Valley residents mark anniversary of flood

By Joan Lawrence-Bauer
More than 70 residents of Oliverea and Big Indian gathered Sunday afternoon to celebrate a beautiful day in the valley that was battered heavily by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee last year. And while the gathering was an indirect result of the disaster, the potluck event was more about triumph than tragedy.

Those gathered, many of whom met for the first time just hours after disaster struck, had organized themselves this spring, to finish clean up and repairs that had been put on hold for the winter. An effort led by native Richard Bennett and long-time resident Doris Barnes got people motivated to make the valley even better than it was before the storm. Some members of the group led summer stream and road clean ups, others developed resource banks and communication chains and others planned Sunday’s celebration of new friendships and community spirit.

There was little talk of disaster Sunday as an eclectic mix of permanent and part-time residents gathered in the Big Indian Park. Josh Brown provided the music and manned the grill as kids played croquet and badminton. Swings, slides and the merry-go-round got heavy use by the youngest while teenagers shot baskets and threw footballs. Even the littlest kids seemed like seasoned veterans with their soccer balls and with an age span of nine months to 85 years in attendance, every generation was present at what is likely to become an annual event.

Members of the Bruderhoff communities who moved in to the valley to help after the disaster returned for the celebration and the only sad note was the absence of group organizer Bennett, who was seriously injured in an August accident and remains in a rehabilitation facility in Catskill. But two new signs and over-flowing flower barrels at the entrance to the valley were a permanent reminder that the “Worst of Mother Nature can bring out the best in Human Nature.” And as cleanup from the event was underway, neighbors were talking about doing a winter event during “cabin fever” season.