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For Release: Wednesday, May 6, 2015

DEC Proposes Plan to Improve Public Safety at Kaaterskill Falls

Draft Kaaterskill Wild Forest Unit Management Plan Features a New Trail to Provide Safe Access to View Kaaterskill Falls

Public Invited to Comment on the Draft UMP Through June 5

A proposed amendment to the Kaaterskill Wild Forest Unit Management Plan (UMP) is designed to make the Kaaterskill Falls area a safer destination to visit, state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Regional Director Keith Goertz announced today. DEC invites the public to submit comments on the draft amendment through Friday, June 5, 2015.

"DEC is committed to protecting and maintaining this unique natural and historic treasure in a manner that enhances public safety and is consistent with forest preserve management principles," Director Goertz said. "We worked with state and local officials and user groups to develop the proposed amendment to gather input on ways to improve public safety and enhance user experiences. We look forward to hearing from a wide range of constituencies on the proposed amendment, which would enhance viewing access to Kaaterskill Falls and make the site a safer and more enjoyable destination for individuals and families to visit."

The draft UMP amendment proposes the construction of a new foot trail leading from the end of the marked Kaaterskill Falls trail at the base of the falls upslope to intersect with the Escarpment Trail on the east side of the falls. This 0.2-mile trail would include construction of a stone staircase at the end of the current marked trail that would lead to a potential viewing area and then proceed upward to the new connector trail to the Escarpment Trail.

The staircase would be approximately 260 feet long, with about 200 stone steps. As part of this proposal, an approximately 300-foot spur trail would lead from the staircase to a point above the middle pool of the falls. At the end of this trail another shorter set of stone stairs would be installed to provide access to the middle pool area. The stone staircase would be designed to blend in with the natural stone of the area at a location to limit its visibility from below.

The proposed trail and stone staircase will address the public's interest for access to a better view of Kaaterskill Falls and the middle pool area, while protecting public safety. Despite DEC's efforts in recent years to prevent people from continuing past the end of the marked Kaaterskill Falls trail, which included increased signage warning of the danger, some people put themselves in danger by continuing past the fence at the end of the trail.

The draft amendment also calls for the expansion of two nearby DEC-managed parking areas: the Laurel House Road parking area and the Schutt Road parking area. Both lots would be expanded to accommodate approximately 50 cars each. Currently, the lots can accommodate about 9-12 cars each.

In addition, the draft amendment calls for the installation of up to 10 permanent anchor points in the middle pool area to assist first responders with rescue operations. The anchors would allow safety ropes to be quickly and safely secured during rescue operations. The anchor points will protect rescuers, as well as those being rescued, from potential falls and injury.

In the fall of 2014, DEC installed about 500 feet of split rail fencing at both the upper and lower falls. The fencing serves as both a physical and visual barrier to alert the public to the potential dangers of proceeding further. Additional signage was also installed in more conspicuous locations to warn the public of the potential dangers in the area. Under the draft plan amendment, these features would remain in place.

Beginning this summer, DEC will construct a bridge over Spruce Creek, an observation deck and associated spur trail at the top of the falls and hire a seasonal steward to educate and interact with visitors at the falls. The steward will gather information about public use of the area, including peak user times, behaviors and preferences to inform management decisions.

The management actions proposed in the draft amendment are intended to complement the actions outlined in the 1987 UMP and the 2013 UMP amendment. When considered in their entirety, the proposals are designed to provide a safer, more environmentally sustainable user experience at Kaaterskill Falls.

DEC prepares unit management plans to assess the natural resources of specific parcels of DEC-managed lands and identify opportunities for public use that are consistent with the classifications of the lands and the ability of the resources and ecosystems to accommodate such uses.

The draft UMP amendment is available on DEC's website. Comments can be mailed to Josh Borst, NYSDEC, 65561 State Highway 10, Suite 1 Stamford, NY 12167, or submitted via email to: R4.UMP@dec.ny.gov. The deadline for comments is June 5.

For more information about the UMP process, visit DEC's website.

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