Briefly noted across the region (11/24/21)

Joe Pirrotta, Tom Murray and Mary Rahe.

New additions to WVLT Board

Beth Bengston of Kingston, president of the Wallkill Valley Land Trust, announced the election of three new directors to the now 14-member Board of Directors of the 34-year-old not-for-profit organization based in New Paltz. “We are fortunate to add to our Board three new directors with skills in finance, fundraising and the law, who all share a love of our 22.5-mile Rail Trail and a passion for preserving our beautiful landscape,” Bengston said. They are Tom Murray and Mary Rahe of New Paltz and Joe Pirrotta of Gardiner.

Murray is a financial expert in leasing major equipment, like airplanes and railroad boxcars; a regular mountain biker in the Shawangunks; and a high-peak mountain climber in the US West and South America. He was born in Middletown and has a BA in Business Administration from Pace University in New York.

Mary Rahe, a fundraiser for the SUNY New Paltz Foundation since 2017, helped recent completion of the College’s $24.7 million first major capital campaign; and is a runner, hiker and biker on the WVLT Rail Trail, Mohonk Preserve and the Minnewaska State Park. She was born in New Orleans, grew up in Texas and Florida and has a BS in Studio Art from Florida State University.


Joe Pirrotta is senior vice president of Legal Services at Forrest Solutions, which uses artificial intelligence software combined with hundreds of attorneys around the world to help law firms and corporate legal departments research many legal databases to manage complex litigation, cybersecurity, corporate risk and compliance. A member of the Phillies Bridge Farm CSA, Pirrotta is a frequent hiker, biker and cross-country skier on the WVLT Rail Trail.

Christie DeBoer, executive director of the WVLT, welcomed the help of the three new directors and said, “We are busier than ever with COVID-increased demand for open space, trails and farms in Ulster County. We are working on several projects: 14 miles of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail are in various stages of improvement, and new trail-building along with habitat restoration continues on Joppenbergh Mountain in Rosendale.” She added, “We also have four new land preservation agreements being drafted, which will add 300 acres to WVLT’s over 3,000 of protected lands.”

Celebration of Lights parade, fireworks return to Poughkeepsie

After a two-year wait, the 27th annual Celebration of Lights Parade and Fireworks are back on Friday, December 3 at 6:30 p.m. in Poughkeepsie. The parade will commence at 6:30 p.m. on Main Street and Garden Street and proceed to the evening’s first Christmas tree-lighting on Main, at Mural Square near Market Street.

The parade will then proceed down Main Street to Clover Street, where it will conclude at Dongan Square Park for the second Christmas tree-lighting. Then, at 7:15 p.m., the Poughkeepsie River District Business Association and Legion Fireworks will present the area’s only winter fireworks display.

Featured in the parade will be Cocoon Theatre artistic director Andres San Millan’s four giant float replicas of the Vassar Brothers Institute, the Steamboat Mary Powell, the 1911 Pelton mansion and – new this year, celebrating the power of children to motivate others – the Ruby Bridges Locomotive. Participants in festive costumes with props created with recycled materials will accompany the floats. In addition, local artist Suprina will unveil a new float called Mother Earth, created in collaboration with Isabel Velasco Gomez and Guadalupe Rodriguez Ramirez.

The Celebration of Lights Parade is led by mayor Rob Rolison and members of the Common Council. They will be joined by the Arm-of-the-Sea Theatre’s musicians and giant puppets, Amerscott Highland Pipers, Brasskill Brass Band, Fat Boi’s Brass Band, the Bucket Brigade and the Wholly Brass Band, plus the Mid-Hudson Rowing Association, the SPOKE Poughkeepsie Bike Club and the Poughkeepsie Library’s Bookmobile. Santa Claus will arrive on a City of Poughkeepsie fire engine.

Following the parade and fireworks, the Bardavon will present a screening of the holiday film classic It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) at 8 p.m. The film is preceded at 7:30 p.m. with a concert on the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ. The cost is $6. In the lobby, Lambe Lambe, a multiple-stage small puppet theatre presentation by Paperheart Puppets, will precede and follow the film with a holiday fantasy experience for all ages.

For additional information, visit or call the Bardavon box office at (845) 473-2072 or the UPAC box office at (845) 339-6088, or e-mail To purchase tickets online, visit

Cashless tolling at Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge begins December 1

The New York State Bridge Authority has announced that cashless tolling will be implemented at the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge at midnight on the morning of Wednesday, December 1. Motorists will experience nonstop travel under gantries with state-of-the-art sensors and cameras that read E-ZPass tags and take license-plate images. Vehicles with E-ZPass tags will be automatically charged, and vehicles without E-ZPass tags will have their license-plate image captured and a toll bill mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle via Tolls by Mail NY.

Cashless tolling is already in use on the Authority’s Newburgh-Beacon, Bear Mountain and Rip Van Winkle Bridges. After the Kingston-Rhinecliff’s cashless tolling system goes live, the Mid-Hudson Bridge will be the last Bridge Authority span to go cashless. The conversion to cashless tolling is expected to be fully complete across all of the Authority’s spans by March 2022.

The new cashless tolling system will allow for safer and more seamless travel on the Bridge’s west approach. The current tollbooths will be demolished soon after the switch to cashless tolling takes place.

In addition to smoother and safer travel, cashless tolling also offers environmental benefits due to less engine idling and wasted fuel, leading to fewer vehicle emissions.

All drivers without an E-ZPass tag are strongly encouraged to obtain one to take advantage of savings and convenience. Tags can be ordered at or picked up at a number of retailers across the state. NY E-ZPass users pay discounted toll rates at Bridge Authority facilities and on other toll roads within the E-ZPass network.

Non-E-ZPass customers have a number of options to pay, including by mail, over the phone, online and via the Tolls NY app. Customers who call **826 from most mobile devices will receive a text message with a link to the Tolls by Mail NY website ( and information on how to pay their toll bill. All Tolls by Mail customers will pay the full rate on tolls.

Information about the cashless tolling project can be found on the Bridge Authority’s website,, and its social media pages.

OSI transfers historic Rondout Valley farm to Hudson Valley Seed Co.

The Open Space Institute (OSI) has announced the transfer of a nearly 300-year-old farm in the Ulster County Town of Rochester to the Hudson Valley Seed Company. Located between the Catskill Mountains and the western side of the Shawangunk Ridge, the property is near several other OSI-protected farms and is part of the highly visible and historically significant agricultural lands in the center of the Rondout Valley.


The 107-acre property was sold to the Hudson Valley Seed Company (HVSC) and consists of productive farmland and woods, with almost two miles of the property running along Route 209 and Airport Road. The land will continue to be maintained as agricultural fields into the future and used by HVSC for certified-organic, locally sourced and sustainably grown heirloom seed production.

“In an area with deep agricultural roots, protecting long-established farmland is key,” said Kim Elliman, president and CEO of the Open Space Institute. “Having conserved this property more than a decade ago, OSI has full confidence that the Hudson Valley Seed Company will continue our careful stewardship of the land and further the rich agriculture history of the Rondout Valley with its sustainable growing practices.”

“We are grateful to OSI for being accommodating partners and for recognizing our shared interests in seeing the property put to agricultural use in a way that is thoughtful and deliberate,” said Doug Muller, co-founder and managing director of the Hudson Valley Seed Company. “This project resonates with HVSC’s values to protect and steward the land so that it will remain biodiverse, while at the same time becoming agriculturally productive. The Seed Company’s mission is to steward and celebrate open-pollinated and organically grown seeds. The new location will host dozens of seed crops each year; demonstration and trial gardens, in which existing varieties will be showcased and new varieties will be evaluated and developed; and an art gallery. The site will allow our company to reach its maximum potential, and we are thrilled to have worked with OSI to lay the foundation for a really exciting project.”

The Hudson Valley Seed Company was started in 2009 and since then has grown into a popular source for heirloom and open-pollinated garden seeds and garden-themed contemporary art. A values-driven seed company, HVSC practices and promotes responsible seed production and land stewardship practices, as well as the preservation of crop diversity. The farm transferred from OSI will be HVSC’s second farm property in New York State.

A conservation easement, now held by the Rondout-Esopus Land Conservancy, will permanently protect the land as agricultural fields, and the Conservancy will maintain long-term management of the parcel.

The fertile agricultural fields on the property include almost 48 acres of farmland of statewide importance and approximately 27 acres of prime farmland. In addition to agricultural fields, the property contains woodlands and several riparian areas that provide important wildlife habitat.

Located in the Rondout Creek watershed, the land includes a section of the North Peterskill stream and provides improved water drainage and water absorption during storm events.

In 2010, OSI purchased a 140-acre property from the Van Diest family, and shortly after, sold a 30-acre parcel of the land to Appledoorn Farm, LLC, subject to a strict conservation easement that preserves the historic farm complex. That property contains several stone structures that date back to the mid-1700s. Now, OSI has transferred the remaining 107 acres to the Hudson Valley Seed Company.

Appledoorn Farm is close to other agricultural lands that OSI has protected in the Rondout Valley, including the Davenport Farm, Davis Farm, Domino Farm, the former Misner Farm, Rominger Farm, Osterhoudt Farm and Paul Farm, as well as numerous parcels along the Shawangunk Ridge from which the property can be seen. In addition to protecting land in the region for more than 30 years, OSI has also contributed to the creation of local trail systems by acquiring several stretches of the O&W Rail Trail that are now part of a growing 29-mile rail trail and recreation corridor in the Rondout Valley.

The Appledoorn Farm property has been used for agriculture since 1722, and stone structures built on the adjoining 30-acre property at that time can still be seen today.

Ride for Mental Health 2022 scheduled

The Ride for Mental Health has announced the dates for the Ride for 2022. The event will take place on June 25 and 26 in New Paltz and the start/finish will again be at the Ulster County Fairgrounds. Next year will mark the sixth edition of the event, which has so far raised over $800,000 for education, research and treatment of mental illness.

The charity bike ride will once again offer rides of 25, 50 and 100 miles as well as a 14-mile rail trail option. The event has also announced that dinners for all the riders and volunteers will be held on Saturday evening, June 25.

To learn more and to subscribe to the event’s newsletter, go to and follow the Ride on FB and Instagram at The Ride for Mental Health.

A Christmas Carol interactive dinner theatre returns

You’ve seen Scrooge, Tiny Tim and the Ghosts of Christmas from a theatre seat. This season, don’t just watch the story unfold; be a part of it during Theatre on the Road’s interactive dinner-theatre performance of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Kick off the holiday season with merry songs, laughter and heartwarming nostalgia as actors and carolers bring the story to life at a variety of public venues throughout the Hudson Valley.

A Christmas Carol is scheduled at the following venues:

· Le Chambord, Hopewell Junction: Sunday, December 5 at 5 p.m.

· The Venue Uptown (Best Western), Kingston: Wednesday, December 8 at 7 p.m.

· The Beekman Arms, Rhinebeck: Wednesday, December 15 at 7 p.m.

· Meadowbrook Lodge, New Windsor: Saturday, December 18 at 5 p.m.

· The Beekman Arms, Rhinebeck: Sunday, December 19 at 5 p.m.

· The Beekman Arms, Rhinebeck: Sunday, December 22 at 7 p.m.

In addition, there are five private performances scheduled at the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz and the Historic Hotel Broadalbin in Broadalbin.

Each event features a three-course meal following a reception where guests meet Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim, Nephew Fred and carolers in authentic Victorian costume. Audience members are encouraged to interact with the Dickens’ characters throughout the performance. Adapted from Charles Dickens’ classic, the production is a tribute to the spirit of a traditional holiday, with script written by Theatre on the Road founders Frank and Kristen Marquette.

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