The Catskills Strategic Planning Advisory Group (CAG) submitted its final report on promoting sustainable recreation in the Catskill Forest Preserve to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
Comprised of members from local government, recreation, natural resource protection, business and tourism, and other priority areas, the CAG was tasked in October 2020 with providing recommendations to DEC on how to address issues associated with increased public use of the Catskill Park in order to protect these areas.
“DEC continues to see increased visitation to State lands with a growing number of outdoor enthusiasts looking to experience New York’s treasured natural resources,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a statement announcing the final report. “This report focuses on addressing sustainable use and ensuring visitors of all abilities and backgrounds can share in these outdoor experiences. DEC is already working with our partners to implement the CAG’s recommendations and looks forward to continuing our progress.”
The final report includes proposed actions DEC and its state and local partners could undertake to address increasing recreational use of the Catskill Forest Preserve.
The CAG has been meeting throughout the past two years to develop this report under six major themes:
- Whole Park Management – The Catskill Park is currently broken down into many different jurisdictions. Recommendations include management strategies to operate the Catskill Park as a whole park in a more cohesive manner;
- Natural Resources – Ensuring the protection of the Park’s natural resources remains a high priority for the State and all stakeholders;
- Marketing, Communication and Education – Recommending the State and other stakeholders work together to promote the Park, while also educating visitors about how to reduce their impacts;
- Traffic and Parking – The current infrastructure of the Park was not developed to handle the volume of cars that are traveling to the area. Recommendations include joint investment between the State and other stakeholders to address overflow at locations that are particularly affected by the impacts of frequent visitation;
- Benefits to Park Communities – Recommending the State and stakeholders work jointly in efforts to maximize the economic opportunities of the Park to better the lives of the residents of the Park; and
- Building Diversity, Equity, Inclusivity, and Justice (DEIJ) principles – Recommending these principles be included in recreational, educational, and operational frameworks and the economic benefits provided in the Catskill Park and seeks to promote and embrace the benefits of DEIJ and to achieve a more welcoming and inclusive Catskill Park.
DEC established a similar effort with Adirondack Park stakeholders with the creation of the High Peaks Strategic Planning Advisory Group (HPAG) in 2019.
DEC has implemented parts of some of these recommendations including the hiring of a Catskill Park Coordinator. The Catskill Park Coordinator position was created in 2021 after the CAG recommended this position in its interim report.
DEC is working through a Visitor Use Management Frame (VUMF) process to protect the trailless peaks of the Catskills and is planning to begin a second VUMF in the Kaaterskill Clove area in 2023. The The Department says it is also working to expand professional trails construction and visitor education capabilities.
- Melissa Abramson, Local Brand Engagement and Impact, REI
- Ramsay Adams, Founder and Executive Director, Catskill Mountainkeeper
- Patrick Barnes, Region 1 Director, New York State Department of Transportation
- Adam Bosch, President, Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress
- Thomas Davidock, Acting Section Chief, Bureau of Water Supply, Watershed Lands and Community Planning
- Dr. Joshua R. Ginsberg, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and Catskill Science Collaborative
- Warren Hart, Deputy County Administrator, Greene County Economic Development, Tourism & Planning
- Joshua Howard, Executive Director, New York-New Jersey Trail Conference
- David Kukle, Town of Hunter Councilman and Director of Food and Beverage at Hunter Mountain Ski Bowl, Inc.
- Adrienne Larys, President, Mountain Top Historical Society, Inc.
- Lisa Lyons, Owner, Morgan Outdoors, Livingston Manor
- Gilles Malkine, Architectural Modification Consultant, Resource Center for Accessible Living
- Cathy Pedler, Director of Advocacy, Adirondack Mountain Club
- Jeff Senterman, Executive Director, Catskill Center for Conservation and Development
- Matthew Shook, Director of Development and Special Projects, Palisades Interstate Park Commission
- Markly Wilson, Director of International Marketing, New York State Division of Tourism – I LOVE NY, and Ross Levi, Executive
- Director/Vice President, New York State Division of Tourism – I LOVE NY
- Michelle Yost, Watershed Assistance Program Manager, Greene County Soil and Water Conservation District
The final report and summaries of CAG meetings are available on the DEC Catskill Strategic Planning Advisory Group webpage at DEC’s website.
Photo of the Catskills provided by DEC.