November 15, 2008, The Daily Star: Catskills lands should be enjoyed

Catskills lands should be enjoyed

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In these uncertain economic times, good news for upstate New York can be hard to come by. That's why we were cheered to hear that the New York City Department of Environmental Protection's plans to open about 13,000 acres of city-owned land in the Catskills for recreational purposes.

It's no secret that, especially in the Catskills region of our area, local economies depend on a variety of visitors and the money they bring. The Catskills region has a long history of luring those who love to hunt, trap, fish and hike. These visitors fill up their tanks at local gas stations, dine in local restaurants and rent local homes or stay in local hotels. Many who visit the area end up returning to buy vacation homes or settle permanently, further contributing to the region's tax base.

The DEP had previously required a special city permit just to gain access to its land, on top of the applicable hunting and fishing licenses. The agreement inked earlier this month eliminates the need for such a permit for city-owned parcels that are adjacent to state Forest Preserve land.

The move is part of a new access initiative designed to improve recreational access to the Catskills. Also included in the initiative are a 156-acre bicycle corridor in the northern Catskills and a pilot program that would allow recreational boating at the Cannonsville Reservoir.

The agreement between the DEC and the Department of Environmental Protection affords a balance between preservation and access, ensuring that the watershed will be protected and the land preserved for future generations, while still allowing area residents and visitors from all over the world to take in the natural splendor of the region.

In James Fenimore Cooper's "Last of the Mohicans," Natty Bumppo offers a ringing endorsement of the characteristics that have drawn visitors to the Catskill Mountains for years:

"If being the best part of a mile in the air, and having men's farms and (houses) at your feet, with rivers looking like ribbons, and mountains bigger than the Vision,' seeming to be haystacks of green grass under you, gives any satisfaction to a man, I can recommend the spot."

While much has changed since Cooper penned these words, the Catskills can still boast breathtaking vistas such as these, as well as much more. We echo the statements of Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mary Beth Silano and Delaware County Watershed Affairs Commissioner Dean Frazier, who called for the city to open more of its land for public use.

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