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February 18, 1999

Contact: Geoffrey Ryan (718/595-5371)

New York City Issues Preliminary Report on Recreational Use of Water Supply Lands

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently submitted a report entitled "Preliminary Recreational Use Review" to the Watershed Protection and Partnership Council, DEP Commissioner Joel A. Miele Sr., P.E., announced today. The report was developed in accordance with the New York City Watershed Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), which calls for the City "to undertake both preliminary and comprehensive reviews of existing and potential recreational uses on currently owned City property."

"This preliminary report is the most comprehensive study ever undertaken on recreational use of New York City's watershed lands," said Commissioner Miele, "and it represents the culmination of a tremendous amount of cooperative work by DEP staff and many interested organizations and individuals. It makes available for the first time a wide-ranging review of the City's holdings, which serve to provide some of the highest quality water in the world while accommodating exceptional recreational opportunities for the public."

The report includes an extensive overview of the historical and existing recreational uses of City water supply lands in the Catskill and Delaware Watersheds, both east and west of the Hudson River. Through DEP's existing permit and license system, fishing, and boating for the purpose of fishing have been allowed historically on all lakes and reservoirs already in the water supply system and hunting is approved on sections of currently-owned lands around the Cannonsville Reservoir. Other activities, such as walking, bird watching, and roller-blading, are allowed in smaller designated areas and will continue under the preliminary decisions outlined in the report.

Based on the water quality impacts associated with existing recreational uses, the report makes preliminary recommendations for recreational uses — principally hiking, hunting, and fishing — on the City's newly acquired lands.

"The primary goal for these lands is water supply protection," said Commissioner Miele. "That is why we bought them. Recreation on water supply lands can be an additional public benefit when it is clearly compatible with water quality protection. Accordingly, DEP also did an extensive review of the practices of over 25 other water supply organizations around the country. Most suppliers, particularly those which do not filter their water, take a very conservative approach towards recreation, either not allowing it at all or allowing it only under permit."

"The permit and partnership systems proposed by the City in this report lay the framework for opening up thousands of acres to public recreational use," continued Commissioner Miele. "The City is establishing a more liberal policy than most other suppliers of unfiltered water on newly acquired lands. As the report points out, substantial portions of the 73 parcels so far acquired are recommended as being open to hunting, hiking, fishing and similar activities.

The report provides for a new, improved and expanded permit system, as well as a system of partnership opportunities for local organizations to install and maintain recreational "improvements," such as trails and informational kiosks. It also includes sections on many other features related to the water supply system and recreational uses.

"This is a preliminary report," said Commissioner Miele, "and comments from interested parties continue to be welcome."

To obtain a copy of the report, phone: 914/657-5773. Comments may be sent to the Land Acquisition & Stewardship Program, P. O. Box 370, Shokan, NY 12481.


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