State fin­ishes up­grades at Kaater­skill Falls

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE -

Safety and pub­lic ac­cess im­prove­ments at Kaater­skill Falls, the site of two deaths this year, have been com­pleted.

The state De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Con­ser­va­tion wants vis­i­tors to the Kaater­skill Wild For­est to fol­low the des­ig­nated trails and obey posted signs in light of re­cent ac­ci­dents at Kaater­skill Falls, which in­cluded a death.

The DEC this month com­pleted safety and pub­lic ac­cess im­prove­ments at the Kaater­skill Falls that are part of a com­pre­hen­sive ef­fort to make the Kaater­skill Wild For­est area a safer and more en­joy­able des­ti­na­tion to visit, the agency said in a press re­lease.

“DEC is com­mit­ted to pro­tect­ing and main­tain­ing this unique nat­u­ral and his­toric trea­sure in a man­ner that en­hances pub­lic safety and is con­sis­tent with for­est pre­serve man­age­ment prin­ci­ples,” DEC Com­mis­sioner Basil Seg­gos said in a state­ment. “DEC worked with state and lo­cal of­fi­cials and user groups to de­velop these im­prove­ments de­signed to in­crease pub­lic safety while en­hanc­ing the user ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Ear­lier this month, 30-year-old An­thony Miele of New­burgh fell to his death while hik­ing with a friend near the up­per por­tion of the 260-foot, twodrop falls. Au­thor­i­ties said Miele slipped on ice and fell about 120 feet af­ter hav­ing gone off the nor­mal trail and try­ing to walk across an area cov­ered with ice and moss. It was un­clear at the time whether Miele had gone around safety fenc­ing DEC in­stalled at the top of the falls in 2014 and 2015.

The death was the sec­ond re­ported at the falls this year.

Late in July, 17-year-old Ezra Kennedy of West­field, N.J., fell to his death while hik­ing with friends and rel­a­tives. Two women from Dutchess County fell to their deaths at the falls in the sum­mer of 2014, lead­ing to the in­stal­la­tion of pro­tec­tive fences at the top of the up­per falls.

Pub­lic ac­cess to Kaater­skill Falls was also re­stricted in the sum­mer of 2015 while the DEC made $450,000 in im­prove­ments to en­hance safety and up­grade trails.

Ac­cord­ing to the DEC press re­lease, the agency has com­pleted $750,000 in safety im­prove­ments at the Wild For­est area. That in­cludes the in­stal­la­tion of a 115-foot hik­ing bridge span­ning Spruce Creek and con­nect­ing the ham­let of Haines Falls to the Es­carp­ment trail and North/ South Lake camp­ground. It also in­cludes a new foot trail lead­ing from the end of the marked Kaater­skill Falls trail at the base of the falls up­s­lope to the mid­dle pool of the falls, with a new stone stair­case. The trail was also ex­tended from the mid­dle pool to the Es­carp­ment trail, cre­at­ing a key link­age be­tween the top and the bot­tom of the falls.

Ear­lier this year, the DEC also ex­panded two nearby park­ing lots the agency man­ages. And in the fall of 2015, the DEC com­pleted a fully ac­ces­si­ble trail lead­ing to a new ac­ces­si­ble over­look plat­form at the top of the falls. The new trails, bridge, view­ing plat­form and stone stair­case ad­dress the pub­lic’s de­sire for ac­cess to a bet­ter view of Kaater­skill Falls and the mid­dle pool area, while en­hanc­ing safety, the re­lease said.

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