Strategic Planning Advisory Group will Develop Framework to Help Balance Public Use Needs in Catskills
New Advisory Group Builds on Governor Cuomo's Commitment to Protect High-Traffic Public Lands for Future Generations
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the creation of a new strategic planning initiative to promote the sustainable management of public use in the Catskill Park, consistent with Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's proposal in his State of the State earlier this year. The organizations, entities, agencies, and elected officials participating in the Advisory Group will collaboratively provide recommendations to achieve actionable management solutions to help address the critical issues associated with the increased public use of the Catskill Park and protect the park's resources for future generations.
"DEC and our local partners are thrilled to see more New Yorkers getting outside and exploring the Catskill Forest Preserve, but we must ensure that the uptick in visitors does not negatively impact the region's natural resources or quality of life," Commissioner Seggos said. "Governor Cuomo has helped assemble a team of talented and committed people who will work together cooperatively to provide real strategic solutions that support the Catskills' local economies, protect the environment, and provide a safe, quality recreational experience for the park's visitors and residents."
The Governor's 2020 State of the State (PDF) proposals recognized the need to preserve the Adirondack and Catskill forest preserves for future generations and directed the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to develop a framework to balance public use needs. Similar to the Adirondack High Peaks Strategic Planning Advisory Group launched in 2019, DEC will facilitate the Catskills Strategic Planning Advisory Group (CAG), which is comprised of stakeholders with expertise in local government, recreation, natural resource protection, business, tourism, and other priority areas. DEC and partners continue to fulfill other elements of the State of the State proposal, including: deploying sustainable trail crews to make trails more durable to increased use; analyzing and developing new visitor flow solutions to better manage traffic and hikers; and initiating education programs to promote stewardship practices that minimize the impact to natural resources and ensure positive recreational experiences for future generations.
New York State identified six goals for managing public use in the Catskill Park Region: ensure public safety in communities, along roadways, at trailheads, and in interior areas; address impacts and public safety in areas experiencing significant and unsustainable public use; protect natural resources and recreation infrastructure; provide a quality recreation experience for visitors and users of all backgrounds; support local economic vitality; and ensure that science/fact-driven decisions are made with the use of best available data.
The CAG, led by DEC's Division of Lands and Forests Bureau Chief Peter Frank, will create a framework of policy recommendations to achieve the initiative's goals, incorporate, expand, and/or modify recommendations to date to identify priorities, determine whether additional data is needed to inform the group, and identify actions for implementation. In addition, to preserve these singular natural resources for future generations, New York will develop a framework to balance public use needs. The group includes:
- Melissa Abramson, Local Brand Engagement and Impact, Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI)
- Ramsay Adams, Founder and Executive Director, Catskill Mountainkeeper
- Patrick Barnes, Region 1 Director, New York State Department of Transportation
- Adam Bosch, Director of Public Affairs, New York City Department of Environmental Protection
- David Brooks, Supervisor, Town of Denning
- Dr. Joshua R. Ginsberg, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Catskill Science Collaborative
- David Kukle, Councilman, Town of Hunter, and Director of Food and Beverage at Hunter Mountain Ski Bowl, Inc.
- Warren Hart, Deputy County Administrator, Greene County Economic Development, Tourism & Planning
- Joshua Howard, Executive Director, New York - New Jersey Trail Conference
- Adrienne Larys, President, Mountain Top Historical Society, Inc.
- Ross Levi, Executive Director / Vice President, and Markly Wilson, Director of International Marketing, New York State Division of Tourism - I LOVE NY
- Lisa Lyons, Owner, Morgan Outdoors, Livingston Manor
- Gilles Malkine, Architectural Modification Consultant, Resource Center for Accessible Living
- Melodie Mendez, Outings Leader, Latino Outdoors
- Cathy Pedler, Director of Advocacy, and Michael Barrett, Executive Director, Adirondack Mountain Club
- Jeff Senterman, Executive Director, Catskill Center
- Matthew Shook, Director of Development and Special Projects, Palisades Interstate Park Commission
- Michelle Yost, Watershed Assistance Program Manager, Greene County Soil and Water Conservation District
The CAG will develop recommendations that address recreational use and capacity issues of the Catskill Forest Preserve, with a particular focus on those places experiencing high and increasing use demand, including the Route 23A corridor. To help reduce congestion, DEC is already highlighting alternative hikes and activities elsewhere in the State and promoting sustainable use with partners through Leave No Trace principles to help visitors understand their role in protecting the resource. The CAG will meet this fall and provide opportunities for broader public input. The group will be charged with finalizing and submitting a strategic planning framework to DEC Commissioner Seggos by the end of 2021. Upon completion of the framework, DEC will release a draft Strategic Plan for Managing Public Use in the Catskill Park Region for public review and comment.
Governor Cuomo's commitment to protect public lands and improve recreational opportunities for visitors includes Adventure NY, Parks 2020, Outdoors Day, First Time Camper, Hike with Us-Catskills, and the Catskills Fire Tower Five Challenge. As a result, visits to the Catskills are on the rise. Trails in the Catskills have seen a 60 percent increase in use between 2007 and 2017. Overall, tourism in the Adirondack and Catskill parks are up 22 percent since 2011.