Annual Report

Forty Seventh Annual BKAA Report, October 19, 2019

by Paula Medley, President

Ever the opportunist, the BKAA utilized myriad opportunities to promote the wetlands and our organization, which ultimately enhanced networking, outreach, and educational pursuits.

BKAA Board: “Change is in the air.” Sadly, both Membership Chair, Marcia Briggs Wallace, and board member/water testing coordinator, Linda Lou Bartle, will retire as of the 2019 Annual Meeting. Bob Muller officially assumes Marcia’s role then, while Cliff Johnson and Martin Nankin join the board pending Annual Meeting approval, Cliff becoming Recording Secretary for Christine Saward, who remains on the board.

Developments in the Basha Kill Watershed:

While this year’s advocacy was sporadic, the BKAA critically intervened on Mamakating’s draft Comprehensive Plan, Dragon Springs, Thompson Education Center and 7 Peaks.

Mamakating’s Draft Comprehensive Plan

  • April 20, 2019- Paula Medley represented the BKAA at the Plan’s public hearing before Mamakating’s town board.
  • June 18- Town Board adopted the Plan’s Final Environmental Impact Statement.
  • July 16 – Town Board adopted the Findings Statement and Plan.
  • Present – Zoning is being reviewed and modified to ensure compliance with new Plan.

Dragon Springs (DS):

  • November 11, 2018 – Deerpark’s planning board held two public hearings on DS proposals, constructing a traffic loop across DS Guymard Turnpike Entrance and creating a large-scale solar farm.
  • April 10, 2019 – BKAA consulting engineer Andy Willingham testified at Deerpark planning board’s public hearing on DS Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), reflecting current expansion as well as cumulative site development impacts since 2000.
  • May 8 – DEIS written comments due.
  • May 22 – Proposal for commercial/residential development on Galley Hill Road, 21,00 sq. ft. building, 21 apartments, and 120 parking spaces, all within the Basha Kill watershed.
    Planning board required DS to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) on their expansion plans as the DEIS did not adequately address concerns.
  • June 21 – Deerpark Rural Alliance (DRA) fundraiser at D&H Canal Park in Cuddebackville.
  • September 2- DRA, BKAA, and Friends of the Shawangunks discussed DS issues with State Senator Jen Metzger and staff.
  • Present – Still awaiting the SEIS and more site plan information on Galley Hill’s commercial/residential venture.

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

  • TEC has not appeared before Thompson’s planning board since September 13, 2017.
  • 2018 – TEC purchased a 67 acre Thompson parcel on Wild Turnpike as a second access to their 568 acre development site.
  • July 2 – Public hearing before Thompson’s town board on local law #6 to enact new and revised definitions of camps, bungalows, schools, and dorms. Written comments accepted until July 16.
  • Present – The town board and consultants continue reviewing the proposed local law and will undoubtedly recommend modifications, precipitating additional public input.

7 Peaks:

  • November 13 – At Mamakating planning board’s work session, a reconfigured 7 Peaks on 554 acres owned by Shalom Lamm, upslope from the Basha Kill on the west and overlooking Winterton Road on the east, was discussed.
  • Present – Nothing has transpired since November 13.


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.

  • The BKAA retained its affiliation with Sullivan Catskills Visitors Association (SCVA), whose website and publications highlight our programs and wetland ecosystem. On May 8, Bill Lucas and Paula Medley participated in SCVA’s Annual Literature Exchange at Kartrite Resort and Indoor Water Park in Monticello
  • BKAA partnered with Trailkeeper, a coalition of Sullivan County organizations who promote their events on a collaborative website, with Paula attending several Sullivan County trail committee meetings in 2019.
  • BKAA maintained membership in the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed.
  • BKAA minimally networked with local politicians, but interacted with State Senator Jen Metzger on 2 occasions.
  • BKAA enjoyed consistent backing from loyal supporters: Deerpark Rural Alliance (DRA), Concerned Residents of Winterton, and Friends of the Shawangunks.
  • For the BKAA, Paula mentored DRA.
  • Regular communication ensued with DEC Bashakill Wildlife Manager, Nate Ermer, who updated DEC activity at the Wildlife Management Area in our Guardian and attended the Nature Watch orientation and BKAA fundraiser.
  • February 7, 2019- Paula met with Mamakating Library Director Peggy Johansen to discuss mutual concerns.
  • March 21 – Paula represented the BKAA at DEC’s Volunteer Partner Meeting in New Paltz.
  • May 18 – Michael Medley and Paula networked at Sullivan Renaissance’s Annual Conference at the Center for Discovery in Hurleyville.
  • June 21 – BKAA members networked at DRA’s fundraiser.

Come Clean:

Maintaining Our Gardens
by Cathy Dawkins and Patricia Diness

Once again, the Come Clean Team did an early summer clean-up and maintenance of our two gardens. In both gardens (one in front of the laundromat in Wurtsboro and the other at the corner of Haven Road and Route 209 near Westbrookville our Spring work involved weeding, trimming, raking and pruning. Several times, during the season, we visited for simple weeding. The rains were good for everything – trees, grasses, sage, and weeds. In the late September, we visited, andpulled out even more weeds.

  • Our four evergreen trees are quite simply – beautiful. They are tall, thick, and healthy, producing lush needles and beautiful cones. In the next year or two, we will need to consider how to prune at least one of the Japanese White Pines, as its branches are reaching out towards Haven Road. At the onset, we were advised that keeping the branches from the snow plows is the key!
  • The Russian Sage has seeded excessively. Little seedlings had to be weeded out, sadly.
  • The Rose of Sharon has also seeded quite a bit. In fact, I took a few of the seedlings from under the pines and put them in my own yard. I was pleased to get TWO blossoms in September. I’m hoping for a robust season next year. If anyone else would like to come get some of these little seedlings, contact me at and I will arrange to meet you at the garden.

Local Environmental Activities:

    • March 9, 2019- BKAA cosponsored Lance Verderame/John Haas “Birds of the Basha Kill” presentation at Mamakating Library, which included John signing his newly released 3rd edition birding guide.
    • March 30 – Nature Watch orientation at Mamakating Environmental Education Interpretive Center (MEEIC)
    • April 25 – Paula represented the BKAA at Nate Ermer’s talk on “Forest and Wetland Management” at Mamakating Library.
    • April 26 – BKAA sponsored Ravensbeard’s “Live Bird Show at Wurtsboro’s Spring Fling. Nora Brusinski, Monique Lipton, David Lybolt, and Susan O’Neill performed yeoman services for this event.

June 1 – Opening of the Wurtsboro Art Alliance and BKAA co-sponsored “Basha Kill Show”.

July 5 – September – Michael, Paula, Christine Saward managed a BKAA informational table most Fridays at Mamakating’s Farmers Market.

July 13 – Wurtsboro Founders Day. The BKAA ‘s booth was “manned” by Anita Altman and Gil Kulick, Chris Leser, Christine Saward, Paula, with Andy Weil “breaking down” the venue.

  • August 23 – BKAA participated in a Trailkeeper sponsored walk on the D&H Canal/ O&W trails loop.



In 2019, Mary Clark, Justin Costello, Alex Decker, Ashley King, Shealyn Leon, Leo & Owen Messenger, Skyler Redzimski, and Anneliese Vitale all attended Camp DeBruce in the Catskills.

Jack Orth Memorial Scholarship:

Enrique Castro was this year’s winner.

Catherine Abate Memorial Scholarship:

The following graduating high school seniors received the 3rd 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:

Madison Graham-Monticello Central School District

Courtney Pekusic- Pine Bush Central School District

Jenna Rumsey – Pine Bush Central School District.

Basha Kill Walks and Educational Calendar:

These activities are crucial to the BKAA’s core mission, which teaches the value of wetlands, the Shawangunk Ridge, and entire Basha Kill Watershed, along with ways to safeguard them. Paula established the BKAA’s educational itinerary and assembled the experts who implemented it.

John Haas took 12 birders on his “Early Spring Waterfowl Walk” and another 16 on his “Spring Bird Migration” venture. NY-NJ Trail representatives led 10 participants to Gobbler’s Knob and others on a Shawangunk Ridge trek. Bill Cutler captivated 25 visitors, including many children, with his “Happy for Herps” outing. SUNY Orange Professor Emeritus Marty Borko educated 20 attendees about wetland plant life. Jack Austin guided 6 aficionados on his “Natural History” trip. Kerron Barnes and Gary Keeton escorted 20 on the D&H Canal/O&W trails loop; 12 went on Gary’s “Moonlight Ramble”, 3 on his “Sunset Walk”, and 20 on two excursions highlighting D&H canal history. Scott Graber and Mike captained a flotilla of 17 vessels during their September Paddle.

  • April 19 – Opening day of Nature Watch
  • April 26 – 38th Annual BKAA Cleanup
  • May 21 – Mike and Paula facilitated Leadership Sullivan’s Class of 2019 “Basha Kill Day” presentations at MEEIC and South Road boat launch.
  • June 12 – Mike took a local resident on a Basha Kill tour
  • August 20 – Janet Barnett, Maryallison Farley, Elly Knieriemen, Karen Miller, Mike and Paula discussed BKAA involvement in a spring Encore program at the Basha Kill.
  • September 3 – BKAA sponsored a canoe/kayak outing for State Senator Jen Metzger and friends.
  • September 22- BKAA fundraiser at Bashakill Vineyards

Nature Watch:

by Maryallison Farley
In its 17th year of operation, a dedicated cadre of BKAA Nature Watch (NW) volunteers (42 people) worked as educational ambassadors for the Basha Kill. They recorded observations about the behavior of the nesting bald eagle pair at the southern end of the Basha Kill (Nesting Territory # 35 of NYS DEC Region 3). We’re happy to report that the pair raised two eaglets who successfully fledged. As was the case last year, ospreys did not build a nest across the Kill from the boat launch this year. We did, however, occasionally see individual ospreys in the area throughout the season. The newer pair of bald eagles at the northern end of the Basha Kill once again successfully raised and fledged two young eagles.

Nature Watch began the 2019 season with the annual Volunteer Training, held this year at the Mamakating Environmental Education and Interpretive Center. Lance Verderame and John Haas were our keynote presenters who gave an information packed Update on Birds of the Bashakill They armed our volunteers with lots of information to share with visitors to the boat launch. Nathan Ermer, the NYSDEC Wildlife Biologist who manages the Bashakill Wildlife Management Area, attended our Training as a key resource person, as did Gary Keeton, local naturalist and historian.

With the training under their belts, the NWTeam then covered week-endshifts at the boat launch from April 13th to June 23rd (eleven weeks) and logged in approximately 1,554 visitors and 442 boats. This is a relatively high number of visitors tallied by our program, especially when you consider the excessive rain this season. We had to cancel ten of our shifts because of rain! That means we lost 30 hours of coverage. Fortunately, we have an amazingly dedicated group of volunteers who stuck with the program in spite of this bad weather and changing shifts. The data gets compiled at the end of the season and this year, Volunteer Eileen Lake stepped up to the plate and took on this major job for Nature Watch. We then forwarded this data summary to the DEC for their use.

On Sunday, September 22nd, Nature Watch hosted its biennial BKAA Fundraiser at the BashaKill Vineyards with owners Paul Deninno and Samara Deninno-Ferris. Happily, we were able to raise almost $2,000 for the BKAA, thanks to the generosity of 113 people who attended the event, as well as some others who made donations but did not attend. Participants also enthusiastically joined the raffle for a beautiful framed photo of the Basha Kill, generously donated by nature photographer, Kevin Kreischer. The lucky winner was BKAA member JoAnn Hegarty! A raffle of bottles of wine and food certificates from the Vineyards and from Blind Dog Catering also added to our final tally. As was expected, the return of Bill Streeter from the Delaware Valley Raptor Center with his live birds of prey program was a major crowd pleaser.

Our volunteers are at the core of this program including Co-Leaders Maryallison Farley, Cathy Liljequist and Kevin Keller with Nora Brusinski and Eileen Lake joining in this year to help with key tasks. Nora took on the essential task of sending out the weekly e-mail updates to NW members so that even when we are not on shift, we are all kept updated about what is going on with the eagles and other wildlife during the season. Nora’s insightful summaries were appreciated by all of us. As previously mentioned, Eileen Lake brought her professional IT skills to the work of inputting all of our data this year. What a beautiful job she did! Continuing as our long-time admin. expert, we are grateful that Cath handles the intricacies of scheduling. Kevin continued in his role of expertly working with our volunteers to help them learn to communicate with visitors about this wonderful resource. Basha Kill birder extraordinaire, John Haas, our key birding resource person, GaryKeeton, long-time Basha Kill naturalist and Cathy Dawkins, creator of our beautiful NW graphs, completed the 2019 Nature Watch Team. Ours is truly a collaborative effort!

Other Outreach Events

  • February 26 – BKAA (Paula) oversaw an informational table at Verderame/Haas “Birds of the Basha Kill” event at Port Jervis Free Library’s the Hub.
  • April 24 – Paula managed a Basha Kill resource/organizational display at SUNY Sullivan Earth Day festivities.
  • April 25 – Nora Brusinski and Christine Saward did the same at SUNY Orange.

3rd Edition of A Birding Guide to Sullivan County, New York Including the Bashakill Wildlife Management Area (WMA),250 Field Checklists of Birds of the WMA and 500 New Field ID Cards for Marsh Birds of the Basha Kill

are now available at MEEIC and BKAA venues thanks to a matching grant from the Environmental Protection Fund’s Parks and Trails Partnership Program.

A Birding Guide to Sullivan County, New York, Including the Bashakill Wildlife Management Area:

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


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 continuing as BKAA email coordinator this past year and to the late beloved 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. Propsto Maryallison Farley for being the BKAA’s contact with our webmaster. Thanks also to Jon Heaphy of Liberty Press for excellently functioning 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 testified orally and in writing on DS DEIS. Our consulting attorney, hydrogeologist, and ecologist were not activated this year, but remained on call. The BKAA is extremely fortunate to collaborate with such a talented, dedicated team. Thank you, everyone!

Respectfully submitted,