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For Release: Thursday, May 20, 2021

DEC Prepares for 2021 Catskill Hiking Season with Actions to Protect Public Safety and Natural Resources

Measures Complement Ongoing Efforts with State and Local Partners to Promote Safe, Sustainable Use of Public Lands

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced that DEC and its partners are undertaking several actions to protect the public and Catskill resources as part of a comprehensive plan to ensure the safety of those enjoying the Catskills during the upcoming warm weather months.

"DEC is working closely with our state and community partners to promote public safety during the Catskill region's busiest season for visitors and traffic," Commissioner Seggos said. "Today we are highlighting our ongoing efforts to promote sustainable use and help keep visitors and local residents safe while also protecting the state's environmental treasures."

State Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said, "The safety of the traveling public is always our top priority at the Department of Transportation and we are pleased to partner with DEC to help ensure that the public can safely enjoy the beauty of the Catskills."

DEC is working with the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) to update signage, install delineators on roadway shoulders, and prevent unsafe parking in the Kaaterskill Clove, including the closure of the Molly Smith parking area. DEC is also doubling the number of sanitation facilities (aka porta-johns) in the highly popular Kaaterskill Clove, Kaaterskill Falls, and Colgate Lake areas.

Variable message sign boards at Kaaterskill and the entrance to the Peekamoose Valley will alert visitors to traffic and parking concerns. To combat illegal and unsafe parking, Forest Rangers, Town of Hunter Police, Greene County Sheriff's Office, and New York State Police will monitor and enforce tow-away zones. DOT and the town of Denning are also working to address signs and parking issues in the Peekamoose Valley.

On May 14, DEC released updated regulations for visitors to the Peekamoose Blue Hole and nearby Rondout Creek area in the Sundown Wild Forest, town of Denning, Ulster County. DEC issued the new regulations as part of an ongoing effort to help improve public safety and reduce environmental impacts in the area. A full list of the new requirements can be found at DEC's website. In addition, DEC is partnering with Catskill Center for Conservation and Development and Catskill Mountainkeeper to increase the number of Catskill stewards at many of the most popular destinations. DEC is also working with the New York/New Jersey Trail Conference to continue the summit stewards program on Catskill mountaintops and the Student Conservation Association to supply Natural Resource Stewards assigned to locations throughout the park. These efforts will help educate visitors about the safe and responsible use of state lands.

DEC recently launched the new Adopt-a-Trailhead initiative (leaves DEC's website) to give the public the opportunity to support State-led efforts to care for State lands and educate visitors about responsible recreation. In addition, this spring and summer will see the return of Assistant Forest Rangers in Kaaterskill Clove and Falls, as well as Alder Lake. The Mountain Top Historical Society will allow parking at their facility that accesses Kaaterskill Falls via a 1.5-mile trail, similar to last year.

To combat overuse of the Mongaup Access to the Delaware River, DEC is teaming up with the National Park Service, the Upper Delaware Council, and the town of Lumberland. The town of Neversink and Sullivan County will help DEC address parking issues in Claryville and prevent the overuse of a fishing access site on the Neversink.

Due to overwhelming demand and the popularity of the sites along the Kaaterskill Corridor, entry may be limited at available DEC parking locations near Kaaterskill Falls and Kaaterskill Clove, including parking on State Route 23A, Laurel House Road, Scutt Road, and to North South Lake Campground. Once safe capacity is met, additional visitors may be turned away. DEC strongly suggests visitors planning a trip to the corridor make additional backup plans for alternative recreational destinations.

DEC will also continue to closely work with the Catskills Strategic Advisory Planning Group (CAG) to collaboratively provide long-term recommendations that can 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 recently launched the 'Love Our New York Lands' campaign to improve public safety and encourage visitors to State-owned and managed lands to practice responsible recreation. The campaign is responsive to the steady increase in the number of visitors to state lands, both during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the decade prior, as more and more New Yorkers and visitors from other states and countries discovered the natural beauty of New York State lands, particularly the Adirondack and Catskill parks. The campaign bolsters ongoing State- and partner-led efforts to educate the public about how to responsibly enjoy outdoor recreation on public lands without negatively impacting natural resources. The campaign will implement a variety of multi-media and in-person strategies to promote Leave No Trace™ principles (leaves DEC's website), hiker preparedness and safety, sustainable use, and responsible trip planning, as well as reinforce the role of DEC professionals who protect public lands and manage public access, including DEC Foresters, Natural Resource Planners, Forest Rangers, Assistant Forest Rangers, and natural resource stewards. For details and more information, visit the Love Our New York Lands webpage.

The actions announced today and other upcoming steps are bolstered by funding in the 2021-22 state budget that includes $1.55 million for visitor safety and wilderness protection in the Catskill and Adirondack Forest Preserves and $100,000 for Catskills stewardship partnerships with the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development and Catskill Mountainkeeper. Funding for the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) was also sustained at a record high of $300 million and includes $150,000 for the operations and programs at the Congressman Maurice D. Hinchey Catskills Visitor Center.

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