Creates group to address public-use issues at preserve
The state Department of Environmental Conservation on Oct. 21 announced the creation of a strategic planning initiative to address visitor congestion at the Catskill Forest Preserve.
The DEC said a 20-member advisory group will make recommendations to achieve “actionable management solutions” to address increased public use of the park. Trails in the Catskills saw a 60 percent increase in use between 2007 and 2017 and tourism in the Adirondack and Catskill parks is up 22 percent since 2011, the DEC said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in his State of the State address, directed the DEC to address overcrowding at the forest preserve. He also called on the agency to deploy sustainable trail crews to make trails more durable to increased use; develop new visitor flow solutions to better manage traffic and hikers; and initiate education programs to promote stewardship practices.
The state said it had six goals for managing public use in the Catskill Park Region: (1) ensure public safety along roadways, at trailheads, and in interior areas; (2) address impacts on areas experiencing unsustainable public use; (3) protect the natural resources and recreation infrastructure; (4) provide a quality recreation experience; (5) support local economic vitality; and (6) ensure that science/fact-driven decisions are made with the best available data.
The advisory group includes Ramsay Adams, the executive director of Catskill Mountainkeeper; David Brooks, the supervisor of the Town of Denning; Joshua Ginsberg of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies; Joshua Howard, executive director of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference; and Cathy Pedler and Michael Barrett of the Adirondack Mountain Club.
To help reduce congestion, the DEC said it will promote alternative hikes and Leave No Trace principles at the preserve. The group is expected to complete its study by the end of 2021, the DEC said.