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October 20, 2012

Oldest-tree fossils on display in Grahamsville

Fossils found at the Gilboa Dam will be put on display at the Time and the Valleys Museum in Grahamsville as part of a permanent exhibit about the New York City watershed.

Carter Strickland, New York City’s environmental protection commissioner, said the two fossils of the earth’s oldest trees date back 380 million years. They were discovered during the dam’s reconstruction.

“By researching the history of these sites during the planning for these important projects and employing sensitive excavation techniques, we were able to preserve these ancient … fossils,” Strickland said.

“The Time and the Valleys Museum is grateful to DEP and all of the people that made possible the loan of the archeopteris fossils from the Gilboa site,” said Donna Steffens-Fajfer, the museum’s executive director.

Engineers uncovered fossilized tree stumps while excavating the Riverside Quarry, which is downstream from the dam. The New York State Museum was notified of the find, and its experts helped unearth 32 fossilized stumps.

As excavation of the quarry resumed, museum personnel, who remained onsite, noticed the remnants of a forest floor. The area was then carefully washed, and museum staff mapped the forest floor and extracted additional tree-top specimens from the rock. The fossils are from the Devonian Period, 380 million years ago and are evidence of the world’s oldest forest.

The findings have been loaned to the Time and Valleys Museum in Grahamsville and are part of a permanent exhibit that also features panels about the history of the New York City watershed, including the building of the Rondout and Neversink reservoirs.

The Gilboa Dam is undergoing a $400 million upgrade that began in 2005 and will bring it into compliance with state and federal standards for new dam construction in 2019.

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