Taking the long view: Catskill Center turns 50

Illustration from Will Lytle’s new children’s book, Little One and the Water, a child’s-eye tour of the Little Beaver Kill Creek.

This weekend, the Catskill Center celebrates its 50th anniversary. There will be a big Fall Gala on Saturday, September 21 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Union Grove Distillery at 43311 Route 28 in Arkville, featuring a “Supper Club from the Golden Age of the Catskills” atmosphere supplied by Kimberly Hawkey and her seven-piece Elvanelle Orchestra. Basil Seggos, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, will receive the Center’s Alf Evers Award for his “dedication and effective leadership of the Catskill Park and region.” The evening will end with a grand fireworks display at 8:30, visible throughout Arkville.

Additional activities will be held throughout the day to celebrate the occasion, including an opening reception from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Erpf Gallery for the art exhibit “Natural Resources: 50 Stewards of the Catskills,” featuring photographs from a newly unveiled Catskill Center publication. The Fall Gala will also include a special ride on the Delaware & Ulster Railroad Silver Sleigh Flyer, with a 3:45 p.m. pickup and 5:30 p.m. dropoff at the Union Grove Distillery. Ate-O-Ate Catering will provide a “roaming supper.” And there’s other cool stuff happening throughout the weekend.

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What has the Catskill Center been up to for the past half-century? The organization’s aim “to ensure a bright future for the environment, economy and culture of the Catskills” covers a lot of ground. Environmental stewardship of public and private lands threatened by unplanned development, with a particular eye toward protecting the watershed of the region’s immense drinking-water reservoir system, is the Center’s raison d’etre. Beyond negotiating conservation easements, that translates into such campaigns as fighting the hemlock wooly adelgid via the Catskill Regional Invasive Species Partnership, stabilizing streambeds to prevent erosion via the Streamside Acquisition Program and nurturing young citizen scientists via the Streamwatch environmental education program for local fourth-graders.

The Center also hosts public programs promoting preservation of the history and culture of the Catskills, from Washington Irving’s stories to the birth of fly-fishing to the Hudson River School painters to the heyday of the Borscht Belt. Most of these take place at the organization’s Maurice D. Hinchey Catskills Interpretive Center at 5096 Route 28 in Mt. Tremper. Artists can display their work at the Erpf Gallery in Arkville or retreat for a week to create new work in solitude at the organization’s cabin in Platte Clove.

Tickets to the Gala cost $95 and can be ordered at http://catskillcenter.org/fallgala. It’s a cause worthy of such support, but if your budget can’t accommodate it, there are still some other activities (in addition to the art opening) that you can investigate this weekend. From 10 a.m. to noon on Friday, September 20, to celebrate Ashokan Watershed Month, the visitors’ center presents an Esopus Creek Fish and Fly-Fishing Demonstration, featuring talks by Scott George of the USGS and Mark Loete of Trout Unlimited and winding up with a little hands-on casting practice on the lawn. And Will Lytle, author and illustrator of the magical Thorneater Comics, will on hand from 4 to 6 p.m. on Sunday, September 22 to launch his new children’s book, Little One and the Water. While there, you can also peruse “Portraits and Stories,” Jenny Lee Fowler’s series of paper silhouette profiles of watershed residents, accompanied by audio recordings of the sitters’ stories.

For more information about the Fall Gala and other Catskill Center programs, call (845) 586-2611, e-mail cccd@catskillcenter.org or visit www.catskillcenter.org.

Catskill Center Fall Gala, Saturday, Sept. 21, (845) 586-2611, www.catskillcenter.org

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