Codifying the Catskill Park Coordinator
The Catskill Park is a New York State treasure. And though we refer to it as a “park,” its lands are both public and private; a mix of constitutionally protected ‘forever wild’ forest preserve, various classes of state lands, lands protected by New York City to safeguard the integrity of its unfiltered water supply, and bustling towns and villages. Managing the Catskill Park’s wild lands and pristine waters is a complex operation, overseen by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
Adding to the complexity, the Park crosses four county and twenty five town lines. It serves as a drinking watershed for more than eight million New Yorkers, a wildland recreation area, and an ecological and scenic reserve. The Park encompasses myriad businesses, active communities, vibrant schools, and productive farmland.
Balancing the needs of so many stakeholders while protecting this precious public resource is no small feat. The work of managing the Park over the past decades has been fragmented and often difficult for stakeholders to interface. That’s why advocates have been calling for a Catskill Park Coordinator since at least 1999, and why Mountainkeeper supports this bill to enshrine the Coordinator’s role in law, making it a permanent role at DEC.
The Coordinator’s role is to coordinate park management decisions and actions within DEC and between other agencies, stakeholders, and park communities. In 2021 the DEC finally established and staffed the Coordinator position. The Catskill Coordinator has helped to streamline communications and manage workflows across the Catskill Park. However, as the position is created by the agency, in a different budget climate or under a commissioner with different leanings, this critically important post could be abolished.
This bill enshrines the DEC Catskill Park Coordinator position in law to ensure continued interaction between state and municipal agencies and stakeholders, and the development of future coordination and partnerships to address natural resource concerns throughout the Catskill Park.