In an effort to save a key piece of the the Catskill’s Mountaintop economic puzzle, county and local officials are rallying to keep state-run Devil’s Tombstone Campground open through 2010.
Greene County legislators recently unanimously approved a request to New York state to reconsider closing the Devil’s Tombstone Campground in Hunter, according to the Catskill Daily Mail.
“People who camp there, often find themselves in our local communities,” said county Legislator Larry Gardner, “on the Main Streets of Hunter and Tannersville.”
The campground, located amidst Route 214’s Stony Clove, has been slated for closure along with six others throughout the state due to a massive $8 billion state budget deficit.
“It’s unfortunate that the fiscal shape of New York finds itself that a proposal would be present to close some of our open space, day use and camping areas,” said Hunter Town Supervisor Dennis Lucas. “We have built around economy around our open spaces.”
Lucas said the closure of the campground could have a ripple effect throughout the community’s business environment.
The Greene County Legislature as also recognized the importance to the local Hunter economy, stating in the resolution that “closure of the facility would have detrimental impacts upon the local community and economy.”
The Legislature has asked that Gov. David A. Paterson and state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis reconsider the impact the campgrounds closure would have on local residents, many who own businesses dependent on seasonal and tourist traffic to the area.
“It’s very difficult to say how many jobs it would affect,” said Gardner. “Many of our jobs here are seasonal.”
“It would create an economic hardship for Hunter,” said Michael McCrary, president of the Town of Hunter Chamber of Commerce. “If they close the campground we can’t put it in any of our promotions.”
McCrary said the Devil’s Tombstone Campground has been an integral part of drawing tourism to the area, using the camping site in various promotional materials about the Hunter area.
“The North-South Lake and Devil’s Tombstone campgrounds bring people here from outside of region and the state,” said McCrary. “They’re not looking at the big picture.”
Officials are now rallying to come up with solutions to keep the campground open, while urging the state to reconsider. They have even gone as far to consider using town employees to maintain the park.
“We don’t have — given our own budgetary constraints — we don’t have the capability to staff the campground,” said Gardner.
Another alternative posed was the use of national service groups to maintain the campground and keep it operating, particularly the federal Corporation of National and Community Service’s AmeriCorps program.
Lucas said AmeriCorps has had a presence in the Catskills in the past, working closely with the DEC to maintain trails and preserve the environment.
Gardner and Lucas said they would entertain the idea of an AmeriCorps team preserving the campground, but the concept has not been proposed by state agencies.