HIGH FALLS – Although the new bridge carrying Route 213 over the Rondout Creek unofficially reopened to traffic Friday, the official opening took place the following day during the annual High Falls Fair, on Saturday, July 8.
The new bridge, built by Harrison and Burrowes at an estimated cost of $8.5 million to replace a 1931 span that has recently boasted a daily average traffic flow of 4,112 vehicles, was completed seven days late, yet with all in a celebratory mood as Ulster County Clerk Nina Postupack presented an original Two-Row Wampum belt to Vincent "Eagle Spirit" Mann, Turtle Clan Chief of the Ramapough Lenape Nation. The symbolic gesture reflected a 1665 agreement between the Esopus tribes and Richard Nicolls, first British governor of the New York colony.
"Just think, here we are here 352 years later doing exactly the same thing," said Postupack. "This wampum belt is a sign of peace and hope. This is our legacy. This is our past. This is also our future."
Chief Eagle Spirit gave three feathers to be retained in remembrance; one for Postupack, one for Marbletown Supervisor Michael Warren, and the third to be held by Postupack for an unspecified third leader.
Chief Eagle Spirit said that originally the treaty was intended to be renewed annually.
"For so long as the sun shines and the rivers flowed downhill. However, for over 200 years the treaty has not been renewed, until today," continued the chief. "Our ancestors carried with them seventeen sticks to show how many times our people had been injured by the actions of those who agreed to this treaty. I bring no sticks today, because I surely cannot carry them, as they are too many. What I do carry with me today is humility, thoughts of healing and forgiveness, just as our ancestors did. It is my hope that this peace and harmony, that was once so fragile, can exist between those of us who are living here today, and those who will yet come, in true peace and understanding between our peoples forever."
The ceremony concluded with drumming, singing and offerings to participants and the fire, of sage, cedar and tobacco. Chief Eagle Spirit held the wampum up to the skies and the winds for blessings on the river waters and the town.
Postupack, Warren and county legislator Manna Jo Greene then cut the ribbon on the bridge, which was followed by a classic car parade. Then on to the annual High Falls Fair Day, and the dunking booth!
Need we say it was a most auspicious, even a historic day.