In 2018 our volunteers and members, broken down into nine different teams, visited almost 50 individual legislators, along with representatives from the Governor's office and state agencies, to stress to all of them, the importance of the Catskill Park during the New York State budget negotiations.
Catskill Park Day is an annual advocacy event organized by the Catskill Center and our partnering organizations within the Catskill Park Coalition. The Catskill Center and Catskill Mountainkeeper co-chair the coalition, that includes more than 30 organizations dedicated to improving the Catskill Park and our communities.
This year represented the 6th year that the Catskill Center was in Albany, leading others to advocate for our Catskill Park and for our Catskills communities! In that time we have made great progress as we have spoken up for the region. Successes for the Catskills include:
- The Catskill Interpretive Center was built and is now open
- Increased spending on trail crews to repair trails
- New comprehensive recreation plan being developed for the Catskill Park
- Mountain biking study completed for Belleayre Mountain
- New access and trails on Overlook Mountain
- Improvements to our state campgrounds across the Catskills
- The Adventure NY program providing funding to improve our infrastructure, promoting outdoor activities and wise natural resource stewardship by those visitors
- Continued funding of the Catskill Conservation Corps
- Work to address overuse issues at Kaaterskill Falls and
Every year the Coalition works hard with its members and stakeholders throughout the Catskills to identify needs within the Catskill Park and from its communities. Each year after review and consideration, the Coalition identifies its priorities for the upcoming New York State budget and works to advocate for those priorities. Catskill Park Day is the cornerstone of those events, but far from the only work that is done to raise awareness about the Catskills.
This year, the Catskill Center and Coalition members brought the following priorities to Albany, which make up what is called the Catskills Package:
- Providing a Catskills Economic Development funding line in the amount of $500,000 directed towards the Catskill Watershed Corporation for shovel-ready access and stewardship projects across the Catskill Park
- $10 million in funding to support Catskill Park stewardship, education, improvements and infrastructure maintenance by the NYSDEC;
- Continuing the Adventure NY Program;
- Supporting stewardship line in the Environmental Protection Fund
- Continuing Campground and DEC facility improvements;
- Funding Smart Growth Grants for Catskill Park communities;
- Continuing the Catskill Conservation Corps, Professional Trail Crews and Summit/Trail Stewards programs with partners;
- Implementing mountain biking plan at Belleayre Mountain; and
- Feasibility study to connect Empire State Trail to Catskill Trail networks
- Supporting the Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center as the Visitor Center for the Catskill Park and the gateway to the Catskills region with funding for new exhibits and operations by supporting the new language in the Governor's FY 2019 budget request (Governor’s Capital Projects Appropriation Bill: Page 147 - 09CC0BER). Continue advancing NYSDEC projects (ie., fire tower, cabin, road sign, green infrastructure) on site.
- Increasing the budget and staffing for the NYSDEC’s Division of Lands and Forest to better manage Catskill Park. Holding annual Forest Ranger Academies to maintain and grow Ranger force to maintain public safety ($1,000,000)
- Funding to support the “Save the Hemlocks” initiative led by Cornell University to reduce the impact of Hemlock Woolly Adelgid on hemlock trees by developing effective biocontrols ($1,500,000)
- Pushing for carbon neutral/green infrastructure in new projects across the Catskill Park including electric vehicle charging stations and solar panel installations at State Campgrounds, the Catskill Interpretive Center and at Belleayre Ski Center ($500,000)
- Supporting continued funding of the Belleayre Ski Center Unit Management Plan for projects not related to private resort expansion
- New funding for Catskill Park Scenic Byways to support regional byway coordination and management efforts led the Mountain Cloves Scenic Byway and the Catskill Mountain Scenic Byway organizations ($250,000)
While Catskill Park Day has passed, the work to provide important funding for the Catskills has not been completed. The Governor has released his budget, which includes several critical pieces of funding for the Catskills:
- Catskill Interpretive Center funding directed to the Catskill Center for new exhibit installation and operational costs
- $100,000 for the Catskills Science Collaborative to be directed to the Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies to allow for continued coordination and management of scientific work in the Catskills
- $500,000 of funding for the Save the Hemlocks initiative led by Cornell University, where effective bio-controls are being produced to knock back Hemlock Wooly Adelgid and prevent the loss of all Hemlock trees across the state.
As we move ahead towards a final budget, we need to let the Governor and the Legislature know that we want these items in the final budget. We also need to let them know that all of the priorities of the Catskill Park Coalition remain important for us.
The best way to do that?
- Call the Governor's office at 518-474-8390 and thank him for supporting the Catskill Interpretive Center, Catskills Science Collaborative and the HWA Bio-Control Lab at Cornell in his budget and urge him to make sure that these items make it into the final budget. While you're on the phone, let him know that you support the entire Catskills Package and the priorities of the Catskill Park Coalition.
- Write to your Assemblymember and your State Senator and tell them that you support the language in the Governor's budget for the Catskill Interpretive Center, the Catskills Science Collaborative and the HWA Bio-Control Lab at Cornell and that you want to see them in the final budget. Also let them know that you support the entire Catskills Package and the priorities of the Catskill Park Coalition.