Sleightsburg Spit – Waterfront Advisory Board Recommendations

In August, a subcommittee of the Waterfront Advisory Board hosted stakeholder mediation sessions with regards to Sleightsburg Spit Park. Following these sessions, the subcommittee developed a series of formal recommendations which were then approved by the Waterfront Advisory Board for consideration by the Town Board. The report and recommendations from the Waterfront Advisory Board can be reviewed below:

 

Report prepared by the Waterfront Advisory Board
Sub-committee on Sleightsburg Park Access

September 4, 2020
Sub-committee members:

Chet Allen, Vincent Coq, Margaret Phelan, Eli Schloss, Carol Tomassetti, Dale Wolfield

Executive Summary

The town board has been engaged in a variety of issues associated with Sleightsburg Park.  The Waterfront Advisory Board was asked to help evaluate ideas for resolution to these issues.  These issues include:

  • Concerns about potential nefarious activities
  • Speed of traffic through the Sleightsburg community
  • Disruption to residents from park activities
  • The park supports fishing and fowl hunting which is highly dependent on weather and tide and not necessarily aligned with 6 AM – 9 PM access
  • Boats or kayakers that may return from an evening dinner or post dusk fishing risk having cars and trailers towed
  • Conflicts arising over “self-policing” which accelerate the tensions between stakeholders.

The Waterfront Advisory Board formed a sub-committee to help evaluate potential solutions and insure both the Sleightsburg Residents and Angler/boating/kayaking stakeholders’ concerns were identified. Two facilitation sessions were held with each group of stakeholders to ensure all issues were identified and identify their vision of the ideal solution and to identify their representatives for mediation. Professional mediators were provided by the non-profit Ulster County Dispute Resolution Center.

The first mediation session did not result in agreement; however, it did look like there might be opportunities for a compromised solution. Although there were many solutions the stakeholders agreed upon, the second mediation session held on August 19th, did not yield resolution between the groups regarding hours of access. The Town Board asked the Waterfront Subcommittee to provide their recommendation on the most appropriate solution for the board’s consideration.

Our recommendations for the board’s consideration are below, as well as links to a variety of documents from the discussions related to the park.

Waterfront Advisory Board Subcommittee Recommendations
  • As a board we remain grounded in NY Coastal Policies and the Dept. of State Sponsored Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP). These policies provide guidance that:
    • Water-related recreation be enhanced and encouraged
    • Existing access to public recreation resources shall not be reduced
    • Our current LWRP calls out the unique characteristics of this boat launch, with deep water access, that provides a launch into a protected waterway with close proximity to wildlife habitats and prominent fishing and waterfowl hunting.
  • The Town is also bound by certain restrictions in the deed from Scenic Hudson. It is recommended that the Town Board review and take into consideration the conservation easement restrictions before any policy decisions are made.
  • Given the conflicting information provided by the groups of stakeholders and the lack of police records to confirm nefarious activities, the Subcommittee recommends a phased approach, to allow more data and validation of any solutions. Leveraging the information from the camera system that has been installed will give the town better insight into the activity that is taking place in the park. This should be reviewed before any permanent official town policy is agreed on.  A pilot can serve as a means to help fine-tune timing and other challenges that might present themselves.  Given the number of parks in the town, we feel it is important to ensure there is solid data to drive our decisions on hours and access.
  • To address the concerns of certain Sleightsburg residents regarding the speed of cars & vehicles down North Broadway, the installation of three-way stop signs at the corner of Third & North Broadway as well as potentially First and North Broadway to slow down traffic are recommended.
  • To reduce the number of park users that might enter with too large a boat, signage is recommended at the top of Broadway near the bus turn around to advise boaters regarding the size of boats allowed and park hours.  More visible signs showing the way to the park would also be helpful to reduce the number of park users that get lost and drive around the neighborhood.
  • To address the concerns regarding nefarious activities, the following recommendations are suggested:
    • Installation of a camera/webcam by the boat ramp.  This should be wired into the sheriff’s office and the feed available to the public to view so they can determine if there is parking available before entering the park.
    • Enable the existing new cameras by the park entrance to feed into the Sheriff’s office.
    • Installation of solar LED lights in the boat ramp area.
    • Given the ramp is directly across from the Marine Police & Sheriff, request that they include a sweep by the ramp as part of their patrol.
    • “Self-policing” between residents and sportsmen should be strongly discouraged. The two groups could not reach agreement under controlled mediation and they will not be able to as individuals.  To reduce the tendency to “self-police” insure there are clear instructions on when and how to call authorities, and who to contact for non-urgent non-compliance.  The cameras should help with this situation as well.
  • In order to keep an accurate record of who is accessing the park and at what hours the subcommittee recommends the installation of an electronic card gate system. This will allow the town to offer expanded access during waterfowl hunting and peak striper season. The following are suggestions for the gate operation:
    • The gate would be open from 6 AM – 9 PM for the season.
    • No ingress is allowed after 9 PM but egress for vehicles with boat trailers or anglers to exit the park no later than 11 PM. Set park hours will give some definition to the park and allow for the neighborhood some quiet time.
    • Until the time that a carded gate is operational, the key system could be implemented.  To address the concern of copied keys, issue a mirror tag (similar to a handicap tag), which contains the license plate of the vehicle that is being registered to enter.
  • Special consideration for expanded hours should be given to the waterfowl hunting and striper fishing seasons.  The seasons map out as follows:
    • Goose Hunting – September 1 – late December
    • Duck Hunting – First weekend of October – late December
    • Striper Season – April 1 – Nov 30.  Prime season is April 1 – early June.  Fishing is tide and weather dependent. Many times, fishing is best in the evening.
    • During these peak seasons, allow special card holders early access somewhere between 4 and 5 AM. Also, evaluate the option to allow anglers the option to leave the park after 11 PM only during peak striper season (~2 months). Additionally, consider allowing those that are actively fishing off the bulkhead to remain there for later hours during this special fishing time.
    • Consider charging for the special access card and limiting the number of cards issued. Town of Esopus Residents are charged a nominal fee of around $10, Ulster County Residents $25 and out of county residents $50-$100. Limit the number of cards issued to around 30. These new funds can be used to help pay for cameras, gating, and lighting at the park. It will also reduce concerns by residents that their taxes will be raised to pay for these items.
  • Continue with plans as outlined in the Riverfront Access plan to better manage the available parking.
  • Longer term, it is suggested that the town encourage Kingston to implement a public ramp on the Kingston side of the creek, to increase boat launch capacity. Additionally, should the opportunity arise in the future to work with the owners of the old Kosco property to re-open Front Street, this would provide a much cleaner entrance to the park.