By Anya Tikka
BLOOMINGBURG “This is the true gateway to the Catskills,” mused Dr. Clifford Teich as he sat in his country doctor’s tranquil office in Bloomingburg. “I’ve been coming here since I was three. My dad used to own cabin colonies. I love it here.”
Eventually, Dr. Teich made Bloomingburg both his residence and the place for his solo practice, became a village council member, and then turned his attention to the diminished crowds using Route 17’s Exit 116.
“I always wanted to capitalize on it being the entrance or gateway to Sullivan County and the Catskills,” he said.
There’s going to be a brand new “miniature St. Louis arch” permanently on the Sullivan/Orange County border, at the bridge over the Shawangunk Kill on entering Bloomingburg. It’s Dr. Teich’s brainchild, entirely based on his vision and built on donations from the public and local businesses.
Dr. Teich described enthusiastically how he’s gone around raising the funds for the steel arch by raffles, 50/50s, and donations. He’s already spent $10,000 of the $13,000 he’s raised so far to purchase the steel for the arch. Just in time too.
“The price of steel doubled soon after I bought it,” said Dr. Teich.
“The welder Rich Memmelaar of RDM Welding [in Pine Bush] is contributing his work free of charge, the value of which is somewhere around $30,000,” said Dr.Teich, adding, “All I had to do is pay for the materials.”
An advocate for the village as a trustee, Dr. Teich is a frequent visitor to Albany. He said Senator John Bonacic in particular has taken keen interest, and has been very helpful. The road leading up to the bridge and village road and sidewalks have already been repaired thanks in part to a grant from Bonacic’s office.
Local artists have stepped up to show their support. After a competition, and after Dr. Teich described his vision in detail, artist Jeff Gebhardt drew up what the arch is going to look like, and the engineering blueprints show the detailed plans.
“It’s going to be solid steel, and solar powered with LED lights,” he said.
Dr. Teich’s idea is also to have changing LED color lights according to the seasons, “a little like the Empire State Building,” i.e. green/red for Christmas, green for St. Patrick’s, blue/white for Hanukkah, and red/white/blue for July 4 and Memorial Day.
Dr. Teich believes once the arch is in place, visitors will make their way to see it en route to the Catskills, bringing renewed interest and tourism in the region.
On the arch there will be artwork depicting the area attractions, and of course the famed scenery.
“Anyone who donated more than $999 is entitled to have a permanent plaque on the side of the arch,” added Dr. Teich, acknowledging he still needs more money.
When ready, the arch will measure 15 feet high and be 52 feet wide. Dr. Teich is hopeful it will be ready in time for the holidays.