Photos by Carol Montana
NEW YORK STATE (May 31, 2015) – Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently highlighted safety tips for visitors taking advantage of New York’s outdoor recreation opportunities this summer. New York State offers a wide variety of activities for visitors of all ages and abilities, and taking basic precautions can make for a safer and more enjoyable outdoor experience for all.
“From beautiful mountains and forests to pristine waters and hiking trails, New York is home to some of the top outdoor destinations in the world,” Governor Cuomo said. “I encourage residents and visitors to enjoy our state’s beautiful natural resources safely by making sure they plan and prepare for unpredictable weather conditions or emergencies. Taking a few simple steps to protect your safety is essential to enjoying the best Mother Nature has to offer, right here in the Empire State.”
Each year, state Department of Environmental Conservation forest rangers respond to calls to assist people who are lost or disoriented in outdoor areas, suffering from injuries or in need of help from professionals. Over the past five years, rangers performed an average of 255 search-and-rescue missions annually throughout New York State.
These incidents included lost or disoriented hikers, medical emergencies, and searches for individuals who did not return from their trip, or failed to contact family members. To date in 2015, forest rangers have responded to 96 such incidents, including nine searches and six rescues over Memorial Day weekend.
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens said, “Under Governor Cuomo, New York continues to expand outdoor recreation opportunities to persons of all ages and abilities throughout New York, from fishing and paddling to hiking and camping. With the warmer weather, more people are visiting state lands, campgrounds, parks and water bodies for a wide range of exciting activities. By planning ahead of time, outdoor adventurers can help ensure a wonderful experience.”
Proper planning is critical for people of all ages and skill levels, including those going on day-trip hikes, paddling excursions or backpacking, as well as multi-day adventures in wilderness areas. People who are trying an activity for the first time, or are not familiar with the area where the activity will occur, should consider hiring a guide. An experienced guide will ensure people are properly prepared, prevent them from getting lost and help make the trip safe and enjoyable.
Tips to prepare for an outdoor adventure include: developing trip itineraries; carrying appropriate equipment, including guides, maps and a compass; bring sufficient food and water; dressing in proper clothing; carrying emergency contact numbers; and preparing for access to shelter, such as tents, cabins or lean-tos.
Pre-trip planning should reflect your physical abilities and experience – don’t overexert yourself or embark on an adventure that is beyond your physical capabilities or outdoor skills. Also, make sure you have equipment in case you become lost, stranded or injured. Bring a charged mobile phone, with extra batteries, in case you need to call for assistance. 9-1-1 dispatchers can often track your location and send help if needed. Carry warm clothing and supplies such as water and light food or energy bars, a flashlight or headlamp, rain gear, sunscreen and matches.
Travel in groups or with another person whenever possible. Always be on the lookout for challenges you may encounter in the outdoors, such as wildfires, sudden storms, muddy trail conditions and fast moving waters. Wear light-colored clothing and long pants and long-sleeved shirts to protect against ticks that carry Lyme disease and other biting insects. Check for ticks every two to three hours while outdoors, and brush off any ticks before they attach. Performing a full body check multiple times during the day and at the end of the day will also ensure that no ticks are attached.
All people are strongly encouraged to wear a personal floatation device whenever they are on the water. State law requires that children under age 12 wear a personal flotation device while on a watercraft. Also, check the weather forecast before heading out on the water to learn about potential storms and seek immediate shelter on shore if you hear thunder.
Know your abilities and take precautions when there are high or steady winds creating large waves, or when you are in strong currents. If you are paddling in waters where there are motorboats, keep close to shorelines and out of main channels. Also, boaters and paddlers should clean, drain and dry watercraft to avoid spreading aquatic invasive species.
Before embarking on a camping or day trip, check weather forecasts, including the New York fire danger map to learn about area conditions. Keep fires small (no more than 3 ft. high, 4 ft. diameter) and use existing campfire rings when available. Don’t leave any fire unattended and completely extinguish the campfire by dousing it with water, stirring the embers and dousing it a second time.