Article by Kintura Williams

Video by Christian Romero

NEWBURGH – Scenic Hudson Event and Community Project Manager Anthony Coneski broke out the tools and trash bags for a community clean up of Newburgh’s badly littered Crystal Lake on Saturday morning.

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Scenic Hudson, a Hudson Valley land preservation organization, and the City of Newburgh plans to redevelop the lake area—previously defaced by illegal dumping and drug use—into a public site for hiking, fishing and boating. Crystal Lake is a part of the Quassaick Watershed.

The partnership for the project came after discovering Newburgh’s Crystal Lake could be a gateway to Scenic Hudson owned Snake Hill.

“We’ll be working on tree clearing to make way for contractors to come in and assess a new parking lot, plus a trail crew will be starting the first steps in creating a trail to the top of Snake Hill,” said Coneski.

View of Crystal Lake. Photo by Kintura Williams

The brisk but beautiful morning drew volunteers from NHS Center for Hope, the Hudson Valley Boy Scouts of America, the Newburgh community and the Quassaick Creek Watershed Alliance (QCWA). QCWA Chair John Gebhards and his volunteer team were at Crystal Lake on Saturday morning, returning after removing nine tons of trash in 2015.

Gebhards and his team returned to help protect and preserve the water and the area around it through Department of Environmental Conservation programs like “Trees for Tribs” (tributaries), which work to plant trees along tributaries to boost the habitat.

“They provide the trees and dig the holes. Trees were planted right next to Crystal Lake to create a shaded area and enhance the bank,” said Gebhards. “As we can see the clean up before that didn’t stop the dumping problem from coming back. So now we’re working with Scenic Hudson and the city to try to really make a stop to this type of illegal dumping.”

Volunteers moving a trailer to begin the cleanup. Photo by Kintura Williams

NHS Center for Hope—providing students with a safe space and help with employment— brought out a van full of Newburgh teens between 14 and 19 years old to get hands on at the site. Center for Hope Assistant Director Marisa Brink was inspired by her children’s experience with Scenic Hudson in Beacon partnering with Scenic Hudson to help show students different employment options while developing two gardens at Crystal Lake and Downing Park.

Marlow Pinckney, 18, said he came to the clean up as a way to keep busy while he waits to get into college for auto mechanics. The eldest of five siblings, Pinckney has been working with the Center for Hope since he was introduced by his younger sister three years ago.

NHS Center for Hope students get to work cleaning up the site. Marlow Pinckney (in gray) separating trash. Photo by Kintura Williams

“It’s good for the community, it’s good for the people,” said Pinckney “I’m just trying to stay on the right path. It’s a lot of deterrence here, so I’ve gotta do stuff to get my mind out of all the other things and this is productive.”

Scenic Hudson aims to have a fully constructed gateway, complete with a kiosk supplying maps and information on the lake trail to the top of Snake Hill, patrol cars to keep the area safe and a real parking lot.

“This is what can happen when a community really pitches in. It’s wonderful to have the young people involved, and it’ll be one step at a time,” said Coneski.

The site completion date is still to be determined.

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