Catskill Rec Center plans slowed by artifact discovery

By Matthew J. Perry
An archeological survey conducted last November on the proposed site of the Catskill Recreation Center, on county Route 38 in Arkville, may have unearthed native American Indian artifacts and has put those plans on temporary hold.
Kingdon Gould, Jr., who has created a nonprofit corporation to build the center, confirmed that the survey had been commissioned by his organization in compliance with state regulations. The findings are now subject to review by the New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).
“There are indications of prior habitation on the site,” Gould said on Monday. He stated that unspecified artifacts, rather than human remains, had been discovered.
Christopher Hazel, an archeologist who runs a private firm out of Ithaca, said he conducted a shovel-testing survey on the site, aided by two other archeologists, a soil-scientist, and Frank Bibbo, a retired Roxbury science teacher with extensive knowledge of Native American history in the region.
“The findings are currently being reviewed at the SHPO office in Waterford,” Hazel said. He did not provide description of the survey’s findings because of confidentiality protocol relating to SHPO investigations.
“We’re really not sure if we’re dealing with a prehistoric site,” Hazel said. “Previous explorations of the region have produced findings dating back 7,000 years, approximately to the time when the glaciers receded from the area.”
Hazel also noted that archeological studies had been made on the site of what is now Mountain Laurel Gardens, a senior housing complex, located just down Route 38 from the proposed recreation center site.
The SHPO investigation will have to be concluded before any further progress on the center can be made. At the Middletown Planning Board meeting last Thursday, building inspector Pat Davis stated that an archeological investigation will act as a brake on the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) that must be completed before other negotiations—notably with the DEP concerning storm water treatment plans—can begin.
“The DEP won’t even look at a storm water treatment application until SEQR is complete,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gould sees the findings as a bump in the road rather than a derailment of the project. “We will respect whatever needs to be done from an archeological perspective,” he said. “But we will go on.”
Hazel stated that other findings in the region have been identified with Tuscarora tribe, which migrated from the Carolinas and eventually joined with the Iroquois nation at roughly the same time that European settlements began their first expansion.