Parked cars jammed onto shoulders. Pedestrians walk in the middle of the road. Property owners seething because they can’t get to their own homes. A frail ecosystem in danger. An occasional drowning or fatal fall. There is litter and anger.
Hunter’s Kaaterskill Falls and the hiking trails that thread it might bring in the tourist dollar desired so much on Greene County’s mountaintop, but the people who live there say sometimes it’s just not worth it.
We don’t blame Hunter town officials for repeating and reinforcing parking and trail regulations first put into place at Kaaterskill Falls last summer. The show got out of control. Something had to be done.
The Greene County Tourism Office is encouraging visitors to do their homework before they arrive by getting familiar with the parking and safety regulations prior to hiking. Hikers are advised to hit the trails on less crowded days of the week or to explore other less crowded hiking trails.
The Molly Smith parking area will remain closed to the public this summer. Kaaterskill Falls can be reached from parking lots on Laurel House Road and Schutt Road and from the North-South Lake State Campground. Illegally parked vehicles will be ticketed and towed at the owner’s expense.
The regulations were changed last year because of overcrowding with parking on Route 23A between Palenville and Haines Falls. It became a situation of safety for pedestrians and vehicular traffic that officials could no longer leave unattended.
Hikers are strongly encouraged to remove all trash before leaving the falls and trail. There is a $250 fine for littering in the Catskills. Hikers are also asked to be mindful of wet rocks near the waterfall because they can be slippery and to always stay on marked trails. Proper hiking gear is also advised.
Second to the ski trade, the summer hiking season is the mountaintop’s primary revenue generator. Kaaterskill Falls and its trails and forests are beautiful and deservedly popular. Praise to Greene County Tourism, the Hunter Town Board and the state Department of Environmental Conservation for getting together to work this out. We hope they can find a solution that will satisfy residents, officials and visitors. If not, privileges to this natural wonder may be revoked permanently.