The struggle to rescue the once-highly-polluted Hudson River goes back more than five decades, and one of the lessons that environmental organizations like Clearwater, Riverkeeper and Scenic Hudson learned along the way was that cleanup and public use go hand-in-hand. The more time local residents actually spend on a river and its banks, instead of just driving over it on a bridge, the more personally invested they feel in its future.
That lesson comes into play for our own Wallkill River this Saturday afternoon, October 6, when the Wallkill River Watershed Alliance (WRWA) presents its second annual Wallkill River Festival. Throughout the year, most of this citizen-action group’s activities focus on scientific research, data collection and advocacy, punctuated regularly by volunteer cleanup and streambank restoration days. But this Festival is all about getting regular folks “down by the riverside” to remind one another what it is that needs rescuing, why and how. Plus, attendees will find out what progress has already been made, and celebrate that together.
“The Wallkill River is too often ignored — not only in New Paltz, but along its entire 90-mile length,” notes WRWA president Jason West. “Holding events like the Wallkill River Festival not only draws our attention to the river and its needs, but is also another chance to bring the community together, to hear great music and have great food, to learn about the ecology of the river and to involve ourselves in its much-needed restoration.”
The first Wallkill River Festival took place one year ago at the Gardens for Nutrition site. This year, a terrific new venue has become available: the Open Space Institute’s new River-to-Ridge trailhead, accessible at 41 Springtown Road. If you haven’t yet acquainted yourself with the recently opened trail, on foot or by bicycle, this event offers a great excuse to check it out. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, you can chow down on Mediterranean, Mexican and/or seafood cuisine from the food trucks that will be on hand.
Appropriately enough for a natural asset that was here (and still clean) long before Huguenot colonists arrived in this valley, the Festival will open at noon with a blessing of the river by Vincent Mann, Turtle Clan chief of the Ramapough Lunaape Nation. Three local bands will subsequently provide entertainment on the half-hour, starting at 1:30 with Sean Schenker and members of the Trapps. At 2:30 p.m., Pam Wiggins & Ev Schneider play singable songs, and at 3:30 the Hudson River Trio plays traditional Americana. The Festival will also feature hands-on educational and craft activities for the whole family and a silent auction of local watershed-themed art and gift cards donated by many local businesses.
This should be a don’t-miss event for families with kids, who will be having so much fun that they won’t even notice that they’re acquiring STEAM skills and knowledge from all the educational activities. They’ll be able to get acquainted with live river fish and other critters brought by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the WRWA; make and launch rice-paper boats to carry native seeds down the river with the SUNY New Paltz Art Department; explore nature along the river with Wild Earth; get the latest update on the health of the Wallkill from the DEC, WRWA and Riverkeeper; bike the new trail or paddle the river via human-powered vehicles supplied by New Paltz Bikes/Kayaking Tours; play the Wallkill River Trivia game; and learn about ways we can all reduce harmful impacts on the river.
The Festival runs from noon until 5 p.m., with a rain date set for Sunday, October 7. Locals know full well that fine weather on Columbus Day weekend inevitably means a heavy influx of tourist traffic, and a good time to avoid getting bottled up in your car behind the Carmine Liberta Bridge crossing. That’s all the more reason to take advantage of New Paltz’s expanded rail-trail network. WRWA organizer Martha Cheo says that the group wants to “emphasize walking or biking to the Festival: Parking will be limited.” So, if you can, please park in town and walk or bike the new trail to the trailhead — or at least carpool.
“Also, we’ve got so much support from local businesses, we really would like to thank them publicly,” Cheo adds. The list of event sponsors includes Alfandre Architecture, America’s Best Value Inn, the Bakery, Barton & Loguidice, Berner Financial Services, Carl Welden Productions, Central Hudson, Clarkson’s Appliances, Dedrick’s Pharmacy and Gifts, Devine Insurance, Gadaleto’s Seafood, the Green Room, Health & Nutrition Center, Hoot Owl Restaurant, Hudson River Estuary Program, Hudson River Watershed Alliance, In Good Taste, Jack’s Rhythms, Kalleco Nursery, Lagusta’s Luscious, Lush Eco Salon, Main Street Auto, Main Street Bistro, Masseo Landscaping, Milone & MacBroom, Mohonk Consultations, Mountain Brauhaus, New Paltz Kayaking Tours, Open Space Institute, Plaza Diner, Riverkeeper, Rock and Snow, Stone Wave Yoga, Snug Harbor, True Value of New Paltz, Ulster Savings Bank, Wet-Tek, Woodcrest Bruderhof and the Village of New Paltz.
Among the local businesses and artists who have donated items to the silent auction are Amelia Audette, Andrea McFarland, Annie O’Neill, Barner Books, BC’s Climbing Gym, B-Side Grill, Ignite Fitness, Inquiring Minds, Jack’s Meats and Deli, Jar’d, Karma Road, Marcy Bernstein, Maureen Rogers, Mexican Kitchen, Mountain Float Spa, Mudd Puddle Café, Noreen Muhlfeld, Pegasus Shoes, Russo’s Deli, Susan Slotnick, Sylvia Diaz and Wallkill View Farm.