FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, December 8, 2020
Network of Historic Quarries and Wagon Roads in the Bluestone Wild Forest Spans Over 1,000 Acres--Proposed Steel-and-Concrete Project Would Destroy Key Features
Proposed concrete and steel fabrication plant at the eastern gateway to the Catskill Park puts 150+ year-old cultural and historic artifacts in the unique historic district at risk
Town of Kingston, NY—Today Catskill Mountainkeeper (Mountainkeeper) and Woodstock Land Conservancy (WLC) submitted new evidence about the historical significance of over a thousand acres of interconnected quarries and over 18 miles of interconnected wagon roads in the Bluestone Wild Forest to the Town of Kingston Town Board and Planning Board. This discovery confirms the need for a comprehensive environmental review of the proposed industrial steel-and-concrete fabrication plant at 850 Route 28.
Kathy Nolan, Senior Research Director for Mountainkeeper, called the new findings “dramatic and inspiring.” “These historic resources must be fully investigated and protected during and following that investigation,” she said. “We can see in this work an emerging picture, not of one isolated quarry, but of a thriving and vitally important industry, written into the landscape and now being carefully reconstructed to bring history alive.”
The 46-page report, Geoarchaeology of the Stony Hollow Wagon Road and Quarry Network (circa 1830 – 1905); Ulster County, New York, prepared by geologist Paul Rubin of HydroQuest, details artifacts such as building foundations, laid stone pillars, cut dimension stones, parts of wagon wheels, and a historic 46-inch long, flat-bladed pry bar used to split bluestone along bedding plane partings.
In many places, grooves, worn by metal-rimmed wagon wheels deep into the bedrock making up the wagon roads (sometimes over a foot deep), are still visible today. Many of the historic wagon roads have been incorporated into trails in the Bluestone Wild Forest, and at least three extend into the proposed development site.
Based on a preliminary report, also prepared by Rubin of HydroQuest, the New York State Office of Historic Preservation determined in August of 2020 that the 150-200 year old quarries and connecting wagon roads are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, under the rubric of the “Hemlock Bluestone Quarry Archaeological District.” The new research documents additional quarries and wagon roads extending in a tightly interwoven network within and around the Bluestone Wild Forest, with a large and well-preserved quarry face straddling the southern boundary of the Wild Forest and extending at least 500 feet onto the proposed industrial site. HydroQuest offers further information and geospatially created maps and files confirming the location of the historic Waughkonk Wagon Road, which likely follows a prior “Waughkonk Trail” used by indigenous peoples living in the Esopus River valley.
Many of the newly constructed mountain biking trails in the Bluestone Wild Forest “quite naturally follow not only the topography but also what we are now learning were carefully and well engineered sections of roads constructed over a hundred years ago, along with ramps crossing low wetlands and loops constructed to connect quarries and direct wagon flow,” said Kevin Smith, Board Chair of the WLC and an avid mountain bike rider. “The meticulous methods and detailed findings of Paul Rubin of HydroQuest have revealed previously hidden patterns, illuminating the significance of what has up until now largely been perceived as random or isolated sites and roads,” he added. “Connecting that whole transforms our understanding of the role the wild forest lands and surrounding area played in the daily operations of the bluestone industry, central to the industrial history of Kingston, the Hudson River, and New York City.”
“These new discoveries open up wonderful opportunities for the public in the Bluestone Wild Forest and at Pickerel Pond and Onteora Lake,” said Nolan. “We are hopeful that the Town of Kingston’s Planning Board will recognize the growing significance of these findings and the ways in which the proposed industrial project is in conflict with the public interest and therefore tighten their environmental review of the proposed project by requiring a Positive Declaration and the preparation of a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).”
The Town of Kingston Planning Board met remotely in June and reviewed a critique of the applicant’s noise mitigation plan. The Planning Board has, to date, not addressed a separate engineering analysis by engineering firm Barton & Loguidice, that is also deeply critical of proposed noise mitigation for blasting and other mining-related activities at the project site, submitted on behalf of Mountainkeeper and WLC just prior to that meeting.
“We know from multiple petitions, signed both by Town Residents and by people who use the forest preserve and the hundreds of people who have attended prior meetings of the Planning Board that the public is strongly opposed to the degradation of the Bluestone Wild Forest and the irreplaceable quiet enjoyment of these outdoor recreational resources,” said Maxanne Resnick, Executive Director of the WLC. “The Planning Board has an obligation to review a project of this size and complexity rigorously,and the community is calling for a full EIS," she concluded.
The new HydroQuest report is available online.
For more information, including copies of all documents submitted to the Town of Kingston Planning Board, please contact Kathy Nolan, Catskill Mountainkeeper’s Senior Research Director at [email protected] or 845-439-1230, or Maxanne Resnick, Woodstock Land Conservancy’s Executive Director, at [email protected].