The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced that Otak, Inc., is facilitating the first round of public meetings in the Adirondack High Peaks and Catskills for the Visitor Use Management (VUM) project. Public and stakeholder input will play a key role in helping DEC and Otak develop appropriate sustainable management strategies for the High Peaks and Kaaterskill Clove areas.
“DEC’s sustainable use initiatives require public participation to be successful,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Listening to public and stakeholder perspectives about the High Peaks and Kaaterskill Clove project areas will provide DEC with the important data to support successful strategies for balancing conservation and public access in these popular Forest Preserve destinations.”
The VUM planning process focuses on the experiential, social, and public safety elements of visitor use in both areas. The public meetings will begin with a foundation-setting presentation that highlights the project purpose, goals, and timeline, and introduces the VUM Framework and how it will be applied in the Adirondack High Peaks and Kaaterskill Clove in the Catskills project areas. Rather than a formal comment opportunity, interactive discussion groups will follow the presentation to gain an understanding of public interests and concerns and solicit public feedback. The outcome of this initial phase will include a summary report of the process, recommended management strategies, and a monitoring plan.
VUM meeting details include:
- High Peaks Project Area in the Adirondacks: May 9, 2023, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the Harrietstown Town Hall Auditorium, 39 Main Street, Saranac Lake 12983
- Kaaterskill Clove Project Area in the Catskills: May 10, 2023, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. at Coppertree Restaurant, Hunter Mountain Base Lodge, 64 Klein Avenue, Hunter 12442
DEC and Otak will hold a second round of public meetings in 2024 to present draft management recommendations.
A two-year contract was awarded to Otak, Inc., a research, planning, and design firm awarded the VUM planning contract following a competitive Request for Proposals process, supported by the State’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). The 2023-24 Executive Budget sustains the EPF at a historic $400 million. The EPF provides funding for critical environ mental programs such as land acquisition, farmland protection, invasive species prevention and eradication, enhanced recreational access, water quality improvement, and an aggressive environmental justice agenda.
Otak has more than two decades of experience conducting visitor use planning and research on wilderness and other recreation lands managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and other agencies. Their team includes experts in recreation planning, meeting facilitation, stakeholder engagement, and data analysis.
Comments are welcome throughout the process and will be used to inform next steps in the planning process and overall project. To submit comments, or for additional information about the public meeting, contact Otak’s public participation team at vum-facilitators@
Photo of hikers on Cascade Mountain by Dan Plumley