IMPROVEMENTS ENHANCE RECREATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR VISITORS TO CATSKILL MOUNTAINS AND POPULAR RED HILL FIRE TOWER
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the opening of the new Red Hill Fire Tower trail and parking lot in the Catskill Forest Preserve. The newly constructed lot, trail, and informational kiosk are located in Ulster County on Denning Road in the Town of Denning and will improve access to the scenic Red Hill Fire Tower and other features at DEC’s Sundown Wild Forest. The announcement was made on Catskill Park Day, Feb. 9, 2021.
“This new trailhead parking lot and hiking trail will make it easier to visit the historic Red Hill Fire Tower, enhancing year-round access to an outstanding view of the southern Catskills,” Commissioner Seggos said. “With support from the State’s Environmental Protection Fund and partnerships with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and the town of Denning, this project bolsters Governor Cuomo’s sustained efforts to connect more New Yorkers to the outdoors and world-class destinations like the Catskills.”
The new trail improves access to the Red Hill Fire Tower, a popular hiking destination in the Catskills, which is one of the fire towers featured in Governor Cuomo’s Catskills Fire Tower Five Challenge (leaves DEC’s website). After entering into a land use permit agreement with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Tahawus Trails built the newly established blue-blazed trail that traverses both city and State Forest Preserve lands through rocky outcroppings and hemlock-laden forests. The 1.4 miles of trail intersects with the existing trail, leading up to the 60-foot tall Red Hill Fire Tower that was constructed in 1920. Hikers can climb nine flights of stairs to the top for unsurpassed views of the Catskill peaks and Rondout Reservoir.
The parking lot (leaves DEC’s website) was constructed by DEC Operations staff to accommodate up to 10 cars. The trail is located approximately four miles east of the intersection of West Brand and Claryville roads.
Across the state, volunteer-based initiatives are working to help protect New York’s fire towers. These initiatives recognize the towers represent New York’s history and heritage of forest protection and are a resource with the potential to attract visitors. The Catskill Center’s Catskill Fire Tower Project volunteers, under a Volunteer Stewardship Agreement with DEC, help maintain, support, and advocate for the Catskill fire towers, including Red. Volunteers staff the towers on weekends throughout the summer and fall, opening the cab and interpreting the view from the tower.
Jeff Senterman, Executive Director of Catskill Center, said, “The new trailhead parking area and trail to the Red Hill Fire Tower is a great example of the growing cooperation between the NYSDEC and the NYCDEP to expand public access to the lands of the Catskill Park. The new trail offers year-round access to Red Hill for those who wish to enjoy one of the best views in the southern Catskills, along with a larger trailhead parking area to accommodate the growing number of visitors. Our volunteers in the Catskill Fire Tower Project look forward to greeting visitors enjoying the new route to the Fire Tower this summer, and we look forward to featuring the new trail at the Catskills Visitor Center.”
“Fire towers are an integral part of the Catskill Park’s history and visitors flock from around New York and beyond to be rewarded by the beautiful vistas they take in after climbing and reaching the top. The number of visitors to the Park has only increased in the past few years, and Catskill Mountainkeeper applauds New York State and the Department of Environment of Environmental Conservation for investing in important assets like fire towers, trail construction, and parking lots like that at the Red Hill Fire Tower to accommodate these welcome guests,” said Ramsay Adams, Catskill Mountainkeeper’s Executive Director.
The State’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) provided $134,500 to build the new Red Hill Fire Tower parking lot and trail. Governor Cuomo’s 2021-22 Executive Budget sustains EPF funding at $300 million. Under Governor Cuomo’s Adventure NY initiative (PDF, 10.5 MB), DEC is making strategic investments to expand access to healthy, active outdoor recreation, connect more New Yorkers and visitors to nature and the outdoors, protect natural resources, and boost local economies. Read more about Adventure NY (PDF, 10.5 MB).
Senator Mike Martucci said, “The opening of the Red Hill Fire Tower trail right here in the 42nd senate district is a tremendous boon for residents, tourists, avid adventurers, and weekend warriors alike. With the historic and namesake Red Hill Fire Tower as the featured attraction, it will prove to be a winning addition to the greater Catskill Forest Preserve’s assortment of trails. I commend NYS DEC, Governor Cuomo, and the Catskill Center volunteers for their efforts in turning this project into a reality, and I look forward to working with them on advancing their overall mission to conserve and enhance our state’s natural beauty.”
Assemblyman Brian Miller said, “The new trail and parking lot at the Red Hill Fire Tower in the Catskill Forest Preserve is a welcome improvement for Ulster County residents and regional hikers alike. As New Yorkers look for healthy ways to get out and explore our state during the pandemic, our trail systems have been a popular outlet. I am pleased to support this initiative, and thank the DEC for their partnership in helping to improve tourism and outdoor recreation in our community.”
“Ulster County is proud to represent the best the Catskills has to offer, including the popular Red Hill Fire Tower in the Town of Denning, that offers amazing views of the Catskills and great hiking trails,” said Pat Ryan, Ulster County Executive. “Ulster County applauds DEC’s partnership with NYCDEP to help bring this new parking lot and trail to our area that will provide expanded recreational opportunities for county residents and visitors alike.”
Town of Denning Supervisor Dave Brooks said, “The Town of Denning is happy to have partnered with the NYSDEC and the NYCDEP in establishing the new Red Hill Fire Tower parking lot and trail. The new parking area will provide enhanced safety for our local residents, as well as, our visitors, when the seasonal access from Dinch road, is closed.”
Governor Cuomo’s commitment to protect public lands and improve recreational opportunities for visitors includes Adventure NY, Parks 2020, Outdoors Day, First Time Camper, Hike with Us-Catskills, and the Catskills Fire Tower Five Challenge. As a result, visits to the Catskills are on the rise. Trails in the Catskills have seen a 60 percent increase in use between 2007 and 2017. Overall, tourism in the Adirondack and Catskill parks are up 22 percent since 2011. In October, DEC built on Governor Cuomo’s commitment to protect high traffic public lands for future generations by creating a Catskills Strategic Planning Advisory Group to sustainably manage Catskill Park resources and help balance public use needs.
From the NYSDEC – Original press release posted at www.dec.ny.gov/press/122341.html
DEC Region 3 Office – Wendy Rosenbach
21 South Putt Corners Road
New Paltz, NY 12561