It’s funny how the controversies that tend to dominate the news seem to define how a particular year has gone in the life of a town, when the long-term memories of most residents are shaped more by the happy things that happen. In 2012, Gardinerites had plenty to celebrate: For instance, the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Gardiner Fire District was marked by two days of fun and festivity in October. Firefighters from companies throughout Ulster County gathered at the Ulster County Fairgrounds to compete for awards, and a big parade through downtown Gardiner showed off a freshly renovated hand-pumper built in 1896 that had served to put out fires in the town back in the old days.
Residents were also undoubtedly relieved to get back to the longstanding tradition of Gardiner Day, which had been canceled in 2011 due to a double whammy of major storms the week before. This year’s event, pushed back to later in September in an effort to avoid hurricane season, began with a skyjumper parachuting into Majestic Park bearing an American flag and continued with live music all day long, a wild animal show, Peruvian horses demonstrating the paso llano and a fruit pie bake-off.
Other well-attended public events in 2012 included the return of the increasingly popular Cupcake Festival at Wright’s Farm in May, and a very successful Community Farm Dinner at Kiernan Farm in June to raise funds toward preservation of the Hess Farm, located close to the Gardiner hamlet. By year’s end most of the funding towards the $450,000 price of a conservation easement on the Hess Farm had been raised, including a federal farmland preservation grant covering 50 percent of the cost, and the Gardiner Town Board set aside a $10,000 “placeholder” in the 2013 budget to guarantee the town’s ability to match the grant.
Another piece of good news for advocates of land preservation was the announcement in June that Gregory and Janet Abels had donated a conservation easement on 65 acres of their Seven Meadows Farm property, along Route 44/55 east of the Gardiner Airport, to the Wallkill Valley Land Trust. In May, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) awarded the Town a $13,000 grant to replace the footbridge accessing the pole barn in Majestic Memorial Park that was washed out by Hurricane Irene. The announcement that another grant-funded infrastructure project would be completed during the summer of 2012 turned out to be premature, as the New York State Department of Transportation put the brakes on Gardiner’s downtown sidewalk replacement initiative due to procedural complications in the bidding process.
Dog-owners in Gardiner certainly had reason to celebrate in May, when Parks and Recreation Commission member Nancy Barrett’s four-year crusade to create a Dog Park behind Town Hall finally came to fruition. Built with considerable assistance from local Scout troops, the new public facility boasts not only a fenced-in dog run, but also benches, a shade pavilion and extensive landscaping including a boulder-strewn streambed.
Another amenity enjoying lots of use and support from the Gardiner community is its spiffy new library, completed in 2008. Early in 2012, former children’s librarian Nicole Lane stepped into the shoes of retiring Library director Nell Boucher, with Kendra Aber-Ferri coming aboard as the new part-time children’s librarian. Programming at the Gardiner Library has been expanded, with a new children’s knitting group being established, three weekly story hours, twice-weekly visits from campers in Gardiner’s Summer Rec program and plenty of activities for adults as well, including Zumba, yoga and mah-jongg classes, author readings and concerts. In other library-related news, the Town Board decided in June 5 to declare the derelict former library building in the midst of the hamlet surplus property, and to consider possible terms of sale — unless some vigorous organizing community effort should be mounted to preserve the crumbling structure for historical purposes, which has yet to occur.
Distillery disaster, campground chaos, driveway drama and tower troubles
Probably the most dramatic event to occur in the Town of Gardiner in 2012 was the fire that seriously damaged the upper floor of the production building at Tuthilltown Spirits. Fortunately, no one was injured in the Sep. 24 incident, in which sparks from an unshielded motor apparently ignited alcohol vapors leaking from one of the distilling tanks.