the winter months. Oak trees that are pruned or damaged from March through September can attract beetles that spread the disease.

Since trees can only be tested for the disease during the growing season, surveying will resume next spring. The importance of the public in finding these infection sites is paramount, and DEC asks the public to be on the lookout next summer for oak trees that suddenly lose most or all of their leaves during the months of July and August. To report these occurrences, email photos of symptomatic trees to foresthealth@dec.ny.gov or call the Forest Health Information Line at 1-866-640-0652.

For more information about oak wilt, its symptoms, or the emergency order, please visit DEC's website.



Fund Established and Programs Planned for the Center to Honor His Legacy

November 29, 2017 ARKVILLE, NY  — The Honorable Maurice D. Hinchey, who represented upstate New York in Albany and in Washington for four decades, was laid to rest in a private ceremony today on the grounds of the Catskill Interpretive Center, a facility he fought for more than 30 years to create.

The former Congressman and former New York State Assemblyman passed away on Wednesday, November 22 from complications of Frontotemporal Degeneration (FTD).

As one of the leading progressive voices in Congress, Hinchey was a tireless defender of the environment and an unwavering champion of working people everywhere, fighting to ensure economic fairness and human rights worldwide.

His extraordinary work to protect New Yorkers’ water, air, land and food saved thousands of acres of open space for future generations.

From 1974-1992, Hinchey represented Ulster County in the New York State Assembly. He then went on to serve 10 terms in the US. House of Representatives.

During his tenure, Hinchey created the Hudson River National Heritage Area, authored several landmark first in the nation environmental laws and led the investigation of the infamous Love Canal, the nation’s first toxic waste site.

Hinchey spearheaded the creation of a Catskill Interpretive Center when he was a NYS Assemblyman, and was fiercely dedicated and successful in securing the initial funding necessary to bring that vision to reality more than three decades later.   He said of the project:

“For too long the Catskill State Park was one of the only major state or national parks in the country without an Interpretive Center. I was determined to change that. It’s critically important to have a place where residents and visitors can learn about our unique natural, historical, and cultural resources. It will help preserve our rich heritage, keep our local economies strong, and keep our quality of life intact.

The Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center opened in 2015.

The Center is a partnership between the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, a nonprofit organization, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. It serves as the visitor’s center for the Catskill Park as well as an education center and community space.

Future exhibits are planned to help visitors to the Center learn more about Maurice Hinchey’s life and work.

Construction on an event pavilion is currently underway, and designs for new multimedia exhibits on Catskills history, nature and culture in the main building are slated to be completed by 2019.   

“The Catskill Interpretive Center was a major part of Maurice’s life for so long that we found it fitting to be Maurice’s last home,” said the Hinchey family. "It represents the very spirit of his work and the unrelenting spirit of the man. He loved the land and the surrounding mountains and we thank the leadership of the Interpretive Center and the Catskill Center for making this possible.”

“Congressman Hinchey was a tireless advocate for the Catskills and protecting our precious environment. We are proud to celebrate his legacy with the Catskill Interpretive Center,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “We hope that all visitors to the center will take a moment to remember Mr. Hinchey’s accomplishments and his work to safeguard New York’s natural resources and incredible areas like the Catskill Park.”

“Since opening the Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center in 2015, we have been proud to continue Maurice Hinchey’s work for the Catskills,” said Jeff Senterman, Executive Director of the Catskill Center.  “We are honored and humbled to be the final resting place for Congressman Maurice Hinchey and know that he is at home among our Catskill mountains, streams and forests.”

Maurice Hinchey’s  burial site will open to the public in the spring.   

With the permission, encouragement, and support of the Hinchey family, the Catskill Center has established the Maurice D. Hinchey Legacy Fund to support the programs, operations, and long-term capital improvement projects at the Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center while honoring his legacy. 

For more information about the Hinchey Legacy Fund, or to make a donation, visit http://catskillinterpretivecenter.org/legacy


NOTE TO EDITORS AND PRODUCERS:  For further information, please contact Sarah McGinnis, Catskill Interpretive Center Director, smcginnis@catskillcenter.org845-688-3369.  

Sources quoted in this release are also available for further comment, including Ms. McGinnis and Jeff Senterman, jsenterman@catskillcenter.org845-586-2611.  

Catskill Center Statement on Passing of Congressman Maurice Hinchey

On behalf of the Board of Directors, staff and families of the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, we extend our deepest condolences with utmost respect for our friend and tireless Catskills advocate, Congressman Maurice D. Hinchey.

We are humbled and proud each and every day to honor Congressman Hinchey's legacy at the Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center.

This Thanksgiving, we give our thanks to Maurice, who dedicated his life to our Catskills, to New York State and to our national betterment. We are forever grateful for his service and dedication.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: "Function or Form: Utilitarian Art / an exhibit" returns to the Catskill Center’s Erpf Gallery for a second year

November 7, 2017 ARKVILLE, NY — The 2nd annual exhibit of "Function or Form: Utilitarian Art / an exhibit", will be on display in the Erpf Gallery November 18, 2017 through January 6, 2018.

The show will feature aesthetically delightful, functional items created by 14 local artists.

A public reception will be held on Friday, November 17, from 6-8 PM, at the Erpf Center in Arkville.

Many of the products we use every day are not only useful, but are also beautiful. Homemade furniture, clothing, pottery, quilts — many items created for use in the every day are worthy of display.

In 2016, the Catskill Center’s Erpf Gallery hosted the first utilitarian show to celebrate local people who create work with both beautiful form and practical function.

The 2016 show was such a success – with a dozen sales and hundreds of visitors - that the Utilitarian Art show has become an annual event. This year’s show will feature returning makers as well as several new artists.

2017 exhibiting makers and their creations include: Jessica Baker and her window coverings, John Byer and his woodworking, Enid Cytryn and her hand-made clothing, Maureen DeKaser’s floor coverings, Rosalind Dickinson and her pottery, Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes and her weaving, Janie Greenwald and her woven chair seats, Annie Hayes and her hooked rugs, Nadia Kirgan and her furniture, Cheyenne Mallo’s ceramics, Joe Muehl and his woodwork; Franc Palaia and his furniture; Dan Palm’s woodwork and the wodwork of John Virga.

The Erpf Gallery, located at 43355 Route 28 in Arkville, NY is open Mon – Fri 9:30 am to 4:30 pm and Saturdays 10 am to 2 pm.

For more information, contact the Catskill Center at 845-586-2611, or visit www.catskillcenter.org.



 Since 1969, the Catskill Center has protected and fostered the environmental, cultural and economic well-being of the Catskill region.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Historic Cemeteries of the Catskills and their Ghosts

or the Biological Inheritance of our Catskill Forests

October 24, 2017 ARKVILLE, NY — The Catskill forest is dense with history. There are plow-lines to be found, as well as burial grounds, stone walls and plants (once precious, now feral) — all are ghosts of generations past.

Saturday, October 28, naturalist John Thompson will lead a hike of the Kelly Hollow Loop and search for traces of past uses of the land and markers of previous human existence. The walk is the final offering of the Catskill Center’s 2017 Exclusive Member Programming Series.

Says Thompson, "The Catskill forests exist as a biological legacy of the people that came before us and that narrative remains in our landscape today.

"We will observe the traces of what our predecessors harvested, what they nurtured, what they protected, and how they used the landscape.

"The Catskills are always changing — it is only through understanding this biological legacy that we will be able to best protect these forests into the future."

One human generation exists in the Catskills and passes a landscape, forever altered by their presence, on to the next.

The walk will begin at the Kelly (Sleepy) Hollow Trailhead at 10am. The Loop is 3.3 miles. Please register for this pro- gram by contacting  jmogelever@catskillcenter.org or call 845-586-2611.

For more information please visit catskillcenter.org/events.

John Thompson is the Coordinator of the Catskill Regional Species Partnership and has over twenty years of experi- ence collaborating with scientists and land stewards throughout southeastern New York State promoting science-based management.

John also serves as Secretary of the Natural History Section of the Ecological Society of America.

Effort To Approve Prop 3 On NY Ballot

There is a concerted effort by a wide range of interests to get New York voters to approve Proposition Three on the November ballot two weeks from now. It would create a land bank to allow communities in the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserve to accomplish small projects without the need to amend the state constitution.

Article 14 of the New York Constitution includes the Forever Wild clause protecting the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserve.  For communities that want to upgrade utilities, roads and other critical infrastructure that abut the forever wild lands, a constitutional amendment has been required.  For example, in 1995 a constitutional amendment was passed to allow the Town of Keene to expand its cemetery.

Proposition 3 is supported by environmental, municipal, recreational, and business groups across the state.  It asks voters to approve a Public Health and Safety Land Account.  If approved it would amend article 14, the “Forever Wild” clause, to create a land bank to allow local communities in the forest preserve areas of the Adirondacks and Catskills to complete small municipal projects without needing amendments.

At a recent meeting, New York state Senator Betty Little asked local businesspeople to support the measure.  “If you needed to drill a well or you needed to actually take a curve out of a road and you needed half an acre, two acres, you could get it from the land bank. So you would not have to go for a constitutional amendment for each and every thing that we have done in the past. And we have the total support of the environmental community.”

Proposition 3 is on the back of the ballot and Plattsburgh North Country Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Garry Douglas said a major concern is that voters will ignore it or associate it with the Constitutional Convention question.  “Whether there's going to be a state constitutional convention is the first ballot measure on that back of the ballot and we know that that's controversial. There's some concern that people who don't know what the other couple of things on there are may vote no down the line without understanding what they're voting no against.  So there's a Proposition Three that is good news according to everybody for the Adirondack region.”

Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board Executive Director Fred Monroe says the measure includes safeguards to continue to protect the Forest Preserve.  “This proposal would amend the procedure to allow the legislature to approve these projects  you know and only in conditions where there's no other alternative. It would have to be demonstrated to the state. So it would just be a streamlined procedure and avoid the very wasteful time consuming process and cost of a constitutional amendment for each individual small scale project.”

Catskill Center for Conservation and Development Executive Director Jeff Senterman hopes to see utility upgrades and enhanced broadband opportunities if the measure passes.   “There are just necessary projects that many communities come up against here in the Catskills and in the Adirondacks where there is an overriding public need whether it's a road fix or a bridge repair or if a water system is failing and there's improvements that need to be made or fixes that need to happen. And we see this is as a win-win.  We're adding land to the Forest Preserve in the amount of 250 acres. If there are larger projects those will not be projects that would be able to go through the land bank.”

Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages President Brian Towers says part of the challenge is getting voters to comprehend the size of the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserve.   “I think the real challenge for us is two sided in that there is a huge effort that wants you to just vote no across the board.  The other challenge  is those that lives in the I'm going to call it the inner city where we did some survey work and the responses you get from some people is ‘well the animals need to live somewhere too.’ You know they don't understand how vast the Catskill and the Adirondack parks are and I don't know how you get past that.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE : Kimberly Hawkey to Headline Catskill Center Fall Gala

Plus the unveiling of the Future CIC

October 28, 2017 ARKVILLE, NY — The Catskill Center will feature Kimberly Hawkey of Elvanelle Music during its 2017 Fall Gala.

On Saturday, October 21, the Catskill Center will host the Fall Gala at the Catskill Interpretive Center (CIC) in Mount Tremper, New York. The evening’s activities include music, food and drink, unveiling new plans for the CIC, and enjoy- ing good company, The Gala is a benefit the CIC, the first and only visitor information center dedicated to the Catskill Park.

During the Gala, jazz singer Kimberly Hawkey will perform with her three-person band—Kimberly’s joy in traditional jazz promises to make for a wonderful evening. The Gala will also feature a roaming supper by Ate O Ate Catering. and the unveiling of designs for new exhibits at the CIC.

Guests will be treated to a peek into the creative minds of Greg Mihalko and the design firm Partner & Partners, who will present the concept for new CIC exhibits, interactive displays and a fresh new interior.

The Catskill Interpretive Center’s mission is to help visitors and residents discover the many attractions, activities, and natural resources available throughout the Catskill Park and region. The CIC is a partnership of the NYS Depart- ment of Environmental Conservation and the Catskill Center. It is operated by the Catskill Center, a nonprofit organi- zation who operates the facility thanks to individual donations, grant funding, and the hard work of many volunteers.

The Catskill Center is thrilled to have Emily Fisher chair the Fall Gala Honorary Committee and have many generous supporters join the committee.

The Fall Gala is possible thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Margaretville Telephone Company and many local businesses.

The Fall Gala will be held at the Catskill Interpretive Center in Mount Tremper, New York, on Saturday October 21 from 5:30 PM to 8:00 PM. For more information please contact the Catskill Center at cccd@catskillcenter.org, 845-586-2611, catskillcenter.org/fallgala.






Since 1969, the Catskill Center has been a major advocate and participant in nourishing the environmental and eco- nomic health of the New York state Catskill Mountains.