ROTTERDAM — While the novel coronavirus pandemic has stopped a lot of things from happening, there’s one thing it hasn’t stopped: birthdays for people, or towns.
The town of Rotterdam, like its neighbor Glenville, will still mark its 200th birthday this year, even if many of the ceremonies, festivities and public events that were planned for a year-long bicentennial celebration have been canceled out of fear that social interactions could spread the virus.
“A lot of things we had planned have had to be canceled or maybe put off until next year,” said John Woodward, chairman of the Rotterdam Bicentennial Committee. “You don’t want to put anybody in danger and you want a lot of good public participation.”
One event marking the special occasion took place on Thursday evening, when members of the Rotterdam bicentennial committee distributed many of the “bicentennial trees” to families in their vehicles in the Town Hall parking lot. There are 200 tree seedlings, some oak, the rest walnut, each of which has a number corresponding to a year between 1820 and 2020, making each seedling unique.
“Trees represent time and we see people being able to tell your grandkids that they planted the tree for the bicentennial back in 2020,” Woodward said.
Town Historian Jim Schaefer, a member of the bicentennial committee, worked with the Schalmont High School environmental club to recruit families to plant the trees on their properties, though some seedlings may still be available afterward.
Glenville, which is also celebrating its bicentennial year this year, has already done a celebratory tree planting. There, 100 trees were planted in town parks or on other public property, while the other 100 trees were sold to residents for their own use.
In Rotterdam, all the seedlings are being given away, to be planted on private land.
“The trees come with a message that trees help capture carbon and are good for the environment and a promise for the future,” Schaefer said.
Another bicentennial activity that can still go forward got a boost this week when Schenectady County announced that the Plotterkill Nature Preserve will re-open to the public, after being closed as part of the county’s response to the pandemic.
That means plans for the town to distribute bicentennial trail patches to people who complete a nearly three-mile end to end (or five-mile round trip) through the preserve. Registration kiosks are being built, and the program is expected to start June 1.
The preserve, which follows the Plotterkill from the Rynex Corners Road highlands trailhead downhill to the state Thruway, is part of the Long Trail, a 358-mile hiking trail from Manhattan to Whiteface Mountain conceived in the 1930s by Schaefer’s father, Vincent, who was a General Electric scientist and noted conservationist.
Also still in the works are plans for a bicentennial-branded beer, to be introduced in the next few weeks by Back Barn Brewing in Duanesburg “We’ve had a number of [people] volunteer to be taste testers,” Woodward wryly remarked.
There’s also still hope that some public events can still happen, even if not until late fall, or perhaps next year.
“We can’t cancel the bicentennial, but some of the activities are going to have to bleed over into next year,” Woodward said. “We want to be optimistic about it, but we want to be cautious, too.”