“Black Creek is just amazing. The area you can travel seems gigantic; you wonder how they could squeeze this into Lloyd. It offers an enormous view of pristine wetlands, and all sorts of interesting animal habitats, flora and fauna, totally unspoiled. To me, it’s definitely the major natural resource in town,” said Jack McGuire, Chairman of the Lloyd Environmental Conservation Council (ECC).
Before it was repurposed by paddlers, Black Creek was a focal point for generations of fisherman. Throughout the 1900s, sportsmen sought shad, herring and trout in its running waters.
“Black Creek has always been very important to the town for hobby and recreation,” said Lloyd Historian Elizabeth Alfonso. “I can remember my father shad fishing in Black Creek... up near the Paine Estate in Esopus. My husband [Danny Alfonso] and Charlie Busick stocked the creek, filling it all up with fish right by the bridge on New Paltz Road. You could find herring and trout, and eels over by Chodikee Lake.”
Intrepid American eel hunters headed to Chodikee Falls at the north side of Chodikee Lake, where Black Creek begins its transition to Esopus. Using two-and-a-half-foot-long tongs, they snatched the eels from the water as they slid down the falls by the hundreds.
In the 1970s, legislation to protect Black Creek in Lloyd was introduced by the Ulster County and New York State Legislatures. A bill to designate it a “scenic river” was approved by the State Senate and Assembly before being tabled by the Senate at the behest of the Lloyd Town Board, which had not been consulted on the matter and wanted time to consider its implications. The legislation would restrict development that could result in measurable environmental impacts to the stream and watershed. According to a Hudson Valley News article dated May 7, 1975, Cloin Robertson, siting director of a proposed Lloyd Atomic Site, the postponement had another intention: “Cloin Robertson... has expressed the idea that much of the reason the Black Creek legislation is being postponed is to stop atomic plants from being built in Lloyd.” (Supporters of the Black Creek protection bill included members of Concerned Citizens of Highland, who actively opposed the power plant.)
While the Lloyd Atomic Site plans were not preserved, Black Creek eventually was, ultimately securing designation as a Class A protected trout stream by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Class A affords the highest level of protection to maintain a natural habitat.
Preservation efforts continued into the 21st Century. In 2005, the ECC worked with the Lloyd Town Board to create the Black Creek Water Trail, a navigable five-mile stretch of waterway, regularly cleared of debris to encourage canoeing, kayaking, sport and recreation, and ecological programs for local students.
“It’s one way, in the midst of all the development that’s going on, that we felt we could contribute to protecting and preserving one watershed for people to enjoy,” said Donna Deeprose of the ECC.
An access point at North Chodikee Lake Road and Route 299 was established; as well as the Black Creek Stairs, steps leading from the Hudson Valley Rail Trail at Tony Williams Park down to the waterway. (The Black Creek Stairs were built in honor of Lloyd’s fallen soldiers Spc. Doron Chan, Cpl. Michael Oremus and Sgt. Eugene Williams, said Alfonso.) In June 2008, Scenic Hudson protected 81.5 acres of wetlands and woods in Lloyd along Black Creek as part of their “Save the Land that Matters Most” campaign, protecting 4,200 feet of shoreline.
The ECC is currently developing a plan to expand the Black Creek Water Trail from New Paltz Road to the Hudson River.
“We plan to take it all the way through Chodikee Lake. After that, it enters the Town of Esopus, so it would become [a collaborative] project. They would need to work out a combination water trail. With cliffs and waterfalls, there would be a lot of portage, requiring walking trails,” said McGuire.
For McGuire, to view the hidden wonders of Lloyd from the existing trail should be all the enticement needed to get boaters back into the paddle.
“It’s big enough that you can get long stretches to yourself, even if people are on it. Some go north and some go south. You can have a pleasant two-hour experience in either direction, and see how much of Lloyd is still full of natural beauty,” said McGuire.