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NPS Winter Storm Damage Assessment and Recovery Update
Bushkill, PA- Employees at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area continue to inventory damage and assess needed repairs from two back-to-back winter storms that hit the region earlier this month. Most of the snow is gone, but thousands of fallen trees remain strewn throughout the park. “The extent of the storm damage is both significant and widespread and it will take many months, perhaps even years in some cases, to repair,” said Deputy Superintendent Keith Farrar who is working with park staff to draft and submit requests for additional funding before a Friday afternoon deadline. "We ask that our visitors and local residents to be patient as we work through the assessments and repairs in a way that protects the public, the park’s natural and cultural resources, and our staff who are out there doing the work,” he added. “It isn’t going to happen overnight and some areas will likely never look the same again.”
Damage to park trails is substantial especially along iconic waterfall trails and ravines on the PA side of the park where mature eastern hemlock and white pine trees dominate the landscape. “On steeper slopes and along streambanks, wind-toppled trees took the slopes and stream banks with them when they fell resulting in destabilization of trails and hillsides, increased potential for erosion and sedimentation, and choked stream channels,” explained the Deputy Superintendent. “It’s much more than just cutting and removing fallen trees or rebuilding trails and bridges. We’re looking at the bigger picture, including the possibility of closing or permanently re-routing some trails to more sustainable locations rather than continually repairing damage after severe storms.” The boardwalk trail at Dingmans Falls will likely remain closed through the summer and George W. Childs Park will remain closed indefinitely.
PA Trails: Effective immediately, all trails on the PA side of the park are closed due to public hazard until further notice; these areas sustained significant damage and hazardous conditions still exist including downed trees, unstable slopes and trail surfaces, damaged bridges, and hanging and leaning trees and branches. Exceptions include the Fossil Trail at Pocono Environmental Education Center and the Raymondskill Falls Trail (from the lower parking area). “Our crews are working to remove safety hazards from the popular McDade Recreational Trail this week so that we can re-open it as soon as possible,” said Bill Tayge, Roads and Trails supervisor for the park. In addition to downed trees, hazards on the McDade Trail and others include a large number of “widow-makers” – loose limbs and branches precariously suspended overhead in trees with the potential to fall on those walking below. Tayge’s team will also be clearing branches and debris from the shoulders along Route 209 and other park roads this week.
NJ Trails: In NJ, the Van Campens Glen trail is closed due to public hazard. Other trails in NJ are still being evaluated. NPS officials recommend that visitors refrain from hiking on park trails that have not been assessed. Information on the status and conditions of park trails will be posted on the park’s website and Facebook page as it is available.
Roads: All park roads that were closed due to the storm have been re-opened although some of the township-owned roads that intersect with Route 209 on the PA side of the park remain closed. Mountain Road in NJ has been re-opened with access to Buttermilk Falls while the dirt section of Old Mine Road remains closed as part of normal winter operations. River Road in PA may be closed on some evenings in the next few weeks to protect breeding amphibians.
Cultural Resources: Cultural resource assessments are also ongoing. Maintenance staff have been working with the park’s arborist and sawyers to remove trees from several roofs and cultural resource management staff have been evaluating damage to historic buildings and archeological sites.
For more information on Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and updates on park facilities, call park headquarters at (570) 426-2452, Monday through Friday from 8:30 am until 4:30 pm; visit our website at www.nps.gov/dewa; or follow us on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/DelWaterGapNPS.