UPPER DELAWARE REGION — Held by the Upper Delaware Council on Sunday, September 12 at the Central House Family Resort, the 33rd annual River Valley Awards honored the contributions made by …
UPPER DELAWARE REGION — Held by the Upper Delaware Council on Sunday, September 12 at the Central House Family Resort, the 33rd annual River Valley Awards honored the contributions made by members of the Upper Delaware community for the betterment of all.
“Today is about celebrating what makes the Upper Delaware River so special,” said 2021 UDC Chairperson Jeffery Dexter. “It’s really about the people.”
The ceremony highlighted award-winners from 2021 and from 2020 (owing to the event’s COVID-related cancellation the previous year). Community volunteers, environmental activists, historical advocates, life-saving emergency responders, public-service officials and community-minded artists all held the spotlight, with their work and their contributions to the community praised and honored.
The occasion was also a time to look to the future, as New York State Senator Mike Martucci gave a keynote speech laying out a legislative agenda in support of the Upper Delaware region.
A lifelong Orange County resident, Martucci started Quality Bus Services at 22 years old, and grew the company to over 500 employees and over 350 school buses before selling it in 2018 so he could spend more time with his family and his community. He is still in his freshman term as a senator, having been elected in 2020 to the state’s 42nd Senate District, representing all of Sullivan County and parts of Orange, Delaware and Ulster counties.
“This wasn’t something that I knew much about nine months ago,” said Martucci, speaking of the region’s environment and the advocacy in place to protect it. But over the course of those nine months, he has become involved in and passionate about the region’s environmental cause, a development he credited to advocates like UDC Executive Director Laurie Ramie.
“We all have an obligation to do something about it,” he said.
Martucci highlighted the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), which provides grant monies for capital projects to help protect the environment. It is a central part of work to protect the Upper Delaware River and the environment statewide.
While the federal government provides a lot of environmental funding, said Martucci, that money often comes with matching requirements, where the grant recipient has to find an equivalent amount of money from other sources. The EPF can provide that matching funding through the grant process, allowing local and regional communities to make full use of available federal grants.
The EPF can also provide consistent, annual funding to protect specific regions, which Martucci identified as a particular target. Together with Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther and regional environmental activists including the New York League of Conservation Voters, Martucci is working to provide a sustained one million dollars in funding through the EPF for the Upper Delaware River, inserted as a line item into the state budget.
“It’s time that this region and this river get its fair share,” said Martucci. “This has to be our year; this has to be our time.”
Looking toward the future, Martucci said that there were plans to double the size of the EPF, bringing it from its current size of $300 million to $600 million within the next five years.
Martucci also said that he was talking to officials in New York City to get their help in securing funding for the Upper Delaware Region, given that the river provides a large portion of the city’s drinking water.
But as the awards ceremony highlighted the efforts of all those who come together to make the Upper Delaware Region great, so too did Martucci, saying that legislative efforts would need the support of the community and that, ultimately, they would support the community.
“I don’t know how to spend this money well,” he said. “But the good thing is, you do.”
Distinguished Service Award ~ Kevin Reish, U.S. Park Ranger, National Park Service (retired), for 34 years of service at the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River from 1987-2021, including roles as the first Water Safety Program Manager, instructor, presenter, wildland firefighter, Special Events Team, and active participant in numerous river rescue incidents.
Robin M. Daniels Memorial Lifesaving Award ~ Sparrowbush (NY) Engine Company, for 60 years of providing highly skilled volunteer emergency services in often challenging conditions on land and water, particularly at the NYS Route 97 Hawk’s Nest and on the Delaware River.
Partnership Award ~ Trust for Public Land, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Sullivan County, and Town of Delaware for collaborating to transform an abandoned property in Callicoon, NY into a 40-acre riverside park for public recreational use and municipal services.
Outstanding Community Achievement Award ~ Town of Highland, NY for supporting multiple beautification, recreational access, and historic projects that spotlight the river and for revising the Town Zoning Code to conform to the Upper Delaware Land and Water Use Guidelines.
Recreation Achievement Awards (2) ~ Knotweed Management Project, invasive plant species research and educational outreach coordinated by Friends of the Upper Delaware River, Inc.; and Keep Hawley-Honesdale Beautiful (KHHB), accomplishments in roadside and riverside litter clean-up activities since 2017.
Volunteer Award ~ Edwin “Ed” Jackson, for his nearly two-decade tenure as Town of Tusten Planning Board chairman, leadership with the New York State Planning Federation, and veterans’ causes.
Cultural Achievement Awards (2) ~ Michael Rocco “Rocky” Pinciotti, artist, teacher, and Delaware Valley Arts Alliance Gallery Director, 2005-2020; and The Delaware Company, for keeping history alive through commemorations, new markers, a river trail extension, and Sullivan County site programming.
Community Service Award ~ Andy Boyar of Eldred, NY for his fervor to protect the health and safety of the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River, conception of the 15-community Upper Delaware Litter Sweep, presidency of the Upper Delaware Chapter of Trout Unlimited, and municipal leadership roles.
Special Recognition Awards (2) ~ WJFF Radio Catskill for their programming focus on Upper Delaware River Valley issues, interests, and individuals; and Bonnie Sheard for 27 years at the National Park Service Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River, including as Commercial & Special Park Uses Program Manager.
Oaken Gavel Award ~ Larry H. Richardson, 2020 (and four-time) UDC Chairperson, Town of Cochecton Representative.
Distinguished Service Award ~ Harold G. Roeder, Jr., for his contributions to the Upper Delaware Council as Town of Delaware, NY Representative since 1997, three-time UDC chairperson, and river valley advocate.
Robin M. Daniels Memorial Lifesaving Awards (2) ~ Paddy McCarthy and the late Tim Freeman, National Park Service Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River Interpretive Rangers, for a July 5, 2019 boater rescue at Mongaup Rapids; and James Moss, Johnny Smith, Andy Moss (Equinunk Volunteer Fire Company) and Jeff Dexter (Damascus Township Volunteer Ambulance Corps), for a July 6, 2019 river rescue upstream of the Kellams-Stalker Bridge.
Advocacy Award ~ Pennsylvania Representatives Jonathan Fritz (111th District) and Michael Peifer (139th District), and Senator Lisa Baker (20th District), for securing a first-ever $100,000 Pennsylvania grant investment in 2019 for the Upper Delaware Council and its five PA member townships.
Partnership Award ~ Dr. Heather Galbraith, Carrie Blakeslee, Jeff Cole, and Barbara White for their work at the USGS Northern Appalachian Research Laboratory partnering with the National Park Service Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River for over two decades to advance numerous scientific research projects.
Cultural Achievement Awards (2) ~ Big Eddy Film Festival, directed by Tina Spangler from the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance, for the 8th annual event in 2019 featuring the premiere of the “Narrowsburg” documentary; and the Wayne County Historical Society’s 1888 Spencer Tractor Restoration accomplished over three years by Fred Murray, Rich Robbins, Frank Ward, Rod Warner, Steve Weber, and Kim Erickson.
Community Service Award ~ Nancy Furdock of Hancock, NY for promoting regional tourism, economic development, arts appreciation, and cultural understanding.
Recreation Achievement Awards (2) ~ Dan Plummer, guiding force behind the Friends of the Upper Delaware River, Inc. from 2006 to 2019; and Bill Streeter, director of the Delaware Valley Raptor Center since 1987.
Volunteer Award ~ Star Hesse of Lava, NY for her active outreach on behalf of Town of Tusten residents, senior citizens, the environment, and community beautification efforts.
Special Recognition Awards (2) ~ Carla Hauser Hahn of Callicoon, NY upon her 2019 retirement as National Park Service Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River Management Assistant after 39 years of government service; and John Ogozalek of French Woods, NY for his advocacy to mark the Highest Elevation point along the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway and substance abuse addiction education through The Kingfisher Project.