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Bethlehem votes to open Onesquethaw Creek

Bethlehem's town board unanimously decided to allow the supervisor to enter an agreement with the state's DEC to grant fishing on town parcels along the Onesquethaw Creek.

Although the decision was unanimous, there was considerable residential concern over trespassing issues and Councilwoman Joann Dawson said she felt \uncomfortable voting on the measure and asked to table it to look further into the matter.

The cooperative agreement was sought by the Department of Environmental Conservation to allow anglers onto town property to fish the creek. The DEC will pay to build a small parking area, access point, and footpath to the creek, according to Supervisor Jack Cunningham.

The town is giving the state a 33-foot easement from the center of the stream to allow people to fish along the banks of the Onesquethaw, which the DEC stocks each year with trout. In addition to accessing town property, which DEC is paying Bethlehem $13,800 for the rights, the state agency is also approaching individual landowners along the stream about access.

The DEC has offered to pay landowners for the rights to a public easement along the Onesquethaw Creek on their property. The shallow stream runs from the board of New Scotland in South Bethlehem then across and down into the town of Coeymans near Selkirk.

One property owner, Linda Jasinski, said she was offered $2,000 by the DEC for an easement along 1,000 feet of her property bordering the Onesquethaw. She said she was told the offered $2,000 was for life and that the easement would have been deeded to her land if she had accepted.

Jasinski said she had no intention of taking the offer and frequently has to tell trespassers to leave her property.

"For some piddly amount I can relinquish my fishing rights?" Jasinski rhetorically asked during the meeting. "I still have to kick people out every season I enjoy my peace and quiet."

Dawson said she wanted to wait to vote on the matter.

"What would be the downside of tabling this until the Open Space Committee can look at this?" asked Dawson. "I'm quite frankly uncomfortable passing this tonight."

Cunningham responded that it was not an open spaces matter and that entering an agreement with the DEC wouldn't affect the matter of trespassing along the banks of the Onesquethaw.

"It's an enforcement matter," he said.

An official agreement has yet to be signed between the town of Bethlehem and the state's DEC.

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