Park Service Presentation To Sandyston
Wednesday, September 12, 2012 • 10:05pm
SANDYSTON TOWNSHIP, NJ – John Donohue of the Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area asked the township committee for input into planning for the future of the park.
“As part of the [planning] process, it would be wonderful if your town helped,” he said at the Tuesday, September 11, township committee meeting.
He said the planning process, “takes into account what we hear from municipalities, environmental groups, and regulatory agencies.”
Donohue said the Pennsylvania portion of the park has more separation from state park land than New Jersey, but the park service still would purchase land between the federal state parks.
“There are some willing sellers,” Donohue said.
He said the Park System is looking mostly at Pennsylvania for outright purchases, because in New Jersey other agencies can help preserve land, like the Highlands Council or Green Acres.
The recreation area has a few problems, he admitted.
Parts are “being loved to death,” he said of the hiking trails, some of which see more people than they can handle. Although the Park Service has delegated the hiking areas to hiking clubs, they “are going to take more action regarding the trails,” he said.
One way to combat overcrowding is to provide alternate methods of transportation, Donohue said.
He said bus service, bike racks and canoe racks are planned.
Another problem in the park centers around the 800 buildings remaining, he said. “Some are decrepit, some are useful, some are historic. Various historical societies help or take care of buildings.”
There are 42 buildings in the Peter’s Valley Craft Village, he said, and more may be added.
The park service has demolished some structures, Donohue said. They took 70 down
“It’s harder to take down buildings than to put them up,” he said.
We have to comply with regulations that say if they could be used by anyone we must notify the Department of Housing and Urban Development” He characterized the buildings taken down as “rabbit hutches.”
“The first group was so far gone,” he said, but noted one house was taken off the demolition list after public outcry. “Some people use the term ‘historic,” to mean ‘what I like’,” he said, but the Park Service listens.
As for the remaining buildings in the recreation area, he said, “We are going to have an open and thorough process for buildings some people may be interested in.”
“We need to look further in the future than tomorrow or next year,” he said.
Donohue acknowledged the Sierra Club would like to see the recreation area become a park, “but we told them the area is best served by a different model.” A park would not allow hunting.
“We authorize hunting and fishing areas, even trapping although there isn’t much of that," Donohue said.
He said the Delaware Water Gap is the only recreation area with significant hunting in the entire National Park System.
To make any changes, “all constituencies would have to agree.”
Mayor George Harper said, “If and when a study is done on that, Sandyston would be an active player.”
“We would like to see a study on whether Route 209, and part of Route 611 in Pennsylvania should be a park road like the Blue Ridge Highway,” Donohue said.
Harper told Donohue a lot of people in the township will be opposed to anything that limits activities in the park. He said the township would be glad to provide input, especially on the infrastructure in the park because those roads “are how we get around here.”
Donohue characterized the residents on the New Jersey side of the part as “expect[ing] so little and so grateful when we do something for them.”
One problem the park is having with a constituent involves the Calno Schoolhouse in the former village of Calno in Hardwick Township (formerly in Pahaquarry Township before it was absorbed into Hardwick). The Park System would like to move the schoolhouse to Millbrook Village, but the state Historic Preservation Commission is opposed to any move for the school which later served as the municipal offices of Pahaquarry Township.
Donohue promised the township committee the dialogue would continue.
“We will see how we fit in with your plans to be a gateway community,” he said.