Behaving badly on the scenic byway

By LINDA DROLLINGER
Posted 8/4/20

CALLICOON, NY — Littering, loitering, speeding and graffiti have become so commonplace in Route 97’s famous Hawk’s Nest vista area that Deerpark police chief Richard Sztyndor calls …

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Behaving badly on the scenic byway

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CALLICOON, NY — Littering, loitering, speeding and graffiti have become so commonplace in Route 97’s famous Hawk’s Nest vista area that Deerpark police chief Richard Sztyndor calls these bad behaviors “normal.” Speaking at the July 27 Upper Delaware Scenic Byway (UDSB) meeting, hosted by Catskill Provisions in Callicoon, Sztyndor said, “Since Memorial Day, things are getting back to normal; normal is not that great.”

Sztyndor acknowledges that increased tourist traffic to the Hawk’s Nest has brought with it old and new policing challenges. Driving too fast through a treacherous stretch of curvy road has been a problem since that roadway’s completion, one that the current posted speed limit of 55 mph fails to address. “At the request of local officials, the state is conducting a traffic study to determine if the speed limit should be reduced to 35 mph,” said Szytyndor, noting that those studies can take a year or more to complete.

Publicly thanking the National Park Service (NPS) for one patrol car stationed at Hawk’s Nest each weekend, Sztyndor went on to say that loitering in the viewshed pull-offs along Hawk’s Nest has created a traffic hazard and contributes to the littering and graffiti that deface the area. So prevalent has it become that the Town of Deerpark has proposed an ordinance that would limit pull-off parking to 15 minutes per car.

The big question on everyone’s lips was, “What can be done to prevent and remove graffiti?” Because Route 97 is a state highway, New York State Department of Transportation is responsible for its removal. But someone noted that, before filming one of many television commercials in the Hawk’s Nest, the commercial production company painted over existing graffiti, so that it appeared to be unspoiled stone. “Yeah, we need more commercials,” said someone, to which Sztyndor replied that four commercials and two feature-length films were shot in the Hawk’s Nest in 2018.

As UDSB grapples with the age-old challenge of preserving an area of natural beauty for posterity while encouraging the public to visit and enjoy it, Deerpark representative Ginny Dudko put the sentiment into words, “Hawk’s Nest is one of the Upper Delaware’s big draws and our byway gem.”

The group then turned its attention to a UDSB initiative largely ignored during the past two years, vista clearing. Chair John Pizzolato called Highland alternate representative Debra Conway at home to hear firsthand her proposal for a multi-phase vista clearing project that she hopes will blend nature walk, eagle watch and local history into a memorable experience.

Executive director of the Delaware Company, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to local history education, Conway articulated that the proposal of selective viewshed clearing will enable developing a walking trail between the National Park Service D&H Towpath Trail which ends south of Roebling’s Delaware Aqueduct and the Highland River Access which is home of the Barbara Yeaman Eagle Observation Blind, creating a three-mile loop trail. It will connect to the iconic and historic Roebling Bridge, NPS Zane Grey Museum and tell the story of the significant role of the D&H Canal in American history. Inspired by the statue of a little girl leading a mule along a canal towpath, Conway learned that, in addition to fueling the industrial revolution, the D&H Canal relied on child labor for its operation, exploiting and injuring many local children before the advent of child labor laws. 

The vision is to extend a trail with benches along the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River that will link historic sites, and highlight the 1828-1898 operation of the Delaware & Hudson Canal through interpretive signage and eventually a unique, life-size bronze statue of a girl leading a mule team along the towpath.

The unexpectedly high cost of clearing the land of brush decrees that it be done in stages over a multi-year period. Of two bids received for land clearing, the first seemed high at $30,000, until the second came in at $50,000.

UDSB, Inc. committed $10,000 of its $11,000 allocation for vista clearing in its 2020 budget.

This article was updated on August 13 and corrected the spelling of Deerpark police chief Richard Sztyndor's name and clarified that the  Enhanced Vista clearing project proposed by the Delaware Company would develop a walking trail between the National Park Service D&H Towpath Trail which ends south of Roebling’s Delaware Aqueduct and the Highland River Access. 

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