Woodstockers living near the top of McDaniel Road, below Magic Meadow, are upset about the large parking lot New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is building in their neighborhood to accommodate hikers bound for Overlook Mountain. Last summer, cars overflowed the DEC lot near the trailhead on Meads Mountain Road, creating a traffic hazard as the increase in tourism brought more visitors to the steep, 4.8-mile trail.
Dan Leader, McDaniel Road resident and co-owner of Bread Alone, said he and four other adjacent neighbors were not notified about the planned parking lot. “Three weeks ago, a bunch of bulldozers showed up and clearcut 180 by 300 feet,” he said. “Our homes have been devalued. We had really private homes, and now there’s going to be a huge public parking lot…right across the road.”
The neighbors contacted Woodstock supervisor Bill McKenna, who set up a meeting with Bill Rudge and another DEC representative. “They said everyone was informed,” said Leader, “showing they had our mailing addresses. I get tons of junk mail. Considering the seriousness, did they send a certified letter? If you were applying for a building permit, you’d have to follow all kinds of procedures, but it turns out the state, by law, doesn’t have to follow town rules. It’s state land, so they can do what they want. They’ve built a gaping hole in the side of McDaniel Road. They agreed to do some decorative planting to disguise it, but it was handled so poorly, and we’re furious.”
The neighbors were told the DEC intends to install a feeder trail from the new parking lot to the main Overlook trail. The feeder will both relieve pressure on the original parking area and offer an option for those looking for a less strenuous, shorter hike.
Laurent Hainaut agreed that neither he nor the other neighbors had received notification of the state’s plans. “Nothing certified for sure, but not even something in the mailbox. We’re bordering the state park, 12 years completely in the wild, and suddenly we have a parking lot in front of our house. It’s really shocking. And shocking that nothing was done to coordinate it with the landscape. This is the place we go for peace. We love the people who come here, people who love nature. But there was no consideration at all for how it will affect the people living here.”
Hainaut also attended the meeting with the DEC officials and said, “It was a polite meeting. They were listening to us and our concerns. I think they are willing to work with us, but this should’ve been done a long time ago, engaging the neighborhood to find a solution for everybody.”
Erica Ringewald of the DEC said requests for additional parking came from the town of Woodstock in 2013 and 2015 because of the problems along the road near the trailhead. She said the new parking lot was designed to accommodate 30 to 40 cars. The plan required a change to the 1999 Overlook Mountain Wild Forest Unit Management Plan. Last November, a public meeting was held to encourage review of the draft amendment. Adjacent landowners, individual stakeholders, and organizational representatives were notified of the amendment and the public hearing via first class mail. Other announcements were placed on the town website, on DEC’s website, in the agency’s Environmental News Bulletin, and through a press release to local newspapers. The final plan, incorporating feedback from the public, was approved by DEC Commissioner Seggos on February 27, 2017.
After discussion with Leader and Hainaut, DEC agreed to develop a planting plan that would provide a natural barrier to their view of the parking lot. DEC plans to meet with them again once the parking lot is constructed, in late June or early July, to discuss the layout and plant species to be used.