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Visitor Use Management for Kaaterskill Clove

Report or discuss current events in the Catskill Mountains.
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Visitor Use Management for Kaaterskill Clove

Unread post by dave »

This announcement was Emailed to us by the DEC on April 27, 2023. Unfortunately, we cannot find this announcement on the DEC's website:

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DEC announced that Otak, Inc., is facilitating the first round of public meetings in the Adirondack High Peaks and Catskills for the Visitor Use Management (VUM) project. Public and stakeholder input will play a key role in helping DEC and Otak develop appropriate sustainable management strategies for the High Peaks and Kaaterskill Clove areas.

The VUM planning process focuses on the experiential, social, and public safety elements of visitor use in both areas. The public meetings will begin with a foundation-setting presentation that highlights the project purpose, goals, and timeline, and introduces the VUM Framework and how it will be applied in the Adirondack High Peaks and Kaaterskill Clove in the Catskills project areas. Rather than a formal comment opportunity, interactive discussion groups will follow the presentation to gain an understanding of public interests and concerns and solicit public feedback. The outcome of this initial phase will include a summary report of the process, recommended management strategies, and a monitoring plan.

VUM meeting details include:
1. High Peaks Project Area in the Adirondacks: May 9, 2023, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the Harrietstown Town Hall Auditorium, 39 Main Street, Saranac Lake 12983
2. Kaaterskill Clove Project Area in the Catskills: May 10, 2023, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. at Coppertree Restaurant, Hunter Mountain Base Lodge, 64 Klein Avenue, Hunter 12442

DEC and Otak will hold a second round of public meetings in 2024 to present draft management recommendations.

A two-year contract was awarded to Otak, Inc., a research, planning, and design firm awarded the VUM planning contract following a competitive Request for Proposals process, supported by the State's Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). The 2023-24 Executive Budget sustains the EPF at a historic $400 million. The EPF provides funding for critical environ mental programs such as land acquisition, farmland protection, invasive species prevention and eradication, enhanced recreational access, water quality improvement, and an aggressive environmental justice agenda.

Otak has more than two decades of experience conducting visitor use planning and research on wilderness and other recreation lands managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and other agencies. Their team includes experts in recreation planning, meeting facilitation, stakeholder engagement, and data analysis.

Comments are welcome throughout the process and will be used to inform next steps in the planning process and overall project. To submit comments, or for additional information about the public meeting, contact Otak’s public participation team at vum-facilitators@rossstrategic.com.

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Some may remember back a number of years, when there was a huge push to reduce the deaths at Kaaterskill Falls. There was a huge surge of political noise about the problem. Comments from some of the hiking groups and organizations were ignored, and some where told that anything they suggested would be ignored. One hiking organization has a solution that not only solved the problems raised by community and political groups, but solve many of the other problems in the Kaaterskill Clove. This organization had prepared an extensive proposal. This organization had some of the most experienced hikers in the Catskills helping. When the proposal was presented to one of the politicians, they handed back the proposal and said that the DEC comments meeting was just a formality, and that the decision of how to fixed the problems were already made. This deeply angered many of the hikers in the Catskills.

The final decision followed most of the proposal by a tourist organization, who were not very experienced in hiking. The changes to the Kaaterskill Clove at that time just increased the number of tourist to the Kaaterskill Clove. In the end, New York State spent millions of dollars to increase tourism, while sort of solving the stated problem. This is the opposite of what was needed to solve the problems long term. So, here we are addressing the same problems all over again years down the road.

One of the biggest problems with hiking regions is called the 90/10 rule. The 90/10 rule states that 90% of the visitors will visit 10% of the region (or park). The reason we have a 90% of the visitors are visiting 10% of the park is because communities and governments advertise these locations to attract visitors to the region. When the regions "hot-spots" get overwhelmed with tourist, a crisis occurs, and bad things happen. This is especially true with the Kaaterskill Falls region. There are 55+ waterfalls in the Kaaterskill Clove, but virtually 100% of the tourist only visit Kaaterskill Falls. The same problem can be applied to the Peekamoose Valley. Campers believe that the only thing to do in the Peekamoose Valley is to camp and swim at the Blue Hole. Sadly, there are over a dozen beautiful waterfalls within an hours hike. And, there are even old trails that go to them.

This time, the DEC has hired an outside agency to administer comments and proposals to try and prevent politicians and community leaders from overwhelming the process. Hopefully, they will be successful this time. Many local residents in the region have become "Hiker Haters" because of what happen last time.
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