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For Release: Wednesday, September 13, 2017

DEC Promotes Trail Safety During Peak Fall Hiking Season

Safety Demonstration Highlights New York's $800,000 Investment in Safety and Accessibility Improvements at Kaaterskill Falls

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today reminded hikers to follow important safety measures while visiting New York's trails during the prime fall hiking season. Key safety messages and demonstrations were part of an event held today at the Kaaterskill Wild Forest in the Catskill town of Hunter, Greene County. The event showcased the many recent improvements that have enhanced accessibility and overall safety at Kaaterskill Falls.

"With a primary focus on enhancing public safety, consistent with forest preserve management principles, DEC is committed to protecting and maintaining this unique natural and historic treasure," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "Through Governor Cuomo's Adventure NY Initiative, these improvements are just a sample of the infrastructure upgrades being made to New York's natural areas and campgrounds to better serve everyone who wants to enjoy our State's vast natural resources. I encourage all New Yorkers and visitors to get out and safely enjoy all the wonderful hiking trails the state has to offer by following our recommended hiking safety tips."

Recent improvements, supported by an $800,000 investment primarily from the Governor's NY Works program, are part of a comprehensive effort to make the Kaaterskill Wild Forest area a safer and more enjoyable destination to visit. The improvements were completed under the State's Adventure NY Initiative to connect more New Yorkers with nature.

Newly announced improvements made this year include a new, 200-foot cable hand rail on the trail leading to the middle pool of the falls to improve hiker safety. Also new this year are improvements to the Kaaterskill Falls trail down to the middle pool, completed by the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the rehabilitated one-half-mile section of trail leading to the Kaaterskill trail system. DEC crews continue to improve trails in the area that receive substantial public use.

At today's event, DEC Forest Rangers shared trail safety tips, reminding the public to stay on designated trails, obey all signs, wear proper footwear, and not allow young children to wander when recreating. Serious injury or death may occur if these common-sense safety precautions are not followed. The popularity of Kaaterskill Falls coupled with the steep cliffs and slippery rocks require caution and preparedness. Trail conditions can change suddenly and users should plan accordingly, including bringing flashlight, first aid equipment, extra food, and clothing.

Hikers should be aware of and prepared for weather conditions. Being properly prepared for the weather helps to ensure a safe and enjoyable time in the outdoors. Check the current National Weather Service Weather Forecast (link leaves DEC website). Rain showers before and during the busy weekend fall season will ensure trails are wet and muddy. Walk through mud and water, not around, to protect trailside vegetation and prevent further erosion of trails.

Under Governor Cuomo's Adventure NY Initiative, DEC is making strategic investments to expand access to healthy, active outdoor recreation, connect more New Yorkers and visitors to nature and the outdoors, protect natural resources, and boost local economies. This initiative will support the completion of more than 75 projects over three years, ranging from improvements to youth camps and environmental education centers to new boat launches, duck blinds, and hiking trails. Read more about Adventure NY.

Among the 2016 improvements at Kaaterskill Wild Forest was the installation of a 115-foot hiking bridge last fall that spans Spruce Creek and connects the hamlet of Haines Falls to the Escarpment Trail and North/South Lake Campground. The bridge is part of a new 1.8-mile trail connection between Haines Falls and the existing trail system in the Kaaterskill Wild Forest and North/South Lake Campground, which DEC completed with the assistance of the Kaaterskill Rail Trail Committee.

DEC contractors also completed a new foot trail leading from the end of the marked Kaaterskill Falls trail at the base of the falls upslope to the middle pool of the falls, which included installation of a new stone staircase. The 200-step stone staircase was designed to blend in with the natural stone of the area at a location that limits its visibility from below. The staircase contractor, a professional trail crew from the Adirondack Mountain Club, built the staircase by hand using an elaborate cable system and ramps to move each of the 700-pound stone steps from a staging area on the opposite side of the falls. The trail was also extended from the middle pool to the Escarpment trail creating a key linkage between the top and the bottom of the falls, allowing hikers to avoid a potentially dangerous bushwhack between the two locations.

In 2016, DEC also expanded two nearby parking areas, the Laurel House Road parking area and the Scutt Road parking area. Both lots were expanded to accommodate approximately 35 cars each, almost tripling the previous amount of available parking spaces. At the Scutt Road parking lot, DEC rehabilitated the existing horse boarding platform and added a hitching post. DEC crews also replaced a bridge on the trail to accommodate horse traffic.

In 2015, DEC constructed a new, wide, smooth surface trail with level resting areas to an observation platform overlooking the top of the falls. These new features improve the public's view of the falls from the top and enhance safety by directing people to a safe viewing area away from the top of the falls, where people have fallen.

In 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 about the potential dangers in the area.
"These improvements made by DEC will help increase access to one of the area's most popular destinations, while preserving the natural assets of the location and taking the appropriate measures to improve public safety for hikers who want to enjoy the breathtaking beauty of Kaaterskill Falls," said Senator George Amedore.

"My office is pleased to be an active partner in securing state investment at Kaaterskill Falls," said Assemblyman Pete Lopez who represents this region in the State Assembly. "The Greene County community continues to be keenly focused on Kaaterskill Falls as a tourism driver, while seeking improvements and resources to prevent and respond to serious injuries and fatalities at the Falls. Today's announcement goes a long way in supporting both considerations. We are very thankful to Gov. Cuomo, DEC Commissioner Seggos and DEC Region 4 Director Goertz for their leadership and support."

The crown jewel of the Catskill Park is the highest cascading waterfall in New York State-Kaaterskill Falls. Dropping in two tiers over 260 feet, Kaaterskill Falls has been one of the region's most popular destinations for centuries, inspiring artists, poets and those just seeking an escape to a majestic and awe-inspiring landscape.

The improved trails, bridge, viewing platform and stone staircase address the public's desire for access to a better view of Kaaterskill Falls and the middle pool area, while enhancing public safety.

The Catskill Forest Preserve is a vast natural treasure with many areas waiting to be discovered. For those looking to escape the crowds of the Kaaterskill area, DEC recommends the following areas:

DEC manages 4.6 million acres of public lands, including three million acres in the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserve, 52 campgrounds, seven day-use areas, more than 5,000 miles of formal trails, and hundreds of trailheads, boat launches, and fishing piers.

For more information on planning an outdoor adventure in New York State, visit DEC's website.

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