By Judy Garrison
By now everyone has read or heard the news: the Pepacton, along with the Neversink and Schoharie reservoirs, is going to be opened up for recreational boating by the DEP! It joins the Cannonsville Reservoir where this has been tried out over the last 3 years, and deemed a success. Rowboats, canoes, kayaks, sculls and small sailboats with removable centerboards will now be permitted as long as they carry seasonal DEP-issued recreational boating tags issued by certified private steam cleaning vendors (to prevent the propagation of zebra mussels and other invasive species). The boats must launch from new recreational boating launch sites, which as yet have not been identified or built. The opening of the reservoirs will kick off on Memorial Day weekend.
On top of this good news, the DEP seeks active input from community partners for opening up much of their acquisition land in 2012 for recreation, which can include hiking trails.
I talked to Jack McShane, who was, for 10 years or more, facilitator of the Andes Hikers, which grew to 147 people, and has recently merged with the Catskill Mountain Club, a group of 700. He, along with Steve Berg, president of the Catskill Mountain Club, and Ann Roberti, an active hiker member of the group, have had ongoing conversations with Paul Lenz, DEP land acquisition representative, and Dave Tobias at the Watershed Agricultural Council, to emphasize the importance of tourism, especially eco-tourism, to our area’s future economy. And they’ve made it clear that their members can offer recommendations for locations for both launch sites and hiking trails, as well as the configurations for trails and parking areas. Of course our Town government will be very involved as well.
Jack mentions that many in the DEP consider the Pepacton, the largest, cleanest, (and to his mind the most picturesque) as their diamond. Some Pepacton Reservoir facts (culled from DEP’s media release): It is located in Delaware County along the southern edge of Catskill Park, and more than 100 miles northwest of New York City. Formed by the damming of the East Branch of the Delaware River, which continues west and joins the West Branch of the Delaware River, it consists of one basin, approximately 15.8 miles in length. The Pepacton holds 140.2 billion gallons of water at full capacity, which makes it the largest reservoir in the City system by volume. It was placed into service in 1955. Not mentioned in the release, but well known to Andeans (with the history posted on the kiosk near the Shavertown Bridge) is that the productive and beautiful towns of Arena, Pepacton, Shavertown and Union Grove were flooded, houses burned or moved out, communities dispersed, in order to provide this water supply for New York City. It is gratifying to know that the reservoir can now be enjoyed by other than those with fishing licenses and steam-cleaned rowboats.
I chatted with Ann Roberti, both about her experiences kayaking on the Cannonsville and what she envisions the role she and other hikers might play now. Ann recounted great eagle sightings. One time she witnessed an animal they were able to finally identify as a bear, swim the width of the Cannonsville, emerge on the other side and shake himself off. Ann is the poster girl for stewardship and good practices. Wherever she goes she picks up trash and, in the case of the reservoirs, flotsam and jetsam. She lifted out a tire and a plastic something the size of a backyard swimming pool at the Cannonsville as well as collecting debris along the muddy perimeter. You can be sure that if the Catskill Mountain Club devises policies and guidelines for users of the Pepacton and the Andes hiking trails, Ann will help incorporate volunteer groups to advise, maintain and clear trails, clean up, and get out the information. She has already identified some acquisition land that she believes would make good trails, and would like to help with the development of signage, maps and brochures to identify the existing Murphy Hill trail as well as any new ones.
It is unknown where the steam cleaning operation or possible rental shop might be located (they would ideally be together in one spot), but there is clearly a potential for a local business, as there is for goods to be sold by shops in Andes hamlet to day hikers and boaters. In my mind it would be a positive development if a concession that rents already steam-cleaned kayaks were erected very near the launch for those without the capacity to carry a boat.
There’s a lot to dream about here. Luckily we have enthusiastic volunteer outdoor people and a supportive town government and planning board which, according to Ann, would need to grant land use permits in order for proposed new trails to be constructed and opened to the public.~