State Group Recommended Catskills Trailhead Lot Reservation System


TANNSERVILLE – A state advisory group focused on how to reduce overcrowding in Catskills Park tentatively recommends a pilot reservation system for certain parking lots at the start of the trails.

The Catskill Strategic Advisory Group (CAG) released its interim report on Thursday, which recommends different ways to reduce congestion on trails, roads and parking lots, and educate visitors about safety and respect for the outdoors.

The CAG was formed in October 2020 by the Department of Environmental Conservation after pandemic closures pushed unprecedented numbers of visitors to the Catskills, particularly areas of the Kaaterskill Clove.

Solutions to overpopulation

Charlie Gadol, chairman of the Catskill Long Path, said the biggest increase in the number of visitors he saw was at the Clove, “where people were coming down to the creek (Kaaterskill) and parking illegally in large numbers and walking from back and forth on the road “.

In 2021, there was a “dramatic reduction” in the number of people in Clove, but the numbers remained higher than before the pandemic, Gadol said.

The DEC removed some trail records in high-traffic areas of the park in 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19, making it difficult to calculate the increase in visitor numbers. Figures for the 2021 season were not yet available, according to the DEC.

Tannersville Mayor Lee McGunnigle said people were drawn to the outdoors because of the pandemic, “and rightly so.”

“We have to educate them … on how to treat the outdoors and do it safely, so that people don’t run around in flip-flops over rocks and throw beer bottles and leave their garbage and their grills, “he said.

Most of the recommendations are provisional, including the suggestion to institute a reservation system, but the report recommends “immediate action” in the Kaaterskill Clove area, which includes Kaaterskill Falls and the communities of Tannersville and Haines Falls.

Recommended actions include installing technology to track parking lot capacity and creating a social media group to disseminate this information; the installation of information message boards along Route 23A; install orientation and interpretive signs along the trails; and create a Kaaterskill Clove information website.

Most of the recommended immediate actions are to let adventurers know if the areas they plan to visit are already full so that they can plan alternative adventures, thus avoiding the parking nightmare seen along Route 23A over the course of both. last hiking seasons.

Over the longer term, the CAG recommends various ways to dilute the number of visitors to hotspots by “encouraging the use of a greater variety of trails” in the 1,100 square mile park. This includes the trails leading to the fire towers, which are ‘often old roads already hardened up, so that impacts to surrounding natural resources are limited, there are staff and / or volunteers to greet the public at the towers. fire, and the structures are already on the mountain tops. “

The report also recommends the pilot reservation system, but does not indicate where it should be implemented.

When asked which parking lots would be part of the system, the DEC said it always assesses the recommendations of the CAG.

A reservation system was introduced at a 70-space parking lot in Keene Valley, leading to some of the most popular Adirondack High Peaks last year. Those dropped off in the field still need to make a reservation, but each reservation is valid for a maximum of eight hikers.

A Kaaterskill shuttle

Next year at Kaaterskill Clove, hikers can take a shuttle bus up and down Route 23A and to nearby North-South Lake.

The shuttle service is endorsed by the CAG report but was scheduled separately between a private businessman and the village of Tannersville.

The service was created by Ryan Chadwick, whose LLC has previously purchased the shuttles. Tannersville is using some of the money it received from a $ 10 million downtown state revitalization grant to build stops for the service.

Visitors would park in the village to access the shuttle, taking them among the restaurants and shops in the village, according to Chadwick.

The shuttles would descend the Clove, stopping at Haines Falls, Kaaterskill Falls, North-South Lake, Fawn’s Leap Swimming Hole and other locations before reaching Palenville and turning back, according to Chadwick’s plan.

Two shuttles would run the route, with one available every half hour for the price of $ 2 each way, or $ 5 for a day pass, according to Chadwick, who also said he wanted to create a annual pass for residents.

The shuttle drivers would have microphones and brief visitors on historical information along the route, Chadwick said.

Mayor McGunnigle said the shuttle could bring more people to the area, but it would reduce traffic and parking problems.

He said the drivers could also educate visitors on safe treks and “carry, carry” practices.

Gadol, who had read the CAG plan, said he thought it was good, adding that the increase in visits was also good for the Catskills economy.

“You just have to manage it,” he said.

McGunnigle said he would be in favor of parking reservations, in part because it would force people to schedule their visits.

“This increases the value of [the visit]He said.

Correction: Charlie Gadol is the name of the trail chairman of the Catskill Long Path.

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