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August 20, 2014
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Mixed messages in the local economy

Problematic river levels had fallen some by Monday afternoon, but these river rafters pictured in Barryville, NY still chose to stick close to shore. A frequently rain-swollen river has had an negativei impact on the recreational economy in our area this summer.


As the nation’s economy rebounds, an unscientific survey of business in the Upper Delaware this week has provided mixed results.

Recreation and the second-home industry traditionally lead the river valley’s economy.

Milford, PA realtor Davis R. Chant said the market so far this year is ahead of last year. “In 50 years in the business, I’ve seen a series of peaks and valleys. The years from 1997 to 2007 led to a peak,” which was followed by a multi-year decline.
Chant said this year has seen prices again start to climb, “with many exceptional values and interest rates better than they have been.”

“There have been a fair number of cash sales, and people with good credit are getting 3.5% to 4% financing.” Underpriced real estate is a lure for some long-term money from bonds with smaller returns, he said.

But some sellers are waiting for more. “People who bought $300,000 homes between 2000 and 2007 are seeing similar homes going for less, and they are holding back. They’d like to break even,” he said.

Associate broker Diane Butler of Eagle Valley Realty in Narrowsburg, NY, said, “We’ve seen the market pick up. House sales are increasing and prices are better. Foreclosures seem to be winding down.”

Memories of banking failures that led to the recession have not gone away.am seeing more cash buyers and loans through credit unions. Many people still seem to be angry about the banks’ role in the recent recession,” Butler said.

She said the increase in cash sales has helped some sellers. “All the foreclosures and short sales brought appraisals down, and buyers with cash are more understanding about the appraisal issue.”

Through the first half of 2013 in Sullivan County, some major retail and service industries have not shared in the mild recovery seen in neighboring Orange and Ulster counties.

Sullivan collected $8.30 million in sales taxes from April to June of this year, down from the $8.32 million collected a year ago. Over the first six months, sales tax revenues fell 2.56% in 2013.

The valley’s major livery operators agree that a wet June contributed to problems locally.

Upper Delaware National Park Service Superintendent Sean McGuinness reported a 40% decline in visitation in June.

“The river’s been running over six feet [at the Barryville gage] regularly,” said Rick Lander of Landers River Trips. Canoes, kayaks and tubes go unused in high water. “We can’t launch anything but rafts when the river is six feet.” Lander said his campground business was similarly impacted. “Would you want to go camping in the rain?”

Lander said the heat wave that accompanied the July 4th holiday helped, and the last few weeks of July have “picked up… from horrible.”

Kittatinny Canoes and Campgrounds owner Dave Jones agreed with Lander’s conclusions about the weather, but said the problems go deeper. “The weather is not cooperating, but people don’t have the money to spend. They’ve lost jobs and had hours cut. It impacts everything, even a relatively inexpensive activity like ours. They’re not spending money as they used to,” Jones said.
Despite the apparent downturn in traditional river recreation, some retailers say the traffic on the highway remains heavy.

Peter Merendino of Il Castello Restaurant in Barryville says business “isn’t like it was five or six years ago, but we’re still doing okay.”

Janet Ebers of Barryville’s River Market said 2013 has been a good year, “running close to last year,” which was also a good year. She said the road traffic has been heavy all season long and the store has been getting a lot of return business. The upturn has also translated to better work for store employees.

“I’ve got a few less employees, but we had more part-timers in past. Now, everyone who wants to work full-time is working full-time,” she said.