State Parks to Address Congestion in Catskills

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.

8 thoughts on “State Parks to Address Congestion in Catskills

  1. Can we please start this process here in the Hudson Valley — specifically on Route 9D between Beacon and Cold Spring?

    Parking and overuse of trails is crazy bad and getting worse. Tired of hearing all the reasons why nothing can be done.

    Start with raising parking tickets to $500 or more. Right now the tickets are being treated like an admission fee too many are willing to pay. Who has jurisdiction and is there some kind of plan? Or else Citizen’s Action anyone?

  2. This is all because of Big Brain New York state government agencies who think they’re doing New York a favor and going overboard in the last number of years advertising how wonderful the Catskills is.

    If it didn’t ruin normal life that would be fine but now I have 1,000 people speeding past my country house every weekend. And they are speeding up and down the back mountain road which also some big brain decided to widen.

    The other day I saw a huge white truck that nearly ran me off the road and many Lexus and BMWs which we never saw, clearly day-trippers speeding and trying to kill the residents. All these day-trippers think it’s a big joke but they are ruining our communities. Or we have renters who invest nothing in our community nor pay the taxes I do. I hope that when COVID-19 has come down these people will be taking their stupid cruises instead.

    The only money these tourists are spending is going into the local store and buying beer. I put every money of my savings into buying a tiny country home that I hope to enjoy and now it’s noise garbage and disgusting people. These tourists have no respect for our area unlike years ago when they did.

  3. It’s a crap shoot to get into Minnewaska for the past year or two or three or more! It forces many hikers to go off-trail or enter the park at non-entry level trailheads. As a local hiker and someone who lives virtually next to the park, I don’t even attempt to go and hike there any longer. It’s not fun anymore. I realize that we all have a right to the park but the park is breaking down a such a fast rate.

  4. Just went up to the Seven Lake Region near Sloatsburg and Palisades and it was so crowded it was unbelievable. Most of the trails and parking areas were closed to the public. I don’t understand this. There are Stone buildings going to decay not being used, visitor centers being decayed and everything is closed. What is going on with the parks?

  5. Please do something about the trash problem. People just leave water bottles and other trash everywhere they go. If they can carry it in, they can carry it out. I was at Kaaterskill Falls a few months ago and I picked up five bags of trash, including diapers. Come on, people, you can do better than that.

  6. As a retired ecologist and naturalist who has both hiked and studied the ecology of the Catskill Park and Preserve and who has seen first hand, in the last 20 years, a steady erosion of the Catskill natural areas from the calculated efforts by the State of New York and the DEC to encourage tourism and recreation within the park lands, without any effort to “preserve” the Catskill ecology, I was not surprised at Governor Cuomo’s attempt to undo the resultant environmental damage to state lands.

    I had the dubious pleasure, along with my wife, to attend last year, at the State Capitol in Albany, the Catskill Park Coalition lobbying attempts to wheedle more money from state legislators to fund more tourism and recreation projects in the Catskill Park. This daylong lobbying event included such 2020 budget priorities as $300,000 for Smart Growth Grants, $250,000 in NYSDOT funding for the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byways for regional byway expansion, $50,000 for a feasibility study for a swimming area at Kenneth Wilson State Campground, $1 million for upgrades at the Belleayre Ski Center, $250,000 for a mountain bike plan in the Shandaken Wild Forest, $150,000 for the Catskills Visitor Center on Route 28 and $70 million for the DEC Adventure NY.

    All of this, plus a nominal $500,000 for Shovel Ready Access and Stewardship projects in the Catskill Park that would further enhance tourism and recreation in the Catskill Park and Preserve. All at the expense of the delicate Catskill ecology, $350 million for the EPF (Environmental Protection Fund), $500,000 for new DEC Staff at the Division of Lands and Forest in Region 3 and $750,000 for the annual Forest Ranger Academies that would train rangers to assist visitors in the park are just funding blandishments designed to offset the systemic and cumulative people impact (the Tragedy of the Commons Effect) that these so-called state funded “improvements” would incur.

    The advisory council, with its 20 members, (including the director of The Cary Institute, which I had the pleasure of visiting many times) would only rubber stamp Cuomo’s agenda of pumping as many people as possible, up into the protected Catskill Park and Preserve lands, in defiance of the “forever wild” clause of the 14th Amendment in the New York State Constitution that specifically prohibits human development and human pressure on what was, heretofore, “protected” natural areas. Preservation and not, recreation should be the guiding philosophy of DEC when it comes to managing New York State Lands.

    I was trained by the State of New York to evaluate, study and interpret for the public the intricate and delicate ecology of the natural world and in the years since I was that young naturalist at the First Earth Day in 1970, and in my career as an environmental educator-I have never seen a worse stewardship of New York State natural habitats than the DEC, in the last decade of the 20th and now the first two decades of the 21st century. Almost 3 million people visit the Catskill Park and Preserve lands every year and those 278,000 acres are now being seriously degraded by too many hiking feet, dogs, off road vehicles, camping, parking problems, air pollution, water pollution, litter and crime.

    The drought-stricken Catskills brought on by climate change are even more prone to the environmental stress of the Human Footprint because of the thin “step” or echelon geology inherent in the sedimentary rocks of shale, sandstone and conglomerate and the fragile boreal zones of the High Peaks. The air pollution that accumulates at the high altitudes with it’s methyl mercury, nitrous and sulfur dioxide are damaging the hemlock, spruce and balsam firs and the human intrusion into bird breeding habitats (like the endangered Bicknell’s Thrush on Slide Mountain) is just one more factor in the declining biodiversity of the Catskills brought on by increased human disturbance.

    This human disturbance into the Catskill Park only aggravates the erosion and compaction of trails, affecting wildflower micro-niches, encourages the spread of invasive plants (like Japanese Barberry, a vector of the Deer Tick),and aids in the transmission of tree insect pathogens like the EAB, Hemlock Wooly Adelgid or the Gypsy Moth. It took over 150 years for the Catskills to recover from the ravages of the tanning industry and the destruction of over 70 million hemlocks.

    Gov. Cuomo in his State of the State address said that he wants to make trails more “sustainable” to increased use and to start education programs that will encourage wise stewardship of New York public lands. How are you going to do that when you actually advertise the construction of more trails into sensitive Park and Preserve trails? For example, The creation of the 750-mile Empire State Trail is just another attempt by the governor to fill the state coffers of revenue generated by tourism and the recreation industry.

    The six stated goals of the DEC advisory group translate into ‘what’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” in other words trade-offs in biodiversity loss is worth it if the local tax base is enhanced by the creation of more recreation lands like rail trails and/or Park/Preserves, which by the way is a contradiction in terms because you cannot have a preserve when it becomes a park. Parks are for people, preserves are for nature.

    Aldo Leopold, the great naturalist, conservationist and author of A Sand County Almanac and godfather of ecology wrote; ” A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community, It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” Aldo Leopold also wrote that “land is a community is the basic concept of ecology, but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics. A land ethic, then reflects the existence of an ecological conscience and this in turn reflects a conviction of individual responsibility for the health of land.”

    DEC and the state of New York cares neither for the health of the land or its co-option to the business interests of recreation. This latest PR statement of a state sponsored environmental advisory council for the Catskill Park and Preserve is the proof in the pudding and a band-aid to heal the wounds of state-sponsored ecocide.

  7. Wow — people who treat non-locals as interlopers should realize the the Catskill and Shawgunks park systems are open to all, tourists included. Equal access is the cornerstone laid when these parks were formed. I’m sorry the locals don’t want to share. A more welcoming attitude would help people learn and share the experience. Old,young, etc.- the parks are for everyone!

  8. Unfortunately the ignorant will never care. They just see it as another entitlement.