May 2020 Outdoor Discovery

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
DEC Delivers - Information to keep you connected and informed from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
Share or view as a web page || Update preferences or unsubscribe

May 2020 Outdoor Discovery

Enjoy the Outdoors Responsibly During COVID-19 Public Health Crisis

social distancing flierDEC and the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) are encouraging New Yorkers to engage in responsible recreation during the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis. DEC and State Parks recommendations incorporate guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the NYS Department of Health for reducing the spread of infectious diseases, including practicing physical distancing, and using common sense to protect themselves and others. In addition, DEC and State Parks launched a new hashtag - #RecreateLocal - and advised New Yorkers to get outside and discover open spaces and parks close to home. Use DECinfo Locator to find a DEC-managed land nearest you.

Getting outdoors to walk, jog, hike, ride a bicycle, fish, or visit a park or state lands is a healthy way to stay active, spend time with immediate household family members, and reduce stress and anxiety when practicing social distancing. While indoor spaces and restrooms at State Parks and DEC's public facilities may be closed out of an abundance of caution to prevent community spread of COVID-19, many parks, grounds, forests, and trails are open during daylight hours, seven days a week.

State parks, lands, forests, and facilities are monitored by park police, forest rangers, environmental conservation police officers (ECOs) and other staff. These parks, lands, forests, and facilities and visitors will incorporate physical distancing to limit potential spread of COVID-19. In addition, these officers and staff respond to, and assist, local agencies with search and rescue missions, wildfire suppression, and more. Following this guidance (PDF) will prevent unnecessary burdens on, and dangers to, state resources and frontline emergency first responders during the ongoing COVID-19 response.

For the safety of all visitors and to reduce the community spread of COVID-19, DEC and State Parks are undertaking steps to reduce public density:

  • Closing all playgrounds, athletic courts, and sporting fields until further notice;
  • Canceling all public programs and events at state parks, lands, forests and facilities until further notice;
  • Closing all indoor visitor facilities, such as nature centers, environmental education centers, visitor centers, and historic houses to the public until further notice;
  • Golf courses: Starting Saturday, April 25, golf courses operated by State Parks may open. Operating schedules will differ across the state. Call the course directly for current information;
  • DEC is closing access to DEC-controlled fire towers until further notice. Trails and the summits to the towers remain open, but the towers themselves present a potential risk with multiple people climbing the stairs, in close quarters, unable to appropriately socially distance, and using the same handrails;
  • Limiting parking. State Parks may reduce the number of available parking spaces on high visitation days. Please avoid visiting crowded areas. For visitor safety and the safety of others, do not park on roadsides and only park in designated parking areas;
  • Camping changes: all state-operated campgrounds, cabins, pavilions, and cottages are closed to visitation through May 31. All visitors with reservations will be issued a full refund. For those with cottage reservations, there is a possibility the stay restriction will be lifted prior to June 1. New York State has suspended all new camping, cabin and cottage reservations for the 2020 season until further notice. If you've made a reservation for the season beginning June 1, and we determine your campground is safe to open, your reservation will be honored. However, visitors who wish to cancel an existing reservation may do so and receive a full refund;
  • Boat Launches and Marinas: Marinas and boat launch sites are open where conditions allow. Call the park or regional office directly for current status;
  • Swimming: State Park beaches and pools will remain closed to swimming through May 31. State Parks continues to review plans to reopen swimming facilities and will announce any change in status;
  • Temporarily suspend all overnight camping on this list of state lands;
  • Temporarily stop issuing permits for backcountry camping for groups of 10 or more, and for more than 3 days at one location on state lands;
  • Temporarily closing Kaaterskill Falls, the viewing platform, and connecting trails beginning Monday, April 6. The Kaaterskill Wild Forest will remain open to the public; and
  • Temporary closing Rockland Lake, Hook Mountain, and Nyack Beach State Parks beginning April 15 until further notice.

While enjoying outdoor spaces, please continue to follow the CDC/NYSDOH's guidelines for preventing the spread of colds, flu, and COVID-19:

  • Stay home if you are sick, or showing or feeling any COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, coughing, and/or troubled breathing;
  • Practice social distancing. Keep at least six feet of distance between you and others even when outdoors;
  • Avoid close contact, such as shaking hands, hugging, and high-five;
  • Wash hands often or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol when soap and water are not available; and
  • Avoid unnecessary contact with surfaces that are often touched, such as doorknobs and handrails.

DEC and State Parks also encourage visitors to state parks and state lands, and other parks to:

  • Stay local and keep visits short;
  • Visit in small groups limited to immediate household members;
  • Maintain a distance from others while in places where people tend to congregate, such as parking lots, trailheads, and scenic overlooks;
  • Avoid games and activities that require close contact, such as basketball, football, or soccer;
  • Do not share equipment, such as bicycles, helmets, balls, or Frisbees;
  • If you arrive at a park or trail and crowds are forming, choose a different park, a different trail or return another time/day to visit; and
  • If parking lots are full, please do not park along roadsides or other undesignated areas. To protect your safety and that of others, please choose a different area to visit, or return another time or day when parking is available.

Note: As the COVID-19 situation is continually evolving, please check DEC’s website regularly for the most up to date information about recreating safely.

Striped Bass Fishing Season Underway in the Hudson River

man with striped bassStriped bass recreational fishing has begun in the Hudson River and tributaries. Stripers commonly reach lengths of more than three feet and weights exceeding 30 pounds. For people who fish the Hudson for sport, the striper is a favorite catch.

Striped bass are cooperatively managed along the Atlantic coast by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (AFSMC). To reduce harvest, end overfishing, and decrease fishing mortality, ASMFC initiated and approved new regulations for recreational and commercial fishing for Atlantic striped bass. These regulations have already taken effect.

The new regulations for the Hudson River and its tributaries are:

  • Slot size limit: 18"- 28" total length
  • No fish smaller than 18" or greater than 28" may be kept
  • Season date: April 1 - November 30
  • Daily possession limit of one fish/angler

States along the East Coast are strongly recommending the use of non-offset circle hooks for 2020, and these hooks will be mandatory in 2021. Catch-and-release practices contribute significantly to overall fishing mortality, and circle hooks work effectively to reduce release mortality in the recreational striped bass fisheries.

Make sure to enroll in the annual, no-fee Recreational Marine Fishing Registry before going fishing in the Hudson River and its tributaries or in New York's Marine and Coastal District waters when fishing for "migratory fish of the sea" (e.g., striped bass). Anglers can enroll for the registry online or by phone, or by visiting a license issuing agent location.

safe fishing distanceWhen fishing, DEC recommends avoiding busy waters and following the guidelines on the agency’s website about fishing responsibly in New York State. If an angler arrives at a parking lot and there are several cars, consider going to another parking lot. If another angler is fishing upstream, fish downstream of that angler or consider fishing another day. Do not share a car with people who do not live in your household when traveling to fishing or boating sites. Anglers fishing from boats should be able to maintain at least six feet of distance between one another. Make sure you enjoy the outside safely and practice social distancing to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19.

Hike of the Month: McDonough State Forest

Chenango County

McDonough State ForestMcDonough State Forest is located 10 miles west of Norwich, Chenango County, in the gently rolling hills of the Allegheny Plateau. Both the Finger Lakes Trail and the New York State Corridor Snowmobile Trail pass through the forest, and many of the unpaved town roads are ideal for mountain biking and horseback riding.

On Bliven-Sherman Road, there is a smooth, hard-packed, 0.2-mile accessible trail that loops through the hemlock forest. The trail maintains interest as it crosses level, but rolling, ground that is broken by very small, rounded hillocks, originally lifted by tree roots. At the end of the trail, there is an accessible observation deck that overlooks the pond. Officially, the pond is unnamed. It lies immediately south of Whaley Pond, and there is a stream that connects the two.

A picnic area is located within the historic remains of a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) encampment in the state forest. The site includes an accessible picnic table and a large interpretive sign with a map of the state forest that shows the way to the accessible trail. A stone chimney located southeast of Bliven Pond along State Route 220 marks the site where the CCC camp once stood.

Because Every Person Counts, Make Sure You are Counted – U.S. Census 2020

NYS census 2020 logoMany people may not know the total population of the United States, of New York State, or even their own city, village, or town. But an accurate population count is vital to ensure our schools receive the aid they deserve, that we have appropriate representation in Congress, and that we receive appropriate levels of federal aid for services, such as hospitals, fire departments, and other vital programs.

Did you know that our nation’s population grew nearly 10 percent from 2000 to 2010? Or that the last census showed that women make up the majority of our population (50.8 percent). But what has happened since then? That’s what we need to find out through the 2020 Census, and we need your help.

Information gathered through the census helps us get an accurate population count for all regions of our state, providing key information used by businesses looking to grow or expand in New York. Census counts also allow communities to prepare for the needs of their residents—from ensuring adequate space for children in our schools to receiving necessary funding for investments in our transportation system.

New York urges you to be part of our “complete count” effort, which will ensure census data is accurate. It’s quick and simple to participate, and it can even be done online now. 

Don’t be anonymous. Make sure you are counted in the 2020 U.S. Census, and encourage friends, family and co-workers to participate as well. Census data is an important tool that will help shape our future, and an accurate tally will help ensure everyone counts when it comes to key decisions impacting our future.

Learn more

Nature Notes

Did you Know...

Striped bass are anadromous, meaning they spend their adult lives in the ocean and then return to freshwater tributaries to spawn. Young striped bass remain in streams and estuaries as they grow, and usually enter saltwater before the first winter after they've hatched. They can live up to 30 years, grow to more than six feet in length, and weigh more than 100 pounds.

Conservationist Magazine

Cover of April 2020 ConservationistSpring is here, and many people are grabbing fishing poles and heading to lakes and streams. The April Conservationist celebrates this spring ritual by highlighting the fastest growing segment of anglers— women—and DEC’s efforts to restore lake trout in Lake Erie, a project showing promising results. You can also read about the discovery of fish in a once fishless Adirondack lake, and efforts to prevent debris from destroying marine life and habitats. There’s also a personal account of why making nature accessible to everyone is important, and a look back on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and the creation of DEC. This, and much more in the April Conservationist.

Subscribe online or call 1-800-678-6399 to receive the Conservationist year-round.