Our second installment of Portraits and Stories happens this Saturday, July 7 at Blue Hole in Peekamoose. This is an unusual location for this project which normally requires a quiet corner with chairs and a table. Why are we doing this at a  swimming hole?

The story of Blue Hole made the national stage when it began surfacing on the internet several years ago as one of the top swimming holes. The rapid increase in visitors has affected the stream on many levels, from littering to social apprehension. Luckily, the Catskill region is home to committed and concerned residents, has a long history of handling visitors and a network of nonprofits and institutions with skillsets to work with problems like this. So it’s not surprising that in each year since the first spike in visitors, we’ve seen new steps and attempts in limiting the negative impact of tourism.

This year, a coalition among the Catskill Center, the Rondout Neversink Stream Program(sponsor of Catskill Waters), New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Adirondack Mountain Club, and the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, started a new stewardship program. Throughout the summer, visitors will find stewards at the trail head, handing out information about how to minimize the impact.

Another big change is that starting June 30, permits are needed to use the site. There is no cost to permits, but registration of at least 24 hours in advance is required.

While steady progress has been made to minimize the environmental impact, not much has been discussed about the social and psychological aspects of this change.

-Many local residents were first introduced to the Catskills as outdoor recreationists. Would today’s visitors become tomorrow’s stewards?

-Now that outreach and educational programs are working, how do we take this further and weave it into the national conversation about the land use and conservation?

-The social media is attracting people from much wider demographics and backgrounds than in the past. What are their stories? What are their parks like? How do people enjoy outdoors when they are at home? We may find clues in these stories for going forward.

These questions are the motivation behind our event this Saturday. Check back in a week for our report!