The mission of the CATSKILL EXPLORER is to bring an environmentally sustainable transportation option from the major metropolitan areas in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania to the Western Catskills.

As a consortium of public and private sector entities, the goal of this organization is to use existing train service that connects the New York metropolitan areas with the Upper Delaware region through Port Jervis utilizing infrastructure that already exists.

This venture will promote the development of businesses and towns along the route, while providing city dwellers access to recreational activities, and opportunities for nature appreciation and conservancy. An expansion of tourism in the Upper Delaware river basin and the Western Catskills will create an economic boost to the region and foster business opportunities for various industries, including real estate, hospitality, and retail to name a few.


Irene Nickolai, Executive Director

Irene Nikolai owns and operates Upstate New York’s historic Western Supper Club and Inn. The property, Callicoon’s largest commercial space, also houses a tap room & lounge, a wine & liquor shop, a nonprofit arts organization, and acts as an anchor for a variety of community-wide events throughout the year. You’ll find Irene firmly ensconced in all things Callicoon. After relocating from New York City, she became one of the hamlet’s most ardent boosters. A three-term president of The Callicoon Business Association, she developed the Callicoon Artwalk, Dickens on The Delaware, and the Callicoon Country Fair – all now popular annual events. She also founded I Love Callicoon, Inc., which most recently produced the successful PorchFest Music Festival. Notably, Irene began and was instrumental in the process of rehabilitating Callicoon’s centerpiece railroad depot; Callicoon Depot will soon house the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway Visitor Center.

Irene also continues to work as a Real Estate Development Consultant and Real Estate Broker. This career began in New York City, where she became a senior broker and manager for Douglas Elliman Commercial Real Estate, earning top honors including the industry’s prestigious Gold Award. She has been noted in a host of New York’s most well-known real estate focused publications and now brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to commercial and residential buyers and sellers in the Sullivan Catskills.

Prior to her Real Estate career, Ms. Nickolai was one of the first gallerists in Manhattan’s Chelsea arts district. At Nikolai Fine Art she created and produced more than 40 group and solo exhibitions. Additionally, while producing five large-scale public installations, Irene had an opportunity to collaborate with international consulates, charitable foundations and a variety of corporate sponsors. The gallery also participated in venerable international art fairs, including: The Armory Show (NY), San Francisco International, Art Chicago, Artissima (Turin-Italy), Scope Art Fairs (Miami & NY) and Art Basel Miami.

Whether it’s a 75,000 square foot commercial real estate transaction in an emerging Brooklyn neighborhood or seeing what the Chelsea art district would ultimately become, Irene sees the possibilities and creates opportunities. She is delighted now to lend her vision and vigor to all of her upstate endeavors.

Paul F. Uhlir, J.D, Associate Director

During his career, Paul has worked at the interface of government and the private sector, raising millions of dollars in grants for nonprofit scientific projects. He brings substantial research, publishing, and lobbying skills to Catskill Explorer. Currently a consultant in information policy and management Paul was Scholar at the top research and advisory institution in the world, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in Washington, DC, where he worked for most of his career in various senior capacities. He founded and directed the Board on Research Data and Information, and lobbied on behalf of the NAS in Congress and the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Before joining the NAS, he was at the Department of Commerce in the Office of the General Counsel. Paul has written or edited 34 books and over 70 articles. He is frequently invited to speak worldwide and consults to governments, professional organizations, and universities. In 1997 he won the National Research Council’s Special Achievement Award and in 2010 the CODATA International Prize, both in the field of data policy. A Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Paul has a B.A. degree in world history from the University of Oregon and both an M.A. in political science and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of San Diego. Paul lives full time in Callicoon, NY.

John W. Kiefer, Treasurer

John W. Kiefer is a seasoned financial industry executive with extensive experience in executive leadership, reorganizations, crisis management, debt restructuring, corporate governance, and risk management. He is currently the Chief Executive Officer of the Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency

John served in various positions, including Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, at First Capital, a specialized commercial finance company. Under John’s leadership, First Capital grew from a regional lender with a loan portfolio of less than $70 million to national lender with a portfolio of nearly $1 billion. Prior to First Capital, John was the Chief Executive Officer of Capital Factors, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Union Planters Corporation. John was previously a member of the Board of Directors for Capital Bank and served as Chairman of the Board of Directors for Capital Factors. Capital Factors grew its annual factored volume from approximately $200 million to over $4 billion during John’s tenure as Chief Executive Officer. John’s commentary on capital markets has been featured on CNBC, The New York Times, and numerous trade publications.

Patti Moorehead, Advisory Board

Patti has an extensive background in the Railroad Industry, having served as Vice President of Erie Lackawanna Railway Museum, Glen Ridge, NJ and Vice President of New York & Greenwood Lake Railway. Working on the railway she secured over a million dollars in grants for track installation and rehabilitation from the State of NJ.

A longtime resident of Sullivan County, Patti is the co-owner of Callicoon Brewing Company at the Olympia Hotel. Besides operating the restaurant & pub, she is also responsible for the restoration of the building, which was is listed on the National Historic Register. She is currently the President of the Callicoon Business Association and is instrumental in working on the Historic Callicoon Depot project.

She has been an active community and Callicoon Chamber member since 2013 and has worked on several of Callicoon’s town-wide festivals, and is one of the founding members of Callicoon’s Porchfest Music Festival.

Rachel Partington, General Counsel

Rachel Partington acts as General Counsel for Catskill Explorer. She is a licensed attorney practicing land use, environmental, and municipal law in New York State.

Previously, Ms. Partington worked as an associate attorney at a boutique firm, Knauf Shaw LLP, where she represented clients on environmental due diligence and remediation actions, brownfield redevelopment, and planning and zoning matters. Ms. Partington then served as Chief of Staff at Park Jordan Real Estate, where she still works as a consultant on real estate and land use matters, specializing in cannabis cultivation and processing. Most recently, she was brought on as Chief Compliance Officer and Director of Strategy at Glenna & Co., a NYS-licensed cannabis cultivation and processing company in Upstate NY.

Ms. Partington also consults on smart growth, sustainable development, and placemaking, in addition to working as a designer through her company, Partington Avenues.

Richard H. Lowe, III, Advisory Board

Richard Lowe, a consumer products and manufacturing dynamo, who was tapped recently as the new Director of Regional and Economic Development for Hancock Partners, Inc. Lowe was able to secure over $400k in community grants in 2022, and completed projects for the town including the $3.2m EVolve NY Charging Stations, bringing the 2021-2022 calendar year up to $4.4m in managed programs.

Lowe’s background in manufacturing, digital marketing, and public relations allows him much latitude to integrate new digital and print media marketing tools such as: websites, event portals, Ai crowd scanning, and press services for the promotion of all programs. Hancock Partners hopes to demonstrate how these new tools can keep costs down and attendance high.

Lowe also serves as a board member of the Sullivan County Catskills Visitor’s Association, he also serves as the Secretary of the Hancock Area Chamber of Commerce & Hancock Hounds Dog Park.

Lowe is also the current Chairperson for the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway, and he works regularly with elected, officials and senators in both Albany and D.C. on numerous national/internartional initiatives related to Suicide Prevention, American Manufacturing, Security Services, and Industrial Patents.