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Safety concerns at popular hiking spots

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Albany/HV: Safety concerns at popular hiking spots
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They may be considered hot spots for hikers and climbers, but with an alarming number of injuries and fatalities, officials have real safety concerns over two of the Hudson Valley's prime outdoor attractions. Our Beth Croughan has more.

HUNTER, N.Y. -- "As picturesque as it is, it's as equally as dangerous," explained Hunter Town Supervisor Dennis Lucas.

The Kaaterskill Falls measure nearly 260 feet high. And while the view from the top is scenic, it's one of two hiking areas in Greene County causing much concern.

"Around 10 or 11 deaths that have taken place over the last 14 to 16 months," said Greene County Director of Emergency Services John Farrell.

In August, a 19-year-old died after falling about 100 feet near the falls. And in June, a 17-year-old died when she lost her footing in an area known as the "Devil's Kitchen."

"In the case of Devil's Kitchen, there's really no trail that's been developed by the state," said Senator James Seward of the 51st Senate District.

"You know they're coming with flip flops, they're using sneakers. They don't have the proper gear dressed for the occasion to come and use the trail," explained Farrell of the incidents.

John Farrell said it seems rescue crews are responding to accidents on the trails nearly every two weeks.

"Volunteers have to go down over cliffs to as far as 500 feet. That takes a great amount of manpower and it puts those first responder at great risk," Farrell said of the relief efforts.

Tuesday, Senator James Seward and Assemblyman Peter Lopez met with area officials to discuss ways to prevent those risks.

"We certainly want to reduce the number of calls through signage and better trail system. But we also need to provide some financial remuneration to our local first responders," said Senator Seward.

The lawmakers also toured both areas. Assemblyman Peter Lopez of the 127th District brought up an idea regarding proper signage.

"Why don't we use a model similar to what's used with our ski slopes. Where we have a green for easy trail, a blue rectangle for intermediate and a diamond and double diamonds for advanced and expert?" Lopez said.

The DEC will be the next to take a crack at it. The legislators said they'll bring the issues and suggestions to the commissioner's attention.

"Perhaps we can save someone's life in the future," hoped John Farrell.

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