Over­look Moun­tain plan pri­mar­ily draws praise

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Wil­liam J. Kem­ble news@free­manon­line.com

Over­look Moun­tain trail sup­port­ers and neigh­bors at a pub­lic in­for­ma­tion ses­sion largely praised state Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Con­ser­va­tion pro­pos­als to in­crease park­ing in the area but voiced con­cerns about al­low­ing some ve­hi­cles on the trail.

The com­ments were made Tues­day evening dur­ing a meet­ing at­tended by 35 peo­ple at the Mescal Horn­beck Com­mu­nity Cen­ter in Woodstock.

Un­der the plan, there would be 25 to 30 ad­di­tional park­ing spots cre­ated in the Magic Meadow area along Mac­daniel Road and a 10-ve­hi­cle park­ing area would be es­tab­lished off Cali-

for­nia Quarry Road.

The ex­ist­ing lot at the Meads Moun­tain Road trail head has enough space for 25 to 30 ve­hi­cles.

Pro­posed amend­ments to the Over­look For­est Man­age­ment Plan call for, among other things, al­low­ing the use of ve­hi­cles on the trail for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties.

“I am very ea­ger to get a per­mit for my 98-year-old father to get up to the sum­mit of over­look,” town res­i­dent Sher­ret Chase said. “I’m sure he’ll en­joy that ad­ven­ture a great deal.”

Chase, though, said he has done work on the trail, and he ques­tioned how safe it will be for ve­hi­cles.

“Over the years, I’ve been up that trail some­where be­tween sev­eral dozen and less than 100 times by ve­hi­cle and just can­not get my mind wrapped around a ca­sual pedes­trian ac­cess with their own per­sonal four­wheel drive [get­ting] up and down that moun­tain safely,” he said. “It’s just doesn’t com­pute to me.”

State Su­per­vis­ing Forester Jeff Rider said mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the trail would be pro­posed to re­duce the

risks.

Town res­i­dent Randi Steele said the pro­posal for over­flow park­ing off Cal­i­for­nia Quarry Road could cre­ate ad­di­tional prob­lems for neigh­bors of the state prop­erty.

“I see this as be­ing a sit­u­a­tion where the at­ti­tude of the Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Con­ser­va­tion is ‘if we build it, too many will come,’” she said.

“That’s ex­actly what has hap­pened here in the last sev­eral years,” Steele said. “You’re talk­ing about, when all this is built out, a to­tal of 40 park­ing spa­ces when we’ve al­ready had a sit­u­a­tion where more than 100 cars blocked Meads Moun­tain Road, and now you’re talk­ing about do­ing that with Cal­i­for­nia Quarry Road, where a lot of houses are right on the road. We’ve never had that be­fore.”

Of­fi­cials for Bud­dhist cen­ter Karma Triyana Dhar­ma­chakra, where vis­i­tors are asked not to park in the Over­look Moun­tain lot, were sup­port­ive of ef­forts to keep trail users from us­ing the cen­ter’s fa­cil­i­ties.

“The New York State Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Con­ser­va­tion is re­ally try­ing to help our Over­look Moun­tain and

The ex­ist­ing lot at the Meads Moun­tain Road trail head has enough space for 25 to 30 ve­hi­cles.

all our Woodstock fam­ily,” said monastery Direc­tor Khenpo Karma Tenky­ong.

Among sug­ges­tions given to state of­fi­cials was im­prov­ing the por­ta­ble toi­let fa­cil­i­ties at the site as soon as pos­si­ble and elim­i­nat­ing lights from the for­mer tele­vi­sion tower.

“The tallest tower, which I be­lieve is 300 feet, is no longer used as a TV tower,” town res­i­dent Calvin Grimm said. “There­fore, it’s in vi­o­la­tion of its spe­cial-use per­mit.”

Grimm added: “I would pro­pose the Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Con­ser­va­tion, as part of their plan, rec­og­niz­ing that tower is now lighted with strobes dur­ing the day and red lights at night, [de­clare] that has al­ways been an im­po­si­tion on all of the Catskill black for­est and is right in view when one is in the fire tower.”

In the pro­posed amend­ments to the man­age­ment plan, state of­fi­cials wrote there has been a steady in­crease in trail use, with 7,491 peo­ple sign­ing the reg­istry in 2012, 9,246 in 2013, 10,860 in 2014, and 12,610 in 2015. And Rider said us­age could be five times more than the reg­istry in­di­cates.

“It’s a vol­un­tary sign-in, and ... it’s a pretty low sign in rate,” he said. “We es­ti­mate it to be about 20 per­cent.”

The pro­posed amend­ments also call for a con­nect­ing trail start­ing about a third of a mile from the park­ing area on Mac­daniel Road and con­nect­ing to the 2.4-mile main trail lead­ing to the fire tower at the top of Over­look Moun­tain.

In the pro­posed bud­get for im­prove­ments un­der the plan, the park­ing lot would cost $60,000; san­i­ta­tion sta­tions would be $3,000 per year; a kiosk and park­ing area off Cal­i­for­nia Quarry Road would be $5,000; con­struc­tion of a gate at Cal­i­for­nia Quarry would be $1,000; a trail from the Cal­i­for­nia Quarry park­ing area to the main trail would be $500; and a con­nect­ing trail from the Mac­daniel Road park­ing area to the main trail would be $2,000.

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