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Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area announces Final Trails Plan

Prepared December 9, 1999

ABSTRACT

This Final Trails Plan/Environmental Impact Statement presents a proposal and two alternatives for the designation of a park-wide trails system at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. This document also describes the environment that will be affected, and the environmental consequences of implementing this action. The alternatives under consideration, in addition to the proposal, include the no-action alternative and one designation option.

Alternative A describes the current trails system without a change in designation or management and constitutes the no-action alternative. Alternative B, the park's proposed plan, proposes the designation of a system based on four networks. This alternative would increase the number of trails in the park, provide more mileage for various uses, and improve visitor facilities and interpretive experiences. Linkages between trails inside the park and activities outside the boundaries would be encouraged. Alternative C proposes a series of smaller independent networks clustered around significant park resources that would also increase the number of trails and mileage, but provide for fewer linkages between or beyond each network. Both action alternatives (B,C) would include the development of a coordinated trail signage system and improvements to access and visitor facilities.

SUMMARY

The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (DWGNRA) is the largest natural area in the National Park System between Virginia and Maine and is among the ten most visited in the entire system. Much of this visitation is from nearby, rapidly expanding New York, northern New Jersey and Philadelphia metropolitan areas, and is growing at a steady rate. Although the park encompasses 67,000 acres of woodlands, farms, mountains, creeks, and the Delaware River, it does not have a designated trail system. Prior to the creation of DWGNRA, small communities with extensive road networks dotted the landscape. Local residents developed paths leading to important natural and cultural features that were expanded as part of the growing resort and recreation industry. These old roads and informal paths now serve as trails in the park.

The park's 1987 General Management Plan (GMP) outlined a potential system for trail development that has influenced the location of current trails in the park. Although the GMP continues to be used as a general guide for trail management, it is no longer adequate to address the policy and operational issues now facing park managers. Recent concerns about potential impacts on habitat areas for rare, threatened and endangered species, user conflicts and dissatisfaction with the limited number of trails and facilities prompted park management to recognize the need for a comprehensive trails plan that would address the long-term needs of visitors while protecting resources.

Alternative B: Multiple Linking Networks (PREFERRED ALTERNATIVE)

This alternative, the park's proposed plan, would designated a parkwide trail system that would define an overall scope of trail development within the park. Alternative B represents the full potential for trail development in the park within known environmental and resource protection constraints. This alternative would double the amount of present park trail miles and provide the greatest opportunities for hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, and equestrian activities. Trails would be organized into four individual networks: the Appalachian, Country Road, Gap View and River Valley. Visitor experience and natural features determine each of these networks with connections to each other and various trail opportunities outside the park. Comfort facilities, signage and interpretation would be expanded as formalized trailheads were developed.

Another page details environmental consequences of the trail plan from the EIS.

The full document is available at: http://www.nps.gov/dewa/press-ea.html

This plan will become final upon signature of a record of decision by the Northeast Regional Director approximately 30 days after issuance of the plan. Questions on this final document should be addressed to: Superintendent Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area 1 River Road Bushkill, PA 18324. For further information regarding this document, please contact the Superintendent at (570) 588-2418.