2019 Ellen Rettus Planning Achievement Awards | Greene Government 2019 Ellen Rettus Planning Achievement Awards | Greene Government

2019 Ellen Rettus Planning Achievement Awards

2019 Ellen Rettus Planning Achievement Awards

Each year the Greene County Planning Board and Greene County Legislature partner to present the Ellen Rettus Planning Achievement Awards.  Ellen Rettus was a long term County Planning Board member who served for several years as Chairperson of the Greene County Planning Board and Chairperson of the Town of Durham Planning Board.  As Chairperson of these boards, Ellen worked to promote sound and thoughtful planning throughout Greene County.

The awards recognize outstanding planning, community and economic development activities that have taken place in Greene and the individuals and organizations that contribute to their realization.  The awards also recognize individuals who have distinguished themselves through their service to Greene County and its communities.

2019 Awards Recipients include:

Community Revitalization and Community Improvement: Michael Esslie, John & Gail Kargoe 

L to R: Greene County District 8 Legislators Harry Lennon & William Lawrence, Michael Esslie (Cairo Chamber of Commerce) Jim Dymond (Greene County Planning Board)

Revitalizing the Cairo Chamber of Commerce

Michael Esslie, a local attorney helped revitalize the Chamber as it was just about defunct about a year ago and there was little hope of getting it off of the ground again. The Chamber treasury was empty and the moral of those few participants it had was very low.

With the help of two former Chamber members, John and Gail Kargoe, they were able to revive it to the point where they were able to make their efforts credible including:

  • The reappearance of the former Apple Harvest Festival festival, renamed by the Esslie/Kargoe team as a Harvest Festival – they were able to bring in many vendors as well as visitors to the Town of Cairo for this event. It was well-received, will be a very positive and annual event for the Town.
  • Making new connection to Greene County Economic Development, Tourism and Planning and Columbia-Greene Community College to encourage local economic and business development.
  • Advocacy for tax incentives for local resort owners to spur reinvestment

In less than a year these three people achieved a revitalization of a Chamber that almost everyone had given up on and has genuinely improved our community overall.


Community Revitalization and Community Improvement: Cultivate Catskill

L to R: Greene County District 1 Legislators Michael Bulich, Matthew Luvera, Linda Overbaugh & Jack Keller, Bob Hoven (Cultivate Catskill) Jim Dymond (Greene County Planning Board)

Creating a Greener, Greater Catskill

Founded by long-time Catskill resident, Shelly Pulver, Cultivate Catskill, was created in 2012 has helped transform Catskill into a beautiful place. This non-profit is made up totally of talented volunteers. Cultivate Catskill is part of an n America in Bloom (AIB), a national awards program designed to help “Plant Pride in Communities”.

Each year they are busy planning and planting more public areas, installing vibrant hanging baskets, filling containers with colorful flowers, and/or decorating for the seasons. They also encourage residents to clean, paint and plant to help make Catskill all it can be.

Following is a small sample of what they have achieved.

  • Revamped Leggio Park this past summer to make it more user-friendly and lower maintenance. Shrubs were added as were beautiful blue stone walkways.
  • Planted spring flowers throughout the village streets and parks including additional planters on Uncle Sam’s Bridge
  • More than fifty trees have been planted on Main Street.
  • Seasonal decoration: pumpkins and scarecrows in the fall and lots of greenery with lights over the holidays.
  • Maintenance of the Blue Star Memorial Park and Policeman’s Park (both which were created by the Catskill Garden Club).
  • Organized Catskill’s first Roadside Cleanup in 2018 to help pick up litter and restore the beauty of our parks and roadways. They held another in the Village of Catskill’s Clean-Up Day in May 2019.


Environmental Preservation, Recreation and Open Space: Greene Land Trust, Hudsonia, Cornell Cooperative Extension

L to R: Fran Dunwell (Hudson River Estuary Program) Janet Angelis & Bob Knighton (Greene Land Trust) Jim Dymond (Greene County Planning Board)

Natural Resource Inventory (NRI) for Greene County

Along with a grant from the Hudson River Estuary Program, the award recipients created the NRI – an important planning tool that:

  • compiles and describes important natural resources in Greene County such as forests, wetlands, surface and ground waters, and farmland. Cultural resources, such as historic sites, scenic vistas, and recreation areas are also included. 
  • presents information in a series of maps and an accompanying report with narrative descriptions, supporting data tables, and recommendations.
  • is designed to be used by county and municipal agencies and others involved with land planning, management, policy-making and resource use and conservation.
  • will help prioritize projects that will most benefit the protection of sensitive habitats, increase resilience, and improve the overall health of the watershed within Greene County


Economic Development: West Kill Brewing

L to R: Colleen Kortendick & Michael Barcone (West Kill Brewing) and Jim Dymond (Greene County Planning Board)

Craft Beverage Production & Job Creation in the Town of Lexington

The continuing growth in operations and production at West Kill Brewing provide many benefits to the local economy including:

  • Providing employment in Spruceton, while serving as a catalyst for other businesses, such as the Spruceton Inn, to locate and expand their operations in the area. 
  • Served as a catalyst for additional development in that corridor. 
  • Constructed a 10-barrel brewing system,
  • Built a successful business in a remote location in Greene County that works in harmony with the environment and its neighbors.
  • The buildings that were renovated and enhanced for the project were completed in character with the area, and help bring new activity and tourism to Spruceton.


Community Design & Improvement: The Mountain Top Arboretum

L to R: Greene County District 7 Legislator Larry Gardner, Alison Davy, Robert Kerns, Abby Coffin (Mountain Top Arboretum) and Jim Dymond (Greene County Planning Board)

New Education Center in the Town of Hunter

The Arboretum constructed a space in a manner that utilized local resources and talent in order to create the space while adding much needed indoor space for its programming. The Education Center is a new building opened in 2019 after a two-year construction period

The Mountain Top Arboretum Education Center:

  • is an innovative project in its construction and use of on-site materials, constructed from 21 tree species harvested from the Arboretum’s forest and serves as an inspiring example of traditional timber frame craftsmanship.
  • landscape uses plants native to the Catskill Mountains, planting over 10,000 new native trees, shrubs and perennials and installing a system of six separate rain gardens that catch and filter water runoff.
  • promotes local stewardship of the environment and engagement of the science of horticulture along with a unique environment for research.
  • provides trails and boardwalks that connect 78 acres of plant collections, natural meadows, wetlands, forest and Devonian bedrock.
  • is growing environmental learning for school children, hosting year-round programming, engaging school groups, and helping to boost responsible tourism in the region.
  • a beautiful space, open to the public which has allowed the Mountain Top Arboretum to collaborate with many other local organizations, local designers, naturalists, artists and teachers to provide quality programming.
  • promotes environmental stewardship and appreciation for the beauty and importance of the Catskill Mountains.
  • provides the region with a unique and beautiful mountain top environment for a living sanctuary of native and exotic trees and shrubs.
  • is a natural sanctuary for visitors interested in horticulture, birding, geology, local craftsmanship, hiking and snowshoeing!



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