BY CHERYL SLAVIN
On a clear, if windy, day Monday, April 27, the good sloop Clearwater set sail from the Haverstraw Marina with close to 50 people on board to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Stony Point Action Committee for the Environment as well as the town’s 150th birthday. SPACE hosted the fundraising event, which included food, beverages and the opportunity for anyone who wanted to steer the 19th century replica of the boats that used to carry passengers and cargo up and down the Hudson River.
During the three hour journey participants were treated to spectacular views of the Stony Point and Haverstraw shorelines including the Stony Point Lighthouse and the surrounding terrain of the battlefield and other critical Revolutionary War sites. Many folk reminisced about earlier days when the river was clean enough to swim in, and about the bad times during the 70s and 80s when it wasn’t. Others discussed what the future might hold for the Stony Point waterfront.
A highlight of the trip included the children aboard helping the crew to cast fishing nets as they might have done a hundred years ago. Everyone also participated in a traditional Clearwater moment of reverential silence, broken by crew members singing a song by Pete Seeger, the musician and environmental activist who founded the organization in the 1960s.
The Clearwater’s focus on environmental education and awareness made a trip on the sloop the perfect choice for a SPACE and Stony Point celebration. As stated on SPACE’s website, the nonprofit organization’s primary mission is to “promote and advocate for greater public awareness, education and action involving issues that will adversely affect the natural resources and the quality of life that is unique to our area.”
“We started out in the ‘90s when over-development began to threaten our town,” explains founding member George Potanovic. “At that time Stony Point’s zoning codes didn’t even address the possibility that developers would build houses on the vertical slopes of our mountains without regard for issues like drainage, erosion and population density. We organized to make sure that the town’s growth would be safer and more environmentally sound.
In addition to Potanovic, founding member Jeff Tew joined the party dressed in eighteenth century garb as a nod to Stony Point’s Revolutionary War history. Two of Tew’s ancestors—one a British captain, and one an American general—both died at the Battle of Stony Point. Other long time members on board were Frank Collyer and Susan Filgueras.
Since its inception SPACE has been in the middle of a number of issues facing the town, including the development of a master plan for the town, as well as organizing opposition to the proposed overland route of the Champlain Hudson Power Express.
In 2008 SPACE joined with other organizations to form the Rockland Water Coalition, which successfully opposed United Water’s plans to build a Hudson River water desalination plant. Recently the EPA awarded the Rockland Water Coalition its “Environmental Champion Award” for its work on that issue. The Coalition and SPACE continue to be active in the Rockland Water Task Force.
The Clearwater cruise is only one of an entire year’s worth of activities celebrating the Stony Point Sesquicentennial. The next event will be a free talk by Rockland author Linda Zimmerman, 1-4 p.m., Saturday, May 2 at the RHO Building, sponsored by the Stony Point Historical Society. For more information about this and other events, call Susan Filgueras at 845-942-5030. For more information about SPACE, visit stonypointer.org.