By WILLIAM J. KEMBLE
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OLIVEBRIDGE — The Ashokan Foundation has hired Deborah Meyer DeWan as deputy director to guide changes at the 374-acre former Ashokan Field Campus.
DeWan said immediate plans are to replace five buildings on the site — now called the Ashokan Center — with structures that are better for the environment.
“It’s taking us into the direction of ‘green’ buildings and sustainable living,” DeWan said. “It really is to incorporate in our facilities the very things that we teach, what we learn from the land and what we learned from the history of this place. This is very much a living history center. A lot of things that we teach here, and that people experience here, relate to things that have been traditional activities in the Catskills.”
The property, on Beaver Kill Road near the Ashokan Reservoir, was renamed the Ashokan Center after the New York City-based Open Space Institute bought it in May 2008 from Campus Auxiliary Services for $2.19 million. As the Ashokan Field Campus, the site was used by SUNY New Paltz, as well as local school and scout groups, among others.
Ashokan Center Director Tim Neu said he and others who oversee the site are glad it will continue to be used for environmental purposes.
“The property could have been bought by an entity that would not have continued the public-access programs,” he said. “Our worst fear was that it could have been bought by a developer that would not have seen the value of the programs we offer to the public and the schools and just saw it as a piece of real estate to potentially develop.”
Neu also said that with site now independent of SUNY New Paltz, there are fewer operational complications.
“As part of SUNY New Paltz, we really were not able to actively do fundraising, and as an independent organization now, we’re free of that constraint,” he said. “So it will be an opportunity to grow both the programs and the facility.”
Neu said programs conducted by the center evolve with the needs of groups that use the facility.
Neu said the site has proven conducive to programs that benefit from the wooded surroundings.
“Jay and Molly (local musicians Jay Ungar and Molly Mason) do four programs here throughout the year concerning music and dance,” he said. “There’s a teen play acting camp that is here four times a year. There’s a blacksmithing group that’s here twice a year, a knife-making group that’s here once a here, and there are Girl Scout groups, Boy Scout groups, church groups and a wide variety of different groups that fall into the retreat category.”
EVENTS planned through September at the center include:
• Feb. 13-16: Winter Songs music workshop.
• Feb. 27: EnergySmart teachers’ workshop.
• Feb. 28: 15th annual Winterfest.
• March 7: Maple sugaring open house.
• April 18: Earth Day celebration.
• April 25-26: Girl Scout Badge Weekend.
• May 1-3: N.E. Blacksmiths.
• June 27: Western and swing dancing and concert.
• June 28 to July 4: Western and Swing Week.
• July 5-10: The Wayfinder Experience.
• July 18: Contra dance.
• July 19-25: Northern Week music and dance workshop.
• July 26 to Aug. 1: The Wayfinder Experience.
• Aug. 8: Cajun dance and concert.
• Aug. 9-15: Southern Week music and dance workshop.
• Aug. 10-23: The Wayfinder Experience.
• Sept. 4-6: Catskill Mountain Eco-Heritage Festival.
Program information is available at (845) 657-8333.