Q: How does the WEC address issues of environmental concern, such as wetlands, watercourses, steep slopes, significant geologic formations, etc.?
A: As one example, at the request of the Planning Board, the WEC, under the direction of Mary Phillips Burke (chair, 2001-2008), completed a review of the Declaration of Environmental Impact Study (DEIS) submitted by the KTD monastery to the PB. The WEC report to the PB outlined 26 areas of concern. The consulting firm hired by the PB to evaluate this DEIS cited 25 areas of concern that were identical to the ones in the WEC report, save for one transportation issue that was overlooked by that firm.
Q: How does the WEC advise the Town on protecting its aquifer?
A: The WEC worked with the TB and the NY Rural Water division in 2002-03 to have our sole-source aquifer mapped, at no charge to the town. This was a preliminary step in the research necessary before the town could plan the building of the new highway garage.
Q: How is the WEC involved with the Land Aquisition Stewardship Program (LASP) run by the New York City Department of Environmental Conservation (NYC-DEP)?
A: The WEC conducts Land Acquisition Stewardship Program (LASP) site visits to determine the appropriateness of the recreational options approved by the NYC-DEP. All contiguous property owners are notified of the date and time the WEC addressed each LASP parcel and their input included in the WEC report to the TB. The TB has the last word on each of these properties and submits their determination to the NYCDEP. Ann Brandt, WEC chair from 2009, has been the WEC coordinator on all LASP negotiations. To date the WEC has addressed over 200 LASP parcels.
Q: What programs or events does the WEC sponsor?
A: The WEC has for the past several years organized an annual "Earth Day" celebration, usually staged in conjunction with the proprietors and staff at Sunflower Natural Foods. All WEC members work the information table in shifts.. Member and now chair Ann Brandt was responsible for accumulating various pertinent print materials that define numerous issues, including the protection of wildlife, trees, wetlands, water courses, indigenous flora, energy-saving steps available for all income levels, at-cost sale of compact fluorescent bulbs, etc.
In addition, two widely heralded events, combined with our Earth Day celebrations, were our electronic recycling collection days. Held in 20087 and 2008, these were designed to help save our landfills from the toxic materials contained in such items as television sets, computers, printers, copiers, scanners, and so on. The Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency (UCRRA) strongly supported these WEC endeavors.
Q: How does the WEC advise the Town on such issues as well-head protection and stream bank stabilization?
A: Well-head and stream bank protection and stabilization are recurrent issues addressed by the WEC. In conjunction with our Earth Day celebration of 2008 and with the cooperation of Mary McNamara of the Sawkill Watershed Alliance, the WEC sold, at cost, 5 varieties of plants used for stream bank stabilization.
Q: How does the WEC involve itself on such issues as buried fuel storage tanks?
A: During Mary Burke’s tenure as Chair, the WEC conducted three meetings to inform the public about proper maintenance of fuel storage tanks and created a comprehensive brochure to provide residents with the knowledge needed to properly monitor and maintain their tanks. This brochure was designed by the combined efforts of David Corbett and Mary Ann Ahroon. The DEC, fuel oil distributors, bank representatives and a locally licensed and insured tank removal contractor attended these meetings. Incentives included a reduced fee offer for tank removal/ replacement if several residents with contiguous properties simultaneously contracted with these business firms, no-interest payment plans with fuel distribution firms, and a three year-low interest bank loan.
Q: In what ways does the WEC weigh in on wildlife issues?
A: in 2006 and 2007, the WEC initiated the "GoodNeighBEARhood Watch program, aimed at informing the public how to live with black bears in a nonconfrontational manner. The WEC worked closely with the NYS-DEC. Only two towns in the state were chosen for this highly regarded program, carried out in conjunction with a thesis undertaken by Meredith Gore of Cornell University. Without the support of the TB and the WEC this program would have been offered to another town. Many local citizens continue to display the complimentary yard signs, declaring them as being "GoodN eighBEARS".
Q: What materials do the WEC offer to the public to help them gain knowledge of conservation issues affecting Woodstockers?
A: A "Green Guide", created by WEC member Megan Reynolds with input from other WEC members, was initiated and substantially completed during Mary Burke’s tenure as Chair and completed in early 2009. This guide, which is now available on the town's web-site and in print, contains suggestions for saving energy and protecting the environment by reducing our carbon footprint. It includes scores of web-addresses readers can select from for more complete research data according to their own interest levels and individual needs.
Q: In what ways does the WEC advise the Town on reducing its carbon footprint?
A: In 2003, the WEC procured a NYS Energy Research Development Agency (NYSERDA) grant that covered eighty percent of the cost of installing the photo-voltaic panels on the flat roof at the Woodstock Town Hall. The remaining twenty percent was covered by "in kind" man hours provided by municipal staff persons. Electricity now generated by this installation is in excess of the requirements needed for the entire building. The excess feeds back into the grid, helping to reduce the town's electric utility bill. Former WEC member, Randolph Horner, wrote this grant application. An additional installation of solar panels at the highway garage is included in this grant fund. When that installation is completed there will be a dramatic drop in the electric bill at that municipal facility.
In 2006, the WEC recommended that the TB address the issue of reducing the municipal carbon footprint. The TB authorized the establishment of a Task Force to study reduction methods and make suggestions to help the town become carbon neutral. Chair Mary Burke initially headed this Task Force, after which former WEC member Matthew Immergut served as its leader. Thus did the Carbon Neutral Initiative (CNI) become a priority for our town. Several WEC members, past and present, served on this task force. The resolution for the town to become carbon neutral within ten years was passed unanimously by the TB on March 13, 2007. The hope is that all townspeople will follow the examples being set by ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability, an international association of local governments as well as national and regional local governmental organizations that have made a commitment to sustainable development
Q: In what ways does the WEC work to inform Woodstockers of the range and diversity of the Town’s plant and animal life?
A: In 2004, the WEC was awarded a grant from the NYS-DEP, in conjunction with Hudsonia (an environmental research, education, training and technical assistance organization, concerned with the protection of the natural heritage of the Hudson Valley and neighboring regions). Former WEC member Cliff Lamm was the leader on this project. Grace Bowne, who worked with Cliff and other townspeople on this project, later became a member of the WEC (she now serves as vice-chair). Two thousand acres were walked, studied and mapped. This map, with legend, hangs on the wall of the main room at the Comeau. This biodiversity study included the discovery of a twelve-and-one-half acre Critical Environmental Area (CEA) that had not previously been known or recorded. The DEC was notified of this discovery (validated by Hudsonia personnel) and its location will be included when the DEC issues new state maps.
Q: How does the WEC engage students in the work of understanding and protecting the environment?
A: The WEC sponsored and worked with two area high school students to stage Environmental Expositions at the Woodstock Community Center in 2007 and 2008. Max Edmands planned and executed the first of these highly successful expos and Dan Wininger planned and executed the second one. These two events included many local vendors as well as many from more distant locations. Scores of environmental issues were covered. Poster contests involved students from every grade level in area schools. Continually running PowerPoint presentations highlighted the accomplishments of area youth groups, science class students, Boy Scouts, and on and on. Attendance at each of these two expos was very high. It is always extremely encouraging to know that the generation that includes those who will be our future "leaders and shakers" are seriously concerned about the environment.
Another endeavor undertaken by a young Woodstock resident was "Greening the Synagogue". In 2008, Adi Baum, a member of the Woodstock Jewish Congregation, sought the support of the WEC in her effort to begin a "green fund" to help reduce the carbon footprint at her synagogue. The event she planned and executed, which included several area musicians, was a spectacular success. Then-chair Mary Burke, asked to address the audience on behalf of the WEC, briefly described the myriad undertakings of the WEC, including the belief that the more youth that can be included in environmental issues, the better it is for all.
Q: Does the WEC involve itself in regional or global issues?
A: In 2008, member David Gross presented to the WEC the issue of reducing the number of "single-use bags" from businesses above a certain size. With support and input from other WEC members, local members of the Chamber of Commerce, and with the approval of the Town Board, David succeeded in persuading the Ulster County (UC) Legislature's Environmental Committee to draft a law that would establish a fee on each single-use plastic bag. A public hearing on this draft law was held on May 6, 2009. The intent of this law is to encourage all residents of UC to take reusable cloth or canvas bags with them every time they shop. Single-use bags, particularly those
made of plastic (a petroleum by-product), befoul the environment, contribute to the contents of landfills, cause risks to fish and fowl, litter our highways and byways and pollute our rivers, streams, lakes and oceans. The process used to manufacture paper bags is energy dependent and releases toxins into the atmosphere. Attention to this issue is long-overdue in this country! European countries addressed it decades ago. The majority of businesses in Woodstock and many in Kingston have reusable bags available for a very reasonable cost. It is encouraging to know that local merchants join the WEC in its endeavors to help reduce the town's carbon footprint.