Park Battles Continue in Orangetown

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Fees unsettled, bikes become new focus

BY ROBERT KNIGHT
CITY EDITOR
ROCKLAND COUNTY TIMES

While Orangetown remains in pitched battle over whether or not it should charge non-residents for the use of its extensive park system a new park fight has erupted between residents and the Palisades Interstate Park Commission (PIPC) over the PIPC’s decision to allow mountain bikers to construct and use trails in Blauvelt State Park.

At a recent Town Board meeting the council postponed taking any action over the controversial topic of charging outsiders for the use of town parks and park facilities, but this Tuesday indicated they will soon adopt a fee schedule penalizing park users who live anywhere but within Orangetown. Final action on the fee schedule is anticipated at one of the board’s July meetings.

Now some local residents want to shift the battle over parks to a new front; residents who live near Blauvelt State Park came to the board to ask why mountain biking was now being allowed in this park. Currently, different jurisdictions have different rules about mountain bikes. Orangetown has long allowed mountain bikes in town parks, while Rockland County and the PIPC generally restrict mountain bikers to a few areas.

The Town Council explained to these residents that Orangetown has not made any changes to their park regulations with respect to mountain bikes, and suggested that the residents should take their concerns to the Palisades Park Commission which recently made the decision to allow biking in Blauvelt State Park.

The residents subsequently did just that, and convinced the PIPC to hold a public meeting at the Blauvelt Library last week. That facility, in a historic Dutch sandstone house on Western Highway in Blauvelt, is conveniently located adjacent to a recent expansion of Orangetown’s Joseph B. Clark hike and bike trail.

Bicycles are allowed on that trail, as they are on many other trails in communities throughout Rockland County, but they are prohibited in most state parks within Rockland, including the Palisades Interstate Park’s thousands of acres of woodland.

Those two-wheeled aficionados said that after receiving approval from the PIPC they have begun constructing new trails in Blauvelt State Park which extends from Route 59 in West Nyack south to Orangeburg and Sparkill. The trails will be marked with a bike sign, but will be open to hikers as well as bikers.

The bikers are represented by Dimitri Laddis, chairman of the newly formed Palisades Mountain Trail Bikers (Palisades MTB), a local chapter of a national non-profit biking and other regional and national biking groups. Laddis, an Orangetown resident also active in local youth soccer, said the group has over 100 members so far, and has five officers who have been designing the bike route, surveying the parks in Orangetown to determine the best layout, and clearing the trail.

The total cost to survey, clear, mark and map the trail is estimated to be about $3,680, Laddis said, and will be provided by the club through grants and donations, at no cost to any local government. The trail is estimated to be about five miles in length.

Officals present at Wednesday’s public scoping session at the Blauvelt Library appeared to agree with Laddis and other club leaders on the amount of cooperation and agreement between the involved parties.

Regarding charging fees to non-residents to use town parks, the Town Board delayed taking final action once again Tuesday evening, but pledged to adopt a new ordinance during one of their two scheduled July meetings.

Under the proposal, residents would continue to enjoy free use of all 24 town parks, while non-residents would be charged varying amounts for that same privilege.

Exemptions may or may not be granted for guests of residents, caregivers of residents, members of sports leagues registered to use town parks which may include some non-residents on some of the teams, veterans, senior citizens, children and other possible categories.

So far, some town officials have proposed a fee schedule for use of all of its parks, with town residents getting free use of everything, and outsiders having to pay fees ranging from $10 to $250 for daily or annual passes.

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