Trash Falls: Litter abounds on High Falls riverbanks - BlueStone Press
November 19, 2019
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Trash Falls: Litter abounds on High Falls riverbanks

Trouble with visitor trash Sept. 12 meeting planned

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From: the 8/16 edition, with a follow up BSP story from the 9/6/ edition below

High Falls has long been a hot spot for those looking to swim. The stretch of the Rondout starting above the falls and stretching down to Bruceville Road is stunning with verdant pastoral views and easily accessible banks, seemingly made for summer excursions. In recent years, as noted last year by Detective Lt. Dirk Budd of the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office, visitors to the riverbank have reached an all-time high. But it’s not just the cars parked at the top of the falls or clustered in the post office parking lot that indicate the increase in visitor volume, it’s all the trash that’s being left behind.

High Falls resident Angela Braselmann recently took a morning walk with her 7-year-old son, Sam, down near the river. The pair were on the hunt to see some Northeastern water snakes, which can often be found sunning themselves on the rocks along the water.

As we walked down from the top of the falls,” Braselmann said, “we started to notice some random pieces of garbage, then a bag of charcoal torn open and strewn across the walking path.

As we continued to approach the falls we saw more and more garbage, full bags of garbage, four broken lawn chairs, even discarded food. As the breeze blew, we caught whiffs of garbage. I felt sick to my stomach and my heart. How did this beautiful place become the wasteland I held before me?” Braselmann asked. “I have been bringing my two children here to hike around since they were babies, nine years, and I have never seen it so bad. As we continued to climb over boulders and through shallow rivulets, we saw more bags of garbage, dirty diapers and tampons, Corona bottles tucked into crevices, hidden garbage, broken water guns, forgotten shoes and hats and towels. As we reached the end and headed up to the path, we came upon a massive pile of garbage by the gate, perhaps collected by other earth-conscious community members and awaiting pickup.”

Braselmann isn’t the only one noticing the uptick of litter. Richard and Carole Eppley of the High Falls Conservancy said via email that last year Sue Patterson (of the Barking Dog) had noticed a good deal of trash at the Central Hudson substation parking lot. The Conservancy jumped on it, gathering volunteers to clean up the area. The volunteers filled 12 large bags of trash and alerted Central Hudson, who licenses the property. However, according to the Eppleys, the response was less than stellar from Central Hudson, who were noncommittal as to when the trash would be picked up. DOT rose to the occasion and cleared the trash within a day.

The story illustrates a growing tension between Central Hudson, the Conservancy and Marbletown. Town supervisor Rich Parete confirmed that “the town is aware of the problems in High Falls.” Parete explained that “Central Hudson and D&H Canal Historical Society own the property leading to the creek. Central Hudson is licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and as part of their license they have to allow access for fishing and boating. We have asked them to restrict access for swimming and picnicking. Unfortunately, they refuse to restrict access for any reason. I have met with the state police and Sheriff’s Office, and both agencies say they can’t write tickets for trespassing and littering unless Central Hudson allows them to. Central Hudson needs to be a better partner and allow people who trespass and litter to be held accountable.”

Central Hudson spokesperson John Maserjian insists that Central Hudson is doing all they can to prevent littering. “Central Hudson utilizes a service to pick up and remove trash from throughout the site each week during the peak summer season. Although we ask visitors to carry out their trash, unfortunately many do not comply. We are concerned that receptacles would become an invitation for guests to leave trash behind and may create other risks associated with the containers themselves,” Maserjian said. “Central Hudson has also stepped up security patrols on the grounds for the summer season. While we would like all visitors to enjoy the property, we continue stress that swimming is prohibited and the site has a carry-in, carry out policy.”

The High Falls Conservancy supports the efforts of Parete and the Town Board members and hopes that, through coordinated efforts of both parties, the issues can be resolved. In the meantime, the High Falls Conservancy is focusing on stepping up their efforts. Last year, at the suggestion of member Rob King, the Conservancy designed and printed signs asking visitors – both in English and Spanish – to clean up their trash. This year, they have increased their efforts placing the signs along key access points as well as making, as the Eppleys put it, “personal appeals to the swimmers and visitors to please remember to remove all bottles, papers and other throw-away items.”

The trash is not only a hazard to the environment, as the Eppleys pointed out, but also brings to light other risks associated with the Rondout. “Further restrictions are needed to stem the tide of people coming in from other towns and states to swim and party at the Rondout, with little regard for the residents or the health risks of waste left after they are gone back to their homes,” she said.

All of these issues revolving around trash do not address the issue of safety to the visitor/swimmers themselves. Recent entercoccus and e-coli bacteria samples taken by Riverkeeper indicate highly contaminate water below the falls. Further, unknown currents and deep pools are extremely hazardous to swimmers, with fatalities recorded annually as a result of persons attempting to swim in the Rondout who are unfamiliar with its geological features,” the Eppleys said.

This last view is shared by Detective Lt. Budd, who said, in reference to the drowning in 2018, “I would say that particular location is the most treacherous in terms of water emergencies in our county as of now.”

The issues of illegal swimming and trash are clearly problems that are going to take a village to solve. “I teach my kids to take care of our earth because she takes care of us,” said Braselmann. “Cleaning up on Earth Day isn’t enough. I sat down on a rock before leaving, with a sullen, contemplative expression on my face. ‘This is just so sad,’ I sighed. Sam looked at me and asked, ‘What are you going to do?’ I had to do something! He depended on me; the future of our beautiful falls depends on people making their voices heard. And I never miss the opportunity to teach a valuable lesson to my child. I called the town supervisor and sent pictures, and then I called the BlueStone Press. A week later, the town supervisor’s secretary called me to let me know a meeting was soon to be held with Central Hudson concerning the garbage problem and possible solutions.

There must be a solution,” Braselmann said. “I hope by speaking up and spreading the word we can all become more aware of what is happening down there and make an effort to keep it clean, preserving this beautiful treasure, now and for future generations.”

 

8/20 Town Board meeting: Trouble with visitor trash, Special Sept. 12 meeting planned

The board discussed issues with trash and parking at Rondout Creek in High Falls, and also announced a public meeting to discuss the topic. The scheduled meeting will be at the High Falls Firehouse at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12.

“(The Town Board) invites the community ... to discuss the littering, trash and parking problem at the Rondout Creek in High Falls," according to a meeting announcement on the town website, www.marbletown.net.

Supervisor Rich Parete said one historical issue with addressing the situation has been that part of the land is owned by Central Hudson, and, recently, the company has agreed to help address the issue, while that historically hadn't been the case.

“We've been banging our heads against the wall ... for ages," board member Don LaFera said.

“Central Hudson is willing to work with the town now," Parete said, "to help us police it."

“I went there over the weekend," LaFera said. "People had just left stuff across the (Central Hudson) parking lot."

Board member Eric Stewart said groups of 50 or 60 people were coming to the creek.

“We're looking at a lot of different regulations," Stewart said.

Parete said one possibility would be parking tickets.

“We were hoping to have a resolution at this meeting ... to be able to do two hour parking," Parete said. "We don't (currently) have an ordinance."

People are parking in High Falls, bringing a cooler, and spending the day by the creek, Parete said.

“They're not from around here," he said. "They're not shopping local."

LaFera said places like Cape Cod handle similar issues by patrolling the parking rather than by patrolling the beach.

Town attorney Tracy Kellogg said the town could create a local law.

“Basically it just says that the town wants to be able to regulate ... to provide resident parking permits and specifies what the resident parking permits are," Kellogg said.

“The two-hour limitation may only be nonresidents," she said.

Parete clarified that tourism was good.

“We want good people coming (and) putting kayaks in," he said. "We're going to be able to ticket for littering."

Parete specified the issue was only during fair weather.

“This is only a 10-week problem," he said.

He suggested the board look at the issue, make suggestions, and discuss further down the road.

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