Recreational non-motorized boating opens on the reservoirs May 23

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New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has announced that the 2014 recreational boating program will begin Friday, May 23, on four city reservoirs in the Catskills.
The popular outdoor program, now in its third full year, has attracted thousands of boaters to paddle or sail on the Cannonsville, Pepacton, Neversink, and Schoharie reservoirs. This will also mark the second year of the boat rental program, administered by the Catskill Watershed Corporation (CWC), which allows local businesses to store and rent recreational boats alongside the reservoirs. The convenience of rental boats attracted more than 300 boaters last year, supported local businesses with thousands of dollars in new revenue, and significantly improved access for visitors to the Catskills.

Get out and enjoy
“We encourage all our neighbors in the watershed, residents of New York City, and visitors from neighboring counties and states to enjoy the scenic beauty of the Catskills through this unique boating opportunity on our reservoirs,” DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd said. “DEP’s expansion of recreational boating, hiking trails and other outdoor experiences underscores our commitment to boost the tourism economy that supports so many families who live and work in the watersheds.”
“As we approach Memorial Day, it is exciting to think about once again opening the reservoirs for the recreational boating season,” Delaware County Tourism Director Jim Thomson said. “At the governor’s annual tourism summit, I participated in a business-to-business session where I had a chance to promote the area directly to more than 30 travel wholesalers.  When I described the unspoiled beauty of the reservoirs combined with the open access to other New York City lands, it certainly peaked an interest in Delaware County that did not exist before.”

Numbers are growing
Last year, DEP issued 757 tags to boaters, including 505 kayaks, 189 canoes, 33 rowboats, 25 sailboats and five sculls. Nearly 63 percent of those tags were issued to residents of the five west-of-Hudson watershed counties, including Delaware, Greene, Schoharie, Sullivan and Ulster. About 14 percent of tags were issued to residents of New York City or Long Island. Visitors from six states also received tags, including Alabama, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Access to the reservoirs for recreational boating was made easier last year by the start of a rental program that allowed businesses to rent kayaks and canoes from 10 launch sites alongside the four reservoirs. The number of businesses participating in the rental program in 2014 has increased from seven to 11. The program is administered with significant help from CWC, which funded the acquisition of 30 storage racks for the rental boats. CWC also oversees the process to vet and approve businesses that apply to participate in the program.
Recreational boating season in the Catskills begins the Friday before Memorial Day and lasts until Columbus Day, from dawn till dusk. Boaters must have a DEP access permit that is available free of charge on DEP’s website by clicking here. All boats used on the reservoirs must also be steam cleaned by one of the 17 DEP-certified steam-cleaning vendors conveniently located across the watershed. A list of those vendors is available on the DEP website. Steam cleaning helps protect against invasive plants, animals, and microorganisms that can harm water quality and fisheries.

Boating rules
If a recreational boat is taken off reservoir property, it must be steam cleaned again before it can reenter the reservoir. Throughout the course of the recreational boating program, DEP has continuously tested water quality to ensure that none of the recreational activities has an adverse effect on New York City’s drinking water supply.
Since 2003, DEP has significantly expanded the amount of City properties within the watersheds that are open for recreation. There are now 122,205 acres open for recreation, including 88,313 acres of land and 33,892 acres of reservoirs. Of that, 59,211 acres of land are in public access areas that are open to hiking, hunting and other forms of low-impact recreation without a DEP access permit. More information about recreation in the watersheds can be found by clicking the “Watershed Recreation” link on the DEP homepage.