The Catskill Center in 2016
The Catskill Center for Conservation and Development preserves and enriches the environmental, economic and cultural well-being of the Catskill region through collaboration, education and stewardship.
We believe that the vitality and prosperity of the Catskills depends on robust collaboration, thriving local communities and the wise stewardship of our natural resources.
In 2016 the Catskill Center Board of Directors and staff began a strategic visioning and planning process to look towards the Center’s 50th anniversary in 2019 and our next 50 years of success. The process has been ongoing all year and will culminate with a strategic plan, to be released by the Catskill Center in early 2017 that will set out a clear mission, vision and direction for the Catskill Center to meet the challenges of our changing world.
Significant accomplishments of 2016
- Leading the Catskill Park Coalition during the 2016 New York State budget process to secure $1 million in funding for the Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center, $500k for the Catskill Park and securing several additional legislative priorities of the Catskill Park Coalition and the Catskill Center.
- Welcoming thousands of visitors to the Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center, securing almost $1 million dollars of state funding for capital projects at the Center and beginning a design process to ensure a world class experience
- Launching the new Streamside Acquisition Program in partnership with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection to protect streamside lands in the Schoharie basin and find innovative new ways to protect water quality while ensuring communities continue to have land available for growth.
- Securing the 2017-2021 Catskill Regional Invasive Species Partnership contract from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which allows us to continue our efforts to fight back against invasive species of all types across the Catskill region
- As part of the Fire Tower Project, keeping our fire towers open to the public on summer weekends and helped welcome thousands of visitors to those towers.
- Beginning the process of becoming a nationally accredited land trust to better manage our conservation easements and preserves, and to position ourselves at the forefront of conservation and stewardship.
- Completing a floodplain study at the Thorn Preserve to guide future management of the Preserve and completed a number of projects at the Platte Clove Preserve to improve visitor access and interpretation at the site.
- Holding the first annual bird conference in the Catskills, Taking Flight.
- Reaching more than 300 students through our Streamwatch program
The Catskill Center led the Catskill Park Coalition in securing funding to help build a modern park. This state support will begin improving the experience of visiting the Catskill Park and Forest Preserve. These improvements will help bring the more of the economic benefits of recreational tourism to our region's Main Streets, providing more ways to recreate in the region, while stewarding our public lands.
The Catskill Center's new Streamside Acquisition Program got up and running this year, adding two new staff members and establishing a new Catskill Center office in Tannersville. Through this program, the Catskill Center partners with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection to reach a shared goal: preserve and protect the sensitive streamside lands that maintain our streams’ excellent water quality. Protecting these lands can also mitigate flood risks for Catskills communities, help sustain healthy fish and wildlife populations, and offer recreational opportunities to Catskills residents and visitors.
The Catskill Center is a leader in addressing invasive species as a major threat to one of the most ecologically and culturally important landscapes in New York State. Through its Catskill Regional Invasive Species Partnership (CRISP), the Catskill Center convened a Hemlock Conservation Team of stakeholders to begin developing a strategic plan to conserve hemlock forests across the landscape that provide quality habitat, important natural benefits and an essential cultural resource. We began developing a shared digital data collection form to be used statewide to collect hemlock health and pest information. CRISP worked with SUNY Oneonta and the National Park Service to train 34 Watershed Stewards to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species in lakes and rivers and established a new boat wash station at Cooperstown. An early detection survey for 15 highly invasive species was performed at 8 campgrounds. 3000 stems of Mile-A-Minute were pulled or treated in Cochecton. Giant Hogweed was treated at 12 sites, including removal from 2.5 miles of streams.
The Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center hosted over 7,000 visitors this past year; many from all over the world. Over 40 free public programs were presented at the Catskill Interpretive Center in 2016 that ranged in topic from geology to history, and from invasive species to book author talks to walks around the site. Construction has begun on a riparian demonstration and education project and a new hiking trail was completed. A new outdoor sculpture exhibit was unveiled. We look forward to new major projects being completed in 2017.
The Catskill Center protects over 2500 acres of Catskill land through conservation easements as well as the preserves we maintain for the public to enjoy. Our preserves include the Thorn Preserve in Woodstock, the Platte Clove Preserve in Hunter and the site of Catskill Interpretive Center. The Catskill Center staff has re-engaged with the wider land trust community by participating in a variety of regional and national conferences. The board of the Catskill Center has reaffirmed the organization’s commitment to land protection by supporting the staff in starting the national accreditation process. In 2016 we completed a floodplain study at the Thorn Preserve that will enable us to work collaboratively with the Town of Woodstock on flooding issues. At the Platte Clove Preserve, more than 40 volunteers took part in a day of service that led to the completion of a visitor kiosk, significant trail improvements and a number of improvements to the site. Also at Platte Clove, the Catskill Center partners with the NYNJ Trail Conference to station trail stewards at the trailhead to welcome visitors and educate them on how to properly enjoy their outdoor experiences in the Catskills and in the Preserve.
The Catskill Center manages the five Catskill Park Fire Towers through the Fire Tower Project, a volunteer driven initiative of the Catskill Center that ensures towers remain open to the public on summer weekends by staffing them with volunteers. Each year, thousands of hikers visit the Fire Towers and those hikes are often their first introduction to the Catskills. Open this link with the Facebook app on a mobile device and enjoy an immersive 360 degree photo from inside the cab of the Overlook Mountain Fire Tower.
Education, Arts & Culture
We hosted the first annual birding conference in the Catskills, Taking Flight, which spanned three days and had several dozen attendees. We hosted 7 shows in the Erpf Gallery. 15 Artists in Residence stayed at our Red Cabin in the Platte Clove Preserve. We received three grants which allowed us to provide Streamwatch at 7 different schools, reaching over 300 students.