Polly Howells
DEC Boat Launch, Sandy Road, Kingston, New York
2022

Story Info

Story & Experience

We were a group of 11 who gathered at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Boat Launch on the Lower Esopus Creek in Kingston, NY. The Lower Esopus Creek meanders 35 miles from where it was dammed up 100 + years ago to create the Ashokan Reservoir to its outlet on the Hudson River in Saugerties. Because New York City regularly “releases” turbid water from the Ashokan into this creek, and because rainfall in the area has dramatically increased with climate change, the Lower Esopus has flooded, regularly and drastically, over the past 10 + years. After one of these floods, the people who lived at this Boat Launch site chose to be bought out by FEMA rather than try to rebuild. The state demolished their houses, took over the land, and built the boat launch, creating a small park on this damaged stream. Although our group had lived in the area for years, only two of us knew the park was there.

Why this Place?

DEC Boat Launch, Sandy Road, Kingston, New York

The Lower Esopus Creek receives turbid overflow from the Ashokan Reservoir and has experienced many damaging floods over the past decade.

Act of Beauty

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Four people paddled upstream in Kayaks, and the rest of us wandered on foot through the area, feeling the sadness of that land and its inhabitants.  When the kayakers returned they brought with them treasures from the creek:  milfoil, tree branches, and a white plastic chair caked with mud.  We attached these items to the bird that was already emerging, a medical mask over its beak, the chair its fluted tail, and a RadJoy flag draped over one of its wings.  We posed for photos with our creation, and then held hands in a circle to honor the land and water, the beings who live here, and the pain in the wider world of which this site is only a small, but significant, part.

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