Newsletter Sign-up Printer Friendly Format Translate This Page Text Size Small Medium Large


September 25, 2000

Contact: Geoff Ryan (718/595-6600)

Rare Fossil Trees To Be Moved To New Site In Gilboa

Nine 370 million year-old fossil trees are being moved to a new site one-half mile from the overlook at the Gilboa Dam, according to an announcement by Commissioner Joel A. Miele Sr., P.E., of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and Kristen V. H. Wyckoff of the Gilboa Historical Society. Currently located on City-owned property below the dam on State Route 990V, the rare fossil trees will be loaned by DEP to the Gilboa Historical Society for a new exhibit and educational kiosk on land owned by the Town of Gilboa. The move will be a joint effort of community members and contractors, who are volunteering their services, as well as staff members from DEP and the Town of Gilboa. The move is scheduled for Friday, September 29th, weather permitting, with a rain date set for Friday, October 13th.

Commissioner Miele said, "We are pleased to partner with the Gilboa Historical Society to provide better access and improve the educational value of these ancient relics of the Catskill Region's history. We are truly fortunate that construction workers at the stone quarry for the dam took an interest in these fossils during their blasting work and made an effort to carefully remove them as they worked."

The fossils were uncovered in the early 1920s, during construction of New York City's Schoharie Reservoir by the Hugh Nawn Contracting Company, the contractor for the reservoir. The fossils, some of the only survivors of their type in the World, are remnants of Earth's earliest forests. According to Dr. Robert Titus of SUNY Oneonta, the trees are essentially big ferns with woody stems whose descendants evolved into cone-bearing, evergreen trees. They were located along the coast of an inland sea that covered what is now the southern part of New York and western Pennsylvania. Winifred Goldring, a New York State paleobotanist who went on to become the first woman State Paleontologist, analyzed these fossils and ultimately supervised the construction of the "Gilboa forest restoration" in the old State Museum in Albany that opened in 1925. The fossils being moved were part of a 1927 outdoor exhibit near a quarry site that provided stones for construction of the Gilboa Dam, which impounds the Schoharie Reservoir. Other fossil trees from the site were sent to institutions in Europe and South America.

Ms. Wyckoff said, "Most people do not realize that these fossils are world famous among geologists because of the important story they tell about the earth and the Catskill Region's role in evolution. The changes that occurred during the Devonian Period brought life to a profound level of possibility, making life, as we know it, possible. The exhibit we are preparing will provide an invaluable opportunity for people of all ages to learn about the natural history and geology of the Catskill Watershed."

The project is funded by a $10,000 grant from the "Public Education Program," which was created under the Watershed Memorandum of Agreement, funded by New York City, and administered by the Catskill Watershed Corporation. As part of the grant's "matching funds", local volunteers will be building an attractive platform for the fossils and preparing text and illustrations for an informational kiosk and video. The video will be available to schools and public groups on a request basis.

For more information, please telephone David Barnet, DEP at (845) 340-7573 or Linda Trautman Stratigos, Gilboa Historical Society at (607) 652-3316.


More Information

NYC Department of Environmental Protection
Public Affairs

59-17 Junction Boulevard
19th Floor
Flushing, NY 11373

(718) 595-6600