New York’s Catskill Region with its thick forest and heroic mountains, including 600,000 acres Catskill Park, lies west of the Hudson River. Legendary mountains, winding valleys and streams are always a heaven for nature lovers, adventurers and tourists. Belleayre Mountain, renowned for its skiing activities lies in the heart of Catskills Forest Preserve. Ulster, Sullivan, Delaware and Greene are the four primary counties of the region.
Catskill Area Map
Ulster is the closest county to the New York City, has great Mountain Views, houses from 1700s -1800s and is adjacent to Catskill Park. Home prices are higher here when compared to other counties. Delaware County is composed of rustic landscape with three beautiful hamlets – Delhi, Andes and Margaretville, a charming country town with classic farmhouses. Cannonsville and Pepacton are the two major reservoirs that contribute to the New York City’s water supply.
Street in Margaretville
The region blessed with all rural beauty and rich cultural American history is endangered with development pressures and significant environmental impact. It experiences a growing trend of suburbanization. There is a remarkable difference of housing values between the communities that are closely united to the New York City and those that are not. Commercialization also continues to grow. Developer Dean Gitter is envisioning a large-scale project in the Belleayre Mountains comprising Wild Acres Hotels, Davis Love III designed Golf Course, Highmount Hotel and Spa. The master plan includes 400 lodging units in the hotels and 219 distributed across the property. There is definitely a beneficial side of the project that it will boost the local economy, tourism industry and create jobs.
However, there are concerns from the region’s coalition members, local communities and residents. The eight years construction period of the project will affect the existing residents. The massive scale of the development will be incompatible to the prevailing beautiful vista. Dense development in steep slope increases the chances of storm surge run off posing a threat to the life and property of the residents. The proposed hotels in the mountain area would drain in to the pepacton reservoir putting the New York City’s unfiltered water system at stake. There will also be adverse impact on wild life, habitat, traffic and consequences on depending water for construction.
Ashokan reservoir in Ulster County is one of the deepest and man-made reservoirs in the Catskill watershed, providing water to the New York City. When it was constructed in the early 1900s, eleven villages and thousands of acres of farmlands vanished to create room for the reservoir. Though natural gas drilling is banned in New York watersheds, primary aquifers and lakes, ‘Fracking’ is another critical issue of the region. The gas rich Marcellus shale is found in Delaware River basin in western Sullivan County and Southern Tier where hydraulic fracturing is permitted. In spite of the economic benefit, critics indicate that chemical leaks at the surface affect the groundwater, industrial waste produced are hazardous and the drilling pollutes the air.
The Catskill Village is clearly deficient of adequate lodging, grocery and convenience stores, restaurants, parking, basic goods, retail and tourism businesses. However, the region is bestowed with rolling hills, ponds, lakes and forested mountains with rich history. There should be an even-handed approach to environmental protection and economic development.