The Catskill Park Coalition is an alliance of like-minded groups committed to working together to broaden public appreciation for the Catskill Park and seek additional resources to enhance, maintain, and make available to the public the extraordinary opportunities the Park and its surroundings offer and can offer. Check out the other members in the Catskill Park Coalition here.
At the heart of our lives in the Catskills is the Park and its Forest Preserve lands.
The Park is key to our identity and sense of place and often a centerpiece in our efforts to create a sustainable economy in a rural area. In their own right, the Forever Wild Forest Preserve lands have an integrity that deserves respect, and we aim to be the best stewards we can for both today and tomorrow. That’s why we formed the Catskill Park Coalition: to bring awareness of the importance of the Park and Forest Preserve to the governor, state legislators and Department of Environmental Conservation officials; to make sure that state budget allocations reflect this concern; and to advocate for additional resources for the Park at all levels of government. We also want to work with local governments and organizations to improve the economic base of the region by encouraging compatible, sustainable development, including arts and cultural activities and institutions.
What sort of support would we like to see for the Park? In this opening round of awareness advocacy we want to draw attention to two general areas: initiatives that support the care and integrity of the Forest Preserve lands and those that will help identify the Park’s wealth of recreational opportunities to visitors.
We’ll be prioritizing potential state land acquisitions through the Environmental Protection Fund that would fill in gaps in the Forest Preserve, secure critical habitat, and take advantage of timely purchases from private land owners who want the state to purchase their land or buy a conservation easement. In some cases it makes sense for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection landholdings to be transferred to Forest Preserve and managed by DEC, with greater recreational access the result–or for New York City lands to be managed in the same way as Forest Preserve lands for expanded recreational opportunities.
Care of the Forest Preserve land goes hand in hand with both new purchases and maintaining existing lands for the greatest environmental and recreational benefit. This requires more forest rangers to keep track of conditions, maintain trails and campgrounds, and educate the public on what it means to be a good steward. It means having enough DEC staff to update Unit Management Plans so they reflect the current recreational needs of the public and respect the health of the forest. And it means an overall recreational vision for the Catskill Park as expressed through a Catskill Recreation Plan. The Adirondacks have a recreation plan, why can’t the Catskills? A full range of initiatives will help visitors better experience the Park and all that it has to offer – recreation, arts, culture, economic opportunity. We’re proud of the Park and want to share it with others.
Some of this work is underway: The colorful Catskill Park highway signs that let visitors know when they’ve entered the Park; the brown and white way marker signs that direct people to recreational opportunities and access points; the upcoming groundbreaking for the Catskill Interpretive Center in Mount Tremper on Route 28, where a kiosk currently marks the entrance to the 60-acre parcel of land.
We look forward to seeing the signage projects completed throughout the Catskill Park and extended to trailheads, with updated trailhead, trail marker, and intersection signage extending throughout the backcountry.
But that’s not all. If a state agency such as the DEC is charged with managing the Forest Preserve, shouldn’t they also promote its vast recreational opportunities? We believe they should, or there should be some creative way for a nonprofit to help them do this. The Catskill Interpretive Center is one way we’ll start to work on this task. DEC’s new Catskill Park Map and Guide is another example of a solid start at promoting the Park.
How did we get here? A little history…The idea of the Coalition is the outgrowth of efforts by the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, Catskill Mountainkeeper and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to seek additional resources for the Park. In the 2013 legislative session the Catskill Center, Catskill Mountain Club, and NY/NJ Trail Conference tested the waters in Albany through an “awareness day” of meetings with key state legislators about the need to increase funding for the Park. A DEC commitment to construct a larger building in the first phase of the Catskill Park Interpretive Center was one of the group’s accomplishments from that day.The success of this first trip to Albany showed that there needed to be a broader, longer-term campaign to try to advocate for increased funding for the Park and for a dedicated Catskill group to speak on the Park’s behalf. Voila! The Catskill Park Coalition, an alliance of like-minded groups working together toward this goal.
Coalition Structure and Members The Coalition is guided by a five-member steering committee with representatives from the Catskill Center, Catskill Mountainkeeper, NRDC, Catskill Mountain Club, and Catskill Heritage Alliance. Members consist of a wide array of local, regional, state, and national groups with a Catskill focus: the environment, tourism, community revitalization, culture and the arts, and agriculture, to name just a few areas. We look forward over time to the membership both growing and taking up leadership for specific issues that arise from a broad consensus on what issues the Coalition should advocate for.