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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Beacon Bits - Community Support

The Beacon community is replete with opportunities for being a good neighbor or ‘friend’ to the variety of not-for-profit groups that create an atmosphere of familiarity with others who share interests in the arts, concerns about the environment and knowledge about the historical aspects of the region. They all create a venue for socialization, volunteership and common purpose. Several groups worth knowing more about in order to consider how you want to support them include The Howland Cultural Center, the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries, the Beacon Sloop Club and the Mt. Beacon Incline Railway Restoration Society. There are so many others (note to self: more information for future blogs), including The Dia, Boscobel and Scenic Hudson whose scope lies beyond the city limits, yet all of them have an impact on the choices and prospects for involvement for a local Beaconite.

The Howland Cultural Center ( is a true community gathering place where poetry, folk music, gospel, art exhibits, bridge, open mic, kids’ events and film take place in a beautiful Norwegian-style building designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt and built in 1872. The building has great acoustics, intricate woodwork, remnants of the library bookshelves that are reminders of the original purpose of the building, and a grand antique grandfather clock frozen in time. While the clock stands transfixed, unique events presented at the various venues are at the cutting edge of our current times (e.g., an anti-fracking fundraiser with Pete Seeger and film director of Gasland, Josh Fox, ( in May 2011 and classical-world-jazz rhythm and melody performance by duoJalal (,  a viola and percussive powerhouse, in June 2011.) The building was placed on the National Historic Registry in 1972. It is the current home to the Howland Chamber Music Circle ( and the Beacon Historical Society ( Join the legacy of civil war general and shipping magnate, Joseph Howland, the original benefactor; individual membership is $30 and family membership is $50.

The Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries ( is a prestigious academic center for " scientific and technological innovation that advances research, education, and public policy regarding rivers and estuaries"  making Beacon the center of 21st century environmentalism.  The BIRE, located on Dennings Point (, offers environmental programs to the public in the Center for Environmental Innovation and Education (CEIE) and River and Estuary Observatory Network (REON) and has its bookshop/gallery at 199 Main Street. General support of the organization starts with a $25 donation.

The Beacon Sloop Club (BSC) is anchored in the movement to clean up the Hudson River,  which was spearheaded by Pete Seeger, and marked by the arrival of the sloop Clearwater in Beacon in 1969. Now home to the replica of an 18th-19th century Dutch ferry sloop, the Woodie Guthrie, the BSC offers 1st Friday night potlucks with a sing-along of traditional American folk songs, including those reminiscent of the 1960's protest movements and new themes for a new generation. The BSC organizes community-wide fundraising with a Strawberry Festival every June, a Corn Festival in August (8-14-11) and a Pumpkin Festival in October (10-16-11) for the upkeep and maintenance of the Woodie Guthrie, which is available for free sailing trips by reservation. This riverside clubhouse with a tree growing through the roof is also home to the Beacon Farmers Market ( during the winter months with its welcoming and roaring fire in the stone fireplace. Membership for the BSC is $25, a true bargain for all the camaraderie, song, sailing and history on the Beacon waterfront. in Beacon in 1969.
The Mt. Beacon Incline Railway Restoration Society ( has as its mission to “restore, operate and maintain the Incline Railway on North Beacon Mountain”, a funicular which rose 1540 feet above sea level up 2200 feet of track on the mountainside from 1902 to 1978, and destroyed by fire in 1983. Built by Otis Elevator company, it brought passengers to the amazing vista and glorious natural beauty of the Hudson River Valley. While I never rode the Mt. Beacon funicular, and I have yet to hike in this Scenic Hudson park ( , I can only imagine the sight from the top of the mountain from my own funicular journeys in Bergen, Norway ( (This peculiar coincidence of the mountains and “fjord” makes me ponder the possibility of Beacon becoming a sister city with Bergen.....but that is definitely another blog.) If you believe that the railway can be built by 2013 (the target date to coincide with Beacon’s 100th anniversary as a city) then it’s time to get aboard; individual membership is $20 and family membership is $40 annually.
Some food for thought: I read that a grande latte purchased on a daily basis for $3.63 would total $1,334.95 per year. Imagine how much of an investment that would translate into if you gave that much to local development projects? Even if you use 10% of that total amount ($133.49), you could be a benefactor to a selection of the various groups described, as well as others, and know that you are supporting the future of Beacon and its surrounding area. It’s a matter of how you choose to use your discretionary funds. In this economy, we may all need to cut back. But the groups that serve us will sustain cutbacks in grants and government support; our 10% will help to sustain them through this difficult time. The opportunity for belonging to these community groups is priceless; giving up lattes for 36.5 days of the year may not be such a sacrifice when you consider what you will get in return.

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