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THE FOLLOWING LETTER FROM JOEL GILNGOLD APPEARS IN THE 3/25 EDITION OF THE GAZETTE
March 20, 2021
To the Editor,
I must take strong exception to the Croton village board’s renewal of the kayak rental agreement with Hudson River Recreation (HRR). In reality, this was yet another example of the board’s turning its back on its constituents and taking its customary father-knows-best stance. The public be damned!
The sole exception was Trustee Sherry Horowitz who, for the second time, voted against contract renewal. Ms. Horowitz seems to be the only member of the current board who actually cares about her constituents. From all of us who live along the river, Thank You, Sherry!!
Cogent arguments against such a renewal were presented to board members both before the meeting and during the comment period. But a majority of the board rejected these comments and chose to seriously jeopardize the quality of life and the wellbeing of Croton residents—its constituents—who live along the river in order to provide recreational opportunities for those from out-of-town. HRR’s John Clark stated that fully two-thirds of his customers were from outside of Croton, and I’ll bet that’s an underestimate.
I shouldn’t have to remind anyone of the horrors visited on the Croton River gorge and the adjacent Croton streets a couple of years ago when literally hundreds of people, far more than the ecological carrying capacity of this local gem, descended on the river causing total chaos and untold damage. The kayak rentals themselves did not create these problems, but when the gorge was already overflowing with humanity, the 60-80 renters and their 30-40 boats made it that much worse.
The fact that HRR will stagger its rentals does not really limit the number of boats it rents. Half are rented at, e.g. 10 AM until 11:30 AM and the remainder at 11 AM, which means that for about half of the time, 100% of the kayaks are potentially in the water.
To its credit, Croton, along with the Towns of Cortlandt and Ossining, has taken measures to try to limit the number of people who access the gorge, and the Trails Conference initiated a stewardship program this past summer. Will these actions work? I certainly hope so. But because the summer of 2020 was like no other, we cannot possibly know how effective these actions really were. We can only learn this after a “normal” summer’s activities, which will not come until 2022.
Because of the influence of COVID restrictions and the related concerns of many individuals, the one-year “provisional” rental agreement for 2021 will not be representative of ongoing conditions on the river. I anticipate fewer people will visit the gorge than we might expect once the restrictions are totally lifted and everyone is vaccinated. Thus, if we have only moderate visitation this summer and the kayak rentals are not seen to contribute to an overload on the gorge, the board will almost certainly renew the agreement for the succeeding three years. Then, in 2022, when we are no longer COVID restricted, the hordes may return, the kayakers will exacerbate the problems, it will be too late to do anything about it, and those of us along the river will just have to suffer once again. And the board doesn’t care.
But, of course, those folks from New York City will be able to rent a kayak for an hour or two and I guess that’s what our village board really wants. Because none of them has been able to explain how else Croton benefits from this contract, other than the $8-10,000 in fees paid, which even in our dire financial straits, doesn’t amount to very much.