Phoenicia's sign to the world: "Come visit"
By Jay Braman Jr
Ever since Hurricane Irene came to visit, Phoenicia has had a dilemma.
The hamlet suffered greatly at the hands of the storm. The flood came and did damage, high winds knocked out power, Internet and phone, but right now, weeks after that mayhem hit, the biggest problem facing this locale is the fact that they have almost completely recovered and no one knows about it.
Phoenicia pulled itself together very quickly following Irene. Unfortunately, national media has used a very broad brush to paint a picture of despair and hopelessness in the Catskills. At a special meeting of the Phoenicia Business Association Monday night, merchants said that it is time to get the word out that they are doing well and are open for business.
They have already gotten plenty of help from local sign maker Kurt Boyer, who made a sign last week and installed it at the entrance to the hamlet, which until then had been closed off to visitors because the bridge entering Phoenicia was damaged during Irene.
The sign says Phoenicia is open, and points visitors to the alternative entrance to the hamlet.
“I love Kurt. It is incredible that he did this for us,” said Michael Koegel, owner of Mama’s Boy Market and member of the Phoenicia Business Association. “We need all the help we can get.”
Over the past few days, Koegel and others have been at work doing damage control.
The signs that were placed on Route 28 down near the thruway that said “local traffic only” and “State parks closed” have been mostly removed, and the remaining sings now say that businesses are open within the Catskill Park.
The business association continues to reach out to let the world know they are still alive and ready for business, contacting all levels of television and print media outlets.
On Monday, Ulster County representatives addressed the business association, stating that the Ulster County Department of Tourism would be able to help the cause. At present that entity is working on getting The New York Times to run a story on the quick recovery of Phoenicia, in hopes that such a story will undo the damage The Times did to the hamlet two weeks ago when it ran a story suggesting that Phoenicia was too far gone to fix.
However, Peter Fairweather, a consultant to the Department of Tourism, said that the recent flood could actually be a draw for the community.
“Part of the beauty of this place is that it’s a wilderness place,” he said. “And these things happen here.”
It was noted that Phoenicia actually has a Website, at Phoenicia-catskills.com. Web Host Jen Dragon said that content for the site is welcome, and needed.