Palenville, New York is a small hamlet in Greene County (with a population of 1,037 in 2010), nestled at the foot of the Kaaterskill Clove in the Catskill Mountains. There, in the early 1800s, Hudson River School painters established this country’s first artists’ colony, producing work that captured the area’s wild beauty and celebrated the Transcendentalist spirit of the age.
Today in Palenville, a new LPFM station WLPP (102.9 FM) signs on the air with a mission to serve that community and honor the area’s heritage. The station’s call letters define its intent: Low Power to the People, and the station’s website asks listeners to “help us to achieve the kind of radio station that America’s First Artists’ Colony needs and deserves!”
Station founder Rev. Cathryn Platine says, “Our goal is to be a true community radio station for the entire Palenville community with as much local participation as possible. We want to be a source of local information, supporting local events, preserving local history of which we have quite a bit here in the Catskills.”
WLPP is America’s first Pagan owned and operated FM station, licensed to The Maetreum of Cybele, Magna Mater, a religious non-profit dedicated to “a reclaiming of the ancient Mother Goddess tradition updated to reflect modern times.” For thirteen years, the organization has helped local women in need, serving as a shelter and offering support. Platine says, “We’ve got the respect of a whole lot of people in our area because of what we do.”
The decision to apply for this license was inspired by circuit designer and tireless supporter of community radio Al Davis, whom Platine has dubbed “Radio Appleseed.” “He approached us,” Platine says. “We saw the immediate value in it.” Palenville the Hamlet Group, a local community organization, has also been an enthusiastic supporter. Platine adds, “We want to be a resource, not just in times of need, but in general.”
Given Palenville’s unique geographic location, Platine anticipates the station will have considerable range. “We are at the base of Kaaterskill Clove, and quite a bit higher than the town of Catskill. Al thinks we are going to reach all the way across the Hudson, to all of Catskill, a good part of northern Saugerties. I’m not saying we’re going to be there initially, but, when we can afford a higher antenna mast than what we have now, preliminary testing indicates that we’ll reach most of that area.”
Once established, the station intends to offer eight or more hours of live programming a day. Plans call for local news and weather, information centered on local interests and events, and offerings that are “avant-garde, progressive.” Current possibilities include shows on organic gardening, a religious call-in show, and broadcasts that address senior issues and promote local, live music.
Platine says, “The practicality of living in a small town in upstate New York is that, once we’re on the air, people will be breaking the door down to do a show. Until we get on the air, people tend to hold back a little bit. But I fully expect that by the weekend people will be clamoring for studio time.”
Most recently, the organization served as the Welcome Center for the area’s third annual Hidden Gallery Art Walk, a two-day event that features “pop-up” galleries in unusual locations, live music, and demonstrations for younger artists. Local painters displayed work that honored and extended the landscape tradition established by Thomas Cole and Frederic Church.
Later this year, the station will hostess the Grassroots Radio Conference for community-based low power FM stations all around the United States. “We took the ball and ran with it,” Platine says. “With the help of people like Al Davis and station start-up specialist Donna DiBianco, we’re going to make the Grassroots Conference happen.”
And, this coming Labor Day weekend, the Maetreum of Cybele, in association with WLPP-LP FM radio, will be holding a first annual Local Arts and Crafts show.
WLPP’s website asks, “Remember when radio stations were locally owned and had programming of and by local people? We do, and that is why we are putting this station on the air.”
If all has gone well, WLPP-LP FM is now broadcasting to its Palenville community. Pacifica congratulates their achievement, and will assist the station in hosting this year’s Grassroots Radio Conference.
Below, watch an appeal by two members of the station for money to pay for an EAS transmitter.
Rev. Cathryn Platine // firstname.lastname@example.org // 518-772-0752