Smooth sailing for Pepacton sailing

By Pauline Liu
Memorial Day weekend in the Catskills sailed into the record books as residents and visitors alike paddled their way across the Pepacton Reservoir for the first time in its history.

The rain-free weekend was marked by glorious sunshine, which made the water glisten.
“It was wonderful,” said 71-year-old Mike Miller of Huntington, who has a weekend home in Andes. Three generations of smiling Millers shoved off from the shores of the Pepacton on Saturday morning in a freshly steam-cleaned rowboat and canoe. Other boaters called the experience, “awesome” and “exhilarating.”  

Ann Roberti, who is a Catskill Mountain Club board member, led a the club’s inaugural paddle on the reservoir on Saturday.  “It was fantastic,” she wrote in an e-mail. “The reservoir was gorgeous. Everyone agreed it was a wonderful day.” Her group consisted of 16 people in 12 boats.
From now through Columbus Day, rowboats, canoes, kayaks, sculls and small sailboats with removable center boards will be allowed on the reservoir with a valid New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) permit, which is free online through DEP’s website.

Must be cleaned
Boaters must also have proof that the watercraft has been stream cleaned by a DEP-certified vendor.  The purpose of steam cleaning is to prevent the growth of invasive species such as zebra mussels in the reservoir. Boaters must have enough life jackets for each person on the boat and children under 12 are required to wear them at all times.

The reservoir officially opened to expanded recreational boating on Friday. However, there was plenty of fanfare the day before and even a ribbon-cutting ceremony. At the Shavertown Bridge access to the Pepacton Reservoir, located off Termperskill Road and county Route 1 in Andes, dozens of state, county and town officials gathered to mark the occasion.

Deputy DEP Commissioner Paul Rush explained to the group that the three-year pilot program at the Cannonsville Reservoir worked out so well that the program has been expended to include three more reservoirs, Neversink, Schoharie and Pepacton.

“At the Cannonsville Reservoir, we proved that this could work,” said Rush. “Through a study funded by the Catskill Watershed Corporation (CWC), we proved there was no negative impact,” said Rush.
“This is a big deal,” said Jim Eisel, chairman of the Delaware County Board of Supervisors. “It’s been said that the Pepacton is the crown jewel of the water supply system and I couldn’t agree more.”

Andes Supervisor Marty Donnelly expressed his appreciation. “The Town of Andes is very pleased to have this new recreational opportunity and these new business venture,” said Donnelly, who pointed out that three new steam cleaning businesses have opened for boats on the Pepacton, including one in his town.

After officials cut a blue crepe paper ribbon, they paddled out in boats with members of their staffs.
“It was really cool to paddle under the (Shavertown) bridge,” said CWC’s Communication Director Diane Galusha, who wore a wide grin after paddling for the first time. 

To get a free DEP access permit online, log onto nyc.gov/dep. The permit is good for five years. Information about steam cleaning, rentals and launch access can be found online at thecatskillregion.com/destinations-tourism/Reservoir_Boating_pepacton.aspx.