Tonia Shoumatoff

April 15.  The most recently completed section of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail in the town of Copake was dedicated last Saturday, April 10.  This new 1.2 mile section will be owned by the state and is part of NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

The new portion of the trail goes down from Taconic State Park to Orphan Farm Rd. around 12 miles north of Millerton.  The addition makes a total of 5 miles of trail open to the public in Columbia County off Rte. 22.   Dutchess County is working on extending the trail from Millerton to Undermountain Rd., 8 miles which will connect the two pieces. 

It only took a few months to construct and year and a half to design and permit.  A private public partnership supported the project.  The design was funded by an environmental protection fund grant from New York State. A citizens group called the Copake Hillsdale Rail Trail Alliance raised $40,000.  The construction was funded with Governor Cuomo’s New York Parks 2020 Plan.  The design cost $161,000. 

The construction of a 17-story monopole cell tower on Kent Road in South Amenia is in process.   A test that will evaluate the potential visibility, called a “balloon test,” will take place on April 24 at 9 a.m (raindate April 27).  SBA Tower LLC has posted legal notice regarding the test.  A copy of the application is available at the Amenia town clerk’s office.  The Zoning Board of Appeals is reviewing the application.


When Victoria Alexander moved up to Amenia from Soho is 2003, she got the vibe that people thought she was a city person  (a ‘citiot’ as she says in her novel) and that the locals did not think much of her.  “They don’t like outsiders here,” she was told by her first friend, an older woman who has lived in Amenia for forty years.

“I tried to be a lot friendlier, smiled a lot.  I enrolled my child in pre-K at Amenia Elementary School, became president of the PTA, volunteered for everything.”  But when she wanted to try to change things and asked for a better school lunch, with fresh vegetables and less sugar in the food she was shunned.  She ended up taking her child out of the school and home schooling.

At the beginning of the Amenia Planning Board meeting on April 8, David Everett, attorney, said: 

“Tonight you will need to decide, is the application complete and are you ready for a public hearing? You should get feedback from consultants tonight and decide if you are ready to send this to a public hearing.”

After listening to comments from the consultants, the five members of the Planning Board who were present (the Chair and Bill Kroeger were absent) read and voted to approve a resolution deeming the revised application as being complete. 

The Amenia Planning Board will hold the public hearing on May 5, at 7 p.m.  The application can be viewed at the town website.  Written comments can be submitted to the planning board until May 5. 

Amenia’s ordinances state that property owners are required to remove snow from the sidewalks on the hamlet streets of Amenia and Wassaic. (Article 101.13).  Nevertheless, as a courtesy to residents who cannot shovel snow, either because they are too elderly or absent, the town has been providing snow removal, sanding and salting until this year.

Towns are being urged to jump on the green funding bandwagon by addressing cimate change and including resilient infrastructure projects in a new series of grant applications.  

“What we are seeing is a growing trend for funding applications that score more points by including sustainability, resiliency and green infrastructure components,” according to an article in Talk of the Towns (a publication of the Association of Towns) by Donald Fletcher and Chris Lawton, engineers with Barton and Loguidice.  The Association of Towns has its annual training conference on Feb. 16-17 in NYC and includes training on green opportunities in its syllabus.

With the Spring Equinox just a few days away, black bears and their cubs are emerging from hibernation.  They are hungry and starting to forage for food, not only in their natural habitat but in our own back yards especially around our bird feeders, trash cans and outdoor barbeque areas.

Because sightings of Black bears have increased in recent years in our area, it is helpful to learn how to live with these animals. Understanding bear behavior was the topic of a talk by Felicia Ortner, Connecticut Master Wildlife Conservationist (MWC) hosted by Friend of the Great Swamp (FRoGs), at Trinity Pawling School on March 15.  

“If we understand how and why bears behave they way they do, we can learn to respect these animals instead of fearing them,” said Ms. Ortner. “It is critical for people not to knowingly feed bears and not to leave food outside that can attract them, even such as fruit in compost heaps.

The Four Brothers signs were deemed to have been too large and too garish at night to comply with the Amenia zoning law.   When the Building Inspector, John Fenton visited the drive-in movie and and found that the business had added decorative signs to give it a 1950’s feel, he was dismayed by their numbers and sizes and gave them a zoning citation. Because there was no plan showing where the signs were to be placed or how big they would be,  the Zoning Board asked the Town Engineer, Julie Mangarillo,  to put together a chart with all the signs on it.  There is a formula that says for every two linear foot of road frontage, for example, you are only allowed one square foot of signage.

The Zoning Board explained to the Four Brothers that they had exceeded the area of where the signage was allowed and that it was a zoning violation.  The board then tried to find a way to give them a variance without being too cluttered.  They also suggested that they have a sign saying what movies they are showing.  

February 25—After several delays, documents for the final revised application for the Silo Ridge development were submitted to the Town of Amenia on February 17, but the submission was not made public until February 25 at a planning board meeting on that date. Pedro Torres, president of Silo Ridge Ventures, announced that the massive documents are available for viewing at Town Hall, at the Amenia Library and at his office on Route 44.   

The application is also online at 

Norm Fontaine, planning board chair, stated:  “Silo has showed us a document which shows which areas have major changes. There should not be any surprises. There have been changes to the golf course, and we worked with Dr. Klemens on buffers and habitats.” Dr. Michael Klemens was present at the meeting.

A documentary film made by the British director Margy Kinmouth captures the monumental Hermitage collection of more than three million treasures in celebration of the two hundred fiftieth anniversary of the museum. The film was shown at the Millerton Moviehouse on Sunday, March 1. Kinmouth is something of a specialist in filming Russian treasures—her last films were on the Nutcracker and the Marinsky Theatre.

The story of the Hermitage reaches deep into Russian history. It was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great. Its main galleries in the famed Winter Palace house one of the largest collections of art in the world. 

The Hermitage has survived near destruction by fire,  revolution, relocation of its collections during the Siege of Leningrad, the sale of many of its best paintings in order to buy tractors under Stalin, years of neglect, and lack of funding, but it is now revived and again a showplace of great art in a royal setting. 

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