Annual Report

Forty-Eighth Annual BKAA Report, October 17, 2020

By Paula Medley, President

While Covid-19 restrictions dramatically reduced BKAA educational (2019-2020) offerings, the organization still conducted, sponsored, or co-sponsored numerous events with safety an ongoing goal, socially distancing and requiring masks.

BKAA Board: “Change continued in the air.” Cliff Johnson joined the board following 2019 Annual Meeting approval, briefly acting as Recording Secretary, a role later held by Susan O’Neill and Bill Lucas. During 2020, long-time board members Fred Harding and Anita Altman retired, Fred in Winter, 2020 and Anita, also Vice-President, as of 2020’s Annual Meeting. Samara Ferris Deninno and Graham Vest were appointed to replace retirees, Samara becoming full-time Recording Secretary. Thanks Anita and Fred for your excellent service and welcome Samara and Graham!!!

Developments in the Bashakill Watershed:

While this year’s advocacy was sporadic, the BKAA critically intervened on Mamakating’s proposed zoning amendments, closely monitored Thompson Education Center, Dragon Springs, and is carefully scrutinizing large-scale solar farms proposed for Wurtsboro Airport.

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.

Mamakating Zoning Amendments:

  • November 16, 2019 – Paula Medley represented the BKAA at a special meeting with Mamakating’s planner, a town board member, and several residents.
  • December 3, 2019 – BKAA represented at public hearing on proposed zoning amendments.
  • December 17, 2019 – Town board adopted proposed amendments.

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

  • TEC has not appeared before Thompson’s planning board since September 13, 2017.
  • January 21, 2020 – Thompson’s town board adopted local law #3, enacting new and/or

revised definitions of camps, bungalows, schools, and dorms.

  • Work slowly continues on TEC CEO Sherry Li’s supposed “residence” off Renner Road in Town of Fallsburg.
  • Present – TEC persists with its public relations onslaught, touting their project, “Coming Soon” (for 7 years now!).

Dragon Springs:

  • Present – Still awaiting DS Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) reflecting current DS expansion plans along with cumulative site development impacts since 2000. Also anticipating information on more site plan data on 491 Galley Hill Road’s

commercial/residential venture.


Two Large-Scale Solar Farms Proposed for Wurtsboro Airport 119 acre parcel:

  • October 13, 2020 – Plan to construct 2 abutting solar farms, totaling 55 acres on a 119 acre airport tract, discussed at a Mamakating planning board workshop session. Current scheme does not meet Town Code guidelines regulating solar farms, which prohibit solar facilities of more than 20 acres on one site.


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 affiliation with Sullivan Catskills Visitors Association (SCVA) whose

website and publications highlight our programs and wetland ecosystem. On December 5, 2019, Michael and Paula Medley attended SCVA’s Annual Meeting and Holiday Party.

  • BKAA partnered with Trailkeeper, a coalition of Sullivan County groups who promote their events on a collaborative website, with Paula attending a Sullivan County Trail Committee meeting on January 14, 2020.
  • BKAA maintained membership in Coalition for the Delaware Watershed.
  • BKAA minimally networked with local politicians, but regularly sent Guardians to most.
  • BKAA enjoyed consistent backing from Deerpark Rural Alliance and new regional

environmental organization, NYenvironcom, while supporting Columbia Hill Neighborhood Alliance and Fallsburg’s Future via Guardian updates.

  • Frequently communicated with DEC Bashakill Wildlife Manager Nate Ermer who periodically updated DEC/Bashakill activity in his Guardian column.
  • Networked with Mamakating Environmental Education Center (MEEC) via Director Jackie Broder’s column in the Guardian, sending Information Alerts highlighting MEEC activities, financially backing several children to MEEC’s summer nature program, and sponsoring, or participating in, various MEEC events.
  • Interacted with Mamakating Local Development Corporation over TravelStorys and an annual calendar.
  • October 20, 2019 – Susan Erny and Grace Woodard attended Friends of the Shawangunks Annual Meeting.
  • October 25, 2019 – Michael and Paula attended Sullivan County Audubon Society’s Annual Meeting.
  • December 13, 2019 – Michael and Paula attended Mamakating’s Holiday Party.
  • February 2, 2020 – Michael and Paula represented the BKAA at the Northeast Watercolor Exhibition at SUNY Orange which featured some Bashakill art.

Come Clean: Maintaining Our Gardens – Cathy Dawkins

OK – It was 2020…so, what to do? Neither Patricia (Diness) nor Cathy was willing to venture out, even to a nursery or garden store…so it was the year that Haven Garden had to make do with what was there. Really, not so bad. Instead of our usual – meet at Danny’s, have a little lunch, then off to the garden for some weeding, clipping, and chatting…well…it was solo this year.

My first visit was not until May and I cleaned out the weeds, lots of volunteer grass from the yard, cut back the allium and the spring flowers, cut last year’s growth on the grasses, clipped WAY BACK the Russian sage, pulled a few pokeberry plants, and clipped candles on the pines. Speaking of pines, we were told by an “expert” at the end of the first summer (2013), that the pines had been planted wrong (???) and were dead. Ha ha ha! They are so healthy and so aggressive and so beautiful that we laugh each time we see them! Yes, I had to trim one back because it was getting too close to the road!

Hint: If you have ornamental grasses at home, many suggest that you cut them back in the fall, but I have started to leave them until spring for two reasons. First, it provides wonderful cover for birds and small mammals all winter. And second, it seems to protect the plant itself and I get better growth in the spring.

Next visit was in late June and was solely, weeding. It was wet and I took my pitch fork to

reach stubborn pokeberry roots. I got some pokeberries from the root but had to cut others.

Last visit was in late August. The hydrangeas were MAGNIFICENT, if a bit much. The Rose of Sharon was overpowered by the hydrangea, and everything was overpowered by Russian sage. I had to do serious trimming of the hydrangea (but it was post-bloom, so no losses). If anyone wants some tiny Rose of Sharon seedlings, let me know (2-5”). ( Last year, there were zillions. Same with Russian sage.

While trimming, cutting and tossing, I wondered why the yard hadn’t been mowed all summer. Then I realized the trucks and equipment were gone. On my way out, I finally recognized a new sign on the building. A bit of research and I discovered that, sure enough, the property had changed hands…new owner is Catskill Farms. So, when I arrived home, I made a call, talked to one of the staff, introduced myself and the garden. Had a wonderful conversation. Seems they’re totally on board, having our garden in their midst, apologized for not having mowed, etc. I understand that the yard was later mowed, so we’re probably on schedule to develop a routine with them next year.

Local Environmental Activities:

  • October 16, 2019 – Mid-Hudson Retired Teachers group walked the O&W/D&H Canal

Towpath Loop with Michael.

  • September 19-20, 2020 – BKAA and Mamakating Library co-sponsored walks on the

O&W/D&H Canal Towpath Loop led by Kerron Barnes.


The BKAA’s eleven sponsored campers did not attend 2020 DEC Camps due to Covid-19 restrictions. 

Jack Orth Memorial Scholarship:

Awinta Strasilli was this year’s winner. 

Catherine Abate Memorial Scholarship:

This BKAA Scholarship ($350 apiece), is funded by Michael Abate to honor his late wife Catherine, a passionate environmental activist. The winning essays by three high school graduates focused on local environmental problems and ways to mitigate them.

Each of the following graduates received the 4th Annual Catherine Abate Memorial Scholarship:  Jessica Nicosia – Pine Bush Central School District; Lauren Russell – Pine Bush Central School District and Vian Tran – Pine Bush Central School District. Congratulations!

Basha Kill Walks and Educational Calendar:

These activities are crucial to the BKAA’s core Mission, which teaches the values associated with wetlands, the Shawangunk Ridge, and the entire Bashakill Watershed, along with ways to safeguard vital watershed resources. Paula established the BKAA’s educational agenda and assembled the experts who implemented it.

In 2019, a NY-NJ Trail representative led 7 participants on a Shawangunk Ridge hike, while John Kocijanski presented his “Star Watch” program to 30 attendees, and Michael escorted 11 hikers along Huckleberry Ridge.

This year, Bill Cutler captivated 9 visitors with his “Happy for Herps” outing.  Jack Austin guided 9 aficionados on his “Natural History” trip. SUNY Orange Professor Emeritus Marty Borko educated 9 about wetland plant life.

Scott Graber and Michael captained a flotilla of 16 vessels during their October paddle and Andy Garrison took 5 intrepid ramblers on the Shawangunk Ridge/Long Path.

  • February 8, 2020 – BKAA participated in MEEC’s Winter Carnival.
  • March 3, 2020 – Paula managed an informational table at Elly Knieriemen’s “Journey Through the Bashakill” ENCORE program.
  • August, 2020 – BKAA sponsored 2 campers at MEEC’s Summer Nature Program.
  • September, 2020 – BKAA sponsored 2 Monarch Butterfly Tagging presentations by Pam

Golben at MEEC.

  • September 6, 2020 – Michael walked along a trail to be featured on TravelStorys.

Nature Watch:

Cancelled in 2020.


A Birding Guide to Sullivan County, New York Including the Bashakill

Wildlife Management Area, (3rd Edition) 250 Field Checklists of Birds of the WMA and 500 New Field ID Cards for Marsh Birds of the Bashakill are now available at BKAA venues and MEEC, thanks to a matching grant from the NYS 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 for sale at MEEC, Canal Towne Emporium, 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 Susan Erny and Samara Ferris for facilitating email processes.

Special thanks to Susan for typing Guardian articles.

  • Our website,, and BKAA Alerts update, BKAA programs, supply general news, and rapidly galvanize members for advocacy. Props to 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:

Our consulting attorney, engineer/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,

Paula Medley,