Ten months after 30-year-old Anthony Miele of Newburgh fell to his death at Kaaterskill Falls, state Department of Environmental Conservation representatives and local officials unveiled a new set of safety features at the popular hiking spot between Catskill and Hunter.
Miele was hiking with a friend on an unusually frigid day in November near the upper portion of the two-level falls when he slipped on ice and fell about 120 feet.
State police said Miele left the designated trail and tried to walk across a treacherous ice-covered area. Miele was pronounced dead at the scene.
State police said they did not know if Miele had gone around safety fencing the DEC installed at the top of the falls in 2014 and again in 2015.
Since 2015, the DEC and such groups as the Kaaterskill Rail Trail Committee and the Adirondack Mountain Club have walked the tightrope between hiker safety and the sensation of adventure that draws hikers to the spot year after year.
One feature is a pedestrian trail that leads from the end of the marked Kaaterskill Falls trail at the base of the falls upslope to the middle pool of the falls, which included the installation of a new stone staircase.
The trail was also extended from the middle pool to the Escarpment Trail creating a key connection between the top and the bottom of the falls, allowing hikers to avoid a potentially dangerous bushwhack between the two locations.
Having learned the perils encountered by hikers, officials brought in 500 feet of split rail fencing at both the upper and lower falls. The fence, it is hoped, will serve as a physical and visual barrier to alert the public to the potential dangers of proceeding further. Additional signs were posted to help warn the public about potential risks in the area.
It would be excellent if hikers wore the proper footwear, had more experience, stayed on the designated trails and used the safety features to avoid repeating the tragic mistakes of the recent past. At the least, hikers and officials should meet each other half way and work together to make Kaaterskill Falls safer without sacrificing the thrills of traversing one of the region’s natural wonders.