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Greene County residents frustrated over growing trash problems in Catskills

Jill Konopka
Updated: July 19, 2020 12:15 PM
Created: July 19, 2020 10:51 AM

HUNTER, NY- People in Greene County are fed up and frustrated with the growing garbage problem at the Kaaterskill Falls and Clove area of the Catskills. Many will be attending a meeting on Monday night in Tannersville to discuss the issue that has become unbearable for residents with what is believed to be an influx of “out of towners” looking to escape Coronavirus downstate and in New York City.

Shane Valcich lives at the top of the mountain in Hunter and has been documenting and cleaning up the trash with his fiancée Katie Lenseth.

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“There is garbage in every nook, in every cranny. And then of course just left in the wide open. That’s not even the bad part. It’s just everywhere, everywhere. Garbage everywhere," he said.

Valcich says he is hoping to attend that meeting.

“We live in a beautiful area of the Catskills, and we have so many tourists now that the garbage is becoming overwhelming," he said.

Valcich took it upon himself to start documenting the situation and posting his videos online for all to see.

“We’re under Morris Bridge. Take a look there is garbage everywhere. Garbage. Garbage. Baby diapers, toys, shoes, and the amount of plastic in the ground, insane," he said in one video.

Valcich and his fiancée embrace the tourists and even help them navigate the unfamiliar territory to them when they visit.

NewsChannel 13 captured huge crowds in the area and cars saturating the state highway along with New York State Troopers and local police patrolling the area.

The problem, the couple says, is the picnickers, not the hikers.

“They’re unloading cooking gear, and barbecues right on side of road. If we can solve the litter problem, I don’t see any problem in people enjoying this place,” Valcich added at an interview at his home in Hunter Saturday afternoon.

Valcich and his fiancé, along with their neighbors and members of the Department Of Environmental Conservation, are constantly cleaning up,

“I pick up garbage all the time all over the place. It is frustrating but this is almost a new level of frustrating. It gets destroyed, cleaned up and then the very next weekend it gets destroyed again. And that’s a brand-new thing…feces. You’re supposed to bury it. Now it’s my job," he said in a video.

Valcich estimates as many as 2,000 visitors come on any given weekend. There is no public bathroom nearby.

So thousands like Valcich, have signed an online petition asking for help.

“We either need to solve it or shut it down I guess. It seems we can’t have nice things like this. Bags of garbage floating down the creeks," he said.

“The garbage becoming impossible to deal with and if they’re not willing to put in labor do themselves and get rid of it themselves, I don’t know if we can continue to have places that are nice.” Valcich added.

Below is information the State Department of Environmental Conservation sent to NewsChannel 13:

During the State’s ongoing response to COVID-19, New Yorkers are desperate for a chance to get outside, change up the scenery, and get a breath of fresh air. It’s great that so many people are enjoying the outdoors this summer, but it’s disheartening to see litter and garbage left behind,” Commissioner Seggos said. “It’s a simple fix. Whatever you bring in with you should leave with you as well. Play Smart * Play Safe * Play Local this summer and follow the principles of Leave No Trace.

Litter is both an eyesore and poses a danger to local wildlife and delicate ecosystems. DEC is encouraging visitors to the State’s natural areas and facilities to keep New York’s environment clean by properly disposing of waste. Follow these tips to Leave No Trace:

  1. Carry out what you carry in. Don’t leave trash, food, gear, or any other personal belongings behind.
  2. Trash your trash. Use designated receptacles when available or carry your trash in a small bag so you can throw it out at home. Never put trash in outhouses or porta-potties.
  3. Use designated bathroom facilities when available. If traveling, use the rest areas closest to your destination before you arrive. Learn how to dig a cat hole (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-Ej5m6gr1U) and properly dispose of your human waste for the times when nature calls and a bathroom is not available.
  4. During the COVID-19 public health crisis, take extra precautions when picking up trash you find on the trail. Wear gloves and make sure to hand sanitize when you are done.

Earlier this summer, DEC and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) launched the PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL Campaign to encourage all New Yorkers to recreate safely, responsibly, and locally this summer and to always treat fellow outdoor adventurers with respect. The campaign invites people to take the PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL pledge, and promise to use common sense to protect themselves and others when enjoying the outdoors. During the State’s ongoing response to COVID-19, New Yorkers across the state want and need to get outside for a nature break, which is good for physical and mental health. The campaign and pledge include common sense guidelines for smart and safe recreation, including incorporating social distancing and wearing a face mask, planning trips ahead, choosing a destination close to home because public restrooms and restaurants may not be open, and visiting at off hours. The agencies are also encouraging New Yorkers to take the pledge and use the hashtag #PlaySmartPlaySafePlayLocal when sharing their outdoor adventures on social media.

Take the Pledge to PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL: Enjoy the Outdoors Safely and Responsibly

    1. I pledge to respect the rules and do my part to keep parks, beaches, trails, boat launches, and other public spaces safe for everyone.
    2. I will stay local and close to home.
    3. I will maintain a safe distance from others outside of my household.
    4. I will wear a mask when I cannot maintain social distancing.
    5. I accept that this summer, I may have to adjust how I enjoy the outdoors to help keep myself and others healthy and safe, even if it means changing my plans to visit a public space.
    6. I will be respectful of others by letting them pass by me if needed on a trail and keeping my blanket ten feet apart from others on the beach.
    7. I will move quickly through shared areas like parking lots, trailheads, and scenic areas to avoid crowding.
    8. If I’m not feeling well, I will stay home.

New Yorkers are strongly advised to plan their outdoor adventures ahead of time and choose alternate destinations if their first choice is closed or crowded. Check parks.ny.gov and 511 for park capacity closure alerts and visit the DECinfo locator to find the nearest DEC-managed lands. DEC and State Parks websites also feature guidelines to help New Yorkers safely engage in outdoor activities including swimming, hunting, fishing, boating, golf, and hiking. Indoor spaces and restrooms at State Parks and DEC public facilities may remain closed out of an abundance of caution to prevent community spread of COVID-19, so New Yorkers are encouraged to stay local, within their region, and use the #RecreateLocal hashtag on social media.

Watch Jill Konopka's story in the video above. 


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