December 2 — This past Saturday, the Saturday after blessed Thanksgiving, two dear NYC friends and I attended the Smallwood Civic Association (SWCA)’s Turkey Trot Get Together on …
December 2 — This past Saturday, the Saturday after blessed Thanksgiving, two dear NYC friends and I attended the Smallwood Civic Association (SWCA)’s Turkey Trot Get Together on Smallwood Beach.
Many of you know the SWCA beach from its usual July or August “high season” presentation, when bikini-clad children dash screaming into Mountain Lake and Russian matrons under floppy-brimmed hats arrive with deck chairs and innertubes to settle down into the warm sand for an afternoon bake.
On this day, a chilly but sunny 26th of November, the scene was entirely different. A lone blue-eyed husky and some kind of endlessly-loving pitbull mix raced around the empty beach, stopping short and splashing sand.
A dozen Smallwoodians sat wassailing, swathed in parkas and sunglasses, hands crossed modestly when not pointing to the sky averring truth-and-nothing-but-the-truth. ‘80s music in the background, the sun tossing tresses of sallow light. Slow banter: no rush anymore, most of the year behind us. Nothing much really happened. The sun just kept slouching westwards above the tree line and smoke kept rising in a lazy unwinding wreath into the blue. No rush anymore: perfect. A quietly understated Smallwoodian afternoon; people in parkas and sneakers averring truths and hugging each other. “Until we do this again! Til January or February!”
Friends: if you were not there, join us and be there next time!
I dialed up Dan Sturm, the elected Supervisor of Bethel. “The end of the year, Dan, what’s gone on this past year and what’s coming in 2023 in Bethel-Smallwood-Mongaup Valley?” Sturm reports that although Bethel has experienced strong economic growth in tourism this year, many residents are struggling. Rents are rising because of lack of housing and gas and electricity costs are further squeezing those least able to afford housing. “We are acting as conservatively as possible to keep taxes and tax rises as low as possible, to stimulate economic development here,” Sturm says.
He reports the Town of Bethel is also pursuing two big projects in the coming year. One is the upgrade of Town Hall; the current 1960’s-era building will be demolished in 2023 to make way for a new energy-efficient Town Hall on the same site. New Town Hall will provide better meeting rooms and administrative functioning. (Town Hall administration will move to Duggan School during construction.) Also planned for the immediate future is a new garage for the Highway Department so that machinery can be stored indoors for protection from the elements and highway department staff better housed.
Sturm also reported about ongoing work in the Smallwood Reserve. Back in September 2021, Hurricane Ida destroyed the Smallwood Culvert (since repaired with FEMA funds on Pine Grove Road) and overwhelmed the low laying flood lands of the Reserve around the Lybolt Brook. This fall the Town applied FEMA funds to rebuild and fortify the walking bridge in the Reserve and also install new hiking path signage, construct a parking lot around new Public Restrooms, and set up Reserve picnic tables and benches.
I will continue my reporting in my next column.
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