Catskill Park Awareness Day - Letter to the Editor

Catskill Park Coalition
c/o The Catskill Center for Conservation and Development
PO 504, 43355 State Highway 28
Arkville, NY 12406
CatskillCenter.orgcccd@catskillcenter.org

Dear Editor:

In years past, thanks to support from Governor Cuomo, his administration, local Assembly and Senate leaders and the State Legislature, our beloved Catskill region has seen strong growth in the marketing and promotion of our region, providing a boost to our recreational tourism-based economy. Programs like the Catskills Challenge that Governor Cuomo created have drastically raised awareness and the profile of the Catskills as a region. Expanded support for our local tourism efforts, as well as the opening of the Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center, a visitor center for the Catskill Park have all been welcome support of the Catskills, furthering a regional identity in the minds of millions of current and future visitors.

Most recently we were glad to see, as part of the governor’s Adventure NY proposal in the 2017 State of the State, that New York State commits to spending at least $5 million in the Catskills to conserve land, improve signage, increase trail mileage and upgrade our campgrounds as well as support to expand opportunities for recreation, strengthening our region’s economy.

Thanks to the leadership of Senator Seward and Senator Amedore, we have seen the creation of an Aid to Localities line for the Catskill Park. The first year's funding is already going into the creation of a comprehensive recreation plan for the Catskill Park and access improvement projects across the region. The goal of the recreation plan is to look at the Park as a whole, open spaces, public lands and communities, and see how we can connect existing trail systems, where we can provide more recreation opportunities for the public and how we can connect our communities to each other and to the vast open space resources around them to help build economic opportunities based on outdoor recreation of all forms.

We would now like to see a commitment to build on this collaborative success by establishing a regular annual “Catskills Package” that would support projects to improve our regional economy by supporting both enhanced access to, and stewardship of, our public lands, ultimately providing a world-class experience for visitors and residents alike, that strengthens the economy on Main Street and our natural environment by spurring the development of permanent sustainable jobs that are based on our multitude of outdoor recreation opportunities.

We believe that funding for this package can come from two distinct funding streams, the Environmental Protection Fund and New York Works funding. If you agree, please join the Catskill Park Coalition in Albany, alongside dozens of supporters, for Catskill Park Awareness Day, Tuesday, February 7th, 2017. Learn more and register at CatskillCenter.org/events.

The Catskill Park Coalition unanimously agrees that the following projects are to be priorities for the Catskills. These are all projects that the diverse members of the Coalition, a group representing regional enterprise, conservation groups, land trusts, environmental advocates, sportsman’s groups, religious groups and recreational users, believe will continue to improve our public lands to benefit all stakeholders in the future and will work to build economic opportunities in our region.

These projects were developed with input from members of the Catskill Park Coalition, as well advice on project needs identified by the Catskill Park Advisory Committee, which represents diverse stakeholders from across the Catskill Park. Together we will continue to expand the positive economic benefit of public lands in the Catskills, growing a sustainable economy that protects our ecosystems while maintaining vibrant main streets and communities.

The Catskills Package - $10,000,000

·         Continue the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Aid to Localities line recurring annually at $500,000 for Catskill Park access improvements and add an additional $50,000 in annual recurring support for staffing and operations at the Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center - $550,000

·         Additional Environmental Protection Fund and New York Works funding towards stewardship and maintenance activities in the Catskill Park - $4,000,000

o    Remove the cap on Line 3 of land stewardship money to allow for additional spending within the Catskill Park’s Forest Preserve

o    Fund contracts for the Catskill Conservation Corps, Summit/Trail Stewards and Professional Trail Crews in the Catskills, create new stewardship opportunities, and increase overall stewardship efforts to match growth in users realized by regional tourism marketing and promotion

o    Develop a greater equity between stewardship funding at the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP), which needs to result in more resources for the DEC to manage and maintain the Forest Preserve and Catskill Park

·         Support the “Save the Hemlocks” project to reduce the impact of Hemlock Woolly Adelgid by developing effective biocontrol (laricobius negrinus) administered by Catskill Regional Invasive Species Partnership (CRISP)/Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM) through Cornell University, DEC and DEP efforts - $2,000,000

·         Increased support for Catskill Area Tourism Services (CATS) to improve regional marketing efforts, direct visitors to the Catskill Interpretive Center as a welcoming center, and provide better connections between the Catskill Park and its communities - $2,000,000

·         Increase the budget and staffing for the DEC Lands and Forests Division to better manage Catskill Park lands. Continue annual Forest Ranger academies to maintain and grow the Ranger force to maintain public safety within the Catskill Park and Forest Preserve - $1,000,000

·         Complete a comprehensive economic study for the Catskills building on prior Catskill Park Coalition study, to act as snapshot of the region’s economy before the Sullivan County Casino development - $450,000

We strongly urge the public to help us congratulate the State on their strong support of the Catskills, thank them for their laudable promotion of the region, and ask that they now meet the region’s growing stewardship needs. Let’s build a stronger Catskill Park and Forest Preserve! Join us in Albany on Tuesday, February 7th, 2017. Learn more and register at CatskillCenter.org/events.

Sincerely,

Jeff Senterman
Executive Director
The Catskill Center for Conservation and Development
Co-Chair, Catskill Park Coalition