Arkville, NY --- This past Saturday, August 13th, the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development welcomed its members, supporters, neighbors and friends to the Annual Summer Gathering of the Catskill Center, at its headquarters, the Erpf Center, in Arkville, NY. Alongside dozens of longstanding supporters, new members and their guests, Mark Ginsberg, vice-chair of the board of directors of the Catskill Center, presented the 2016 Ginsberg Award to Geddy Sveikauskas for outstanding leadership and commitment to the Catskill Center and the Catskill region. Jeff Senterman, executive director of the Catskill Center, presented the 2016 Alf Evers Award for Excellence to the Catskill Mountain Club for outstanding leadership commitment to protection of the Catskill region. The Annual Report was also distributed, available for download here.
Mr. Sveikasukas (known to all as Geddy) has been a venerable pillar of the Catskill Center, having arrived in the region in 1968. In 1972, he created the Woodstock Times, predecessor to Ulster Publishing. Around that same time Geddy began to attend meetings of the fledgling Catskill Center and has been a long standing supporter of the organization ever since.
In the Spring of 1997, Geddy was elected board president of the Catskill Center, and at that time, and in the subsequent years the Center launched its first website; an “environmental” seat was created on the Catskill Watershed Corporation board for the Center (instrumental in insuring the Center’s voice was heard in negotiations during the New York City Watershed Filtration Avoidance Determination process); the restoration projects for the five fire towers in the Catskill Park began; the Artist in Residence program was created at the Platte Clove Preserve’s red cabin; the Sense of Place curriculum was developed; CatskillFarms.com was created; we held the first “Taste of the Catskills” at Windows on the World; the first watershed Memorandum of Agreement was executed insuring recreational access to watershed lands; the Center held a barn preservation conference with the New York State Barn Coalition; and the Center provided significant technical, administrative and fundraising support ($3.5M ultimately raised in collaboration with the Greene County Historical Society) to preserve Hudson River school artist Thomas Cole’s Cedar Grove estate, now managed by the National Park Service.
While Geddy may not have played a direct role in those accomplishments, his being at the helm of the board at that time certainly played an instrumental role in succeeding with so many projects, the benefits of which we are still enjoying to this very day. Programs like the Catskill Center’s Sense of Place curriculum, available for teachers and students throughout the region for free at CatskillCenter.org; the Artist in Residence program at the Red Cabin at Platte Clove, which will soon be celebrating its 20th anniversary; and of course the Filtration Avoidance Determination, which is being renegotiated as we speak; are all a legacy of of the Center’s work during Geddy’s leadership of the Catskill Center.
Jeff Senterman, executive director of the Catskill Center, presented the Catskill Mountain Club (CMC) with the 2016 Evers Award for Excellence, for their long standing commitment to expanding recreational opportunities in the Catskill region. Their most recent work, opening up scenic trails with beautiful views on land owned by New York City Department of Environmental Protection, is growing a partnership between upstate and downstate communities that expands recreational tourism while protecting our environment. We are grateful to CMC for their commitment to a goal we all share, healthy ecosystems and vibrant communities.
Founded in 2004 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the creation of the Catskill Park, the early CMC, which included many Catskill Center staff, grew and evolved to become committed to efforts to ensure sustainable and safe outdoor recreation on public lands throughout the Catskill region.
Today the CMC strives to raise public awareness and appreciation of the Catskill region, something they rightly describe as “America’s First Wilderness”. The Catskill Mountain Club offer dozens of guided hikes, paddles, snow shoe excursions, bike trips and more all over the Catskills, offering visitors and residents amazing opportunities to get out and experience all that our Catskill Mountains have to offer. But the CMC isn’t only taking advantage of our region’s vast outdoor recreation resources, they are doing something to help ensure they are available for generations to come!
The CMC stresses and promotes volunteer stewardship of our Catskill Park and public lands by getting their hands dirty. They have constructed five new trails in the Catskills over the last four years: Andes Rail Trail; Delhi Trails; Palmer Hill Trail; Shavertown Trail; and most recently Bramley Mountain Trail. Representing almost 20 miles of new trails, the CMC is offering the public more options and leading the way on opening DEP lands for public recreation.
When not building trail, the CMC maintains miles of hiking trails throughout the Catskill Park for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. They offer workshops and take part in events that highlight the natural and human histories of the Catskills; the issues that are affecting the health and preservation of the Catskills; and teach the skills that are needed to safely enjoy our great outdoors. They join with other supporters of the Catskill Park Coalition to knock on doors in Albany, helping to ensure that the Catskill Park is represented and receives ongoing state support. Members of the CMC even find time to help staff the Catskill Interpretive Center where their expertise on everything outdoors comes in handy to educate visitors to the Park.
All this and the CMC is an all-volunteer grass roots led organization! The CMC is helping to lead the way towards a sustainable outdoor recreation based economy that utilizes our vast and beautiful open spaces, while teaching our visitors and park users the value of the region and how to protect in perpetuity.
The Catskill Center is grateful to the CMC for continuing to have a true impact across the region. Rick Roberts, president of the CMC, and Wendell George, vice president of the CMC, accepted the award on behalf of all members of the Catskill Mountain Club.
For the remainder of the event, members and guests enjoyed the musical styling of Kim and Reggie Harris, enjoyed local food catered by Mary’s Cookin’ Again and were refreshed with fine wine provided by Eminence Road Winery and a delicious selection of beers by Keegan Ales. The party continued at neighboring Union Grove Distillery where staff gave tastings and tours of the distillery which uses New York grain to create their delicious Vly Creek Vodka, named after the Vly Creek, not far from the Center’s headquarters in Arkville.
The Center thanks all who joined us this past weekend and look forward to welcoming you again to our headquarters soon.