July 11, 2012 —
The River Reporter (TRR) has proudly served the Upper Delaware region for more than 35 years—investigating and reporting on vital community issues and fostering community dialogue. Often, we have covered issues related to land, water and wildlife, which have sparked passionate discussion, and we have published this discourse.
It is our distinct privilege to carry out this role in a community such as ours where people share a strong sense of place. Yet it is often a challenge, precisely because of these deeply rooted connections. Either way, it is our job to make the calls, assemble the details and write the story, which is what we did in covering the conflict of the Narrowsburg’s July 4th fireworks display and its resident eagle population.
The July 4th fireworks display has been a staple in Narrowsburg for as many years as people can remember. They are a beautiful and important part of the hamlet’s Independence Day tradition. Additionally, the July 4th celebration has been in flux for some time, and the fireworks have not been without their own troubles.
They were cancelled in 2000 when the Fireman’s Field Day was ended and in the past three years there have been three different organizations planning and executing the fireworks. (The Narrowsburg Fire Department through 2010; the Narrowsburg Chamber of Commerce in 2011; and the Lava Fire Department in 2012).
In 2009, after the Independence Day fireworks, an eaglet experienced a broken leg and required rehabilitation, coverage of which appeared in TRR. (The blast site had been moved from Firemen’s Field to the closer ballfield.) In 2011, an eaglet become separated from its nest and was grounded on a spit of land within the Big Eddy. At that time, TRR took photos and made press inquiries to various agencies, organizations and individuals responsible for planning the annual fireworks (at that time the Narrowsburg Chamber of Commerce). In addition, the issue of how to address such occurrences was raised several times at Tusten Town Board meetings.
In June, TRR followed up on those inquiries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)—the federal agency that holds regulatory authority on matters pertaining to eagles—conducted its own investigation. In response, the FWS made the Lava Fire Department aware of potential fines and penalties they could face if harm should come to the eagles. After weighing the options, the Lava Fire Department voted to cancel the 2012 fireworks display.
TRR acknowledges that it is quite possible that if we had not asked questions or written about this conflict between the Narrowsburg firework display and the federal regulations on how close Class B explosives can be detonated to active eagles nests, that the fireworks would have taken place this year. However, it is absolutely true that if TRR had not informed everyone of this debate and had an eagle been harmed, the Lava Fire Department could have been subject to a $200,000 fine.
Further, we understand that, while the paper is not responsible for the determination of the FWS, the delayed communication about the conflict of the law and the blast site within the town board and the Lava Fire Department or that a suitable site further away from the nest was not secured, visitors did not come back into Narrowsburg at dusk for fireworks.
Additionally, we are heartened that Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther has indicated that a previously unclaimed $5000 grant that can be used for firefighting equipment may be forthcoming to the Lava Fire Department, so that the $3200 that was spent on the firework deposit will not take away their ability to provide emergency services for our community.
Most importantly, the sequence of events has touched many people’s sense of patriotism and community. And while misplaced sentiments of the newspaper’s sole culpability have been conveniently lodged, it has also reassured us that the vigor of community engagement continues to course through our small communities. This proves, we believe, that the heart of America thrives on something more than the grandeur of fireworks or the majesty of our national bird—although these beloved symbols are certainly awe-inspiring reminders.
The heart of America is its people—like those in the Upper Delaware region—who, despite any multitude of obstacles and divisions, are willing to come to the table, roll up their sleeves and work elbow to elbow on challenging situations in order to create a place in which we all are proud to live.
Indeed, the heart and the soul of our community rest in our ability to combine our challenges with our strengths and forge a future together.
We look forward to reporting that story.