What’s new in outdoor rec for the Catskills?

The new Ashokan Rail-Trail. (Photo by Dion Ogust)

Market preferences change over time, and areas dependent on tourism visitation like the Catskills have an opportunity to respond to the gradually changing world of outdoor recreational preferences. A December 2019 economic impact study of the central Catskills by consultant Brian Zweig, author of a 2012 analysis of the same region, updates his earlier findings.

The overall number of visitors to the region and their estimated economic impact have shown “a modest increase” between 2010 and 2018, Zweig finds. Camping and snowmobiling appear to have declined. Fishing, hunting, tubing and kayaking audiences haven’t changed much, according to Zweig’s data. Downhill skiing, an economically significant winter activity dependent on the weather as well as on changing habits, increased in private facilities like Windham and Hunter but decreased at state-owned Belleayre.

Recreational hiking and walking trails are the major area of audience growth, attracting significant new visitation. The ambitious Empire State Trail, projected to host 8.6 million visitors statewide, and the various Ulster County Highland-to-New-Paltz, New-Paltz-to-Kingston and City of Kingston rail-trails are outside Zweig’s Catskills study area. The recently opened 11.5-mile Ashokan rail-trail, which is within his area of study and is drawing recreational users even in the winter season, is a significant omission in his analysis.