According to research from the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce, organized outdoor activities have become the main attraction drawing visitors to our region. An increasing influx of younger people visiting and moving into the area underscores the validity of that trend.
The Catskill Mountain Club is one of the beneficiaries. Enthusiasm shown in the annual Lark in the Park 10-day celebration of the Catskill Park and its seven-county region (Sept. 29 through Oct. 8) reflected more interest than ever among people of all ages. Oneonta certainly has no shortage of young people and the “Lark” provided a perfect venue for them.
Overall, we found a record number of participants in our guided hikes, paddles, bike rides and the like. One of the main draws was the opening of New York City’s reservoirs and other land for public use, making the Catskills more of a destination unto itself. The event was co-sponsored by the CMC, The Catskill Center and the NY/NJ Trail Conference.
The first Lark event in 2004, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Catskill Park, also inspired the creation of the CMC. We felt and continue to believe our region deserves its own hiking and outdoor club. After all, the Adirondacks have one; the Green Mountains have one, and the Appalachians have one.
CMC’s goal is to offer as many (non-motorized) outdoor activities as possible throughout the year — not just hiking, biking, paddling, snowshoeing and cross country skiing, but also educational walks, family and other social events, and trail building and maintenance.
While it hasn’t been easy starting from scratch, the Catskill Mountain Club is doing it. With 800 participants receiving our emails, we’ve just incorporated as a not for profit and the next step will be to become tax-exempt. Meanwhile, we’ve been appearing at most outdoor festivals and working hard to make the Annual Lark in the Park a success.
This year, 300 people enjoyed the Lark’s activities, including paddles on the Pepacton Reservoir for the first time, and our first four-day through-hike — this time from Margaretville to Downsville. We also held our first annual dinner celebrating the Lark, which drew 65 people on a Sunday night.
All of this has been achieved with the dedicated work of volunteers, both on our 11-person board and among our participants. But we can’t survive without the entire region’s support. We need donations, which are tax-deductible (when made through the Catskill Center), to cover our plans for expansion, not just in outdoor activities but including new literature, partial staff time and other operating expenses.
To learn more, visit our website: www.catskillmountainclub.org for details on our year-round activities; on how to volunteer as an event leader or participate in our activities, including trail stewardship, and how to make a financial contribution.
Steve Berg is the president of the Catskill Mountain Club.