Many in the recreation business in the area are happy to see this summer come to an end. There were some very trying times over the past few months in our local parks and quarries. Arrests, drownings, turning people away and having to close parks on weekends made many unhappy. Most of the local parks simply don’t have the space, parking or manpower to handle what occurred.
On summer weekends there were large crowds in the hundreds, sparked with rowdy behavior, excessively loud music, illegal alcohol and drug use, garbage and trash spread throughout park properties and people swimming and wading in water areas where they shouldn’t have.
Caravans of cars and SUV’s, and even chartered buses rolled in to local parks with passengers who drove anywhere from 1-2 hours from places in New Jersey and New York to party in the free mostly unpatrolled parks. Any park with pavilions and water (rivers or streams) were especially vulnerable.
Several municipalities are anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 over their recreational budgets due to garbage clean-ups, overtime pay for park workers, extra police presence as well as repairs from damages which occurred.
Trespassing at local quarries led to two drownings and several more rescues. Dozens were stiffly fined but it did little to keep people away. Many offenders were from out-of-state. Fencing and signs did no good in keeping trespassers out either. Swimmers and partiers simply tore down or shot at any signs or cut through fencing leading to dangerous conditions that exist at most quarries in the area. Plus, plenty of garbage was left, mostly from alcohol containers.
Tubing has especially become more and more popular on the Lehigh and Delaware rivers bringing throngs of people on warm summer weekends. Even the tubers were not immune from water rescues and drownings which occurred. Parking areas near the rivers quickly become filled, and then the would-be-tubers park on grassy areas and on private properties where parking is not allowed. Even an access area was blocked preventing emergency vehicles from a drowning scene on the Lehigh. (Access roads and gates should never be blocked. They are there for a reason. In an emergency rescuers may not be able to respond in time.) The tubers usually consume large amounts of alcohol and their empty bottles and cans just simply get tossed into the rivers or along the river shorelines.
Neighbors who live near any of these parks have had enough from the noise, garbage and trespassing on their properties. There is talk of entrance fees and only permit holders or local residents being allowed in the parks. This has led to legal issues being raised which will need to be addressed before next summers’ crowds arrive.
All are feeling the pinch from increased usage of recreational areas even though park budgets are held at the same levels yearly or have even been significantly decreased. The National Park Service is floating the idea of entrance fees and increasing some user fees at the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area which celebrated its 50th anniversary on September 1.
Even the Appalachian Trail is not immune from problems. The numbers of hikers on the trail continues to steadily increase as does drinking problems, illegal drug use, vandalism, trespassing issues, and plenty of garbage being left behind. Once a fairly safe place to go and hike, it no longer is in some areas as more people on the trail means more problems.