Stewards and A New Permitting Process — Taking Action at the Blue Hole

Obtain a permit for visiting the Peekamoose Blue Hole

Stewards and A New Permitting Process — Taking Action at the Blue Hole

June 26, 2018 PEEKAMOOSE, NY —  The Peekamoose Blue Hole is a gem of the northeast. Lined by shale ledges 3-5’ in height, the wild geologic formation is an exquisite frontcountry basin in a remote Catskills location. Cool 55 degree spring-fed water keeps the ‘hole’ a stunning blue color. But recent fame has exponentially increased visitation and the resulting impact is severe.

In a busy summer weekend, anywhere from 600-2000 people visit the Peekamoose Corridor. The three-quarter acre footprint of the Blue Hole has been impacted with soil erosion, trampled vegetation, litter, food waste, human waste, pet waste, sound pollution, social trails, and wildlife impacts.

How did we get here? 
The Peekamoose Blue Hole wasn’t always this way. Pre-2014, trash and litter were a rarity and easily picked up by local visitors. Over the past three years however, social media, news outlets, and internet guides have boasted about the pristine and picturesque beauty of this place, causing  people to flock to the narrow corridor. 

The Blue Hole is a current hot topic among concerned locals and conservation organizations, and it’s easy for one to become overwhelmed with what feels like an overpowering issue. Amid so much dialogue of an area being overused, the real question is-- what do we do about it? 

Moving forward.
The Catskill Center, in coordination with local and national partners, including the Rondout Neversink Stream Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Adirondack Mountain Club, and the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics is working to start a new stewardship program for the Blue Hole. 

This summer visitors of the Blue Hole will interact with stewards, who will be stationed at the trailhead. The stewards will be present to educate the public about best practices to enjoy the Blue Hole responsibly, while helping to make sure that all visitors of the area are able to enjoy a relaxing experience. The Blue Hole is public land, open for everyone to enjoy, but visitors may not understand the full consequence of leaving litter or trampling new trails in backcountry lands.

This big-picture thinking has proven effective across the country. The High Peaks of the Adirondacks, the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and national parks such as Grand Canyon and Acadia all have stewards who help visitors minimize their impact on these pristine areas. Here in the Catskills, the Catskill Center seeks to promote a leave-no-trace culture, which preserves the wilderness experience for current and future generations of visitors. Building upon successful models from across the nation, the Peekamoose Blue Hole Steward Program is designed to best meet the needs of the Catskills. Additionally, the Catskill Center is working with local stakeholders, online travel blogs, and the media to spread the ‘Leave No Trace’ message to a wider audience. 

Leave No Trace is the national standard for outdoor ethics and is the leading outdoor recreation education program for people of all backgrounds. By utilizing Leave No Trace skills and ethics, the Stewards help to inspire people about how to enjoy their natural lands responsibly, while connecting people to the uniqueness and fragility of the natural resources at the Blue Hole.

Permit-Only Access / Starting June 30
In an effort to limit the overall use during peak visitation and to help protect the pristine quality of the Blue Hole, beginning June 30th, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)will require that all weekends and holidays visitors of the Blue Hole book a permit. 

Permits may be acquired online at ReserveAmerica.com, at a minimum of 24 hours in advance. Permits  will be available at no cost to the visitor, and each will allow access for up to 6 people. The goal of this permitting process is to limit the overall use during peak visitation to help protect the pristine quality of the Blue Hole.

This was excerpted from the DEC's release, "Under the new no-cost permit system, visitors to the Blue Hole are required to obtain a permit on weekends and holidays from May 15 through October 15 every year. DEC will issue up to 40 permits per day and each permit allows entry for up to six individuals, including children, allowing for a maximum of 240 people to access the Blue Hole each day. Permits must be acquired at least 24 hours and no more than one week, in advance. Only advance registrations will be accepted at the site, and walk-in permits are not available. Visitors will be required to list the names of all members of their party when making reservations, but can update names up to one day in advance. Visitors must have a permit with them at all times."

NYSDEC Resources:

Get involved
Contact the Catskill Center. Programs like this are most successful when everyone works together to protect the spectacular region where we live, work, and play. Support the Peekamoose Blue Hole Steward Program with a Catskill Center membership.  Or volunteer at catskillcenter.org/job-opportunities and help our stewards protect this vital resource. 

Tips for a ideal Peekamoose Blue Hole visit
•    Visit during off-peak times, such as Mon-Fri or morning hours.
•    Walk on designated trails or bare rocks to prevent further erosion and allow plants to regrow.
•    Carry-in and carry-out everything brought to the area--including food scraps.
•    Park only in designated areas along the road to avoid parking citations.
•    No fires (including grills), portable speakers, or glass containers are permitted at the Blue Hole. 

Other Great Places to swim in the Catskills
Some sites are not controlled and there is no lifeguard, so you swim at your own risk, such as:

Onteora Lake, off Route 28 towards Kingston, has great access and good fishing opportunities. The shoreline is undeveloped and has a fairly steep drop-off. Onteora lake is really popular with folks that like to kayak and have a small boat for fishing.
https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/58904.html

Swimming at Echo Lake requires a hike up Overlook Mountain.
http://www.catskillmountaineer.com/IH-overlook.html A hike  is also required to access Biscuit Brook off Route 42 towards Claryville. 
https://www.bushsmarts.com/blogs/news/34747205-biscuit-brook

There is a controlled beach with lifeguards at North South Lake campground where day-use is permitted for a fee.
County Route 18
Haines Falls, NY 12436
https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/24487.html

Lake Minnewaska State Park Preserve is situated on the dramatic Shawangunk Mountain ridge, which rises more than 2,000 feet above sea level and is surrounded by rugged, rocky terrain. The park features numerous waterfalls, three crystalline sky lakes, dense hardwood forests, incising sheer cliffs and ledges opening to beautiful views, clear streams cut into valleys. 
5281 Route 44-55
Kerhonkson, NY 12446
https://parks.ny.gov/parks/127/details.aspx

Lake Awosting is also at Minnewaska State Park. Hike in required, lifeguards on duty. Day-use fee or empire pass needed.
5281 Route 44-55
Kerhonkson, NY 12446
https://parks.ny.gov/parks/127/details.aspx

Belleayre Beach at Pine Hill Lake offers a ton of fun activities for the entire family. And they have life guards. 
33 Friendship Manor Road
Pine Hill, NY 12465
www.belleayre.com

At Mongaup Pond Campground, right outside of Livingston Manor, swimming  is only permitted when a lifeguard is on duty.  
231 Mongaup Pond Road
Livingston Manor, NY 12758
www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/24484.html

And there’s supervised swimming at Lake Superior State Park
Dr Duggan Rd
Bethel, NY 12720
www.yelp.com/biz/lake-superior-state-park-bethel

For more information, contact the Catskill Center at 845-586-2611 or email amossey@catskillcenter.org

 Andy Mossey, Peekamoose Blue Hole Coordinator photo credit: Heather Phelps-Lipton

Andy Mossey, Peekamoose Blue Hole Coordinator
photo credit: Heather Phelps-Lipton


Permit system in effect for overly popular swimming hole