New Catskills Master Plan, Please Send Comments


Mar 29, 2005
The 2008 Draft Catskill Park State Land Master Plan has been released. There is a period for public comment. If you think this is not important...you would be very wrong. The 2003 Draft Plan excluded bikes almost everywhere in the almost 300,000 acre Catskill Park. We would have been limited to 8 miles of bike trails from Jockey Hill and Onteora Lake all the way to Windham and west to Delaware County, and south to Sullivan County. Bikes would have only been allowed on those minimal trails, everything would have been closed. Efforts by concerned cyclists especially from the Windham area and Fats in the Cats changed that. The new language states that everything is open in wild forest areas unless designated closed by the UMP process. They have also listened and created a new classification called Primitive Bicycle Corridors to connect Wild Forest areas through the Wilderness. Unfortunately, there are areas in Greene County where cycling may be limited due to being classified as wilderness areas. I urge you to read the press release to see the changes and also to read the following full plan. Public Comment will be important. This is the process on how we get access! Get involved ya' bums!

Link to the full Draft State Land Master Plan:

Here is the text of the Press Release:

For Release: IMMEDIATE Contact: Maureen Wren
Wednesday, April 2, 2008 (518) 402-8000

Revisions Balance Recreation and Environmental Protection on State Lands

A new proposed Catskill Park State Land Master Plan has been released that incorporates significant changes to balance recreational opportunities with enhanced environmental protection, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis announced today. The revised draft plan will guide the future management of the State’s 292,000-acre holdings within the Catskill Forest Preserve and is being made available for public review and comment until May 19, 2008. Key revisions focus on trails open to mountain biking, boundaries of the Colgate Wild Forest and the control of invasive species.

“This revised draft Master Plan will assist DEC in continuing to manage the Catskill Forest Preserve in ways that are sensitive to public needs and protect the region’s natural resources for the future,” Commissioner Grannis said. “DEC has worked hard to evaluate and incorporate the public feedback received on the initial draft and has made significant changes in response to that public input. It was important to make these changes available to the public before final adoption of the plan. I encourage citizens, local governments, environmental groups, businesses and other stakeholders to review and comment on this important resource management document.”

The Catskill Forest Preserve is part of the Catskill Park, which consists of 705,500 acres of public and private lands. Since its creation in 1885, the Catskill Forest Preserve has grown from 34,000 acres to nearly 300,000 acres of public land within Delaware, Greene, Sullivan, and Ulster counties. Forest Preserve lands are protected under Article 14 of the State Constitution as “forever wild” and cannot be logged, leased or sold, and must be managed to protect wilderness values. The state pays local property taxes on all Forest Preserve lands.

The original Catskill Park State Land Master Plan was developed in 1985 and classifies forest preserve lands within the Park based on their physical character and capacity to accommodate human use based on four land classifications: wilderness, wild forest, intensive use and administrative. The Plan also designates management units and directs DEC to develop individual Unit Management Plans that guide management activities and public use of those units.

In August 2003, a proposed draft revision of the Catskill Master Plan was released for public review and comment. In response to comments received in writing and at public meetings, DEC has incorporated several changes into the revised 2008 draft Catskill Park State Land Master Plan. The most significant of these reflect comments about bicycle use - the revised draft recognizes existing and future mountain biking opportunities on state lands in the Catskills and commits DEC to preserving and enhancing bike trail corridors. The changes would:

• Create of a new land classification, “Primitive Bicycle Corridor.” This classification allows continued use of mountain bikes along corridors through existing or proposed wilderness areas and provides links to communities and opportunities for bicyclists to undertake larger backcountry loops through the Park.

The Department proposes the reclassification of four trail corridors (100 feet wide) through existing or proposed new wilderness areas (mostly in Greene County) that would allow the public to continue to use a bicycle, but would otherwise be managed according to wilderness guidelines. These corridors encompass a total of approximately 156 acres and are along old roads that have historically been used by mountain cyclists:
A. Indian Head Wilderness: Mink Hollow Road (its entire length through the Indian Head Wilderness, 3.2 miles).
B. Indian Head Wilderness: Overlook Turnpike from the Overlook Mountain Wild Forest boundary to Platte Clove and Prediger Road (4.5 miles)
C. Hunter - Westkill Wilderness: Diamond Notch Road (its entire length through the Hunter - Westkill Wilderness, 3.2 miles).
D. Blackhead Range Wilderness: Colgate Lake -Dutcher Notch Trail, an old road (Colgate Lake Wild Forest to Stork’s Nest, 2.4 miles).

• In Wild Forests, allow for bicycle use on roads open to the public, state truck trails, old wood roads, foot trails, snowmobile trails, and horse trails, unless such use is deemed unsuitable through the Unit Management Planning process. The original draft proposed a positive signage requirement – roads and trails open only if so posted. This change – open unless signed closed – makes it consistent with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.

• Increase the size of the Colgate Wild Forest from 600 acres to 1,495 acres, utilizing the 2,400' elevation contour as the boundary. DEC staff determined that the terrain surrounding Colgate Lake was suitable for increased opportunities for recreation appropriate in wild forests, including bicycle use.

• Include provisions for Invasive Species Management. The original draft did not contain any reference to this emerging threat. DEC’s new Office of Invasive Species will work with the Catskill Region Invasive Species Partnership to help identify problems and educate the public on invasive species. In addition, DEC may take necessary actions to control exotic invasive species where there is potential for significant degradation to the native ecosystem. These actions can include mechanical control, biological control, and the use of pesticides, and will require an environmental review under the State’s Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) as well as publication in the Environmental Notice Bulletin and approval by the Director of the Division of Lands and Forests.

“We are very pleased that DEC has responded to public comment by cyclists as a user group to preserve current and future mountain biking opportunities in the Catskill Forest Preserve, along with the creation of a new land use classification,” said Russell Thorpe, President of the Fats in the Cats Bicycle Club. “Primitive Bicycle Corridors will enhance the experience of mountain bicyclists by connecting wild forest areas while maintaining the potential for recreational access and development of trail systems throughout the Catskill Forest Preserve. The Primitive Bicycle Corridors will allow mountain bicyclists to undertake larger back country loops through the Catskill Park, creating opportunities for the area to become a cycling destination with benefits to individuals’ health and to local economies.”

“The Catskill Center views the revised plan as an important step forward for the Catskills,” said Deborah Meyer DeWan, Interim Executive Director of the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development. “It strikes an appropriate compromise between new and easier access for cyclists, while protecting large blocks of wilderness in the Catskill Forest Preserve. The revisions also incorporate the important inclusion of invasive species management options to help address threats to the area’s unique ecosystem.”

DEC is accepting comments on the revised draft Catskill Park State Land Master Plan until May 19, 2008. Comments should be addressed to: Peter J. Frank, Bureau Chief, Forest Preserve Management, NYSDEC, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4254, or by email to lfcat@gw.dec.state.ny.us.

The draft plan will be posted on the DEC website http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/5265.html