Harriman-Bear Mountain Trails Access Report and Recommendations
Report and recommendations from the Harriman-Bear Mountain Trails Access Committee regarding trail access in the Park
November 17, 2014 Update: See Committee's summary of recent activities.
The Trail Conference received a number of complaints this winter (2014) concerning Harriman - Bear Mountain Parks. The closure of Route 106 prevented access to many parking spots, including the heavily-used White Bar lot. Some users perceive that an increased number of parking tickets are being issued. Others expressed feelings that the park personnel are insensitive to park users or questioned the commitment to the hiking community and priorities of the Trail Conference.
In response, Edward Goodell, Executive Director of the Trail Conference, and Jim Hall, Executive Director of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, agreed that the Trail Conference should assemble a committee to review the complaints, identify areas for improvement, prepare a list of recommendations for the Park, follow-up with the Park, and serve as a conduit for input from Trail Conference members. The Access Committee members are: Bob Fuller (Chair), Peter Tilgner (Vice-Chair), Sona Mason (Trail Conference staff), Debbie Bell, Dave Hogenauer, John Mack and Susan Sterngold. These individuals are active hikers and volunteers within Harriman-Bear Mountain State Parks as well as members of clubs that are active in the park: ADK, AMC, harrimanhike, and Union County Hiking Club.
The committee solicited input from the hiking community at the Trail Conference's Winter Meeting, via the Trail Conference weekly E-Walker, and through requests publicized by several member clubs and hiking groups. The committee reviewed the complaints and suggestions that the Trail Conference received, and has held frequent meetings, beginning in mid-February. They reviewed "Parking" areas and policies in the park including signage, usage, and winter plowing. They developed suggestions for improvements including proposing potential new or expanded parking areas, better signage, more winter plowing and access, and shared use for winter activities on unplowed sections of Lake Welch Drive and Tiorati Brook Road.
On April 22, the committee met with Jim Hall, Executive Director of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, and David Barone, General Park Manager. State highway design requirements and safety concerns limit the park's ability to grant some of our requests—e.g., designation of roadside parking in areas with limited line-of-sight visibility and shared winter use of roads by snowmobiles with skiers or hikers. However, while the park is unable to plow Route 106 due to limited park equipment and personnel, they are negotiating with Tuxedo to pay the town to keep Route 106 open during the winter.
The park also agreed to consider expanding and improving existing parking areas where feasible, adding several new small rustic (no bathrooms or other user facilities) parking areas to allow additional access to existing trails, and approving connecting trails that would link existing Lake Welch and Kanawauke Boat Launch parking areas with the existing trail network.
Additionally, they will be working to improve signage to indicate pedestrian (hiker) crossings, directions to parking areas, and the reason for road or parking area closures.
Independent of this committee’s work, the park has made many recent improvements, e.g., re-paving roads, paving the Elk Pen, and keeping the south lot at Anthony Wayne open (not plowed) during the winter.
As of the date of this memo, the park has already begun paving and enlarging the Sebago Boat Launch parking lot, and repairing the parking lots along Route 106 at the Ramapo-Dunderberg and Victory Trail trailheads. The White Bar trailhead parking area is also now on the park's spring project schedule.
It is important for our members to recognize the access improvements that the park has already made as well as to publicize to our members those that are planned. We realize that the park may be unable to follow through with all of our recommendations, but we look forward to working with them to identify short- and long-range goals.
We also think it is important for our members to understand that the park does minimal winter plowing (typically one lane) of the seasonally closed roads where emergency access may be required. This plowing is insufficient for safe winter travel.
The Committee is actively working with park officials on these proposals. The Trail Conference and Harriman-Bear Mountain Trails Access Committee welcome continued discussion with our constituency—the members and clubs whom the Trail Conference represents. We will continue to share with you our efforts, and welcome your input and support. Email Sona Mason.
Submitted by the NY-NJ Trail Conference Harriman-Bear Mountain Trails Access Committee: Bob Fuller (Chair), Peter Tilgner (Vice-Chair), Sona Mason (Trail Conference staff), Debbie Bell, David Hogenauer, John Mack, and Susan Sterngold