March 1, 2014 – On Tuesday, February 25 the CMC participated in Catskill Park Awareness Day by traveling to Albany to talk with our representatives in state government. Along with delegates from 35 other organizations that have banded together in the new Catskill Park Coalition, four members of the CMC board went to speak on behalf of programs that are focussed on improving the economy of the Catskills and on the stewardship of the Catskill Park. This important new effort to bring greater attention to the needs of the Catskills and attract greater resources from our state government to address them presented an agenda of six items for action in 2014 to our Senators, Assemblymembers, the Governor and to the Commissoner of the Department of Environmental Conservation. They are:
NEW YORK STATE FOREST RANGERS AND ASSISTANT RANGER PROGRAM
Funding for three additional Forest Rangers in NYSDEC Regions 3 and 4 and for a fully funded Assistant Forest Ranger Program. The deep budget cuts during the economic crisis hit the DEC and our parks particularly hard. This has resulted in our forest rangers having to cover too many miles of trail and too many square miles of territory, leaving maintenance deferred and enforcement of critical regulations weakened. We need a fully staffed forest ranger and assistant forest ranger corps.
LAND PROTECTION IN THE CATSKILLS
Action on our six priority land protection projects to purchase critical inholdings and other contiguous properties throughout the Catskill Park. There are a number of environmentally sensitive and contiguous properties in the Catskills that either await completion of acquisition by the DEC or are on the market and are of high value to the ecology of the forest preserve. These parcels need to be purchased by the DEC using funds that are already appropriated annually in the Environmental Protection Fund.
RECREATION PLAN FOR THE PARK
Funding to conduct a planning process for a Catskill Park Recreation Plan. The Catskill region has approximately 300,000 acres of land owned by the DEC and an additonal 160,000 acres owned by the NYC Department of Environmental Protection. The Catskill Park is larger than all but 16 of our national parks and contains more publicly owned land than all but 25. A comprehensive plan needs to be written and implemented that addresses the issues of access to the Park’s recreational resources and to improve the experience of residents and visitors to the Park. This should be a multi-stakeholder process that creates a recreational plan for the Catskill Park that has as its goals increased stewardship and greater economic impact.
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION FUND
Full funding of the Environmental Protection Fund in 2014 with the amount of $200 million. The EPF, funded by the real estate transfer tax, is an important source of funding for land conservation, stewardship, environmental protection and other critical needs in the Catskills and across New York State.
CATSKILL INTERPRETIVE CENTER
Funding in the amount of $240,000 for parkland improvements at the site, information technology and interpretive displays. Constructon of the Catskill Interpretive Center will begin in Spring, 2014. Funding for the construction phase has been appropriated, but the furnishings and the features that will provide a complete informational and educational experience for visitors to the CIC are not yet fully funded. This project is the keystone of the effort to strengthen the economy of the Catskills by making sure that visitors know what they can do, understand the natural and historical significance of the Catskills and can find the services that they need during their stay.
CATSKILL ASSOCIATION OF TOURISM SERVICES
Additional funding in the amount of $100,000 for CATS to implement its marketing program in 2014. CATS is a unique association of county visitors bureaus in New York. It works to promote the Catskills by advertising in targeted markets, especially in the NYC metropolitan area.
To find out more about our participation and about how you can help achieve these critical goals, click here.