SHELTERING IN PLACE?
Roads and Trails Overwhelmed With City Tourists
By Edie Johnson
Cornwall, New Windsor, Blooming Grove – When City Folks decided this week to ‘take a ride to the Country’ as has happened in Spring and Summer for nearly a century, little did many of them expect that they would go from having a bad case of cabin fever to another, stuck in their cars for hours on the congested highways. From Palisades Parkway and the Thruway to Harriman State Park, Storm King Highway and on to Otterkill Road by the Moodna Trestle it was a country lover’s nightmare. Those who finally arrived filled (and then overfilled) the parking lots and parked in scary spots along the curvy mountain highways. Area police had enough and started ticketing and towing vehicles when they started posing safety hazards on Otterkill, where the trails begin and the view is spectacular.
As a result, one by one most of the park and trail sites around Schunnemunk Ridge, Storm King Mountain and the Hudson River and finally Harriman Park were closed until further notice.
Caption: Visitors to the Moodna Viaduct took a hike along the actual tracks, putting their lives and the lives of others in danger. It’s clearly not a tourist trail.
Meanwhile, many residents who moved to the area for its safety and bucolic splendor complained that the growing tourism that is supposed to benefit their communities may ruin them instead. From tossing trash, COVID-19 masks and gloves, to failing to follow social distancing guidelines, many of the city visitors either did not get the message, or chose not to follow it.
Earlier plans for local tourist overflow to drive on a little farther also failed when Minnewaska sites and trails were also closed. And those who counted on Great Wolf Lodge for a stayover, or an afternoon at Legoland this Summer may be faced with having to make other plans as well, since Legoland will not be able to finish construction until next year, and the hopes of having a Blooming Grove-Chester/Great Wolf Resort area are stalled because of a lawsuit filed by Kiryas Joel against Chester.
Bottom line is that Orange County is going to have to take a good look at its growing Tourism industry, decide whether an where to add more trails and parking, and look for some alternative places for visitors to go when the trails are for one reason or another off-limits
As promising treatments come down the pike for COVID-19, such as the good news yesterday of early Remdesivir treatment results along with other medicines being studied and possible early vaccines, thousands of people in New York City and the surrounding suburbs are even more likely to want to take day trips. Orange County, and specifically Storm King Mountain, Schunnemunk Ridge, Goosepond Park, Black Rock Forest and Minnewaska north are going to have to step up to a new challenge with extra safety precautions and ways to control the influx of people without either ruining their fun trip, turning around and going back home, or ruining the scenery. There is even talk of a likely housing boom coming like the one after the tragedies of 911. City folk simply are facing the downsides of high density living, and many of them want out.
Our fledgling thriving Tourism Program took a big hit this week, and unless some creative resources are developed and implemented soon, you can bet on the look dad will give mom on the next sunny Friday night in NYC or Brooklyn when mom says “Hey honey, you wanna take a ride up to the country tomorrow?”