Come along for a behind-the-scenes tour of "Sustainable Catskills," with a stop at the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, a walk on the Ashokan Rail Trail, and a swim at the Catskill Recreation Center! Thanks to Ulster Tourism and The 52-mile Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway, following New York State Route 28 through the heart of the Central Catskills.
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Welcome to cats cast, your bi weekly podcast on history, nature, arts and culture and sustainability news from the Catskill Mountains and Hudson Valley. This week, three stops along the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway, leading the way in sustainability. We'll hear from Ulster counties Chris white on the ashokan Rail Trail. Joe and Reno gives us a behind the scenes tour of the Catskill recreation center, and Adam Bosh details, sustainable practices within New York City's water system, past and present. And that's where we begin with Adam Bosh in his Kingston New York office at the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. My name is Adam Bosh, I'm Director of Public Affairs here at New York City Department of Environmental Protection. We're the department that's in charge of operating, maintaining and protecting New York City's vast water supply, which includes six reservoirs here in the Catskills. the Catskills in New York City have a unique relationship that dates back really to the 1890s when New York City was going through really an explosive population boom, unlike anything seen, since it actually grew tenfold in 60 years. And as a result of that explosive growth, the city outpaced the capacity of its original water supply and found itself having to look far and wide for where its next source of water would come from. Ultimately, they ended up in the Catskills for a number of reasons. Two of the biggest reasons were water quality and water quantity. There's about 4700 miles of map streams in the Catskills. The mountains get about 46 inches of annual precipitation combined between the rain and the snow. So there was an abundance of water here, that was a good thing. The other thing that the researchers at the time looked at was water quality, the water had to be clear, cool, they didn't want it to have a lot of things in it that would be liable to cause public health problems. They didn't want things in it that would be liable to corrode pipes. And very importantly, they wanted water that was soft. Part of the challenge of the original part of New York City's water supply was that water that came from the Croton river in Westchester County, is what we would consider moderately hard that means it has a fair bit of calcium and magnesium in it. And that harder water caused a buildup of scale on industrial equipment and getting that scale off of these machines. So they would work properly was very labor intensive and very costly. So when they come here to the Catskills one of the wonderful things about the Catskills is that the underlying geology is such that we have almost no limestone, which is a major input of natural calcium into water. They come here they find some of the softest water in the world. And it is the unique softness of that water and the alkalinity and some other traits that are sort of attributed to the unique dough products in New York City. You hear about the bagels, you hear about the pizza crust, it's thanks to the quality of the water here in the Catskills. At a shokin Reservoir when they built that reservoir between 1907 and 1915, they understood what we understand now, which is that trees are really important for the protection of water quality forests do a great job of protecting water. trees provide those services best when they are growing. When they have reached the end of their lives, they're more prone to being toppled in wind or succumbing to disease of some kind. And those trees really can become more of a liability than a help. So back when ashokan Reservoir was built, they planted 3 million trees at the same time around a shokin Reservoir. And not only did they plant those 3 million trees at the same time, that they were all the exact same species. It was all Norway spruce, that was a great idea in some ways because they understood the power of trees. But the plant trees that were all the same age all the same species we know now was not a great idea because they're all subject to dying at the same time. Or they're subject to being killed by the same pests or blights or diseases. So the main goal of our forestry program is to increase the diversity and vigor of the forests. And the way we do that is our foresters go and they will mark trees in the forest that are due to be taken out and those trees are the ones that are dead dying at the end of their lives. They will also then make sure they leave healthy trees behind as a natural seed source for the regeneration of the forest. Well then hire a timber company that will come in and take out the trees that have been marked. Those trees will be used for all sorts of wood products that people have in their homes. So you're talking about flooring, cabinetry, that dimensional wood that's actually used to build your house decking, guitar bodies, you name it, and then our foresters will carefully monitor that forest for the natural regeneration. It helps the local economy it's a renewable resource, and making sure that that forest is young growing and diverse is really, really important for protecting water quality in the future. The old trees that are in danger of falling down, just don't cut it. The water supply has a lot of traits that speak to sustainability. From the very beginning in the 1800s. This water supply was designed to deliver all of the water to the city by gravity alone. New York City is fortunate that its water has always come from areas that are in higher elevation than the city is. And so the engineers understood that that was beneficial that they could design the aqueducts in a way to take advantage of that elevation difference. Not only is gravity enough to get the water to the city, but the force of gravity alone is enough to get the water up into the fourth, fifth or sixth story in just about every building throughout the city. So when you go to some of the older residential parts of New York City, I'm thinking parts of the east side parts of the village parts of Brooklyn even, you'll see that that classic residential building is the four or five or six storey walk up apartment building. And they were built to that height because that's how high the water could get up in them. Before we had electric pumps that could pump that water to a roof top tower, he see all those water towers in the city. And then from there, gravity takes back over as the water drops down through the building and provides pressure that way. So one of the things we're looking at increasingly is how we can use that gravitational power to create electricity. There's currently four hydroelectric generating stations connected to the water supply. And at ashokan reservoir, there's one underground behind the fountain that people may be familiar with. And that generates electricity as the water moves from the reservoir into the Catskill aqueduct to begin it's 92 mile journey to the city. And combine those four hydroelectric stations in a typical year, produce more than twice the amount of electricity that we use to run the water supply. So we're sort of a net positive on the grid. It's important to understand that we have to do a lot of mowing. We have earthen dams that have to be mowed so they can be inspected properly. The biggest maintenance project that we have every year is mowing the Catskill aqueduct, the Catskill aqueduct is 92 miles long stretching from Michoacan reservoir to the northern border of the Bronx. But 55 and a half miles of that aqueduct are actually above ground. So it has to be mowed. And you know, as we started thinking about a lot of the mowing we were doing was sort of matching up with the migration season for things like monarch butterflies. So we were mowing, coincidentally, right as they were beginning their migration. And it occurred to us, thanks to some of our grade biologists that we have here that, hey, maybe if we could just change that timing ever so slightly, a lot of our lands and a lot of our infrastructure could actually help in that migration. Because if you think of the migration as butterflies and other critters needing sort of landing spots along the way, we have a lot of places that are suitable for that. So we have done some changes in terms of our mowing schedules. And then we've acquired about 140,000 acres of land over the years, most of that land is forest land in the Catskills, but some of it is more like meadows. And our biologists here have researched and deployed a specific seed mix in some of these meadows, so that they're growing plants that help sustain pollinators, once again, helping them get through that migration or survive and thrive while they're here. It's a way that we can take our watershed protection efforts and say, hey, what else is compatible with what we're doing? How else can we help the environment here in the Catskills that also achieves our goal of protecting water quality? And as you look at that, there's a lot of ways we can do it. Some of the lands that we acquired over the years are across the street or down the road from farms. Well guess what if the farmer wants to cut some of our property for hay that's compatible with water quality, we've leased a couple 1000 acres of land back to farmers. If folks who make maple syrup, want to tap some of the trees on our property? Great. We have a whole bunch of places where farmers are doing that under a permit from the city. So you know, we're constantly looking to understand where does our work intersect with the interests of folks who live in the Catskills and visit the region. And we found more and more of those places over the past few years and my expectation is that we'll continue to find more of them in the future. running alongside the ashokan reservoirs northern edge is the newly constructed a shokan Rail Trail. The trail was built to ada compliancy, making exploration of the shokin a breeze for bikers, walkers, the elderly, and folks with disabilities. It's also one of the most environmentally sustainable trails in the northeast. Chris White was bolstered County's Deputy Director for planning Throughout the process, welcome to the Catskills and welcome to Ulster County. My name is Chris white and I'm Deputy Director of Planning for Ulster County. I was also the project manager for the construction of the shokan Rail Trail, which opened in 2019. I welcome you to this rail trail and so glad to finally open it after these years of planning and construction and share with you the views and the experience that I've had going out there over these years. It's so great to see it now being used by people of all ages and all abilities seeing these views that I got to see but had to really bushwhack through some pretty rough areas to get to the ashokan Rail Trail is open from sunrise to sunset every day of the year for all non motorized uses, which include hiking, biking, running, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, fat biking, nature observation, the only motorized vehicles that are allowed on the trail are for persons with disabilities who have a wheelchair or motorized scooter. The trail is 11 and a half miles long. And we have a trailhead at each end in the east and west and one located in the middle. So starting from the east to west there's Woodstock dike trailhead, which is in westerly. The second trailhead is located about six miles west of there in shokin. And the final trailhead is about five and a half miles from there, right off of Route 28 day invoice, Phil. All three of these trail heads have one of the major elements of the trail within a short walking distance. So at West Hurley, within half a mile you have a scenic overlook on the glenford dike at shokin. Within a quarter mile you have a beautiful boardwalk that spans a wetland. And then at boys fill bridge trailhead, you have the boys filled bridge within a few 100 yards of the trailhead. The ashokan Rail Trail had been thought about for some decades in planning documents. It really started in earnest in late 2012 when the former county executive Michael Heine announced an historic agreement with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection to allow the county to convert its former railroad corridor along the northern shore of ashokan Reservoir into a non motorized recreational path. When the reservoir was constructed in the early 1900s, the railroad was actually moved to this northern shore. It had previously been along the soapless Creek Valley, which was later inundated with water to create a shokin Reservoir. So it has some of the nicest views of the ashokan reservoir, and the western Catskill peaks, which really hadn't been available to the public without a permit for the last century. The way that the ashokan Rail Trail differs from many of the other trails in the Catskill peaks is that it's relatively flat, it's maybe one to 2% grade at most in its steepest area. So we had an opportunity here to really expand hiking, biking opportunities for persons with disabilities, people with limited mobility, young people, the elderly, and we had a balance having an accessible trail with also having an environmentally friendly trail. The ashokan Rail Trail is probably the most or one of the most sustainably constructed rail trails in the northeast, we came up with was a proprietary composition of crushed stone with clay that not only allowed this trail to be pervious for water, which was important to protect the reservoir water quality, but it also gave us a stable and firm surface that is ADA compliant and wide enough and accessible enough that anyone of any ability can use wheelchairs have been out there we've seen specially adapted bicycles. In designing the trail, we tried to minimize the future maintenance of the trail. And we did that by making sure that we had, again, this crushed stone surface that's easily replaceable. It's not like pavement, we minimize the amount of fence that we would need. We took down more than 2700 dead ash trees which would have fallen on various elements of the trail. We restored all of the drainage so that there's very little erosion from these heavy storms that we've gotten in two areas. We had areas of the rail bed that had evolved into wetlands because the drainage systems hadn't been maintained for four or five decades. So in one instance, we did a detour around the original rail bed and let that remain is a wetland and deviated around it in another we didn't have that option. So we built a 520 foot long boardwalk spanning over the wetland. We have The county went through a difficult process of decision making a fact finding. And then of implementing this project and there were very strong opinions on both sides. And what is made me really proud is to see the people now using the trail every day, I can go up there on a weekday, when it's not even the nicest weather and the parking lots are near full. And then getting the feedback of people saying, I never knew this was here. I've lived in the Catskills. For decades, I never had seen these VISTAs, we made an area that previously was inaccessible. And it was really a wall between route 28 and the shokin. And we turned it into a window. So you can actually look through and see all of these areas that were previously blocked off. I think trails have this potential to improve public health, to improve our communities. And just to make it a lot nicer to live around here, and I'm seeing that play out already in the smiles of the people on the trail and the feedback that we're getting. While we often accentuate how much a trail might benefit us in terms of additional sales tax or businesses or tourism. One of the biggest things is people are going to tend to want to be outside more, they're gonna want to take their kids outside and be more active, be more healthy, connect with our environment. That's a great thing right now with so many digital temptations to keep people inside. So welcome. Come outside with us. 30 minutes west of the rail trail is the region's premier facility for indoor recreation open to residents and visitors alike. The Catskill Recreation Center in arc Ville, New York runs on cutting edge technology that's easy on the environment, both outside and inside the building. If you take a breath, you don't smell any chlorine. When you go to a hotel or a motel or something, as soon as you hit the front lobby, you can tell right away they have a pool on premises because you smell that chlorine smell. And believe it or not, we don't have it here. That's what this air system is doing. For us. That's a state of the art system. My name is Joe Angelino. I'm the facilities manager here at the Catskill rec center. In what I'd like to discuss with you is the facilities mechanicals, and what really runs the building, including our pool system. We have a geothermal system, we have approximately 25 wells underneath our front parking lot, 400 feet deep each. And we're constantly pumping fluid from the earth. And from there, it gets split up throughout the building to different locations. To help us with our heating and air conditioning. We use a glycol fluid, which would be similar to your car radiator, using antifreeze. So that is pumped constantly into the ground. And it brings that temperature back up into the building into a central location in the boiler room from there is pumped to our hva sees it's pumped to our pool system. Anything that has to do with heat and heat exchanging, we tap off of that temperature, let's say in the middle of the summer, we're 90 degrees outside, and we need to cool the place down. We constantly have about 64 to 66 degrees to begin with. So we only have to bring the temperature down maybe 2030 degrees. And it's the same thing in reverse in the winter, if it's zero degrees outside, but we're always pumping 6466 degrees of temperature through the building to get a room temperature of 72 we only have to heat up maybe 10 or 12 degrees. That is a tremendous savings of power to this building. The noise we hear running right now is one of the geothermal pumps. These pumps run 24 seven, this little gray box, believe it or not, it's only about two feet by three feet by four feet high is a very high efficiency state of the art boiler by the law's company. This particular boiler right here was made and put together up in New Hampshire. This is our primary source of hot water. There's a 300 gallon hot water tank. This is piped across and feeds the entire building, mostly the locker rooms, showers, all comes out of this small boiler with the highest efficiency I'm told that's made right now, in this part of the country. The building is kind of split into two sections. On this side of the building. We have what's called hva sees its heating, venting and air conditioning. And we have eight separate units or we can call them eight zones throughout this side of the building. Along with those, we have what's called an ER v. It's a special type of unit. Let's say it takes smelly air from the locker rooms, it's able to suck that air out of the locker room, separate the heat in that air and help return the heat back into the building and the olders are exhausted outside the building. The other half of this building is about 160,000 gallon pool setup, half the pool our lap lanes. And the other side of the pool is a zero entry pool so that even people with wheelchairs can enter this water. That entire room is really a separate contained unit with its own atmosphere. We have a unit Outback, it's called ceresco. It's made out of Canada. It's a dehumidifying system. This unit does multiple things. And the biggest one is dehumidification maintains the temperature in the room, the room is run under pressure, it would be like being on an aeroplane. When you enter the room you can feel the air change. As the air enters the room. It goes around the perimeter of the room. And the tube that provides the air has jet portals to feed the air into the room and direct it and duck work in the floor helps us remove the chloramines that are produced from the pool. So we have fresh air coming in. We have heated air coming in. And we have chloramine gases being removed all at the same time. Out in the back corner here is also resco unit. Anyone passing by the building can take a look in the right rear corner and the filtration starts here we are filtering the air before we even enters the system. It's nice and more I'm standing here. This is the exhaust of the heat that's been separated. The half that's being recirculated, went back in the other half has been exhausted here. This units about 30 feet long, seven feet high and about 10 feet Why? And all of those different components and features and functions that we spoke about to take care of the pool atmosphere is done with this machine right here in front of us. Water in the pool itself has three different heat sources. It uses a heat exchanger with the geothermal once again that comes into play. We do have the propane heat from our special boiler, and it's all closely monitored by computer and we also retrieve excess heat from this seresto unit. As the air is circulating. We have coils set up in that ceresco unit. So we're extracting that heat and re utilizing that to feed back into the pool water. The entire back of the building. The roof is covered with solar panels. We have enough solar panels to produce 43 kw that's 43,000 watts that feeds directly into our electric panels on this side of the electric meters. So it goes right into the building and we get to use that and that covers about 10 to 12% of our daily electrical use. And that's a big savings. We have a water fountain, that particular fountain that we have here has micro filtration on it. Everyone brings in water bottles, it has a station where you can just fill up the water. We have a counter on that and we saved approximately 367,000 plastic bottles. We have a full fitness gym we have classes in the back like yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, or you can enjoy the swimming pool. We have laps we have a robot courses in the pool itself. There's always something going on here. It's $10 for a day pass to use the entire facility. And a lot of people on weekends do that people that are just traveling through the area or just up for the weekend. They want to stop in for a few hours and they do come back we do establish a relationship with these people. It's a happy place to come and work out. It's a friendly place to meet other people. It's good discipline to take care of your body and it does help your mind. Tune in next time to hear from three more organizations. The Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway that are leading the way in sustainable design. Thanks to Ulster County tourism for their support of the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway sustainability tour. And to the 52 mile Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway following New York State Route 28. Through the heart of the central Catskills for maps, itineraries, and links to area restaurants, shops and accommodations. Visit scenic catskills.com cats cast is a production of silver hollow audio production intern sky rousse. Subscribe wherever podcasts are found for an automatic download of our next show. I'm Brett Barry. Thanks for listening
Transcribed by https://otter.ai