On Friday, August 18th, Catskill Mountainkeeper participated in the Peekamoose Blue Hole clean-up, where volunteers collected dozens of bags of trash, and spent several hours scouring the surrounding area for garbage. Debris ranging from “micro trash” to full garbage bags that had been torn apart by wildlife were collected.
The Peekamoose Blue Hole was named after the cool, crystal-clear water that attracts visitors from all around the state. After the Blue Hole was praised by a few internet websites several years ago, the amount of visitors has increased drastically. Today, up to 1,000 people visit the Blue Hole in a single day. For this reason, the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics declared the Blue Hole a “hot spot,” or area that has been severely damaged by recreational use.
Despite the installation of a dumpster and two toilets, the Blue Hole continues to show signs of wear, human refuse, and even human waste. Not only does this impact the aesthetics of the Blue Hole, but it is also damaging vegetation, trees and causing significant soil erosion. These issues threaten to destroy the very things that make the Blue Hole so precious.
Catskill Mountainkeeper appreciates all the Blue Hole has to offer, but it has become an example of what can happen when people love a place to death. Although state agencies, such as the NYS DEC are doing an impressive job trying to accommodate the influx of visitors, the New York State legislature has failed to dedicate adequate funding to the Catskill Park in order to protect areas like the Blue Hole. The DEC needs more Forest Rangers to enforce the rules that would keep the Blue Hole clean. The Park needs more funding to provide for infrastructure and education programs that promote recreational opportunities in a sustainable manner. Although the Blue Hole is a beautiful destination, there are so many others to which visitors can be redirected, and impacts could be distributed more sustainably around the Catskill Park.
We must strike a careful balance between making Catskill areas accessible to everyone, while at the same time protecting them from degradation and overuse. This requires more support from the state than it is currently allocated. Catskill Mountainkeeper will continue to highlight this issue, assist in clean-up efforts, and advocate for a cleaner, safer Catskill Park.
If you would like to join us at the next Blue Hole clean-up on September 15th, you can register here.