Pricey Gas Fuels New York Camping

Pricey Gas Fuels New York Camping


From Backpacker Magazine

We've said it before, and we'll say it again: If you plan on camping this summer, make your reservations now. On the heels of Vermont's 7 percent upswing in campers because of high gas prices, New York state park officials have announced a 16 percent increase in camping reservations for the same reasons. (It's amazing how a gas spike can drive people from Cancun to the Catskills).

"With gasoline prices soaring, state parks are an attractive and inexpensive option for people looking to get away without driving too far," said Carol Ash, commissioner of the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

ReserveAmerica, the biggest provider of campsite reservations in North America, has reported a 14 percent increase in campsite bookings nationally, so campers beyond the northeast should get on the ball as well.

I wouldn't be surprised if the majority of these new reservations belongs to car campers, so maybe we can get space and fresh air by doing what we always do: Camp off the beaten path. Some of us  call ourselves backpackers, after all. — Ted Alvarez

Gas prices help fuel rise in camping at NY state parks (NY Newsday)


Smart Growth Grants To Promote Catskill Park

Smart Growth Grants To Promote Catskill Park

Posted on Thursday, 17 of April , 2008 at 9:51 pm

 Catskill Park to help local governments plan for sustainable development and make the best use of the natural resources in the region.

The funding will be made available through the state Environmental Protection Fund for grants to promote “smart growth” programs in the Catskill Park following the successful launch of the program in the Adirondack Park. The grants will help communities implement sustainable projects that preserve the natural resources and cultural heritage of their communities while accommodating increased levels of tourism and related development. Smart growth can be used in rural areas to address some of the land-use issues facing the Park communities, such as workforce housing, aging infrastructure, water quality, economic development, open space protection and community revitalization.

“The Catskill Park is one of New York State’s greatest assets. It is a magnificent natural area that protects the water supplies of millions of New Yorkers while also providing outstanding recreational opportunities for state residents and visitors from around the world,” said Gov. David Paterson. “It is also home to more than 70,000 permanent residents whose livelihoods are intertwined with the continued protection of the region’s natural heritage and appropriate economic development opportunities.”

“Smart growth is based on the belief that environmental protection and sustainable development can and must go hand-in-hand – especially for communities surrounded by state forest preserve. Local governments in the Catskills face unique circumstances”, Peter Grannis, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation said. “Through this grant program, the State can assist them in dealing with such issues as community revitalization, green infrastructure needs, downtown improvement projects and sustainable job creation.”

Smart growth is planned growth that balances the need for economic development with concerns about quality-of-life, such as preserving the natural and built environment. Smart growth is also useful in attracting investments from an increasing number of businesses that consider quality-of-life factors in their decisions about where to establish business operations. A recent report from the state Economic Development Council found that access to outdoor recreation is a major factor in business location decisions.

The grants will be administered by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in partnership with the Department of State (DOS). The six grant recipients are: the towns of Andes, Middletown, Olive and Shandaken, and the villages of Fleischmanns and Margaretville. Proposals will focus on projects that have been identified in previous planning studies to protect the region’s natural resources and accommodate sensible economic growth by revitalizing existing village and town centers.

A minimum of $40,000 will be made available for projects in each of the six communities should eligible projects be submitted, and the remaining funds will be awarded based on competitive rankings conducted by DEC in consultation with DOS and other state agency staff.

Officials said the program would provide much needed assistance to the Catskill communities. The Catskill Center for Conservation and Development will also assist the state in publicizing and explaining the opportunities available.

A “Request for Proposals” form is available at DEC’s web site at: The grant application process will be open until June 20th. DEC plans to hold workshops for the eligible municipalities on April 23rd (times and locations will be announced soon). 4-17-08


Green Phoenix Permaculture | 2008 Summer Permaculture Design Certificate Course

August 16-29, 2008 in Woodbourne, New York
Green Phoenix Permaculture | 2008 Summer Permaculture Design Certificate Course

Green Phoenix Permaculture and the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Ranch present

A Certificate Course for Urban and Rural Residents, Planners, Land Managers & Design Professionals. This training covers the fundamentals of ecological design, given by two of the country's most experienced permaculture instructors, and many local guests. Join us at a rural retreat center near Woodbourne, New York. Upon completion, course attendees will receive a Permaculture Design Trainee Certificate from the Permaculture Institute.

Course topics include:

  • Ecoliteracy and Cycles of Nature
  • Sustainable Community Strategies
  • Re-Localizing Food Production
  • Organizing Eco-Neighborhoods
  • Simple Steps Toward a Sustainable Lifestyle
  • Natural Building & Property Development
  • Adding Beauty & Value to Your Home
  • Strategies for Energy Descent & Peak Oil
  • Green Business Strategies
  • Finding your Right-Livelihood Career

Who Should Take This Course: The Permaculture Design Course has transformed the lives and enhanced the careers of thousands of people around the world, including architects, landscapers, community developers, social workers, city planners, teachers, students, farmers, gardeners, homeowners, Yoga teachers, business owners and others. It's for anyone serious about creating a sustainable future! The principles of permaculture apply to any scale of design, to highly urbanized areas, suburbs, and rural communities and properties. The permaculture approach crosses between disciplines and creates links between them.

Curriculum includes inspiring examples of sustainable land use and human ingenuity from around the world, based on a common pattern understanding. The core curriculum is based on Bill Mollison's book, Permaculture: A Designers' Manual, which Whole Earth Review described by saying "If information had density... this book would be a black hole."

The hands-on learning focus of the course will be on participants' design team exercises and projects, and potential learning projects at the site. The course is taught via lecture, images and videos, group discussion, exercises, and other methods that suit a wide variety of learning styles.

The teaching team:
TOBY HEMENWAY is the author of Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture. Scholar-in-Residence at Pacific University, and adjunct professor of graduate education at Portland State University. He is Director of the Center for Pattern Literacy and Field Director for the Permaculture Institute (USA). He is the former editor of Permaculture Activist Magazine, and his articles have appeared in Fine Gardening, Natural Home, Whole Earth Review, and other national magazines.

LARRY SANTOYO is Vice President of the Permaculture Institute (USA), Co-director of The Terra Foundation, and is the founder of the MicroVillage Network. He is among the most experienced permaculture designers and educators in the US and has taught environmental design at colleges and universities nationwide including UC Berkeley and California State PolyTechnic University. For over twenty years, L. Santoyo has assisted private individuals in the design and construction of "Home Ecosystems" and has assisted companies in developing industrial ecologies and sustainable business practices.

PLUS Dave Jacke and other local experts and guest speakers will be announced...

The course fee of $1450 includes all classes, course handouts, tent campsite with facilities (rooms are available at additional cost), vegetarian meals, and optional yoga classes.
Note: $250 non-refundable deposit required to guarantee your space.

Contact Green Phoenix Permaculture at semaley(at) to register and for additional information. Reply With Quote


Question Belleayre projects

Question Belleayre projects
First published: Sunday, March 2, 2008
There was some movement this past week on the decades-old plan for developer Dean Gitter's proposed Belleayre Resort in the Catskills, and the much newer but related plans by the state Department of Environmental Conservation to renovate and enlarge the adjoining Belleayre Mountain, a publicly-owned ski center.

Whether that movement proves to be forward, sideways or backward, only time can tell. But any movement in this horrendously long and tedious process leading to development is worth pondering.

On Thursday, the DEC unveiled what is called the final scoping document for the two projects. This is bureaucrat speak for roughly defining the issues that must answered in detail by the developers as a necessary step of the state's environmental quality review process. Until this mine field is successfully negotiated, no permits can be issued for actual development.

Now, why I say the movement can go in any direction is this: The scoping document can set such a high bar that it actually discourages developers from going forward. Or, it can set a low bar and give a wink and a nod.

It appears, the 150-plus-page document does a little of both.

Casting a deep shadow on this seemingly objective process is the fact the DEC helped to negotiate an agreement last September with Gitter that broke a logjam that had existed for years. It gave Gitter a rough blueprint on how to go forward. DEC and a number of participating environmental groups signed the agreement. Several groups didn't, and we'll come back to that in a minute.

Here we had the DEC brokering the agreement. The same DEC that manages Belleayre for the state. The same DEC that as developer will prepare answers to those questions posed in the scoping document -- questions it wrote -- and the same DEC that as regulator will pass judgment on the answers.

Small wonder skepticism runs deep among critics. They justifiably suggest that what we're really looking at here, beyond the window dressing of a heavy document, is a very elaborate done deal.

A number of those environmental and local groups that continue to object to Gitterland, notably the Catskill Heritage Alliance, have sued the DEC on that very basis, that it wears far too many hats to be reliable and objective. The suit is pending in state Supreme Court.

That said, high marks go to the DEC anyway for asking all the right questions of itself in the half of the scoping document related to expansion of the ski resort. Well, almost all the right questions.

We still don't have an adequate view of the footprint that will be cast by the state's new Belleayre Ski Resort, which will include the neighboring defunct 78-acre Highmount ski operation. Exactly how many miles of new trail will be added, and how many new new lifts and how big a new base lodge and so on. This matters a lot.

From day one, the too-large scale of Gitterland was its undoing. Now it would be smaller. But the state proposes a grandiose expansion of a public facility that will provide Gitter with a tourist destination right next door.

There is so much that rankles over that arrangement, it's hard to know where to start.

Personally, I don't think the state should be in the ski resort business in the first place. That said, keeping the scale modest is crucial. Using data Belleayre has worked up for the scoping document to show a greater public demand is hugely suspect because the ski center perpetually issues deeply discounted tickets.

So, using popularity as a justification for expansion is bogus. Besides, Belleayre annually runs at a substantial loss, a loss taxpayers subsidize. With expansion, it will lose even more.

As a business venture, a ski resort in the southern end of the snow belt seems especially idiotic to me as we head for a predicted warming trend caused by climate change. Why in the world should state taxpayers not only support such a venture, but throw more money into it?

Another irritation that also casts a pall on this shady deal, is that the September agreement apparently included this major expansion of Belleayre as part of the sweetener. Public money spent to help a private developer profit, which in a word, stinks.

The Adirondack Mountain Club also notes as a legal objection, the view that Highmount can't be bought into the Catskill forest preserve one day, and then become an operational addition to Belleayre the next. There's a constitutional process to follow, says the ADK, and that's being avoided. We'll be curious to see if the DEC chides itself over this.

But as I noted, all these considerations aside, we can't be sure the scoping document offers long-delayed relief for Gitter. Even a casual look at the questions he needs to answer about his development, which include evaluating the carbon footprint and the impact on global warming, suggests lots of new hoops and obstacles that must be negotiated. That could take a long time and plenty of money.

The multi-hatted DEC, of course, knows it's being watched very closely by friend and foe. So predictably it's moving very carefully, But I am also reminded that creating an arduous path in the environmental quality review process for a developer is a long-time favorite way of the state's hoping it all just goes away.

Sometimes it does. Now, wouldn't that be the best. Including expansion of Belleayre, incidentally.

Fred LeBrun can be reached at 454-5453 or by e-mail at [email protected].


Summit Sprawling Catskills

The difference betweeen casino traffic and the traffic genrated by 620 time share owners every week as they come and go - especially on the weekends when the change over from one week to the next happens is what? I am appalled at the lack of involvement that this organization has shown towards the Save the Mountain folks. Aren't we all trying to preserve the same area?


Catskill Interpretive Center in Budget Finally

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Suddenly, it's 'critical'

All hail the state Legislature. Its members really know a "critical" need when they see one.


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Or, put another way, even if it takes a little time - like, say, 20 years - you can depend on state legislators to get around to finding even the pork that is hiding way down at the bottom of the hogshead barrel.


It was announced last week that the 2008-09 state budget will include $1 million for the long-forsaken Catskill Interpretive Center, a visitors' facility that first was planned 20 years ago for a site off state Route 28 in Mount Tremper. The center would showcase the region's natural, historic and cultural assets.


The funding was announced by John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope, who sits on the state Senate's Budget Subcommittee.


We don't doubt that such a center could be a valuable educational resource for the region. There's a lot to celebrate about the Catskills.


But it is particularly ironic that this project, first proposed under Gov. Mario Cuomo but stalled under Gov. George Pataki as of arguable value for the money, has been approved now that the state budget is wallowing in red ink ... with a national economic crisis deepening by the day ... and with no bottom in sight.


The project was resurrected shortly after Gov. Eliot Spitzer took office in January 2007 and apparently survived his rapid departure last month.


Bonacic, we suppose, is doing his job as state legislators define their jobs and altogether too many constituents apparently agree. He is bringing home the bacon, even if that errand is part of a greater legislative pathology of reckless spending that helps make New York a place where it is more expensive to live and do business than is healthy.


Thus, the senator is able to declare, with apparently no sense of irony, that the funding of the Catskill Interpretive Center, after 20 years of languishing, is a "critical project." Imagine how long it would have taken if the center were not "critical," but, rather, discretionary.


And imagine if the same sense of legislative urgency attached to, say, a finding that the Ashokan Reservoir spillway were about to collapse. Puts a whole different spin on the concept of "critical," wouldn't you say?


As it is, the "critical project" will still be $6 million short of the money needed to complete it, estimated by the Friends of the Catskill Interpretive Center to cost about $7 million. That group has pledged to raise $1.75 million, meaning someone, somehow will have to come up with another $4.25 million to bring the project to fruition.


We suspect another decade or more of delays are in the offing for this "critical project."


As for the state budget process? It's on the critical list.




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April 13, 2008 -- THE birthplace of fly fishing in this country is nestled in the mountains of the western Catskills, an area that offers history and tradition in the sport.

The Beaverkill, East and West Branches of the Delaware River, Willowemoc and Bushkill are among the renowned trout waters that flow through Delaware County.

The area has been popular among anglers for more than a century, and every year Catskill rivers and streams attract new legions of fishermen.

The smaller streams and rivers that course through the western Catskills are only a few of the angling options. For those in search of trophy fish, the Pepacton and Cannonsville reservoirs offer excellent opportunities.

The biggest catches come from these reservoirs. When their respective seasons open, trophy brown trout, smallmouth bass and pickerel are among the species that challenge sporting enthusiasts on these waters.

The New York City DEP, which oversees these waters, has made it easy to get fishing permits for the reservoirs with online registration at New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) fishing permits are easy to get at local sports stores or at the local town clerk's office.

Seasoned fishermen recognize the way to live large while seeking the big one is to rent a private cabin with all the comforts of home - and great fishing just minutes away.

For fishermen visiting the Hancock area (where the East and West Branches of the Delaware River converge), a full-service resort such as the West Branch Angler ( is a great place to stay. The resort comes complete with a restaurant, an Orvis store, and knowledgeable river guides on staff.

Up the East Branch of the Delaware River, the Pepacton Reservoir and smaller, challenging streams await in the Downsville area.

Whether you're in the mood for stream fishing or trophy reservoir trout, Downsville lodging options such as Pepacton Cabins ( or the affordable Downsville Motel ( are favorites. Al's Sports Store in Downsville ( supplies everything an angler needs - from gear to a private river guide.

For those visiting the Deposit area and the lower edge of the Cannonsville Reservoir, lodging options include the new Eagle Valley Cabins ( or private home rentals, such as Dream Catcher Lodge ( with one mile of riverfront access. In nearby Walton, Catskill Outfitters ( can take care of all your gear needs.

The easiest way to gather information about fishing in the great western Catskills is to contact the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce, which offers a full-color, online fishing guide/map at

[email protected]


Western PA landowners regret deep gas wells deals

Western PA landowners regret deep gas wells deals

Gasses bubbling out of the ground and into drinking wells and ponds


WASHINGTON COUNTY, PA - At first, farmer Ron Gulla and horse farm owner Joyce Mitchell were excited about the prospect of making money from gas drilling. Now, after more than two years of the presence of drilling companies with their heavy trucks and huge drill rigs, they and many of their neighbors wish they had never signed a lease.

“They say one thing to you when they want you to sign, and quite another thing when you’ve signed your land over to them and they begin to do what they want to it,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said the gas company?Range Resources, a subsidiary of Halliburton?told her they would drill only one well. Then, when gas was discovered in a nearby well, they came in and drilled four over her and her husband’s objections.

“Our lawyer said to go along with them since they have so many lawyers on their side that we could never win,” she said.

The Mitchells receive about $900 a year for all four wells, not $900 apiece, she said. “They’re very secretive about everything, are arrogant and tell you nothing,” she said.

Last January, they told her that they struck gas on her property. “That was nearly four months ago and we’ve received nothing,” she said. Her contract is for 14 percent. She doesn’t know whether it’s from the total gas amount or from the net profit. “We’re at their mercy and have to trust them.”

Gulla, has had his 141-acre farm destroyed by the drilling, he said. His water well gets muddy whenever it rains, which never occurred before the drilling. The water in his pond is brackish and he has had a fish kill.

“People are getting methane in their well like I am,” he said. “It’s happening all around me.”

Down the road from him, Emil Alexander, a retired farmer, has had some bad experiences as well.

“Gas started welling up in the middle of my fields,” he said. “I could only see it when it rained and you could see it bubbling up.”

Alexander complained to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and they came out but didn’t do a whole lot, he said.

“There was so much gas around that they put monitors up in my house and told me that I might have to move out until the problem was resolved,” he said. “I really don’t want to move.”

The cause of the escaping gas was unknown to the DEP. “They said it might be from another old well that was drilled years ago,” he said. “When they drill a well, they put a whole lot of pressure down the well and I guess the gas gets loose and comes to the surface. Something comes to the surface; whether it’s natural gas or methane makes no difference to me. I just want my air and water to be clear.”

Another neighbor, who withheld his name because he was afraid of reprisals, said his well water started to show a dark color. When he complained to the DEP, they only tested for ordinary things like pH, sodium and hard water. “They didn’t test for chemicals and other things that might be in the well drilling fluids,” he said. “When I complained to the company about the color in the water and said that it was caused by a drilling well on another property near to mine, they said, ‘Prove it.’”

Before drilling is begun, a landowner should have the water tested for baseline items, he said. “The only problem is that such tests can be very costly.”

Gulla, Alexander and Mitchell said that the drilling companies are ruining their once bucolic countryside. “The worst part of it is that the damage they are doing can never be reversed,” Gulla said. “It is forever.”

Contributed photo  
Stone dust gushes into the air on a horse farm in Hickory, PA from a gas drilling rig. The dust, which was released for several hours on April 6, filled the valley across many acres and was breathed in by family members and by the owner’s horses. It ceased when the owner went to the site complaining and taking pictures. (Click for larger version)

Windham High Peak Meeting, Comment Period Set

Windham High Peak Meeting, Comment Period Set

Date: 2008-04-14
Original Article:
Distributed by:

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will hold a public meeting to gather input on a draft amendment to the Windham High Peak Wild Forest Unit Management Plan (UMP) on Wednesday, April 30, 2008 at the Windham Town Hall in Hensonville at 6:00 p.m. The town hall is located on Route 296 in Hensonville, approximately 1.4 miles south of its intersection with Route 23 in Windham, Greene County.

( - The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will hold a public meeting to gather input on a draft amendment to the Windham High Peak Wild Forest Unit Management Plan (UMP) on Wednesday, April 30, 2008 at the Windham Town Hall in Hensonville at 6:00 p.m. The town hall is located on Route 296 in Hensonville, approximately 1.4 miles south of its intersection with Route 23 in Windham, Greene County.

The draft amendment proposes to designate approximately 12 miles of multiple use trails for mountain biking, hiking and cross country skiing. Currently there are almost seven miles of existing trails and old roads that are suitable for designation as multiple use trails. Nearly five miles of new trail construction will be required to complete the new multiple use trail proposal.

The popularity of mountain biking has increased locally since the Windham High Peak Wild Forest UMP was adopted in 1994. Interest in developing mountain bike trails has also increased and a proposal to do so was received in early 2006 from local mountain bike enthusiasts. To accommodate the increased interest, DEC is proposing to amend the Windham High Peak Wild Forest UMP and evaluate the proposal and its compatibility with the guidance for developing multiple use trails in a Wild Forest area. .

A public meeting was held in May 2006 as a preliminary step for a Windham High Peak Wild Forest UMP revision that was scheduled to take place. Since that meeting, DEC decided to treat changes in the Windham High Peak Wild Forest UMP as an amendment to the plan rather than a revision. Issues that were raised at the public meeting included the need for multiple use trails, including cross country skiing, mountain biking, trail running and snowmobile. The public also commented that parking at the Big Hollow Road and Peck Road parking lots is inadequate.

In response to the issues raised at the public meeting, DEC is proposing an expansion of the Peck Road parking lot to accommodate five additional vehicles, which should help avoid conflicts between winter season users and snow removal at the area. Additionally, a new parking area is proposed across the road from the snowplow turnaround at the Big Hollow Road trailhead, accommodating 15 additional vehicles.

There are nearly 4,300 acres within the unit. It's the northernmost management unit in the Catskill Park, located in Greene County. It's the namesake of the 3524 foot Windham High Peak located on the Escarpment Range.

Those unable to attend the meeting may write, phone or e-mail their comments to Frank Parks in the Region 4 Forestry office in Stamford. Copies of the amendment are available at DEC's website at or by contacting the Stamford DEC office. The Forestry office is located at 65561 State Highway 10, Suite One, Stamford, NY 12167; email: [email protected]; phone: (607) 652-7365. Comments on the amendment will be accepted until May 19, 2008.


Agri-tourism businesses get state funding

ALBANY – Almost $70,000 has been awarded to two agri-tourism projects in the Catskills. The grants were announced Thursday by state Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker.

Agri-tourism provides added value to existing commodities and services, Hooker said.

  • Rondout Valley Growers Association in Ulster County will receive $22,060 for its Rondout Valley Farm Tour.
  • Woodstock Chamber of Commerce and Arts, Inc. in Ulster County will receive $46,525 for its Wednesdays its Woodstock program, a weekly town-wide agriculture and food-oriented program.

The agri-tourism grants provide up to $50,000 in matching funds for projects involving traditional agri-tourism activities, as well as new approaches in promoting New York food and agriculture.


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