The Village of New Paltz’s annual holiday tree bonfire, which took place at Hasbrouck Park the day after Christians of some traditions celebrate Epiphany, will no longer be held. That fact was confirmed during a joint town/village board meeting on September 12, when two New Paltz High School students approached the boards to ask them to approve holding a second annual bonfire pep rally for high school students at Hasbrouck Park later this month during spirit week. The purpose of spirit week is to get students enthused and supportive of their school. For many schools, spirit week is also a way for the students and staff to recognize athletic teams competing during that season during a pep rally.
According to Mayor Tim Rogers, despite there being largely positive feedback for various public bonfires, they violate open-burning rules for the village. That was one of several concerns raised by fire chief Cory Wirthmann in an e-mail to village trustees. Such fires also must be manned by firefighters, above and beyond the emergency calls which come in at roughly two per day. Rogers also explained to pep rally organizers Craig Thomas and Carmen DiMarco that there’s been concerns raised about the ecological impact of such fires, as well as the impact of the particulates on those with breathing issues.
Town supervisor Neil Bettez noted that the rules in the remainder of the town, outside of the village limits, are more forgiving. He suggested looking into the Field of Dreams as a possible location. DiMarco said that they would, but that their preference is to hold a “bonfire-inclusive” event within village limits because the population density means more students can get there on foot.
Before finalizing any details about changing the location of the bonfire, pep rally organizers will try to convince members of the fire department’s executive board to reconsider their opposition. In the meantime, the event was approved for Hasbrouck Park without a fire.