NARROWSBURG, NY — The old expression “there’s safety in numbers” doesn’t seem to apply to Route 97 between Barryville and Port Jervis. Especially not during summer 2020, …
NARROWSBURG, NY — The old expression “there’s safety in numbers” doesn’t seem to apply to Route 97 between Barryville and Port Jervis. Especially not during summer 2020, when more people are visiting the Upper Delaware region than ever before.
At an August 18 byway safety forum convened by the Upper Delaware Council’s (UDC) water use and resource management committee, Ingrid Peterec of the National Park Service (NPS) presented traffic counter statistics from Upper Delaware public access sites for years 20l8 through July 2020. This year’s number represents a 249 percent increase over the 2018 figure for the Mongaup access alone. Interestingly, she observed that some of that increased usage is by local residents.
Mongaup’s traffic counter recorded 3,089 vehicles in 2018; through July 31, 2020, the vehicle count was 10,783. That dramatic increase in both vehicular and pedestrian traffic on Route 97 and its feeder roads in the Upper Delaware gateway area has resulted in safety hazards that Sullivan County District 2 Legislator Nadia Rajsz calls “accidents waiting to happen.”
But, as UDC Deerpark representative Dave Dean noted, some of those accidents haven’t waited, particularly at the Hawk’s Nest. “The Hawk’s Nest is an attractive nuisance,” said Dean, “People fly off there all the time. One guy went all the way down to the river. He’s lucky to be alive.”
Deerpark police chief Richard Sztyndor said his town board, acutely aware of the road hazards posed by the Hawk’s Nest, has asked New York State Department of Transportation to lower the current posted speed limit of 55 mph, even as the town has adopted an ordinance limiting parking time at the vista pull-offs. Sztyndor thinks that time limit is now 15 minutes.
Rajsz is also concerned with pedestrian safety, observing that limited parking at river access sites has led to illegal parking along Route 97, especially in the Knight’s Eddy vicinity near the Indian Head Canoes base. Forced to park ever farther from access sites, pedestrians from those vehicles are walking along, and across, Route 97.
New York State Police Lieutenant Kyle Kroeger said parking on Route 97 shoulders is permitted for emergencies only. Parking for any other reason is illegal. But police, UDC representatives and Upper Delaware Scenic Byway representatives were agreed that “No Parking” signs will do little to deter illegal parking.
Rajsz proposed a solution: increase legal access site parking. Although opposite the access site is the private property of Eagle Creek Renewable Energy, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) owns a large parcel bounding the Eagle Creek Renewable Energy property. Rajsz suggested that the DEC may be amenable to dedicating a portion of that parcel to access site parking.
To realize Rajsz’s proposal and improve byway safety in general, the UDC agreed to appoint a subcommittee charged with recommending safety enhancements. Many of those recommendations will be tried-and-true road safety measures, such as traffic lights to temper traffic speed and regulate its flow. But it’s unlikely that any of those recommendations will be implemented this year, so Berlin UDC representative Al Henry asked if, for the remainder of this summer, NYDOT would post electronic signs warning oncoming traffic of “congestion, heavy use area ahead.