Volunteer assistance is needed for fire tower interpretive work

Arkville — For nearly a century, observers watched the forests of New York State, including the Catskill Forest Preserve, from more than 100 fire towers perched atop the highest peaks, searching for the dangerous telltale signs of forest fires.  In the Catskill region, there were 19 towers.
Beginning in the 1980s, New York State began to phase out fire towers.  In 1990 the last observer ended his watch at the Red Hill Fire Tower in Claryville.  As the towers and observers’ cabins deteriorated, many were closed and removed.  But in the Catskill Park, a grassroots, volunteer-based initiative, working with DEC and The Catskill Center saved the five remaining towers, which were reopened in 2000. 
Today, more than 100 volunteers act as tower interpreters or Summit Stewards by greeting visitors on weekends from May through October, providing information on the history of fire towers and nature in the Catskill Forest Preserve. When Summit Stewards are not available, the towers are open to just below the cab, and still provide impressive views.  
Friends of the Catskill Fire Towers, supported by The Catskill Center in Arkville, acting under volunteer agreements with the Department of Environmental Conservation is looking for volunteers to be part of this unique group interested in helping maintain and interpret the Hunter Mountain Fire Tower in Greene County and Mount Tremper Fire Tower in Ulster County.  
Fire tower volunteers will be part of a larger effort to improve connections with local communities and the greater Catskill Park.
Those interested in more information on Hunter Mountain, should contact Gordon Hoekstra at 201 497-8910 or at ghoekstra@optonline.net.
For Mount Tremper, please contact Matt Kelly at 917 204-2032 or tremperfiretower@gmail.com.   For all fire tower information, please contact George Profous, Forester,  NYSDEC at 256-3082 or The Catskill Center for Conservation and Devel-opment at 586-2611.