Montgomery County

Festival to celebrate recovery of Schoharie Creek

Just a month after the Schoharie River Center hosted the first Schoharie River Day Festival, Tropica

Just a month after the Schoharie River Center hosted the first Schoharie River Day Festival, Tropical Storm Irene pushed the Schoharie Creek over its banks, depositing tons of debris along the center’s property.

The center is hosting the Second Annual Schoharie River Day Festival on Saturday, celebrating a recovery worthy of praise.

Shortly before last year’s event, the center expanded, purchasing a 20-acre section of wooded land that ran along the creek and unveiling a new building. Center Director John McKeeby said it was a beautiful and well-attended event, featuring live music, fishing in the creek and area food vendors, but those who came saw an area about to be changed dramatically.

When the creek flooded, the center itself was high enough to avoid damage, but the 20 acres weren’t so lucky.

“They basically became a debris field,” McKeeby said. “We found parts of nine houses, personal items, pictures, trees, everything.”

When the waters receded, several hundred volunteers from General Electric, Union College and the center itself got to work in a big way.

“There were unopened DVDs five feet high in trees,” said Erica Remling of Duanesburg, who’s been involved with the center for a decade. “Everything you could think of was there.”

McKeeby recounted piling trash into a mound 500 feet long, 60 feet wide and 15 feet high in places.

But the center wasn’t just concerned with the grounds. According to its mission statement, the center is dedicated to the creek.

“We were out there running tests as soon as the water went down,” McKeeby said.

One of the center’s programs gives high school students an opportunity to learn the science of stream ecology. Currently, 75 students from nine school districts are learning how to test for chemical levels, invertebrate population and other vital water statistics.

The program was running before the flood, and afterward, the numbers revealed what a tropical storm does to the health of a creek.

“We saw a lot fewer insects and fish in the water,” McKeeby said, “and higher nutrient levels, more oil.”

They continued to run tests every month, and while the center grounds came back at the hands of dozens of volunteers, the creek came back on its own. Starting in January, the water chemistry began to return to normal. In the spring, students found mayflies, an insect that cannot survive in heavily polluted waters.

“It’s not the case everywhere,” he said, “but it looks like this section of creek is recovering nicely.”

This year’s festival will have many of the same attractions as the first. There will be live music, plenty of food and fishing in the morning, but the main draw is the center itself. Students will be available to explain the data collected during the creek’s postflood recovery. Tours through the grounds will highlight the volunteer effort.

In fact, while attendance was good the first time around, after the flood and the unity it seemed to inspire, many more are expected for this weekend’s event.

“We’re here to celebrate both the natural recovery of the creek and everything the volunteers did,” McKeeby said.

The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. For more information and directions, visit

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