SALT is fortunate to have a board, staff members, a workforce of AmeriCorps VISTA members, and many other volunteers with diverse educational backgrounds, interests, and talents to bring to the table. We, as an organization, have been able to evolve and take on new projects concerning community and economic development projects in recent months. In this fourth year since the flood event during Irene and Lee, under the Schoharie Area Wild (SAW) Initiative, there is interest to work with local municipalities to repurpose FEMA buyout properties throughout the county. These parcels have been purchased through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) by the towns or villages in which they fall. These open spaces can provide a variety of benefits to Schoharie County by enhancing scenic value, serving as potential eco-tourism destinations or stops, and restore native habitat along the creek bank to help create balance in surrounding ecosystems.
These projects look at new ways to create affordable, attractive landscapes that benefit nearby communities while conserving the important flora and fauna of the Schoharie Valley.
As part of the guidelines established by the HMGP, commercial or residential development of these parcels cannot occur. They must remain green spaces. Project ideas include, but are certainly not limited to: community parks, native planting/habitat restoration sites, community gardens, boat launches, fishing access sites, dog parks, and picnic areas. In collaboration with the Schoharie County planners, the SAW Initiative Coordinator and AmeriCorps VISTA member Alyssa Johnson has identified several properties between Esperance and Blenheim that are of interest.
We believe that by potentially restoring these properties around Schoharie County in the future, we will be removing some of the “blight” created from the flooding post Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. There are decaying structures that need to be deconstructed; flood debris that needs to be cleaned up, and of course trash that has been collecting at some, if not most, of these sites. Providing people travelling through the Valley a place to pull over and enjoy the scenery, we hope to add a sense of community in places that are currently vacant. These properties are important pieces of the County’s heritage. If you are interested in learning more about the SAW Initiative, and ways to get involved, please contact Alyssa Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (518) 702-5054.
Schoharie County is beautiful…let’s make it even more so.