DEC Releases Interim Report from Catskill Strategic Planning Advisory Group

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DEC Releases Interim Report from Catskill Strategic Planning Advisory Group

Recommendations Include State and Local Actions to Promote Sustainable Recreation and Diversity

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the release of the Catskill Strategic Planning Advisory Group's (CAG) Immediate Action Recommendations Report for public review and comment. The report includes proposed actions that DEC and its State and local partners could undertake, pending available funding and continued partnership, to balance increasing and diverse recreational use of the Catskill Forest Preserve, protecting the park's natural and historic resources, and ensuring the experience of using the Park is welcoming, accessible, and inclusive.

"I applaud the extensive work of the CAG members to strategically examine the issues facing the region's communities and natural resources and develop this interim report which is an important part of our comprehensive actions to protect the Catskills for future generations," Commissioner Seggos said. "We look forward to receiving feedback from stakeholders on the recommendations to help further inform a final framework to guide New York State's collaborative work to promote sustainable recreation in the Catskills."

In October 2020, Commissioner Seggos announced the formation of the Catskill Strategic Planning Advisory Group (CAG) comprised of stakeholders with expertise in local government, recreation, natural resource protection, business, tourism, and other priority areas. The members collectively provide advice to DEC on how to balance critical issues associated with increased public use in the Catskill Park in order to protect the area's natural resources for future generations.

The CAG has been meeting throughout the past year to develop this Interim Report with recommendations for immediate actions along the Route 23A corridor in the vicinity of Kaaterskill Clove as well as long-term park-wide management strategies that include:

  • Educate all users of the Catskill Park about responsible recreation, protecting natural and historic resources, and Leave No Trace™ principles;
  • Coordinate consistent messaging and communication for the Catskills Park on different mediums;
  • Implement park-wide traffic and parking management strategies;
  • Incorporate diversity, equity, inclusivity, and justice (DEIJ) principles in recreational, educational, and operational frameworks and the economic benefits provided in the Catskill Park; and
  • Establish a Catskill Park Coordinator position to collaborate among entities and streamline parkwide efforts.

Jeff Senterman, Executive Director of the Catskill Center, said, "The Interim Report represents a great deal of research, hard work, and consensus building amongst the members of the CAG. The Interim Report, and the forthcoming Final Report, will also be roadmaps for the future of an inclusive, actively managed Catskill Park that welcomes visitors through locations like the Catskills Visitor Center, protects our region's natural resources, and better connects our communities to the economic benefits of visitors. I look forward to working with my fellow CAG members on the development of a robust Final Report, and then working with stakeholders and the newly appointed Catskill Park Coordinator to ensure that the CAG recommendations are implemented."

Ramsay Adams, Executive Director of the Catskill Mountainkeeper, said, "The Draft Report addresses many of the challenges identified by the Catskills Advisory Group (CAG) and is a great step forward in planning the future for our lands and forests. Catskill Mountainkeeper applauds Commissioner Seggos and the staff at the DEC for facilitating the process and our colleagues in the CAG for engaging in such important conversations."

Adrienne S. Larys, President of the Mountain Top Historical Society, said, "The Mountain Top Historical Society in Haines Falls was pleased to be invited to join the Catskill Strategic Advisory Group. Given our location at the top of the Kaaterskill Clove, we have had a front row seat to the influx of visitors in recent years and have been concerned about the impact on the Catskills. The CAG has given stakeholders in the region the opportunity to be a part of an effort to develop a strategic approach to assuring that the natural beauty and recreational assets of the Catskills are sustained for generations to come. The Interim Report will give the public a glimpse into the work we have been doing since late 2020. The appointment of a Catskill Park Coordinator by the DEC is one of the first results of our work."

Joshua Howard, New York-New Jersey Trail Conference Executive Director, said, "The New York-New Jersey Trail Conference has always strived to collaborate with likeminded organizations to improve the recreational opportunities in New York. Being a member of the Catskill Advisory Group epitomizes this principle and we are very excited to have participated in this process and submit our interim recommendations to DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos for his consideration. We have already seen the department act on the group's thoughts with the creation of a Coordinator position for the Catskill Forest Preserve and are excited for future investments and improvements to keep recreation sustainable and welcoming for all users who wish to enjoy the wonders of our Forever Wild lands in the Catskills."

Michael Barrett, ADK Executive Director, said, "ADK is excited to represent those who recreate in the wildlands of New York State's Forest Preserve, including the beautiful mountains and cloves of the Catskill Park. The Catskill Strategic Planning Advisory Group's Interim Report sets the stage for a final set of recommendations that protect natural resources, respect quality visitor experiences, and ensure that the Forest Preserve is a welcoming and inclusive space for all."

DEC encourages the public to submit their comments on the report to CatskillPark by Feb. 3, 2022. The Interim Report can be found on DEC's website.

Due to the ongoing collaborative process to address issues affecting sustainable use, DEC and its State and local partners are taking action on many of the recommendations of the Catskill Advisory Group's interim report. For example, DEC recently named a Catskill Park Coordinator who was recently invited to the CAG's deliberations as the group prepares the final report. The CAG will continue to develop its recommendations and other topics in the coming months as it works to review public comments on the interim report and complete the Final Strategic Framework.

Other recommendations acted on in 2021 to improve public safety and sustainably manage use of the Catskill Park during the summer months include:

  • Worked with Catskill Center, Catskill Mountain Keeper, NY/NJ Trail Conference, 3500 Club and others to increase the Stewards interacting with the public
  • Increased public awareness and education through the Love Our NY Lands campaign
  • Addressed increased use of the Mongaup Access to the Delaware River across agencies including DEC, the National Park Service, the Upper Delaware Council, and the town of Lumberland;
  • Helped address parking issues in Claryville at a very popular fishing access site on the Neversink by working with Sullivan County;
  • Implemented a number of strategies along the Route 23A corridor including: enhanced parking enforcement, variable message boards and Mountain Top Historical Society allowed for alternate parking options.

In the 2022 State of the State Address on Jan. 5, Governor Kathy Hochul committed to additional Forest Preserve protections and investments, including critical actions to address sustainable use through comprehensive planning for the future, and enhancements for trail safety and climate resiliency. These efforts will include support for increased stewardship programs to protect natural forest lands, while allowing visitors to enjoy the Catskills for future generations.

This winter, DEC reminds visitors recreating on State lands to practice Leave No Trace™ and Love Our NY Lands. For more information, go to DEC's website.

https://www.dec.ny.gov/press/press.html

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Basil Seggos, Commissioner

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