This past Friday (August 7), Bill Rudge (Natural Resources Supervisor for the NY State Department Of Environmental Conservation) met at the Covered Bridge Campsite with Ramsay Adams and Wes Gillingham (Catskill Mountainkeeper) and Lisa Lyons (Catskill Forest Preservation Advisory Council). Patricia and John Adams were also in attendance representing the FOBC. The meeting was to discuss the impact of the Corona Virus on the Beaverkill Valley generally, and specifically the increased use of public campsites and day use areas in the Sullivan County section of the Catskill Park.
The focus was on using what is currently available from the DEC to address the potential over-use of state lands resulting from the increased tourist traffic, plus set a plan in motion to add resources to that effort. The DEC currently provides guidelines/regulations, enforced by .State Forest Rangers, and Stewards (hired for the summer months only) to monitor and control use in some (but not all) public access day-use sites. Plus there are a few non-profit organizations such as The Catskill Center and Catskill Mountainkeeper who work alongside the DEC.
Although issues at the Covered Bridge Campsite were specifically referenced, the meeting was primarily to develop an overall approach to protecting all of the recreational areas in the Western Catskills. These areas, which for many city and suburban dwellers are important as an experience in nature, have lately become in need of an improved program of ‘crowd control .’ It was also noted that some level of back-up support from law enforcement officers is now essential for the Rangers (who maintain the public use areas by regulating the volume of visitors, clean up, and parking) to properly carry out their stewardship of the more popular day-use locations.
The meeting opened up the opportunity to raise funds and find support – to bring needed relief to the various existing lake and river parks experiencing significant increases of visitors this summer. As one component of the initiative, Catskill Mountainkeeper is prepared to organize a co-ordinated study with the DEC to identify and develop additional alternative destinations for campers, swimmers, hikers and general weekend visitors within the Forest Preserve.
The meeting was a good start on a long term plan which will prepare our Sullivan County recreational resources for increased use over the coming years. We will provide updates on this site as the planned studies are developed and implemented.
- reported by Patricia Adams