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Dear Pine Plains 6.4.21


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Dear Pine Plains,

First, I need to let everyone know that we lost some important people recently: Don Spohr and Robert Couse, Sr.  Bob served the Town in numerous capacities during his lifetime, in particular as the Chief of Police for many years, known for riding his horse through the hamlet in pursuit of offenders. Next week, I will write more about Don and  Bob; this news was just received. We extend our condolences to their families.

Some business: the new date for Town Cleanup Day is September 18th. This is due to the fact that our usual date lands on September 11th this year. I hope that anyone interested in being a part of the Reading of the Names on that day in remembrance in Stanfordville has signed up. Last year on 9/11 in Pine Plains, a fine group of guys hung a giant flag on the Fire Tower here, which was lit by members of FOSL. You could see it for miles.

The Memorial Day Parade was a meaningful event this year as always and attracted a huge crowd. I can usually hold back tears until I hear Taps being played when we reach the cemetery. I was glad to see so many friends there. Thank you to the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars for keeping the memory of those lost alive.

The Triathlon is on this year again! This brings athletes from all over the country to Pine Plains. Volunteers are always needed. More details on this as they appear. Mark your calendar for June 27th. Swimming, biking, running all around town, and a BBQ at the Lions’ Pavilion. I plan to be flipping burgers with our esteemed Camp and Beach Director, Jen Chase.

Speaking of esteemed: Tax Collector Eileen Ciaburri has achieved a record 94% tax collection from townspeople. I always tell her people pay their taxes here so they can come visit with her. Her response: “Naw. I only see about 400 a year…”

I run a Writer’s Group sponsored by the Friends of the Pine Plains Library. We are going on 5 years now of gathering every Wednesday night at 7pm somehow—in person at the Community Center, on ZOOM—and reading to each other from whatever we are working on. This past year we lost one of our members, Jen Andersen. Jen was a longtime teacher in the city of New York, a weekender who upon retirement made Ancram/Gallatin her permanent home with her husband David. Jen made the posters for our readings and they were always lovely, using David’s photography and her eye for detail to create an image that often brought more than 40 people to our events. But it was through her writing that we all got to know her.

She had an extraordinary eye for detail. She would write entire essays on the ants by her mailbox, or stray cats she had known in the city. She had us laughing and sitting back in wonder with her descriptions of things and her emotional attachment to the smallest life forms. Vivid in my memory is an essay she eventually published in Senior Hiker which detailed getting-lost-while-old on a hike in the White Mountains. We all adored her. But I mention her here to also talk about making something out of nothing. In a town like Pine Plains, it is much easier than in most places to say something out loud like: I want to start a Writers Group! and then see it come to fruition. Small towns are open in this way. Opportunities are very literally dependent on nothing more than our energy to create them and see them happen.

I sit in my office daily chanting things like: Let’s get us an all-abilities playground! Let’s build a central wastewater system so that businesses can thrive here! Let’s bring Town Hall back into Town where it belongs! Let’s be a welcoming place for young people to raise families and become a part of the fabric of this beautiful place! What will it take to get those things? All it takes is money! Gimme that grant application! Lemme at that donor! (Call me if you want to contribute to any of these: 518-398-8600 ext1. Or write: 24/7. No contribution too small!)

What interferes with these dreams? Culverts which suddenly fail, old systems that spring leaks, mandates from the State, heaters and air conditioners that break, roofs that peel, drainage that backs up. Geese. I’m serious. Do you know how many hours are devoted to geese at Town Hall? Utility bills. Insurance bills. Lawsuits over property assessments. (BTW, we have the best assessors in Dutchess County—we are the envy of every other town). The Town Board dreads raising taxes as much as you dread paying them. So we keep the town running lean, but that means that there are few frills if any. Everything good that we get requires imagination, fundraising, and a committee of volunteers. And all the good things we have already require the same elements to survive.

The amazing thing about all this is that all it takes is imagination, fundraising, and a committee of volunteers. We can make things happen in Pine Plains if we just… make them happen.

And don’t give up.

Imagine and persevere, Pine Plains!

Darrah Cloud