HUNTER — The state Department of Environment Conservation announced its new plans to improve public safety for hikers and climbers who visit Kaaterskill Falls, Kaaterskill Clove, Platte Clove and the Colgate Lake Wild Forest area.
The new rules were to go in effect immediately at the four locations, according to the DEC.
All the parks are affected by five new regulations: a ban on all campfires and portable stoves (except at permitted campsites), prohibition of glass containers, a ban on audio devices without the use of headphones, a ban on alcohol (except at permitted campsites) and the prohibition of the public from entering restricted areas designated by signs.
Some of the sites are under new regulations specific to the unique problems of each park.
The most noticeable regulation is one for Kaaterskill Falls.
The public is prohibited from going within 6 feet of cliff edges, except on marked trails, and also the prohibition of the public entering the creek water within 150 feet upstream from the falls.
“So those regulations took effect on Aug. 15,” said Lt. David Pachan, zone supervisor for Region 4 of the New York State Forest Rangers. “The areas will have signs with the new regulations there. Forest rangers and assistant forest rangers will be focusing on educating the park users around those areas.”
There have been nine incidents at Kaaterskill Falls to date in 2018, Pachan said. None of them have been reported fatal. Of the nine, three people had to be taken to the hospital.
“Some of those accidents can be contributed to going off trail, going onto steep terrain and even not having the proper footwear.” Pachan said.
Other DEC officials agree.
Most injuries occur when visitors leave designated trails and disobey posted warnings and do not have the appropriate footwear or other equipment, DEC Region 4 Public Information Officer Rick Georgeson said.
The DEC will continue to educate the public about the potential dangers in the area, Georgeson said.
“Education of the public and their safety will be a focus,” Pachan said when asked about the forest rangers’ enforcement of the regulations.
Greene County has four forest rangers and three assistant forest rangers who will be working at each park with a goal of educating the public.
“Not everyone is going to get the message, so they may not know of or ever know the rules of the area,” Pachan said. “So the focus for the rest of summer is educating the public.”
The DEC estimates that 100,000 people a year visit the Kaaterskill Falls, Georgeson said. Because of the high volume, the DEC has extensive warning signs posted at the trailheads and along the trails to educate hikers about safe hiking practices and warn visitors about safety hazards.
Over the past few years, the DEC invested more than $1.25 million in an effort to make the Kaaterskill Wild Forest a safer and more enjoyable area to visit. The funds came primarily from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s NY Works program.
Upgrades include the construction of an observation platform overlooking the top of the falls, installation of a 200-foot cable hand rail on the hiking trail, 500 feet of split fence railing to act as a barrier, additional public signage, information areas and two expanded parking lots.
Along with the new rules at Kaaterskill, other significant regulations are in place. The public will not be allowed in Kaaterskill Clove and Platte Clove 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset, except for campers, in accordance with the DEC or licensed hunters, anglers and trappers.
Portable generators, except for those at designated campsites, are prohibited at Kaaterskill Clove, Kaaterskill Falls and the Colgate Lake Wild Forest. It’s also forbidden to have a generator in the Platte Clove area.
Kaaterskill Falls is the highest cascading waterfall in the state. It has a two-tier drop that is over 230 feet.
It has been referred to as “the Jewel of the Catskills” and has inspired many people by its awe, including painters, poets and naturalists.