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Tour Visually Illustrates
Catskill Forest Preserve

By Ted Waddell
SULLIVAN COUNTY — June 16, 2000 -- On Wednesday, June 7, the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development of Arkville teamed up with the NYS Department of Conservation (DEC) to conduct a day-long tour of selected sites within Sullivan County which are included in the Catskill Forest Preserve.
The non-profit environmental conservation organization was retained by DEC to set up the tour, one of the recommendations of the August 1999 Catskill Forest Preserve Public Access Plan.
“As a DEC initiative, we organized the tour and they led it,” said Helen Budrock, assistant director of the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development. “It was a partnership effort to increase awareness and educate people as to what’s available [in the forest preserve].”
The center covers six NYS counties: Delaware, Greene, Otsego, Schoharie, Sullivan and Ulster.
The Catskill Forest Preserve was created on May 15, 1885 when Governor David B. Hill signed a law requiring that “All the lands or now owned or which may hereafter be acquired by the state of New York (in three Catskill and 11 Adirondack counties) be forever kept as wild forest lands.”
A century later, the DEC completed a Catskill Park State Land Master Plan to implement recommendations of the Catskill Study Commission. The Catskill Park was created in 1904 and today includes about 700,000 acres of public and private land within the boundaries delineated on maps by a line usually referred to as “the blue line.”
There are 292,100 acres (41 percent) of publicly owned forest preserve lands within the park: Ulster County (152,716 acres), Greene (78,869), Delaware (42,196) and Sullivan (18,320).
Perhaps it was because Sullivan County has the smaller amount of acreage within the preserve, or maybe it was because the tour was scheduled during the middle of the week, but whatever the reason, only a handful of people showed up for the tour of the forest preserve. At times, it seemed as if participants were outnumbered by their well-informed guides.
A mixed bag of people took the tour: Michael Austin, owner of a New York City public relations firm; Amy Brewer of the Sullivan County Department of Public Works (DPW); Rich Caraluzzo, the county’s DPW director of parks, recreation and beautification projects; Elaine Carpenter, a business owner from Downsville; Herk Clark of the Sullivan County Visitor’s Association; Dave Collins of Century Manor Farms, whose family farming roots are more than 150-years deep in Sullivan County soil above the Beaverkill; Shirley Fulton of the Livingston Manor Chamber of Commerce; and Becky Perry, education director at the Catskill Forest Association.
“When we started this [in the mid-1980s], people were saying ‘You can’t talk to them state people, you can’t do this and you can’t do that!’, but today we’ve got an excellent relationship,” recalled Collins, who was active in the creation of the master plan governing the preserve and efforts to dispel fears surrounding the state’s natural resources management agency.
Asked what he thought of the turnout, the blunt-spoken 69-year old farmer replied, “Pretty poor! I don’t know what’s the matter with local people, whether it’s ignorance, laziness or fear of the state. I can’t figure out why people won’t come out to see what’s going on in their backyard.”
“They don’t understand that this is in their backyard, and it’s all free,” added Collins. “In this area, tourism is their business. If they want people to come here, they got to know where everything is and explain to people what we got to offer.”
Caraluzzo said he took the tour to keep informed on what’s out there in the county.
“In my position, I receive a lot of phone calls about different facilities in the county, and we want to be able to reply with current information,” he said.
As a member of the Livingston Manor Chamber of Commerce, Fulton takes care of the organization’s information booth.
“When people call up or stop by, it’s nice to know what you’re talking about,” she said.
The tour began when participants met at the Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum (CFFC&M) along the Willowemoc outside Livingston Manor.
Following an introduction to the CFFC&M by the state-of-the-art facility’s director Paul Dahlie, and introductory remarks about the forest preseve and access plan by Jeffrey Rider, a senior DEC forester, folks boarded a bus and headed off to tour the wilds of Sullivan County.
The first stop was at the DEC Fish Hatchery complex at DeBruce. Hatchery manager Scott Covert, a DEC fisheries culturalist, explained how the hatchery raises trout for stocking local fishing waters.
Next on the agenda was a short walking tour of the Mongaup Pond Campground. Participants got their boots wet while walking along a muddy trail next to the pristine pond, but it was worth it as they learned about the complexity of resource management operations from the DEC guides.
Julie Harjung, a DEC forest ranger, talked about the importance of “protecting the environment from people, and people from the environment,” as well as explaining the law enforcement, emergency medical services (EMS) and search and rescue (SAR) duties of a forest ranger. Fish and wildlife technician Carl Lindsley described hunting, fishing and other wildlife opportunties in the publicly owned forest preserve.
Rider talked about hiking, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, mountain biking and horseback riding. Campground personnel Chris Olney and Helen Buddrock provided a thumbnail sketch of their operations.
After lunch, the tour resumed with Ranger Harjung leading a journey to the spectacularly breathtaking Mongaup Falls. At the falls, she met Richard Crisera, a fisherman from Portland, Oregon. Crisera is part of a group of avid fishermen from all over the country who once a year take a week off from the workaday world to go fishing.
Upon leaving the sparking falls behind, the tour climbed out of the little gorge and reboarded the bus for a visit to the DeBruce Environmental Education Camp.
The final stop of tour was at the Willowemoc Creek Special Access Site.
Mike Flaherty, a DEC fisheries biologist, explained the importance of public access to local waterways and fishing spots.
“Forests are a big escape for city people,” said DEC fish and wildlife technician Lindsley.
Rudge, a supervising forester with the DEC described the Willowemoc as “a world class fishing stream with tremendous access possibilities.”
“One of our goals is to promote tourism and the use of publicly owned lands...state owned campgrounds are gateways to the Catskills,” said Rider, summing up the mini-tour of Sullivan County highlights in the Catskill Forest Preserve.
For information about the Catskill Forest Preserve and its endless recreational opportunities, call DEC foresters Jeff Rider at 256-3083 or Bill Rudge at 256-3111, at the NYS DEC Region 3 headquarters in New Paltz.
Please see an in-depth look at the Catskill Forest Preserve and more photos in Tuesday’s Democrat.



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