|10-28-2003, 05:59 AM||#1 (permalink)|
Join Date: Jan 2001
Member # 2787
Location: Shingle Springs, CA
Boy Scout Troop against Wilderness Designation
Catskills plan fires up Scouts
By Donna Cafaldo , Correspondent 10/27/2003
HURLEY - The proposed master plan for the Catskill Park, already under fire from the Coalition of Watershed Towns and Greene County, among others, is now opposed by local Boy Scouts as well.
Tom Lindtveit, of Troop 66 in West Hurley, told the Hurley Town Board last week that the plan would prevent scouting units from using the park for trips because, in most cases, the troops would violate proposed limits on the size of groups using the park.
In addition, Lindtveit said reclassification of "wild forest" areas to the more restrictive "wilderness" designation would further limit public access to areas where Scouts currently enjoy camping and hiking, requiring troops to break their groups in half upon entering those areas.
To date, the Greene County and Orange County legislatures, the towns of Hunter, Wawarsing, Ashland, Windham, and Tannersville, as well as the Mountaintop Mayors and Supervisors Association and Coalition of Watershed Towns, have adopted resolutions asserting opposition to the draft plan.
The Ulster County Legislature's Environmental and Consumer Affairs Committee has also passed a resolution opposing the plan, saying it will cause an "undue burden" on organized youth groups such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. The full Legislature will vote on the matter at its November session.
Lindtveit said the Rip Van Winkle Council of the Boy Scouts of America will draft a position statement and another 15 municipalities and associations are expected to pass resolutions before the Nov. 14 public comment period expires.
A new wilderness area in the Blackhead Range, which surrounds the Boy Scouts' 500-acre Camp Trimount in East Jewett, is Lindtveit's specific concern.
Under the proposal, he said, Scouts could not take extended backpacking trips of more than three days without crossing a wilderness area.
Currently, 40 percent of the 292,000 acres in the Catskill Park is designated wilderness, while 60 percent is designated wild forest. Under the new master plan, wilderness land, or lands most strictly prohibited from human interference, would be increased to 55 percent of the park.
Lindtveit said the new plan would limit groups to no larger than 12 persons in the wilderness, complicating the issue of adult supervision for a Scout troop of 11 boys.
"I need to take a least one other adult with me, ideally two, and this prevents me from doing that," Lindtveit said.
Lindtveit suggested a "group size exemption" for Scout units under trained adult leadership and also an increase of limits to 15 persons.
Lindtveit said revisions are also desperately needed in the permit process for entering the park. He said current regulations are ambiguous, to the point that enforcement varies among individual park rangers in a region.
"Permits need to be obtained in advance by phone and it is even unclear to a visitor who is to be contacted for a particular region," Lindtveit said, adding that as many as 14 phone calls were required to get a single permit.
Although Lindtveit focused on the impact proposed revisions would have on his Scouts, he added that many other recreational activities currently available in the park, which is set to celebrate its 100th birthday next year, are going to be affected.
He said mountain bikers also face proposed restrictions that would limit their access to wilderness areas and certain trails.
Bruce LaPierre, of the Catskill Park Trail Coalition, the group spearheading much of the attention and opposition to the draft plan with regard to biking and hiking restrictions, says the tourism economies of communities in and around the Catskill Park would be harmed.
LaPierre said Department of Environmental Conservation officials have not provided documentation proving the need to limit damage by changing the designations of zones within the park.