The Gardiner Planning Board has set a public hearing for consideration of a request for a Special Permit by the Gunks Climbers’ Coalition. The permit is needed to construct a driveway and parking lot at 655/657 South Mountain Road to provide access to a trail leading to rock climbing routes at Antlion Crag. The not-for-profit organization does not own the property in question, but has secured easements to create the entryway from adjoining landowners Robert O’Brien and Kevin Abberton.
Planning Board members reviewed recommendations made by the Town’s Environmental Conservation Commission to attach conditions to the permit, including measures to protect peregrine falcon nesting sites and box turtle habitat. Also under discussion were what provisions if any should be made for a porta-potty or composting toilet, either near the entrance or farther up the trail, as well as parameters for limiting access to Coalition members only, including a gate or chain across the entrance with a combination lock. Board member Keith Libolt warned Coalition representatives, “I think you’re underestimating what kind of response you’re going to get. This is a road less traveled, and that’s what people are looking for.”
Planning Board chair Paul Colucci predicted pushback from South Mountain Road residents during the public hearing phase. “I’ve had half a dozen e-mails from your neighbors already,” he said. “There are serious concerns about this project.” Possible illegal parking along the roadside and climbers wandering off-trail onto neighboring properties are some of the negative scenarios that have been raised. Colucci urged the Coalition to develop a plan for “education about where public use is allowed and where it is not.”
The public hearing on the Gunks Climbers’ Coalition’s Special Permit request will be held at Town Hall at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, September 27.