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Cairo preparing to keep and protect fossil forest

May 05, 2021 6:00 am

Sarah Trafton is reporting for Columbia-Greene Media Cairo officials voted Mon., May 3, to engage an engineering firm to help with the protection of an important fossil forest located behind the Cairo Highway Department. The town board passed a resolution Mon., May 3, to bring in the Barton and Loguidice firm of Albany. “There is no cost to the town because they haven’t prepared anything,” Town Supervisor John Coyne said. “They are not getting paid a retainer to do anything. In the event we find some funding to protect the fossil forest, we will ask them to assist us with getting that funding.” A research team from Binghamton University discovered the root system of trees thought to be 385 million years old, dating back to the Devonian Age as they were sifting through fossil soils at a quarry in 2019. The site is believed to predate a fossilized forest in Gilboa, formerly labeled the world’s oldest forest, by 2 million to 3 million years. The town has recently had issues with trespassers on the property, Coyne said. “We’ve got to protect it,” he said. “We had kids up there on four wheelers and side by sides, and some large rocks surrounding the fossil forest were moved,” he said. Police were called to the scene but the trespassers were gone when they arrived, Coyne said. “Right now our main concern is keeping it safe and secure,” Town board member Jason Watts, who is a candidate for town supervisor, has proposed the town sell the property. “For the amount of money we would sell it for, we probably wouldn’t have to have land taxes in the town of Cairo if we managed the money properly,” Watts said. “We could build a community center, actually put a courthouse in. We would actually be able to do a lot more stuff.” Coyne said he does not think the property should be sold. Tim Powers, another board member, opposes selling the property, he said. “It needs to stay in the hands of the town of Cairo,” he said. “One board member would rather sell it. I think at this point, just selling it isn’t serving the will of the people. ... It is a piece of our history. ... We need to protect it and then develop it so the community can enjoy it.” Read the full story at HudsonValley360 [dot] com.

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