Annual Report

Forty Fifth Annual BKAA Report, October 21, 2017

by Paula Medley, President

Ever the opportunist, the BKAA utilized each occasion to promote the wetlands and our organization, which ultimately enhanced networking, outreach, and educational purposes.

BKAA Board: Like last year, the board’s composition remained unchanged.

Developments in the Basha Kill Watershed:

It was a very busy year, characterized by consistent activity. Mamakating’s Draft Comprehensive Plan, Thompson Education Center, Beautiful Earth, Dragon Springs, Paradise Il, Sugar Gum and Dunntown Solar Farms, and Hopper Hill Sand and Gravel Mine generated ongoing BKAA advocacy. Notably, there was not a “peep” from 7 Peaks. However, this project, though dormant, has not disappeared and undoubtedly will resurface in the future.

Mamakating’s Draft Comprehensive Plan:

  • The Plan’s Steering Committee (Committee) met every two weeks throughout the year.
  • May 1 1 – The town-wide hydrogeological study was “unveiled” at a Committee session.
  • June 8 – The Committee received the draft Plan.
  • June 20 – The Plan was presented to the Town Board for the first time.
  • July 20 – The Committee held its first public hearing on the Plan. Earlier, Sullivan County’s Legislature honored the Committee for advancing the first town-wide hydrogeological study accomplished in any county town.
  • July 31 – The Committee conducted its second public hearing, unanimously approved the Plan, and sent it to the Town Board for review and eventual adoption.
  • August 19 – The Town Board held two public hearings, one on the Plan and the other regarding a Moratorium on certain uses such as new mines, quarries, extractive industries, and junkyards. Bill Lucas ably represented the BKAA at the Moratorium hearing.

Thompson Education Center (TEC) aka China City of America:

  • February – TEC applied to drill more test wells and construct relevant access roads, even though their property’s wetland validation expired on December 31, 2016.
  • April 12 – Thompson’s planning board declared its Intent to be Lead Agency for TEC’s environmental review. Subsequently, a Notice of Intent was sent to all involved and interested agencies. The BKAA, Yankee Lake Preservation Association, Wolf Lake, and Town of Mamakating were designated interested agencies by the board.
  • May 8 – BKAA Consulting Attorney John Lyons wrote to Fallsburg’s Supervisor, indicating it would be illegal, constituting segmentation, for Fallsburg to grant any approvals for TEC’s proposed Security/Caretaker Facility off Renner Road.
  • May 18 – Mamakating’s town board unanimously passed a resolution opposing TEC May 23 – John Lyons wrote to Thompson’s planning board, requesting that no further TEC test wells be drilled until a DEC wetland revalidation was completed.
  • July 21 – John Lyons sent a letter to Fallsburg’s Code Enforcement Officer urging denial of a building permit for TEC’s proposed single family residence (in place of withdrawn Security/Caretaker Facility) due to segmentation concerns.
  • July 21 – Initial DEC Comments on TEC’s Revised Application, where DEC critically indicated that the “wetland boundary needs to be revalidated by the Department” September 13 – Thompson’s planning board declared itself Lead Agency and issued a Positive Declarations for TEC’s project, determining that it will generate significant environmental impacts, necessitating a draft Generic Environmental Impact State-ment for the entire development, with only Phase I examined in detail.

Beautiful Earth:

  • November 20, 2016 – BE developer Lex Heslin presented his proposal at a special BKAA board meeting.
  • November 22 – Initial BE presentation before Mamakating’s planning board.
  • December 27 – BE before planning board
  • January 20 – BKAA Consulting Ecologist Erik Kiviat from Hudsonia made his preliminary BE assessment.
  • January 24 – Paula Medley testified on the BKAA’s behalf at BE’s public hearing. Andy Willingham wrote his initial BE evaluation.
  • Sullivan County Planning sent its 239 BE Review.
  • February 17 – Willingham wrote his second set of BE remarks.
  • March 3 – BE was discussed at a planning board workshop.
  • March 28 – The planning board approved BE’s amended site plan and special use permit with conditions.
  • Present – BE’s site plan has not been signed by the planning board chairman as some fees remain outstanding.

Dragon Springs (DS):

  • December 30, 2016 – Response on DEC Jurisdiction of DS relating to area variance requests.
  • February 14 – Willingham’s Rebuttal of DS revised variance application.
  • April 20 – Deerpark’s Zoning Board of Appeals granted DS four area variances.
  • June 20 – Deerpark Rural Alliance hosted a Deerpark Conversation.

Paradise Il Conversion from Summer Resort to Summer Camp for Adolescent Boys:

April 27 – Mamakating’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) conducted a public hearing on Paradise ll.

  • May 10 – Willingham’s engineering comments were sent to the ZBA.
  • May 23 – Mamakating’s planning board held a public hearing regarding Paradise Il’s site plan and special use approvals. Paula Medley testified on the BKAA’s behalf. June 27 – The planning board granted site plan and special use approvals conditioned upon a Resolution being reviewed by the board at the next meeting.
  • Present – Paradise Il has not appeared before the board since June 27.

Sugar Gum and Dunntown Solar Farms:

  • September 26 – Mamakating’s planning board held a public hearing, where Paula spoke for the BKAA, indicating organizational opposition to the solar proposals.

Hopper Hill Sand and Gravel Mine:

  • Present – Hopper Hill still has not received DEC Notice of Completed Application for their mining permit nor have they submitted- any formal application to Mamakating’sPlanning Board.


The BKAA carefully nurtured new contacts and constantly revitalized connections with long-standing friends and supporters. These priceless collaborations, with their myriad resources, positively influenced BKAA accomplishments.

  • Cathy Dawkins, Come Clean Coordinator, continued networking with property owner David Groskin to maintain the “Gateway to the Bashakill” garden at the Old Moose Lodge and one in front of Wurtsboro’s laundromat.

The BKAA retained its affiliation with Sullivan County Visitors’ Association (SCVA), whose website and publications highlight our programs and wetlands ecosystem. On December 1, Michael and Paula Medley attended SCVA’s Annual Meeting and Holiday Party and participated in SCVA’s Annual Literature exchange at Forestburgh Playhouse on May 1 1.

  • BKAA partnered with Trailkeeper, a coalition of Sullivan County organizations who promote their events on a collaborative website, and also attended Sullivan County Trail Committee meetings.

BKAA maintained membership in the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed.

  • BKAA minimally networked with area politicians.
  • BKAA enjoyed consistent backing from loyal supporters: Concerned Residents of Wurtsboro, Friends of the Shawangunks, Orange County Land Trust, Phillipsport Community Center, Rock Hill Neighborhood Coalition, and Sullivan County Audubon Society.
  • Due to TEC’s threats, we received invaluable assistance from Yankee Lake Preservation Association, Masten Lake’s Mamakating Property Owner’s Civic Association, Wanaksink Lake Club, and Wolf Lake.
  • For the BKAA, Paula assisted Columbia Hill Neighborhood Alliance, Deerpark Rural Alliance, and Fallsburg’s Future.
  • Regular communication occurred with DEC Bashakill Manager, Nate Ermer, who consistently updated DEC activity at the Wildlife Management Area in our Guardian. BKAA input to DEC and a local scout troop facilitated a successful Eagle Scout bench construction project at the Basha Kill.
  • 30, 2016 – Paula presented before Sullivan County Sustainability Advocates. Feb. 4, 2017 – Michael and Paula attended a social and informational meeting on the Long Path, held at Mason’s Marketplace in New Hampton and sponsored by NY-NJ Trail Conference.

March 1 1 – Michael and Paula attended Sullivan Renaissance’s Annual Conference, where the BKAA was honored with the Earth Award.

  • April 23 – Michael and Paula participated in the Eileen Haworth Weil Scholarship Fund Brunch, where the BKAA was one of several saluted by the Sullivan County Human Rights Commission.
  • October 15 – Susan Erny addressed southern “Gunks” issues at Friends of the Shawangunks Annual Meeting.
  • October 20 – Michael and Paula attended Sullivan County Audubon Society’s Annual Meeting.

Come Clean 2017 Report:

By Cathy Dawkins and Patricia Diness

Come Clean started the summer with an early clean-up and maintenance of our two gardens — one in front of the laundromat in Wurtsboro and one at the corner of Haven Road and Route 209 near Westbrookville. The early summer efforts included weeding, trimming, raking and pruning. All prior plantings are healthy and happy — some, including a white rosebush at the Laundromat and various Russian Sages at Haven Road, were so healthy as to be overgrowing their allotted space! We planted our usual — red Dragon Wing Begonias in the Laundry garden, but did not add any annuals to the Haven Road garden as the bulbs, astilbe and Russian sage add plenty of color and have filled in the whole garden.

We have a unofficial — but dedicated — helper at the Laundry Garden. Gary Dodd has a green thumb of his own and tends this garden lovingly throughout the season. If you see him about, please thank him!

The Haven Road garden had a lush year with all of the summer rains. Keeping the fastgrowing weeds and the fast-growing plantings under control was a challenge. The birds have planted a few pokeberry plants and nightshade vines, which thrived in the rains. Our intentionally planted Russian Sage has self-seeded to the point that we will do some thinning in the Spring. The Rose-of-Sharon was spectacular in late season, the hydrangeas, lovely, and our evergreens are simply magnificent specimens. By season’s end, the garden was back under control — and the team is reminded what a joy to see them thriving, without any need to water.

Our local woodchuck was disappointed not to have some annuals, but the bumble bees and honey bees were buzzing and active during the final day of weeding.

Local Environmental Activities:

February 1 1 – BKAA sponsored Ravensbeard’s “Live Bird Show” at Wurtsboro’s Win-

  • June 3 – Opening Reception of the Basha Kill inspired art show, a collaboration between the Wurtsboro Art Alliance and BKAA
  • July 12 – The BKAA co-sponsored Leah Rudge’s program on invasive species at the Mamakating Library.
  • July 15 – Bill Lucas, Michael, and Paula represented the BKAA at Wurtsboro’s Founder’s Day
  • September 16 – The BKAA co-sponsored Kerron Barnes’ talk on Mamakating trails at the Mamakating Library.


In 2017, Colleen Crosby, Elizabeth Lopez, Kaitlyn Ponte, Lukas Redzimski, Skyler Redzimski, Maria Shestakov, and Taylor Vero all attended Camp De Bruce in the Catskills, where they encountered adventures that enhanced their self-confidence and environmental awareness.

Jack Orth Memorial Scholarship:

There were no applicants this year.

Catherine Abate Memorial BKAA Scholarship:

The following graduating high school seniors received the 1st Annual Catherine Abate Memorial BKAA Scholarship, funded by Michael Abate to honor his late wife Catherine, a passionate environmental activist. Their winning essays focused on local environmental problems and ways to mitigate them.

Congratulations to:

Zachary Alexander – Ellenville Central School District Molly Mulhare – Pine Bush Central School District

Truth Muller – Home Schooled – Monticello Central School District.

John Winkler Memorial Water Testing Program 2017:

Linda Lou Bartle – Water Testing Chairperson

  • Wilsey Brook at 1st Street In Wurtsboro – Normal results were collected from April thru June but the brook dried out by the end of June. Hoping for some water by the end of November.
  • Gumaer Brook at McDonald Road – The water was at low flow levels for most of the year but healthy testing results prevailed.
  • Waterfall at South Road – April thru June testing with clean results. Mostly dry after that point and not able to test.
  • Ballpark at South Road – All normal to very good test results at this site, showing why it is a popular fishing spot.
  • Rt 17 at South Road – Good test results from April until July. Very low water levels caused the Dissolved Oxygen DO) to hit very low levels in August but with a rebound in late September testing.
  • Pine Kill Stream at Rt 209 Westbrookville – Water levels were just a little low for most of the year. Testing results were all very good and stable at this site with very little fluctuation in pH.
  • Handicap Ramp Site at County Road 61 – Results were good April thru June but dissolved oxygen dropped significantly later in the year. We measure the distance from the top rail to the water at this site on each test date. Sometimes the water just stops flowing over the small dam and this year it struggled to flow. By August and September, without rain, our results were very low DO numbers. Still flowing enough for Shad from the Neversink River to get into the Basha Kill and unfortunately, perish from low oxygen levels that native Basha Kill can fish tolerate.
  • Haven Road Bridge – Water gets bottled up here but keeps moving under the bridge and keeps pH and conductivity levels stable. The Dissolved Oxygen levels are famously low at this site and did drop consistently from mid June thru the rest of the year. I had no large scale fish kills reported at this site this year and expect the DO to spring back by late November.

Basha Kill Walks and Education Calendar:

These activities are crucial to the BKAA core mission, which teaches the value of wetlands, the Shawangunk Ridge, and surrounding areas, along with ways to safeguard them.

Paula established the BKAA’s educational itinerary and assembled the experts who implemented it.

John Haas took 20 birders on his “Early Spring Waterfowl Walk” and another 12 on his “Spring Bird Migration” venture. Michael shepherded 5 hikers up Gobbler’s Knob and others on his later Shawangunk Ridge and Huckleberry Ridge forays. Scott Graber introduced 6 neophytes to his:Birding for Beginners.” Bill Cutler captivated 15 visitors with his “Happy for Herps” outing. Gary Keeton escorted 16 on the D&H Canal/O & W trail loop. 4 on his “MoonlightRamble,” several on his “Sunrise Walk,” and 6 on an excursion highlighting D&H Canal history. Jack Austin led 3 aficionados on his “Natural History” trip. Scott Graber and Michael guided 14 vessels during their popular “Moonlight Paddle” and captained a group of 6 in late September.

  • October 31, 2016 – The BKAA hosted 42 6th graders from Robert J. Kaiser Middle School in Monticello. Jack Austin, MaryAnn Halchak, and Michael participated.
  • April 1 – Nature Watch Orientation
  • April 22 – BKAA launched its 36th Annual Basha Kill Cleanup with over 100 volunteers.
  • May 17 – Kevin Keller, Michael, and Paula -facilitated Leadership Sullivan’s Class of 2017 “Basha Kill Day” with on-site presentations and spotting scope viewing.
  • June 10 – Marty Borko led 1 1 Middletown Garden Lovers members on a Basha Kill tour.
  • September 15 – The BKAA was represented at the grand opening of Mamakating’s Environmental Interpretive Center by Paula, Michael, and numerous members.
  • September 24 – BKAA Fundraiser at Bashakill Vineyards, co-sponsored by Nature Watch and Vineyards owner Paul Deninno. Volunteers helping included: Nora Brusinski, Ed and Nancy Duvinski, Maryallison Farley, Kevin Keller, Don Kenny, Kelly Macaluso, Michael and Paula Medley.
  • September 30: The BKAA was a sponsor of the Mamakating Lions Wine and Walk Fundraiser at the Bashakill Vineyards and offered guided ambles with Gary Keeton,

Michael, and spotting scope perusal with Linda Lou.

Nature Watch:

Maryallison Farley

In its 15th year of operation, a dedicated cadre of BKAA Nature Watch volunteers (48 individuals) worked as educational ambassadors for the Basha Kill. They also recorded observations about the behavior of the nesting bald eagles and ospreys. Our volunteers are situated at the South Road boat launch site, one of the key access points for recreational users of the Basha Kill. It is a perfect location for this program since it offers excellent views of the nesting raptors, especially when our powerful spotting scopes are focused on these raptor nests.

Two bald eagle chicks in the long-established southern nest thrived this season under the watchful eyes of their parents. The eaglets successfully fledged during the week of June 19. In spite of several nest-building attempts, the osprey did not have an active nest this year. Birding expert John Haas wondered if perhaps one of the pair had been lost and thesurvivor was unable to find a new mate. We’ll be watching closely next year. During this season, there was also an exciting new development with bald eagles at the Basha Kill as a second pair of bald eagles successfully built a new nest north of Haven Road. Two eaglets also fledged from that nest.

The Nature Watch year began with the annual Volunteer Training which included an excellent presentation by Nathan “Nate” Ermer, DEC Wildlife Biologist & Manager of the Bashakill Wildlife Management Area. He focused on what makes this wetland regionally significant, while also reviewing DEC management plans for the Basha Kill. Elly Knieriemen, local nature photographer and teacher, then showed her beautiful images of the Basha Kill with special emphasis on her photos of bald eagles. With the Training under their belts, the Nature Watch Team then covered week-end shifts at the boat launch from April 22nd to June 25th (ten weeks) and logged in approximately 1,522 visitors (up 10 from last year and 425 boats (up 1 1 1 from 2016). At the end of the season, we send the summary of our data and weekly observations to the DEC for their use. On Sunday, September 24th we wrapped up our 15th Nature Watch season by hosting another BKAA Fundraiser at Paul Deninno’sBashaKilI Vineyards. The extreme heat and humidity kept our numbers lower than usual but we still drew a good-sized crowd. Happily, we were able to raise some $2,500 for the BKAA — thanks in part to Paul Deninno’s generosity. Special thanks go to nature photographer Kevin Kreischer for the donation of his beautiful wood duck photo for a raffle which garnered $400 for the BKAA. Paul’s wine and ale were a big part of the draw, along with delicious farm-to-table food offered by Chef Samara Ferris. The centerpiece of our event was the return of Bill Streeter from the Delaware Valley Raptor Center with his incomparable live birds of prey progranm

Paula Medley, Nora Brusinski and Nancy and Ed Duvinski made up our wonderful meet and greet crew. New this year, a special Parking Patrol group helped keep the parking situation in order. Thanks to Kevin Keller, Kelly Macaluso and Don Kenny for this assistance.

All of our volunteers are at the core of this program including Co-Leaders Maryallison Farley, Cathy Liljequist and Kevin Keller. Cath is our admin. expert, handling the data input and summary. Thanks especially to Cath for taking on this job which requires great attention to detail and computer skills! Kevin works hands-on with our volunteers, spending most of his time with them at the boat launch. He is great at helping volunteers communicate with visitors, letting them know what a special resource we have here and the role that the BKAA plays in protecting and advocating for it. Basha Kill birder extraordinaire, John Haas, our key birding resource person and Gary Keeton, long-time Basha Kill naturalist, completed the 2017 Nature Watch Team. It’s truly a team effort Thanks to all! See you next season.

Other Outreach Events:

  • January 29 – Michael and Paula attended Eric Horstman’s presentation on Cerro Blanco in Grahamsville. Paula discussed BKAA with event participants.
  • April 20 – Paula oversaw a BKAA informational display at Earth Day festivities at SUNY Sullivan in Loch Sheldrake.
  • April 26 – Michael presented on the BKAA and Basha Kill wetland at a regional conference of garden clubs held at Bernie’s in Rock Hill.
  • May 14 – Paula represented the BKAA at the 6th Annual Tulip Festival at Honor’s Haven in Ellenville.
  • August 27 – Michael and Paula managed a BKAA materials table at Columbia Hill’s Friend-Raiser in Hurleyville.

A Birding Guide to Sullivan County, New York including the Bashakill Wildlife :

Management Area

John Haas’s book, which continues to educate and pique interest, is available at Canal Towne Emporium and Bashakill Vineyards in Wurtsboro, Morgan Outdoors in Livingston Manor, and online.

Field Guide to the Basha Kill:

“The Basha Kill Wetlands: a Field Guide” is a pivotal publication educating readers about the wetlands and generating excitement about this unique ecosystem. Guides may be purchased at the Bashakill Vineyards and Canal Towne Emporium, Morgan Outdoors, and online. Books are also available at all Sullivan County libraries, Cragsmoor Free Library, Port Jervis Free Library, and SUNY Orange.

BKAA Brochures:

The BKAA’s visually appealing brochure continues to be a vital public outreach tool.

Membership Chair/Corresponding Secretary, Recording Secretary, and Treasurer:

These key board functions were competently executed by Marcia Briggs Wallace, Christine Saward, and Monique Lipton. Thanks for an amazing commitment of time and energy.


  • The Bashakill gratefully recognizes Susan O’Neill’s ongoing dedication as our public relations guru, writing and distributing all press releases. Special thanks to Bill Lucas for assuming the BKAA’s critical email coordinator role this past year and to Justina Burton for her invaluable work in facilitating the email process.
  • Our website,, and BKAA Alerts update BKAA programs, supply general news, and rapidly galvanize members for advocacy. Kudos to Maryallison Farley for being the BKAA’s contact with our webmaster and for her outstanding efforts this year in redesigning the website, making it more user friendly, packed with content and filled with beautiful photos.
  • After years of excellently volunteering as the BKAA Alerts Coordinator, Hattie Grifo retired in 2017. We gratefully acknowledge her inestimable contributions to the BKAA. Jon Heaphy of Liberty Press now functions as Alerts Coordinator.
  • The BKAA is part of social media, having a Facebook page competently administered by Linda Lou Bartle.
  • Thank you to Liberty Press and Jon Heaphy for orchestrating the Guardian’s online operation and for patiently managing Paula’s Type A personality, as do so many others. Also, kudos to Jon for designing and organizing the Guardian’s layout.

BKAA Consultants:

Consulting Engineer Andy Willingham routinely FOILed DEC for updated data on pertinent advocacy issues. He also addressed Beautiful Earth, Dragon Springs, and Paradise Il matters. Consulting attorney John Lyons dealt with TEC. Consulting Ecologist Erik Kiviat assessed Beautiful Earth’s impact on local habitat The BKAA is extremely fortunate to collaborate with such a talented, dedicated team. Thank you everyone!

Respectfully Submitted,