By Eli Ruiz
FORESTBURGH Last Wednesday, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) hosted a public meeting at the Forestburgh Town Hall stemming from a proposed amendment to the Neversink River Unique Area Unit Management Plan.
The amendment will affect nearly 200 acres of the Unique Area and entails the development of recreational assets on lands acquired since the original unit management plan was developed in 1997. The proposed changes to the UMP would also encompass future uses for the site formerly known as the Eden Brook Fish Hatchery.
The amendment calls for the termination of the lease agreement with the hatchery and the demolition of all buildings associated with the operation of the fish hatchery at an estimated cost of about $200,000. The old UMP allowed for the hatchery to operate as a private entity and restricted public access along Eden Brook Road, as well as a 243-acre portion of the Unique Area known as the “buffer zone.”
Terminating the hatchery lease would erase the need for the buffer zone, as well as any restrictions pertaining to public access.
Two new parking lots are also proposed for Cold Spring and Skinner Roads. The parking areas are to include kiosks and facility signs along with a trail that would extend from the parking facility to Eden Brook Road.
A trail network to connect Skinner Road to the existing trail system on the property is also being proposed.
Close to 60 people attended the meeting, and of those who spoke, the majority had serious concerns about or outright opposed the proposed amendments and what they would mean for those that live along the Unique Area. Issues raised ranged from the securing of proposed new access points to possible poaching.
Attorney Stephen Barshov, with Sive Paget & Riesel P.C. out of NYC, represented three clients who live off of Hatchery Road.
“Everyone here tonight has described in some way, shape or form multiple public safety problems, whether it’s in the form of poaching, illegal gun activity, and I don’t mean down at the range… I mean people shooting at night and doing things that they ought not to,” Barshov said. “There have been reports recently of burglaries, robberies in the area.… There are real problems when you bring the public into areas where there are private property owners and don’t make any protection or plans for it, and here I think it’s even worse because I just don’t know what you [DEC] could do . . . I mean literally what could you do?”
Indeed, the proposed new access points were the main topic of concern. Many questioned the reasoning behind creating more access points where they say public access is already sufficient. Others questioned the wisdom behind opening these “moderate” or “low intensity use” areas to even more use.
Erin Phelan described in detail an issue with poachers and what he termed an unsatisfactory response from a DEC officer when he called in to report it.
“I am a sportsman and I spend a lot of time fishing in the gorge,” Phelan said. “If I can’t go down there and go fishing and do what I want to do without worrying about my own safety if I happen to mention to someone that they are doing something wrong .… We really have a safety issue here, and I think this will be compounded and blown way way out of what we’re even thinking at this point.”
John Coleman, who owns a home on Eden Brook Road, said, “My opposition to this is that it’s useless and it brings the property owners in contact with poachers, ATVers and the such on their property. How many of us put locks on these gates only to come the next morning and find that they’ve been cut by these same ATV riders and poachers?
“If you think it was easy before to ride your ATV through people’s property, this will make it even worse and we just don’t need pedestrian traffic on a road that we maintain,” Coleman added.
No new meetings have been scheduled and the public is encouraged to submit comments or concerns regarding the proposed amendments to the Neversink River Unique Area Unit Management Plan via the postal service at: Att: Matt Paul, NYS DEC Region 3 New Paltz Regional Office, Division of Lands and Forests, 21 South Putt Corners Road, New Paltz, N.Y. 12561 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Written comments will be accepted until July 13, 2012.
For more information and to view the proposed amendments go to www.dec.ny.gov/lands/22616.html. For a hard copy of the plan contact the DEC at 845-256-3074.