Legislature opposes Catskill Park plan revisions

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CATSKILL — Greene County lawmakers have expressed their opposition to the proposed revisions of the Catskill Park State Land Master Plan (CPSLMP) which are said to be tightening the leash on park uses.

The Catskill Park Trail Coalition, a group composed of small business owners, outdoor recreational enthusiasts and concerned New Yorkers, raised concerns over the use of mountain bike trails in areas defined as “wilderness.”

Specifically, they oppose the reclassification of the Windham-Blackhead and Hunter-Westkill ranges, nearly 50,000 acres, from “wild forest” classification to “wilderness.”

Restrictions on areas classified as wilderness are much more stringent than those of wild forests.

Legislator Larry Gardner, D-Hunter, said he will support his constituents in that the plan’s revisions need to be re-examined.

“They believe that the areas for cycling will be diminished under the current proposal,” Gardner said, “and we ask that that be re-visited.”

A new land classification does exist, however, in the revision plan that will designate approximately 156 acres as Primitive Bicycle Corridors.

It has been proposed by the Department of Environmental Conservation to reclassify four trail corridors, at 100 feat wide, through existing or the new proposed wilderness areas throughout Greene County.

The coalition believes the reclassification of the areas surrounding the bike corridors would thwart recreational use that has already existed there for a number of years.

“Over the past five years there has been no demonstration of conflicts between user groups, nor has there been any conclusive evidence of increased damage or erosion to trails by mountain bikes,” reads a letter from the coalition to the Greene County Legislature.

“The use of public land by the public should be encouraged unless there is objective evidence demonstrating harm,” the letter continues.

Concerns and comments made in 2003 during a proposed draft revision of the CPSLMP by the coalition and the Legislature were also addressed in the new revisions, according to the DEC.

Now, Gardner and Legislator James Hitchcock, R-Windham, are asking that the DEC re-visit the classifications and take more time to address the concerns of their constituents.

“I think what matters most to me is that there’s this sense of going ahead and establishing parameters and boundaries and so forth, without, what I feel is, proper input from people affected,” said Hitchcock. “I think there should be more input from local municipalities and people who are using these lands.”

The Greene County Legislature will vote on a resolution to request that the DEC extend the comment period on the CPSLMP for an additional 90 days at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

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