DEC releases Kaaterskill UMP - Kaaterskill Falls

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DEC releases Kaaterskill UMP - Kaaterskill Falls

New postby dave » Thu May 07, 2015 1:37 pm

The DEC just released the new Kaaterskill Mountain Range UMP in an effort to reduced the number of deaths and injuries at Kaaterskill Falls. Listed below is the Press Release:

DEC Proposes Plan to Improve Public Safety at Kaaterskill Falls

Draft Kaaterskill Wild Forest Unit Management Plan Features a New Trail to Provide Safe Access to View Kaaterskill Falls

Public Invited to Comment on the Draft UMP Through June 5

A proposed amendment to the Kaaterskill Wild Forest Unit Management Plan (UMP) is designed to make the Kaaterskill Falls area a safer destination to visit, state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Regional Director Keith Goertz announced today. DEC invites the public to submit comments on the draft amendment through Friday, June 5, 2015.

"DEC is committed to protecting and maintaining this unique natural and historic treasure in a manner that enhances public safety and is consistent with forest preserve management principles," Director Goertz said. "We worked with state and local officials and user groups to develop the proposed amendment to gather input on ways to improve public safety and enhance user experiences. We look forward to hearing from a wide range of constituencies on the proposed amendment, which would enhance viewing access to Kaaterskill Falls and make the site a safer and more enjoyable destination for individuals and families to visit."

The draft UMP amendment proposes the construction of a new foot trail leading from the end of the marked Kaaterskill Falls trail at the base of the falls upslope to intersect with the Escarpment Trail on the east side of the falls. This 0.2-mile trail would include construction of a stone staircase at the end of the current marked trail that would lead to a potential viewing area and then proceed upward to the new connector trail to the Escarpment Trail.

The staircase would be approximately 260 feet long, with about 200 stone steps. As part of this proposal, an approximately 300-foot spur trail would lead from the staircase to a point above the middle pool of the falls. At the end of this trail another shorter set of stone stairs would be installed to provide access to the middle pool area. The stone staircase would be designed to blend in with the natural stone of the area at a location to limit its visibility from below.

The proposed trail and stone staircase will address the public's interest for access to a better view of Kaaterskill Falls and the middle pool area, while protecting public safety. Despite DEC's efforts in recent years to prevent people from continuing past the end of the marked Kaaterskill Falls trail, which included increased signage warning of the danger, some people put themselves in danger by continuing past the fence at the end of the trail.

The draft amendment also calls for the expansion of two nearby DEC-managed parking areas: the Laurel House Road parking area and the Schutt Road parking area. Both lots would be expanded to accommodate approximately 50 cars each. Currently, the lots can accommodate about 9-12 cars each.

In addition, the draft amendment calls for the installation of up to 10 permanent anchor points in the middle pool area to assist first responders with rescue operations. The anchors would allow safety ropes to be quickly and safely secured during rescue operations. The anchor points will protect rescuers, as well as those being rescued, from potential falls and injury.

In the fall of 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 of the potential dangers in the area. Under the draft plan amendment, these features would remain in place.

Beginning this summer, DEC will construct a bridge over Spruce Creek, an observation deck and associated spur trail at the top of the falls and hire a seasonal steward to educate and interact with visitors at the falls. The steward will gather information about public use of the area, including peak user times, behaviors and preferences to inform management decisions.

The management actions proposed in the draft amendment are intended to complement the actions outlined in the 1987 UMP and the 2013 UMP amendment. When considered in their entirety, the proposals are designed to provide a safer, more environmentally sustainable user experience at Kaaterskill Falls.

DEC prepares unit management plans to assess the natural resources of specific parcels of DEC-managed lands and identify opportunities for public use that are consistent with the classifications of the lands and the ability of the resources and ecosystems to accommodate such uses.

The draft UMP amendment is available on DEC's website. Comments can be mailed to Josh Borst, NYSDEC, 65561 State Highway 10, Suite 1 Stamford, NY 12167, or submitted via email to: The deadline for comments is June 5.

For more information about the UMP process, visit DEC's website.

For a review of the issues with Kaaterskill Falls. Kaaterskill Falls is considered to be one of the deadliest waterfalls in the World with over 200 deaths. Only one other waterfall in Japan matches the number of deaths. The Japanese waterfall is also known for a number of suicides. Niagara and the American Falls has far more deaths, but almost all of them are suicides. There is also a problem of hikers walking in the middle of Rt 23a. The DOT wanted to fix the problem when they repaired the road almost a decade earlier, but the DEC refused to allow them to fix it. So, there is a long standing problem between the two agencies.

The proposed UMP will not address the issues with the road problem. The DEC states that it is the DOT's problem. But, the DOT needs to work on DEC land to fix the problem. This is a disappointing failure on the new proposed UMP.

The DEC has made it clear that they didn't want to spend a lot of money on the issue. And, from the proposed UMP, they will be spending very little to solve the problems.

The DEC proposal to install 260 stone steps up the steep bank will probably make the safety situation worse. Under the International Building Code, steps have to have a rise between 6 and 8 inches to be safe. This means that the climb up the bank will be close to 170'. The code also states that you need a landing every 10' vertical rise. This would be impossible with the geography. Therefore, if someone falls and tumbles down the steps, they could take out countless people, and cause many injuries or deaths. While the DEC is not required to follow the IBC, it would be wise considering that safety is the primary issue for installing the steps. At a minimum we would expect the DEC to follow the National Park Service trail building rules. The DEC has stated that they now want to follow the NPS trail building rules. Under the NPS rules, you cannot have an incline of more then 10%. While you can have steps, you cannot have them for 170'. A better approach would be put a switch back trail up the bank.

The primary reason people explore the Kaaterskill Falls is because the hike is so short. When hikers reach Kaaterskill Falls they have too much energy, and start exploring. This new UMP does not address this problem. Until they make the hike longer, people will continue to explore. This is just a band-aid.

There were a number of proposal where the hike would be extended, and there would not be a dangerous incline or decline on the bank. These proposal would cost more money, but would solve the problem. All of these ideas were rejected.

To read the 2013 Kaaterskill UMP Click Here.

To read the 2015 Kaaterskill UMP proposal Click Here.
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