Water Discovery Center and Catskill Forest Association Volunteers Join Forces To Clean Up Arkville Wetlands

Ryan Trapani and Mike Porter

In June 2007, the Water Discovery Center purchased the land for its building site on County Route 38. The parcel includes 34-acres of wetlands bordering the East Branch of the Delaware River.

The Center was notified by a concerned citizen that dozens of plastic bags filled with household garbage had been illegally dumped on the site and could pose a hazard to wildlife in the area.

Pat Davis, Code Enforcement Officer for the Town of Middletown, and Ted Robak, Engineering Geologist with Region 4 of the DEC, took the time to walk the wetlands with Gary Gailes, President of the Water Discovery Center Board, to locate the garbage and plan a clean up.

Garbage, indeed, was littered over the 34-acres of wetlands owned by the Water Discovery Center, bordering the Arkville Fireman’s Pavilion, set between the Delaware Ulster railroad tracks and the East Branch of the Delaware River.

On Saturday, May 3, fourteen volunteers gathered including:

Bob Kalb and Christian on ATV

Christian Cafalf
Gary Gailes
Martie Gailes
Lynn Gitter
Bob Kalb
Lew Kolar
Brandon Labumbard
Carol O’Beirne
Mike Porter
Bill Stanton
Ryan Trapani
Carol Urban
Eric Wedemeyer
Frank Winkler

Frank Winkler and Christian Cafalf provided ATV’s to assist in carrying full garbage bags out for removal from the property, enabling the entire 34-acres to be thoroughly cleaned up in just under two hours. A total of 2 ½ truckloads, comprised of 28 full contractor-sized bags of garbage were removed. Carol Urban prepared a hearty lunch for all after the clean up.

In their future plans for the 34-acre site, the Water Discovery Center intends to create a trail network with interpretive signage that highlights local flora and fauna as well as providing access to the river by students and visitors to the educational/exhibit center planned for the Water Discovery Center.

One of the participants in the clean up, Carol Urban, wrote the following description of the clean up:

It didn’t look like great day to pick up garbage, but then, I’m not sure anyone awakes and says ‘Whee, what a wonderful day to clean garbage from the stream side.’ Enough people overcame the desire to pull the covers over their head and avoid the gray skies that by 9 a.m. a small group of friends of the Water Discovery Center had gathered at the Arkville Fireman’s Pavilion. Armed with gloves, rakes, and lots of contractor-grade garbage bags we set off. Almost immediately we knew Nature approved. We were buzzed by a huge, handsome Bald Eagle which then settled high in a tree to supervise our efforts. And efforts they were. Someone has been dumping garbage bags, some of which had been torn open and scattered. We got the privilege of picking up all we could find. That turned out to be 28 very large bags full. Whoever has been dumping (used) cat litter as well as other household waste, I hope your ears were buzzing mightily Saturday morning!

Brandon Labumbard,Eric Wedemeyer, Lew Kolar, and Sally Fairbairn

Although the day was gray and cold and windy and blessed with periodic sprinkles, it was also a joy to be out on this early spring day. Had we waited a week or so, the vegetation would have impeded our efforts both by hiding the garbage and by getting caught in the rakes. This early there were lots of short green things everywhere. Never have I seen so many Dog Tooth violets, large sweeps of them, those in the shade with faint mottling of the leaves and the ones in the sun looking like leaves of Leopard Frog skin. Double-fist sized clumps of decayed woody vegetation showed the promise of fern fiddles and the something with three-inch seed leaves turned out to be very eager wild cucumber. A few had their first true leaves which were clearly melon-like and wild crochets of spiny thread nearby showed the ovoid remains of last year’s fruit. The damp soil showed numerous animal and bird tracks and as I identified them I imagined the deer walking through Saturday evening and thinking ‘Lots of those humans here recently.’

After the clean up we cleaned ourselves up and had an early lunch and then went off to post No Trespassing signs. If you want to walk along the stream please enjoy the ramble but keep a lookout for the cat owning person and others, who have such disregard for this beautiful land.


Water Discovery Center  P.O. Box 10, Big Indian, NY 12410

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