The National Park Service (NPS) has been asked by the Upper Delaware Council (UDC) to submit a request for funding to make up for the expense some local municipalities spend on cleaning up and enforcing the law in the 73.4 mile river corridor.

NARROWSBURG, NY - The National Park Service (NPS) has been asked by the Upper Delaware Council (UDC) to submit a request for funding to make up for the expense some local municipalities spend on cleaning up and enforcing the law in the 73.4 mile river corridor.

The matter came up by UDC Chairman Aaron Robinson at the UDC’s July meeting. Robinson is also the Council’s representative for Shohola Township.

The Park Service provides law enforcement only on the river itself and the small amount of property the NPS actually owns (which makes up only 5% of the federally-designated river corridor).

Services for river-related law enforcement and trash removal (such as from river access areas) on the 95% of the corridor that the NPS does not own, has been contacted by the NPS over the years. The authority to do this was provided in the federal legislation that established the Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River.

Information provided by NPS Upper Delaware Superintendent Kris Heister to the UDC showed that between 1979 and 2018, the NPS provided $3,780,426 to 145 local municipalities and the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department (SCSD) to support law enforcement departments in addressing river-related issues and the removal of trash along and within the river.

The total amount provided per town/township for both services ranged from $552 (Berlin Township to $836,595 (SCSD).

The total provided for trash removal, between 1979 and 2011 was $656,279. The total provided to support local law enforcement between 1980 and 2018 was $3,124,144.

Expenses shifted

Robinson stressed that the intent of the River Management Plan, adopted by Congress in 1986 was to cover the expenses of these services. Yet, municipalities along the river corridor in recent years have borne the expense of contributing river-related law enforcement.

The cost of providing these services, whether it is law enforcement, river cleanup, garbage… the costs don’t go away but the cost has shifted to the municipalities,” he said. “I see that as a problem because the residents of these municipalities should not be burdened by the encouragement of people to use this valley.”

Susan Sullivan, UDC’s Town of Tusten representative, said they remember when the NPS incurred these expenses. She remarked, “You can’t keep inviting people and expect there not to be trash.”

Carla Hahn, Administrative Assistant for the NPS, stated that while the UDC’s budget, provided in the federal agreement that led to the creation of the UDC in 1988, the Park Service budget has also not essentially gone up. The NPS had had to make significant staff reduction on the Upper Delaware over the years to meet their budget.

Looks at 30 acres

Robinson interjected that he did not think the municipalities should be in the “begging business.”

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (DWGNRA), on the Middle Delaware, pays for law enforcement and trash pickup across their corridor. The big difference, however, is that the DWGNRA owns the land.

Hahn said it has been very difficult in that the Park Service on the Upper Delaware is responsible for approximately 55,750 acres but they actually own only 30 acres. The rest of the corridor remains in private land ownership (a fact fiercely defended by the UDC and provided in the River Management Plan).

“They don’t look at 55,000 acres, they look at 30, when they (the Department of Interior) is providing money to us,” she said. “Because we are set up somewhat different.”

Robinson continued, that the legislation that created the Upper Delaware unit of the NPS, that the Department of the Interior was to pay for law enforcement and river cleanup. He said this is the law, and should be remembered when the NPS writes their budget.

He said the NY towns of Highland and Lumberland, and Shohola Township in PA provide a lot of law enforcement up and down the river, but get no reimbursement.

While the NPS is strapped for funds, so are the townships, which rely on their local taxpayers, he noted.

Can make request

Hahn agreed that she can take the message back to Superintendent Kris Heister that the UDC requests that the Park Service prioritize funding  to local municipalities for law enforcement and trash removal in FY 2019 - or come up with creative alternative solutions to direct payments.

She said that the costs from the municipalities in incurring expenses of law enforcement and river cleanup will be needed.

This funding was mandated in the Upper Delaware enabling legislation P.L. 96-625, but some municipalities have had to subsidize the costs since the funding was withdrawn.

“It’s really not discretionary [funds],” Robinson. “It’s a deal. And a deal is a deal.”

Hahn said that the funds that have been allocated to the towns(ships) have dwindled since at least 1995.

The UDC will advocate, as lobbying laws permit, for an increase in the NPS Upper Delaware base funding to provide for these services.

Trash funds ended, 2011

In her written report, Superintendent Heister (who was not present for the July 5th meeting), she noted how funding available and the towns/townships participating in the trash removal program declined significantly. No funds for this program have been provided since 2011.

This was discontinued based on budgetary constraints, increased costs of program management, accountability of funds, and a determination that the program was no longer cost effective, the report notes.

Between 2011 and 2014, the NPS continued to have dumpsters located at key river sites and continues to have portable toilets at all public river access sites. A problem since the early 1980s has been the practice of the dumpsters being primarily used to deposit household trash and over-flowing dumpsters.

In 2014, a Carry-In/Carry-Out policy was implemented by the NPS and has been a success, Heister noted. The policy is combined with NPS river staff picking up litter at river accesses on a regular basis.

Local organizations such as Kittatinny Canoes have held regular river cleanups and NPS staff has been educating the public about picking up their trash. Heister noted that over 27 years, the annual Kittatinny Canoes cleanup event has removed pover 457 tons of trash from the river and river banks. This has included 8,967 tires and 8,750 pounds of aluminum cans.

The NPS has also contributed fund stop the UDC to promote involvement of communities in river cleanups. Over the last four years the UDC  has provided $18,904 in grants to six townships/towns for community river cleanup events.

Law enforcement funds down

Funding available for municipalities in the law enforcement program declined significantly - by 70% - since 1980. Participation in the program also has declined, the report shows. Only one town received funding in FY 2018.

Heister’s written report states in the conclusion, “After 40 years of cooperative management of the Upper Delaware River Corridor, the NPS believes that the objectives of both the trash removal program and law enforcement program have been met.” Trash removal has been so successful, the NPS report states, a formal, corridor-wide NPS trash removal program is no longer necessary. The NPS and community have addressed the problem through education and volunteerism.

Concerning law enforcement, issues with “vandalism, rowydism and other unsavory conduct” and trespassing continue to exist, mainly in areas site s campgrounds and on the river, but they are far less prevalent today, the report notes.

The report adds that the much has changed in the last 40 years. Looking ahead, as budgets tighten, staffing changes and visitor use evolves, the reports states that this program will continue to be evaluated to ensure that law enforcement on river recreationists is paramount; that emerging trends in law enforcement issues are adequately addressed and that new and innovative ways of addressing visitor use issues are considered in the NPS’s approach to law enforcement and public safety.

Paying for playground

At the meeting, James Greier, Town of Fremont rep., said that the Department of the Interior “has a 55,000 acre playground” on the Upper Delaware and it has only cost the Department the expense of the 30 acres it owns. “Somebody has to cover the costs of this playground,” he said. “The taxpayers and landowners can’t continue to do this.”

Hahn stated, “It’s almost an unsolvable problem,” she said; the financial pot keeps dwindling. Support is needed from the legislators. The NPS lacks the recourse to increase the funding, she noted.

If $250,000 were restored in the NPS budget for the next fiscal year for these expenses, Hahn said the NPS would have to reduce their other costs by that amount and would be cutting staff further. “The community needs to request the additional funding,” she said.