COMMUNITY PROJECTS

Millerton Earth Day 2021

For the last 50 years, the world has marked Earth Day on April 22nd, raising the prospect that at least once a year we should all spare a thought for the wobbly, resilient planet we live on. This year, the international theme is Restore Our Earth. Millerton celebrated the idea on throughout the Town and Village on Saturday, April 24th, with some virtual events occurring beginning on the official date two days earlier, and another on April 28th.

Our community enjoyed many activities and events that invited us to take a closer look at the natural wonders around us, notice that some wonders are tender and vulnerable, and consider how they might be protected.  Highlighted were our farms and farmers – as some provided behind the scenes tours to acquaint us with what they’re growing/raising and how they’re doing it. McEnroe’s Composting Facility opened its gates so that we saw for ourselves how they turn banana peels, a failed zucchini casserole, sawdust, and retired showjumper manure into a nutrient rich mulch for our gardens. Stories, lectures, workshops for families, and free seeds rounded out the day.  Our Village merchants are raisied money for trees to plant in the soon-to-be wonderfully renovated renovated Eddie Collins Memorial Park.

Check here for the Millerton EarthDay events calendar, a fun video preview, and photos from the events.

Harlem Valley Rail Trail

Healthy Communities Need Connections

Since the first section was completed in the 1990s, the Harlem Valley Rail Trail has been a boon to the area. While a New York State resource, it was started with U.S. Highway Department funds during the Clinton administration. In Dutchess County The Rail Trail is leased and maintained by the County. In Columbia County it is state-owned and maintained by the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. (Much of the land, for the record, was acquired by the Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association and donated to the state.) Yet none of this really matters to the users, who come from all over. It welcomes walkers, bikers, skaters—any form of mobility as long as it is human-powered (unicycle anyone?)—from anywhere, domestic and foreign. Trail parking lots are no strangers to cars from Connecticut and Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

All this motorized travel would seem contrary to the purpose. Not at all. Safe, stimulating outdoor facilities for exercise are far from common, and Rail Trails that are both quite rural and in reach of lots of people are rarer still. Perhaps travelers will be so inspired by their experiences in the Harlem Valley that they’ll create something similar back home.

In autumn 2020, the Rail Trail finally connected the original paved section from the Wassaic train station of Metro North through Amenia, Sharon Station, and Coleman Station to Millerton, a 10.7-mile run through farm fields, meadows, forests, and wetlands, to a 4.9-mile section mostly through New York’s Taconic State Park. This new 7.9-mile piece is some of the loveliest rail trail anywhere, traversing a dozen wildlife habitats that change season to season and an astonishing complex of marshes and ponds, often within view of the ancient, steep, tree-covered Taconic Range to the east.

Next, and the last piece for a while, will be a bridge over Route 22, connecting a final 2.2-mile paved stretch into the village of Hillsdale to the main body of the Trail. This could still occur in calendar year 2021. At the other end, also in 2020, Amenia and the Hamlet of Wassaic cooperated to build a spur down from the Wassaic station about a mile to the hamlet, which has taken on new life as home to the Wassaic Project, an art center and creative community founded in 2008. The total Trail, once the Route 22 bridge opens, will be 27.27 miles. 

Connections are the root of what gives life meaning and fulfillment. They are the difference between human and humane. They make existence sustainable. Soon five small places—Hillsdale, Copake Falls, Millerton, Amenia, Wassaic—will have one significant thing in common, an address on the Harlem Valley Rail Trail. They are connected again, as they were when the New York Central Railroad’s Harlem Division plied the corridor, but quieter, at a personal scale, and available to all. 

See hvrt.org for a map and other info, maintained by the Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association. To contribute or volunteer, visit the website. 

Rendering of the Rail Trail bridge that will span Route 22, connecting Hillsdale with Copake Falls and points south.

NECC Millerton Farmers Market

Bringing Small-scale Farmers, Makers, and Bakers Together with Nutrition-minded Consumers

The Millerton Farmers Market has been operating since 2007, when the idea was proposed by Karen Kisslinger, a local acupuncturist, organic gardener, and meditation teacher who also ran a program at the North East Community Center (NECC) called “Partners for Children.” Karen, who was married to local physician Robert Dweck, had been nurturing and nourishing the community for many years. She saw the need to promote local farms and healthy food sources and she approached then Executive Director Jenny Hansell who, it turns out, had experience with Greenmarkets in NYC. Jenny added teen interns in farming and marketing to the mix.  Sadly, Karen passed away in 2009, but her legacy lives on with 14 continuous seasons of market operation.

Starting with six farmers and local musician Charlie Keil playing trombone, the market has grown to as many as 20 vendors at the peak of a season on the grounds of the Millerton Methodist Church. It developed into a vital village gathering place for local residents, an outlet for local farmers and food producers, an educational opportunity for youth, and a place for visitors to buy and eat fresh, locally grown produce. The market became a participant in the Farmers Market Nutrition Program to serve EBT/SNAP users, Senior Citizens, and WIC program participants. In 2015, a weekly Winter Market was established indoors where it continues to thrive when the snow falls.  

Local farms provide not only nutritious food and scenic beauty but also soil conservation, employment, educational opportunities, and a sense of community.  We lose farmland each year to private purchase and land development. If this continues unabated we’ll need to rely on big agricultural food sources thousands of miles away grown with the use of pesticides, GMO’s or other harmful methods affecting our health and the environment.

A goal of the Millerton Farmers Market is to promote food that is free from chemical fertilizers and pesticides. While it’s not necessary to be organic-certified, farmers are expected to follow organic methods that maintain sustainability. Farmers on site provide information and answer questions regarding their specific growing practices.

Green Mountain Energy, a clean-energy household-electricity alternative, supports the Market and is a regular presence during normal market operation. 

The weekly Market is a community magnet. Participants enjoy kids activities, cooking demonstrations, contests, live music performances, and special events like “Dog Day” or “Romp and Read.”  Local artisans sell high-quality art and crafts. Prepared foods are available for ready consumption or to take home. Finally, the market makes space available for local non-profit organizations to engage with people one on one or perform a civic good such as register new voters. Karen would be proud.

Eddie Collins Revamp (Millerton Memorial Field)

The Village of Millerton has embarked on an effort to revitalize Eddie Collins Memorial Park, a 17-acre recreation area just north of the Village on Route 22. The Park is a beloved community asset and has been at the heart of Town and Village life for decades, but in recent years its aging amenities have fallen into disrepair. Under the leadership of Village resident Stephen Waite, a complete overhaul is in the early stages, and much important progress has already occurred.

A master plan for the Park’s revitalization has been developed, and over $1 million has been raised to begin the multi-year, multi-million-dollar effort. The new park will be built to modern environmental standards and be accessible to people of all ages and physical abilities. The plan includes a regulation-sized soccer field, a swimming pool, basketball courts, and walking trails. The existing accessible playground and historic Little League Field will be renovated and upgraded. Tennis courts and pickleball courts are also in the early planning stages. To learn more about the project, visit www.millertonpark.org.

Who Was Eddie Collins?

Eddie Collins played for the Philadelphia Athletics 1906-14 and 1927-30.

Eddie “Cocky” Collins, a Hall of Fame ball player, considered by some the finest second baseman in baseball history, played in the majors from 1907 to 1930 for two teams, the Philadelphia Athletics and the Chicago White Sox, then coached, managed, and was a controversial general manager of the Boston Red Sox. His career batting average was .333, with  3,315 hits and 1,300 RBIs. His managerial record was 174-160.

Collins was born in Millerton May 2, 1887 and died in 1951 in Boston of ill health. He started his career when he was a student at Columbia University under the name of Sullivan to preserve his college eligibility. He was a smart player with great speed and batting prowess. He is the only player to have twice stolen six bases in a game. He still holds the career major-league record for sacrifice bunts at 512, an untouchable mark. In 2018 his plaque outside Fenway Park was removed by the Red Sox for his bigotry over 15 years as general manager. Collins had the chance to hire Jackie Robinson but demurred.

The brick arch to Eddie Collins Memorial Field will be preserved behind the east goal of the new soccer pitch. The new entrance will open directly onto a new parking lot.

First will come drainage and other infrastructure, and include the soccer pitch and the ball field. The pool is phase two. Phase three is still being formulated.

Millerton Pollinator Garden

Native Plants Welcome Bees and Birds in Millerton Garden

The Village of Millerton is doing is part to make sure that its birds and bees have a welcome local home of their own. There’s a wonderful little garden right next to the Post Office on Century Boulevard filled with native plants birds and bees will pollinate, lay eggs on, and gain sustenance from their nectar, insects, and other delectables. Stop by and take a close look. 

Aside from beautiful flowers, pay attention to the insects buzzing around and other creatures who are visiting. Maybe you’ll see Monarch butterfly caterpillars nibbling on Milkwood leaves, or a Ruby-throated Hummingbird probing blossoms for nectar.

For young children, lessons and workshops are being planned for the spring of 2022, pandemic abatement pending, to show them first-hand the value of insects in producing our food and the importance of native plants to support them. Return to this website for updates or to the North East/Millerton Library’s website.

Many thanks to the North East/Millerton Conservation Advisory Commission, and to all of the donors of materials and time, for this wonderful addition to the biodiversity of our community!

Why Native?

The Millerton-North East Pollinator Garden has been planted entirely with native shrubs and perennials. This is because natives provide more food choices and shelter for our birds and insects. To survive, insects and birds need plants that have co-evolved with them in the same environment. Nursery plants often come from other countries. Many have leaves that are not edible to local insects and caterpillars. Says the Audubon Society, “With 96 percent of all terrestrial bird species in North America feeding insects to their young, planting insect-proof exotic plants is like serving up plastic food. No insects? No birds”—and no pollination.

For example, more than 550 different species of butterflies and moths are supported by native oak trees, while the nonnative ginkgo supports only five, insect researcher Doug Tallamy learned. Caterpillars are the main food source for many migrant and resident birds alike. In the 16 days between hatching and fledging, Tallamy found, a clutch of Carolina Chickadee chicks are supplied by their parents with more than 9,000. The insects lucky enough not to get eaten become pollinators and ultimately produce food and beauty for us humans.

If you like to have birds around, plant natives. (See below for sources.) An Audubon study of suburban properties in Pennsylvania found “eight times more Wood Thrushes, Eastern Towhees, Veeries, and Scarlet Tanagers (all species of conservation concern) in yards with native plantings as compared with yards landscaped with typical alien ornamentals.” 

Natives also help insects and birds withstand the dangers of climate change by providing a familiar home, a place to rest, to lay eggs, to eat, and to pupate. Nonnative species don’t offer the same protection and may even be toxic. 

A Little About Bees

While birds and bats pollinate flowers and flowering trees,  insects are the largest group of pollinators. They include bees and wasps. They consume pollen, meanwhile carrying the pollen that clings to them from flower to flower where it falls off, giving the new flowers the genetic material they need to reproduce and generate new seeds in the form of fruits and nuts all of nature can consume, including us. 

Honeybees are not native to North America; they were brought here by early settlers from Europe and are now so well integrated in our ecosystem they might as well be home-grown. Bumblebees are native; they have about 50 species North America. Many other bees are native. They tend to be termed solitary because they live alone and not together in hives or nests. They pollinate about 80 percent of all flowering plants. 

There are some 4,000 species of native bees. Here are some of the largest categories:

Bumble bees: These are large and furry, black with stripes of yellow, white or light orange. They are more social than other solitary bees, live in small colonies with a queen and workers in a nest in the ground.

Miner bees: These are medium to large in size, mostly dark, black, reddish or metallic blue, yellow or red and yellow. They are active in early spring when favorite flowers are in bloom such as azaleas, which honey bees cannot pollinate. They nest in the ground.

Mason and leaf-cutter bees: These are dark-colored or blue, carry pollen on their abdomens not on their back legs where most pollinating insects do. Mason bees make mud nets in early spring, before the honey bees emerge. Leaf-cutters makes nests by cutting holes in leaves to extract building material in summer and early fall. Their nests are above ground. 

Sweat bees: These are quite small and shiny metallic green, blue copper, or gold, and so called because they are attracted to perspiration. They nest in holes of wood or hollow twigs.

While most bees and wasps can sting, they do so only when startled or to protect their queen. If one lands on you, be still. Enjoy observing. Soon it will fly away, its curiosity satisfied. Yours, it is hoped, will be stimulated.

If you would like to help with the Pollinator Garden email Mary Lynn Kalogeras at marylynnk@gmail.com Or just come by for a short or extended look. All are welcome!

A few native-plant resources and recommendations

  • Better Homes & Gardens magazine
  • This in-depth, informative site ultimately seeks to connect gardeners with local nurseries. The information is free and first rate.
  • Audubon
  • A personal site with a free weekly newsletter and archive.

HELEN BALDWIN

HELEN BALDWIN

Monarch catepillar enjoying the milkweed last fall.

Examples of four bee natives, clockwise from top left: bumblebee, seat, miner, and mason and leaf-cutter.