Ask anyone who has tried to get something changed in their local community:
When someone in charge tells you their plan, does it always come out exactly as they said?
Let's start here: the language in the Unit Management Plan says the following:
Any trails that are not included on the map have been constructed without prior authorization from the Department. As part of the unit management planning process, the Department is required to engage in a public planning process which includes a public comment period prior to the construction of new trails and other facilities. The goal is to achieve balanced recreational opportunities for all user groups that minimize impacts to natural resources. The Department will work with willing partners to bring the trail network into compliance with Department standards and specifications for multi-use trail networks.
That's encouraging that the DEC says they will "work with willing partners to bring the trail network into compliance".
However, in summer 2022, prior to this language being published in the UMP, this map was shared by DEC officials:
Note the legend in the lower left corner of the map:
"Unauthorized Trails to be Closed"
While we can appreciate that the DEC has toned down its language in the latest Unit Management Plan draft, and that it may be willing to work with volunteer groups, we need to consider the possibility that the DEC is actually aiming to close these trails, and is just using soft language so as not to raise any alarms.
Further, we cannot take the DEC at their word that "Any trails that are not included on the map have been constructed without prior authorization from the Department", especially when several of the trails are on the DEC's own maps from its website (and have been for years):
In 2009 and 2010, the Fats in the Cats mountain bike club proposed and built the Timbuk2 trail in collaboration with then-Forester Barbara Lucas-Wilson. Fats in the Cats is an official trail stewardship organization in partnership with the DEC for managing the Taconic Hereford trails (as noted in the UMP). The resulting trail was a reroute and closure of 3 logging trails that were plagued with illegal off-road vehicle activity and in poor condition.
While we can't know what has led the DEC to propose changes or closures to the trail network, whether it be miscommunications or improper record keeping, we hope they will listen to the voice of the community and keep the existing (very popular) trails open.
Further encouraging language from the draft Unit Management Plan that we should take with a grain of salt:
[Ten-Year Management Plan proposal:] Collaborate with local interest, volunteer, and community groups to assist with the maintenance of the multi-use trails that are covered under the existing Volunteer Stewardship Agreement with Fats in the Cats. The Department will work with interested volunteers to address portions of the existing trail network on the Taconic Hereford property that were developed without authorization from the Department.
Hopefully this accurately reflects the intentions of the DEC, though there is still some question as to which trails did or did not have "authorization", as noted above.
Overall, we look forward to reaching a solution for the DEC's concerns about the trail network being brought into compliance. Volunteers from the local community are eager to see the current trail network recognized, and contribute to its maintenance and the stewardship of the Taconic Hereford land.