Kaaterskill Falls Parking And Trail Restrictions To Remain
As the weather warms and more COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed, tourism officials are preparing for the summer. In Greene County, officials are reminding potential visitors of parking and trail regulations meant to prevent overcrowding at a popular waterfall.
WAMC's Jim Levulis spoke with Greene County Tourism Director Heather Bagshaw.
Bagshaw: So Kaaterskill Falls is popular in many ways. One is its beauty, not only of the hike and the viewing platform, but also in its height, as it's a two-tier cascading waterfall, which is the highest in New York State. And therefore the majestic of that in itself is absolutely gorgeous. So that's what makes it so unique. And one of the other pieces people enjoy is that Thomas Cole, the founder of Hudson River School of Art, has many paintings of the various hikes around in and around the Kaaterskill Falls.
Levulis: And then so obviously because of that popularity, some restrictions are needed. What are some of the parking and trail restrictions in place this year?
Bagshaw: So in order to keep safe, the Molly Smith parking lot located on 23A just north of the hairpin turn at the trailhead of Kaaterskill Falls on the lower trailhead, that parking lot has been closed and the traffic is directed up to County Route 18, which is where North South Lake State campground is. There are two new parking lots that have been developed there. One is on Laurel House Lane, and the other is on Scott Road. Both are lefthand turns when you're going towards Kaaterskill Falls. Both have the ability for trash receptacles as well as portalets if need be. So it's important that you leverage and utilize both of those parking lots. And if they happen to be full on crowded days, we encourage you to travel into North South Lake and utilize the access trails to Kaaterskill Falls from their parking areas as well.
Levulis: Now I understand some of the restrictions, some of these regulations were in place last year, what was the experience with those restrictions last year, were people obeying the rules?
Bagshaw: So a couple of things. So ironically, as the pandemic brought many viewers, many hikers, many people who have not been in our area before to our area, and therefore didn't understand that you can't necessarily park on the sides of the road, it's a very windy road that we need to be sure that we can create and allow access to. And therefore that then in return created some parking restrictions. And once we started to put up signage, get the word out, people started to follow the regulations. Unfortunately, they did have to put in some towing restrictions and set up some Kaaterskill Clove parking enforcement policies through the town of Hunter. But that in return educated people and made them realize that they needed to be a little bit more conscious, and plan ahead of time before coming to Kaaterskill Falls. And that's one of the reasons why we are trying to educate and ask people to think a little bit before and do a little bit more planning when they're heading to the falls area. To understand that it might be crowded during the day that you're thinking of. So choose some less crowded days, which are weekdays and or choose some alternate hikes and waterfall hike throughout Greene County.
Levulis: Now we've been talking about the popularity of Kaaterskill Falls and that continued during the pandemic as it was a relatively safe activity in terms of COVID-19 last year, but what were the impacts of the pandemic on the rest of Greene County's tourism industry?
Bagshaw: Well, interestingly enough, it was a little bit of the same. So some of our other areas, specifically Colgate Lake, and some of our other hiking areas began to get filled up. And so we needed to do sort of a lower level plan for those. And what I mean by that is Kaaterskill Falls is a very well-known attraction. People talk about it on social media, they talk about it in blogs and things like that. So that was pushing people into other areas of the county to explore. And so we needed to sort of do the same thing, put out some signage, educate people of the safe places to park, identify some alternate places that they can go. So we had a lot of activity around all of our outdoor spaces in and around Greene County.
Levulis: And again looking at Greene County tourism, the tourism sector as a whole. For this summer, restaurants, outdoor areas, as we've been talking about, what are your hopes expectations for this summer, it's going to be a little bit different with the pandemic waning?
Bagshaw: I agree with you it, it definitely is going to be different. It's my understanding that things are opening up. And therefore, we have, for example, the Zoom Flume Water Park is opening up this year, which was not last year. That is an alternate place that people can go to if they wanted to do some swimming, and or just get into some refreshing water spots outside of the waterfalls. We also have other attractions that are opened, for example, New York Zip Line is opening more of their attraction. Last year, they were restricted on only certain ones of the zip lines that they had. So I see that we're able to move people more around the county. And I'm very optimistic that things are starting to come back to normal with an understanding that we all need to continue to be safe. And continue to be mindful of how we protect ourselves in this what I'm going to call this, the second wave, but a new opening up of how COVID is going to look this year. And so I'm very optimistic that things are going to be better for all of our properties, and all of the travelers that come. I think it will also be a more of a local crowd. What I mean by that, a lot will be New Yorkers kind of exploring New York. It'll be our surrounding states, that will also be traveling by car versus in an airplane and or domestic and or an international. So it's going bring us a whole new wave of people, which I'm super excited for. And I hope that they recognize that they can do a little bit more traveling closer to home in the future.
Levulis: And with that new wave this transition as you've said, are there any specific programs or efforts that the county is doing to support tourism during this new wave, new transition?
Bagshaw: Well, as we've always done, we've supported our tourism properties in multiple ways. One is helping them to market to specific travel trends. For example, right now we're marketing more of a drive-time market. We also support them by helping them to understand and know when regulations are updating, and, you know, keeping them in the now so that they can better service their patrons. And then also just being an outlet for them to guide them on business ventures, business decisions. For example, we have businesses that want to do some events and want to understand how to do them in a safe manner. And therefore we just kind of brainstorm with them and be a partner to them. And that's one thing that we take pride on is their business we treat as our business and make sure that we're in this together so to say, COVID or not.