October 1, 2020--It goes without saying that summer 2020 was unlike anything we’ve experienced before. The global pandemic changed much of our day-to-day lives, including the way we think about travel, vacations, and what we value in the places we love. Folks throughout our area and neighboring regions discovered--or rediscovered--the allure and splendor of the Catskill Park, one of New York’s two constitutionally protected “forever wild” parks.
But as the summer went on, many visitors discovered that the park did not feel very wild or pristine. Today Mountainkeeper is releasing a short film highlighting what was going on at some of the "hot spots" where we saw trash-littered trails, crowds of people overwhelming natural spaces, and cars creating traffic hazards as they lined roads that were never intended to accommodate parking.
To be clear: parks across the state and nation saw a huge influx of visitors this summer and many of the agencies managing these lands struggled with the same problems. What we saw at the “hot spots” in our region is not the result of inaction or mismanagement by any one entity--we all have a role to play in protecting the park. But here in the Catskills, where focused attention on effective park management is a relatively recent phenomenon, we’re behind the eight ball.
The good news is that this is a problem created by people that can be solved by people working together. Our regional advocacy groups (including Mountainkeeper), state agencies, municipalities, and residents must take what we’ve learned from this summer and collaborate to devise better ways for people to get into the park safely, while protecting our natural resources. We need to maintain a welcoming, accessible park for visitors to enjoy, while conserving pristine wild places for the benefit of nature and the well being of all the creatures who live here.
Mountainkeeper is thrilled that so many New Yorkers are discovering the gem that is the Catskill Park; we are proud of our region and want to share its beauty and bounty with visitors from near and far. And we’re excited to work with friends like you--along with state agencies, municipal leaders, and others--to address these issues of high use and overuse head-on.