By Jon Dinan
NARROWSBURGOur national symbol of freedom and independence, the Bald Eagle, will prevent Narrowsburg from capping Independence Day with celebratory fireworks.
Fireworks are a long standing tradition in the riverside hamlet. The Fourth of July display has lit up the summer sky since 1902, and only once in the course of its history has it been cancelled before now. That was back in the ’20s, when three men lighting fireworks were killed in an explosion.
The show scheduled for Wednesday night was cancelled this year because of an environmental concern. The EPA’s National Fish and Wildlife Service decided that fireworks would serve as a potential endangerment to a nearby Bald Eagle nest.
The nest of two adult and three adolescent eagles is located just over a half mile away from where the fireworks were planned to be set off.
The Narrowsburg Fire Department and the Narrowsburg Chamber of Commerce usually sponsor the event, but they decided not to this year. The Lava Fire Department took over the sponsorship responsibility this summer.
The Lava FD signed a contract with a firework vendor agreeing to pay $3,250 to supply the show. The department raised the money for naught because an alternative location to stage the fireworks away from the nest was not found. It needs to raise the same amount, as the money is non-refundable.
“It was too late to have [the fireworks] somewhere else at that point, plus the only other area we could have had them is the Lander’s Campground and their lease won’t allow them to do that,” 25-year Lava FD member Bruce Gettel said, lamenting the waste of funds. “$3,250 could put one of our members in full turnout gear, which could save lives.”
Gettel, a former chief and president of the Lava FD, was in charge of this year’s event planning and he received the call from Jason Bach, an agent representing the National Fish and Wildlife Service warning of a possible $200,000 fine if any eagle on the river was harmed.
“A good deed had turned bad,” Narrowsburg Chamber of Commerce President Jane Luchsinger wrote in a letter to this paper (see page 7A for full copy). “When they received the call [Lava Fire Dept.] members were surprised and angry at the same time. Why had this not been the case in past years? How could they be expected to bear a fine of that magnitude? How could the Town of Tusten be expected to bear this fine?”
The Fish and Wildlife Service was notified by the New York State Department Environmental Conservation (DEC), after the DEC received a complaint from a local resident.
"The fireworks were not canceled at the direction of the DEC,” DEC spokesperson, Mike Knipfing said.“We were aware that fireworks being planned by a local fire department were in close proximity to an active eagle nest. We therefore brought the matter to the attention of local officials of a federal agency that has guidelines for the use of explosives near eagle nesting areas.”
“The buzz around town has been loud and clear. Disappointment, resentment and anger. Many a gathering has lost the main event. Many merchants will lack the foot traffic of the crowds of people flocking to Narrowsburg for the fireworks,” Luchsinger wrote in her letter.