A letter to Aimee Vargas, Director of Empire State Development Mid-Hudson Region. “We request that the MHREDC NOT award funds to the Niagara Bottling Company on December 10th.


By Rebecca Martin

READ the letter
SIGN the Petition

In a letter to Aimee Vargas, Director of Empire State Economic Development Council, a coalition of groups and a municipality that include KingstonCitizens.org, Riverkeeper, Woodstock Land Conservancy, Esopus Creek Conservancy, SaveCooperLake.org, Catskill Mountainkeper, NYPIRG, Food & Water Watch, Slow Food Hudson Valley, Red Hook Conservation Advisory Council, Town of Red Hook, Woodstock NY Transition, Kingston Transition, Sustainable Saugerties and Mid-Hudson Sierra Club alerted Ms. Vargas of their concerns regarding the upcoming December 10th announcement by Governor Cuomo and Niagara Bottling Company.

On August 12th, prior to the public being aware of the proposed project, the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council selected the Niagara Bottling Company endorsed the project as one of their 25 regional priorities for the 2015 funding cycle.  Niagara submitted a CFA (Consolidated Funding Application) – public money  – to help offset the cost of their facility build.

“In response to the proposed Niagara Bottling plant in the Town of Ulster, a growing number of individuals, communities, and organizations in Ulster County and New York State have swiftly come together to form a coalition. Together, the group is dedicated in promoting drinking water as a common good and protecting that right for generations to come.

Niagara wants to build a bottling facility that will process at least 1 million gallons per day (GPD) of water from Kingston’s water supply at Cooper Lake, using over 25% of its capacity, and plans to truck in much more than that from springs in surrounding communities.

On December 10th, Governor Cuomo will announce the winners of the 2015 grants from the Consolidated Funding Application process.  In August 2014, Niagara Bottling’s proposal to build a facility in the Town of Ulster was selected as one of the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council’s (REDC) “Priority Projects.”

In our efforts to build a transparent, participatory process based on the facts about this project, we have learned that the proposal is being promoted without adequate analysis of its potential economic and environmental impacts.

The letter outlines the specific concerns related to the REDC’s selection process, including:

  1. The State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) have not yet taken place. We do not agree that funds should be awarded to a project before we know whether it could be harmful to the environment.

  2. The Niagara Bottling proposal does not meet REDC’s “selection criteria” such as the degree of community support for the project and whether the project supports sustainable development.

  3. The Niagara Bottling proposal does not align with the REDC’s strategic plan, and contradicts the plan for sustainable development in our region.

  4. The economic impacts of 10-year tax exemptions (including local school and property taxes) may well outweigh the benefits of 40 to 120 below industry standard jobs, many of which are typically not offered to area residents.”


READ the letter
SIGN the Petition

KingstonCitizens.org Offers Free Screenings of the Documentary TAPPED in December.



VIEW Kingston “Tapped” Facebook Event

VIEW Woodstock “Tapped” Facebook Event

VIEW Saugerties “Tapped” Facebook Event



KingstonCitizens.org hosts free movie screenings of “Tapped” in Kingston, Woodstock & Saugerties“Tapped” examines the bottled water industry and its long-term social, economic and ecological effects 

Kingston, NY – KingstonCitizens.org with the support of the Woodstock Land Conservancy, Riverkeeper and Esopus Creek Conservancy is proud to sponsor free screenings of the film “Tapped” throughout the Mid-Hudson Valley region. The first of three showings in this ongoing film series will be held in December in Kingston, Woodstock and Saugerties.

Niagara Bottling Company, a national water bottling plant based in California, wants to establish a plant in the Town of Ulster. It seeks to purchase 1.75 million gallons of water per day from Cooper Lake, Kingston’s municipal water source, and plans to utilize support from the Start-Up NY Program that gives 10 years of tax abatements to qualifying companies.

Tapped focuses on industry giants PepsiCo and Nestle. The film documents the filmmakers’ visits to a town containing a Nestle factory as well as tests run on the bottles the company uses for its products. These test results showed “several potentially harmful chemicals, some known as carcinogens.” The documentary also focuses on the fraction of bottles that is recycled, noting that “forty percent of bottled water is really just filtered tap water, and every day we throw away 30 million single-served bottles of water.”

All events are free and open to all. NO TICKETS ARE NECESSARY. The public will be met by representatives of KingstonCitizens.org to answer any questions regarding the proposed Niagara Bottling Company project in Ulster County.

KingstonCitizens.org extends a very special thank you to all venue sponsors: BSP (Kingston), The Bearsville Theater (Woodstock) and The Inquiring Mind Bookstore and Cafe (Saugerties).

If your school or organization would like to host a screening, please contact Rachel Marco-Havens for more information at rachel@kingstoncitizens.org

“Tapped” Film Series Screening Dates and Locations:

Sunday, December 7th
12:00pm – 3:00pm
Bearsville Theater
291 Tinker Street, Woodstock NY  12498

(Private Event) Friday, December 12th
10:00am – 11:30am
Woodstock Day School Assembly
1430 Glasco Turnpike, Saugerties NY 12477

Friday, December 12th
6:30pm – 8:30pm
The Inquiring Mind Bookstore
65 Partition Street, Saugerties NY  12477

Sunday, December 14th
3:00pm – 6:00pm
323 Wall Street, Kingston NY  12401


About KingstonCitizens.org  KingstonCitizens.org is a community-based organization committed to improving the quality of life of Kingston residents through accountability and transparency between the people and their local government. By providing citizens with current and important information through better communication, our work is meant to nurture citizen participation and empowerment through projects, education and fun.

About Woodstock Land Conservancy  The Woodstock Land Conservancy is a non-profit organization committed to the protection and preservation of the open lands, forests, wetlands, scenic areas and historic sites in Woodstock and the surrounding area.

About Riverkeeper   Riverkeeper’s mission is to protect the environmental, recreational and commercial integrity of the Hudson River and its tributaries, and to safeguard the drinking water of nine million New York City and Hudson Valley residents.

About Esopus Creek Conservancy  

  • is to conserve significant natural landscapes
  • in the lower Esopus Creek watershed
  • and in the Saugerties area
  • by protecting the rural character of the environment,
  • by conserving and protecting natural habitats,
  • by promoting biodiversity, and
  • by sharing an appreciation of our natural resources with the community through public outreach, education and advocacy.

KingstonCitizens.org Hosts Public Educational Forum “Bottled Water: Bad for People and the Environment” with Food & Water Watch.


KingstonCitizens.org to host a public educational forum and discussion called “Bottled Water: Bad for the People and the Environment” on Thursday, December 4th at the Kingston Public Library 55 Franklin Street, in Kingston NY from 6:00pm – 8:00pm Guest panelist will be Alex Beauchamp, Northeast Regional Director of Food and Water Watch (Washington, DC).

Kingston, NY –  In September, the citizens of Kingston became aware of a proposed diversion of up to 1.75 million gallons per day of their municipal water supply to the Town of Ulster. The proposal to sell this water would support the profit-making interests of Niagara Water Bottling Company, a California company that projects in return 100 or so jobs that pay below industry standards. They are also expected to seek the maximum tax exemptions, potentially shifting the burden to residents and local business as part of Start-Up NY and other public funding sources.  Since that time, KingstonCitizens.org has led a concerted effort to understand the details of this proposal that has involved the Kingston community as well as residents in surrounding communities who would also be impacted.

KingstonCitizens.org is pleased to present a public educational forum titled “Bottled Water: Bad for the People and the Environment” on, Thursday, December 4th 2014 from 6:00pm – 8:00pm at the Kingston Public Library located at 55 Franklin Street in Kingston, NY.  All are invited to attend.

Guest panelist will be Alex Beauchamp, Northeast Regional Director of Food and Water Watch (Washington, DC).

The evening will be moderated by KingstonCitizens.org’s Policy and Planning Director Jennifer Schwartz Berky.

This event will be filmed by Clark Richters of Kingston News.

For more information, contact Rebecca Martin at: rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org


About KingstonCitizens.org: KingstonCitizens.org is a community-based organization committed to improving the quality of life of Kingston residents through accountability and transparency between the people and their local government. By providing citizens with current and important information through better communication, our work is meant to nurture citizen participation and empowerment through projects, education and fun.

About Alex Beauchamp, Food and Water Watch
Alex Beauchamp is the Northeast Region Director at Food & Water Watch. Based in the Brooklyn office, Alex oversees all organizing efforts in New York and the Northeast. Alex has worked on issues related to fracking, factory farms, genetic engineering, and water privatization at Food & Water Watch since 2009. His background is in legislative campaigning, and community and electoral organizing. Before joining Food & Water Watch, Alex worked for Grassroots Campaigns, Inc., where he worked on several campaigns including organizing support for renewable energy in Colorado, fundraising, and running get-out-the-vote operations. Alex graduated from Carleton College with a degree in political science. He can be reached at abeauchamp(at)fwwatch(org).

About Jennifer Schwartz Berky, Planning and Policy Director – KingstonCitizens.org:  Jennifer Schwartz Berky, the evening’s moderator, has over 25 twenty years of experience in the fields of architecture, conservation, economic development, and urban planning in the non-profit, government, academic and private sectors. Prior to launching Hone Strategic, she served as Deputy Director of Ulster County Planning for over seven years, where she was the lead researcher and liaison to the Ulster County Charter Commission. Before moving to Ulster County, she worked in Washington, DC at the World Bank and Urban Institute, at the University of Rome (Italy) and as a project manager of design and construction for New York City’s major cultural institutions. Berky has lived for extended periods in Argentina, Chile, France, Israel, Italy, and Spain. She earned a B.A. in Art History from SUNY Stony Brook and Masters’ degrees in Urban Planning (M.Phil.) and Real Estate Development (M.S.) at Columbia University, where she is also currently completing a Ph.D. in Urban Planning on the subject of environmental economics.

WHAT TO EXPECT: Town of Ulster Town Board Meeting Thursday, 11/20/14 at 7:00pm

By Rebecca Martin

The Town of Ulster Town Board will meet on Thursday, November 20th at 7:00pm.   Scheduled to occur that evening is the Town of Ulster Town Board to give final approval of itself as being “Lead Agency” in the proposed Niagara Bottling Company SEQR process.

The public is invited. Public comment on any matters will be made available following “Old Business” at the end of the evening. We expect that to occur between 8:00pm – 8:30pm, though it may be later.   Please see Supervisor James Quigleys’ note below.
We ask that all residents prepare a statement in advance to be no more than 3 minutes in length. Please show respect to municipalities that you are visiting.

Here are several posts to research that will help you to create your 3 minute speech so to hit key points that evening.

On a Positive Declaration in SEQR.

Why the City of Kingston should be an Involved Agency.

Insightful letter to the DEC from Town of Woodstock Supervisor Jeremy Wilber.

Their meetings are always audio taped by the Town and we will be on hand to to film the event thanks to Clark Richters of Kingston News.

If you have any questions, please contact me at: rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org

Thank you.



Town of Ulster Town Board
1 Town Hall Road
Lake Katrine, NY

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Town of Ulster Town Hall

Click on this LINK


As per Supervisor James Quigley regarding this month’s meeting:

“A DRAFT AGENDA will be posted Tuesday morning (we have linked it above) and is subject to change. There are no items currently listed on the Agenda related to Niagara Bottling. I am awaiting the Resolutions from Counsel prior to place the item on the Agenda. A Revised Agenda will be posted as soon as possible. There are two opportunities for the Public to speak during the meeting. In the beginning Statements may be made on Agenda Items. At the end of the meeting is Public Comment for any and all topics. Remember these are times for the Public to make statements to the Board not enter into a debate with the Town Board.  Anyone who wishes will be able to address the Board during these periods. Comments are limited to three minutes per speaker and there is no yielding time to other speakers.”


Insightful Letter to the DEC from Town of Woodstock Supervisor Jeremy Wilber

By Rebecca Martin

The attached letter was written by Town of Woodstock Supervisor Jeremy Wilber who shares solid arguments as to why the DEC should be Lead Agency in SEQR for the proposed Niagara Water Bottling project.  In contrast for me,  it raises more concerns as to Kingston Corporation Council Andy Zweben’s recent letter also to the DEC. Where are his loyalties placed?

Luckily, Kingston’s Common Council are asking the same questions and will vote on a Memoralizing resolution in support of the COK being an ‘Involved Agency’ in SEQR on Tuesday, November 4th.

Read more…

SPEAK DURING PUBLIC COMMENT ON TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 4th At 7:30pm: In Support of Kingston’s Common Council Being Listed as an ‘Involved Agency’ in SEQR.


The Niagara Bottling Company’s proposal must be thoroughly evaluated for its environmental and economic impacts on our region. It is premature and irresponsible to agree to sell our water before due diligence is performed.

Read more…

City of Kingston: Water Supply Permit and Water Supply Applications of 1954 & 1929.

FOIL Request DEC
By Rebecca Martin

Recently, we reached out to the DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) to see if we could receive a copy of the most recent Water Supply Permit by the City of Kingston.  They asked that we FOIL (NYS’s Freedom of Information Law) for their records, which we did.

Read more…

WHAT TO EXPECT: October 14th Meeting Hosted by the Kingston Conservation Advisory Council



Kingston Conservation Advisory Council: Monthly Meeting/Special Presentation
with Kingston Water Department Superintendent Judy Hansen

Tuesday, October 14th

Kingston City Hall, Council Chambers

By Rebecca Martin

We are pleased that the Kingston Conservation Advisory Council has quickly organized a meeting to host Kingston Water Department Superintendent Judy Hansen. She will be giving an overview of the Kingston Water Supply and Distribution system, present the details of the Niagara Bottling Proposal as it pertains to the City of Kingston and the scope of what the involvement/authority/commitment the City of Kingston would have into the project.

The League of Women Voters of the Mid Hudson Region will moderate the public Q&A period following the Kingston Conservation Advisory Committee Council members have their own public Q&A period with Hansen.  Questions will be requested in writing prior to the meeting.

Below is the agenda and ground rules for the public.

Kingston is fortunate to have a Conservation Advisory Council with many years of environmental experience. The group has sponsored many great INITIATIVES  that includes CLIMATE SMART KINGSTON  that embraces comprehensive policies and programs for the City of Kingston to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, enhance operational and energy efficiencies, reduce energy costs, support local job growth, and adapt to a changing climate while improving quality of life, saving taxpayer dollars and promoting social justice.   It’s a document that Judy Hansen as of Wednesday hadn’t yet read, or distributed to the Water Board.

READ more to learn about the members and their long standing history on environmental matters.  City of Kingston employees Gregg Swanzey (Director, Office of Economic Development & Strategic Partnerships) and Julie Noble (Chair, and Environmental Educator) are both members.

KingstonCitizens.org will be filming this meeting.

For more information on this meeting, contact Julie Noble at: JulieLNoble@kingston-ny.gov




Food & Water Watch Testifies at Kingston Common Council Meeting


BeauchampAlex-WEBAlex Beauchamp is the Northeast Region Director at Food & Water Watch. Based in the Brooklyn office, Alex oversees all organizing efforts in New York and the Northeast. Alex has worked on issues related to fracking, factory farms, genetic engineering, and water privatization at Food & Water Watch since 2009. His background is in legislative campaigning, and community and electoral organizing. Before joining Food & Water Watch, Alex worked for Grassroots Campaigns, Inc., where he worked on several campaigns including organizing support for renewable energy in Colorado, fundraising, and running get-out-the-vote operations. Alex graduated from Carleton College with a degree in political science. He can be reached at abeauchamp(at)fwwatch(org).

Read more…

Kingston’s Cooper Lake “Safe Yield”. How’d They Come Up With That?


Click on IMAGE to read the report.

By Rebecca Martin

According to this “Report on the Impact of the Proposed Hudson River Landing Development on Kingston Water Department” created in 2007, it says that “the COK had a daily water usage of 3.28 million GPD (today, it is at 3.5 million GPD) and that at that time our ‘safe or dependable yield’ was 6.1 million GPD.

“By definition, the safe yield of any water supply is the maximum dependable water supply that can be withdrawn continuously from a supply during a period of YEARS (how many?)  in which the driest period or period of greatest deficiency in water supply is likely to occur.

For Kingston Water Supply that period CONTINUES TO BE THE DROUGHT OF 1957

If we are reading this correctly, of note:

1. In 2007, the COK provided 3.28 million GPD on average. Today, that number is at 3.5 million GPD. No matter the size of the increase, it illustrates that our community will grow, as will our needs.

2. The 6.1 million GPD “safe or dependable” yield can be “used for a period of ‘years'”. Though not recommended in this document, if it were ever maxed – for how many years could Cooper Lake sustain? We are hearing that same number today in discussions regarding the Niagara Bottling Co proposal. 6.1 million GPD. Has it not changed in 7 years based on, say – climate change?  (the report was written in 2007).

3. The COK Water Department is basing the 6.1 million GPD safe yield number on the drought of 1957. That’s over 50 YEAR AGO.

Based on just a little general research – and it all needs to be clarified – the drought of 1957 lasted 3 months. But in 1964 – 1966, a drought in the valley lasted 27 months? What about the 2012 drought? What were rainfall averages in the are from 1950 to today?  I’m guessing there is enough data out there for a more current number – and I’d say that it appears that hasn’t been done, and it sure should have been prior to the Kingston Water Department issuing a “Will Share” to the proposed Niagara Project.

Due diligence COK officials.

Jobs: Urban Agriculture and Niagara Bottling Co.

urban ag 1 1620469_10152795325108804_7983805980385417495_n


By Rebecca Martin

Niagara Bottling Co. wants to come to the area (tax free) to bottle and to sell 1.75 million gallons of Kingston City Water (Cooper Lake) per day. The Water may be tax free too. It is unclear whether or not that to be the case at this time.

The City of Kingston’s Water Department has provided a ‘will share’ letter to the project, but has not yet negotiated a rate (probably because they can’t without the Common Council’s permission).

With an estimated 260 trucks per day coming and going out of the site! That’s a lot of trucks.

According to their proposal, ALL FOR 160 JOBS when the facility is working at full capacity.

LOOK HERE. Based on an Urban Agriculture study that was created specifically for Kingston, the City of Kingston has approximately 800 acres of zoned ‘vacant’ land in Kingston. With just 35 acres working for us inside the city, we would create approximately 156 jobs. Kingston is way ahead of the curve on the Urban Ag front in the Hudson Valley, too.

We can do this, Kingston.




Kingston YMCA Farm Project Host Fundraiser on May 18th at 8:00pm.


 The first fundraiser for the Kingston YMCA Farm Project is planned.  The event will take place on Saturday, May 18th at 8:00pm at the Shirt Factory located at 77 Cornell Street in Kingston. 
Kingston, NY –  A new farm project is underway at Kingston’s YMCA located off of Susan Street in Kingston.  Their mission is to educate and empower young people by directly engaging them in sustainable food production on an “urban farm”. Youth will learn and practice the skills needed to produce their own food and to make healthy choices throughout their lifetime, while increasing the community’s access to fresh produce.
Led by first generation organic farmer Kaycee Wimbish who is also managing the South Pine Street City Farm in 2013 in Midtown Kingston, the location already hosts 33 community garden plots and a greenhouse on almost 1 acre of land. 
The groups first fundraiser party will take place on Saturday, May 18th at 8:00pm located at the Shirt Factory,  77 Cornell Street in Kingston. There will be live music provided by Pocatello and the Rosendale Brass band. DJ Liz will also provide music, and Keegan Ales will provide the beer. A suggested donation of $10 – $20 will be collected, but noone will be turned away. The group encourages all supporters to give what they can. 
If you can’t attend but wish to give a donation, you can do so by following this LINK.

For more information, contact KayCee Wimish at: kaycee.wimbish@gmail.com  or call  845/332-2927



About the Kingston YMCA Farm Project:  This fall we will break ground on a quarter acre farm in Midtown Kingston.  The farm will be a place of education and community food production. The Farm Project will engage young people in the magical process of growing food. With planned integration into the YMCA’s on-site afterschool and summer camp programming, the farm will train 200 young farmers each season. Children will be involved in all aspects of food production and garden care: seeding, transplanting, watering, weeding, harvesting, and ultimately preparing and enjoying the harvest. YMCA Farm Project participants will know exactly where their food comes from, how it grows, and the energy and effort it takes to arrive on a plate. Children participating in this program and the wider community will gain access to fresh, healthy, chemical-free food as the result of the YMCA Farm Project.


An Ode to Farmer Jesica Clark.

Photo by Dion Ogust

Over the past seven years, I have had the opportunity to meet and work with some amazing people. But none as dear and few as great as Farmer Jesica Clark.

I met her years ago, when she approached me to help as a consultant to the Kingston City Hall Victory Garden back in 2007, a project that was a 10×10 foot raised bed organic garden on City Hall grounds –  pretty unprecedented  – with the support of then Mayor Jim Sottile and former city clerk Kathy Janeczek who sadly passed in 2009.

Jesica was a young first generation farmer , who was working as the head farmer of Phillies Bridge Farm Project in Gardiner, NY – and I was so pleased to have her support and to pick her brain on how to make this project successful then. Allyson Levy of Stone Ridge also volunteered at that time, who has since become  a master gardener through the Cornell Cooperative Extension program and is co-owner of Hortus Conclusus. With such help, I couldn’t go wrong.

When I took post at the Kingston Land Trust as Executive Director back in 2010, Jesica got in touch with me again – as she was moving to Kingston and was looking for land to farm hoping for 10 acres. All I had then to offer was a small 1/4 acre parcel in the midtown area thanks to Binnewater Ice who had donated the land and a partnership with the wonderful Diane Reeder and the Queens Galley.

The space came with a free water source,  and I convinced her that creating a ‘farm’ on a small parcel could help Kingston to learn the benefits of urban farming.

She ran with it and moved away from her desired farm space and within a few weeks, Jesica had a three year business plan and a fundraising platform on Kickstarter. Very soon after, we negotiated a lease, a sublease – and she raised almost $6,000.00 to make the ‘farm’ concept a reality. The South Pine Street City Farm was born.

…and it was completely Jesica’s invention.  A space that grew over 150 varieties of vegetables with an educational component. In addition, she took on the task of developing ‘The Dig Kids – an Urban Farm Program” with me that in the past two years has successfully worked to transform the Everette Hodge Center garden and new garden plots at the Van Buren Street playground that not only educated each of us, but also dozens of children and their families in farming practices with the invaluable help of Megan Weiss of Kingston Cares who is someone else I hold in the highest esteem.  She started a farm stand (that Hugh Cummings built for free) selling her beautiful produce to the community three days a week at the farm, got involved with the Kingston’s Farmers market’s in uptown and midtown – and also developed a farm to table program providing vegetables to local businesses all over Kingston.

Jesica is one of the most hardworking people I know. But on top of it all, she has a deep understanding of how things work and is a savvy business woman. What’s more is her ‘can-do’ attitude that makes the impossible possible, with a personality that all of us have simply fallen in love with.

But her vision in being completely sustainable through farming a larger parcel is her dream – and she found such a space across the river. Although I am very happy for her, it is also with great sadness for me to see her leave Kingston.  She and her husband Daniel Clark (of Prime Print Shop in Poughkeepsie, who has also been essential and generous to our efforts) are the kind of residents that you  lose with a heavy heart.

Jesica Clark has put Kingston on the map on the Urban Agriculture front – something that is critical for us in this current climate. She has helped to remind us all something that our grandparents knew but has been lost in only two generations. We must grow our own food, help one another and do so with grace, beauty – and simplicity.

Her additional gift to our city is that she attracted another first generation farmer to Kingston – Kaycee Wimbish and her family – who will take over the South Pine Street City Farm, the Dig Kids Program and work towards a new and larger farm at the YMCA.  Because of Jesica, we will continue to pursue urban agriculture to benefit our community and continue to be a model for other Hudson River cities.

Thank you, Jesica.  For all of your hard work and in helping to make us more healthy and thoughtful citizens.

Rebecca Martin

91st Sojourners – BPSA Scout Group Info Meeting February 8th

In this day and age,  fewer families are spending time out-of-doors in their natural environments. Given this unfortunate trend, options have diminished, too that are accessible and affordable. Under the leadership of the accomplished husband and wife team of Andy Bicking and Jenny Lee Fowler however, some of that is about to change in our area.
Andy is a 5th generation scout and serves as director of Public Policy at Scenic Hudson.  Jenny is an educator of 20 years and a professional artist.  The two are launching a local  branch of a the Baden Powell Service Association (BPSA) that will offer opportunities “to develop character, improve resourcefulness, learn responsibility and skills in public service through participation in the traditional game of scouting.”
An informational meeting is scheduled for February 8th from 7:00pm – 8:00pm at the Center for Creative Education in Kingston, NY.
We sat down with Andy for a minute to learn more about his background and effort.   – RM
KingstonCitizens.org:   Can you share your history with the Boy Scouts of America organization? What inspired you to create the 91st Sojourners Scout Group?

Andy Bicking: My family has a 5 generation history with scouting programs that began in the early 1900s.  The skills and values that I learned as an Eagle Scout are important to me and ones we’ve worked to pass on to our children and the kids in our lives.  My wife, Jenny Lee Fowler, and I learned about the Baden-Powell Service Association (BPSA) this summer when searching for scouting programs with inclusive membership policies.  BPSA was more than we had hoped for.  It focuses on developing proficiency in traditional outdoor skills (in the spirit of pioneers and explorers) and serving your community. Anyone can join – youth or adult, boys or girls, and you can do it as a family.
BPSA is a national organization and part of the World Federation of Independent Scouts (active in over 40 countries).  We’re creating the first BPSA group in the Hudson Valley, the 91st Sojourners.  “91st” is for Hudson River Mile 91, our mile mark on the river.  “Sojourners” honors of Sojourner Truth. Born in Ulster County, she overcame many challenges in her life and brought her message of freedom and equality to the world.
KC.org: Can you describe how you are organizing age groups, and how do you intend to organize them?
AB: Groups are organized by age as follows:
Otters (5-7)
Timberwolves (8-10)
Pathfinders (11-17)
Rovers (18+)
Our programs offer opportunities to develop character, improve resourcefulness, learn responsibility through serving our community and participating in the traditional game of scouting.  Kids are organized in small groups and learn by doing, usually in the outdoors. For example, younger scouts take short hikes, learn to tie basic knots and may care for garden planters in public spaces.  Older scouts camp overnight in the Catskills, learn wilderness first aid, craft pioneer-style structures, and may help build trails in our community.  Each age section has two adult volunteers who provide guidance appropriate to ages and skill levels, and mentor kids in the leadership of the program.  As scouts mature they move from observing skills in action to doing them and teaching them on their own.
KC.org: Are there any associated costs with becoming involved?

The membership fee is $20 a year.  Since BPSA is a volunteer organization, costs and overhead are very low.  The group is responsible for earning funds to pay for its own program.  We’ll be using our traditional scouting skills to raise funds to support the group’s activities.
KC.org: You have an informational meeting scheduled on February 8th. What do you expect to cover that evening?
ABThere’ll be an overview of the BPSA program and information about future activities.  You can meet the volunteer leaders, ask questions, and find out how you can get involved and support the group.  We’ll have registration packets available at the meeting for all who want to join.
In the meantime, interested families are encouraged to check out the Baden-Powell Service Association’s website at www.bpsa-us.org.  The 91st Sojourners also have a Facebook page.  For more information, I can be reached at:  91stSojourners@gmail.com