CAPITAL REGION -- The state parks department is evaluating the popular Indian Ladder Trail at John Boyd Thacher State Park in New Scotland to decide whether it can reopen in 2018 after being closed since last summer.
The trail that runs along the cliffs of the Helderberg Escarpment, past rock formations and two waterfalls, has been closed since July, after a woman was seriously injured by a falling rock.
Indian Ladder is just one of several local trails where safety changes are being eyed as another summer approaches.
"The annual opening of the Indian Ladder Trail is always weather-permitting and typically occurs anywhere from mid-April to late May," said state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation spokesman Randy Simon. "Now that the coldest weather is seemingly behind us and most of the snow has melted atop the Helderberg escarpment, state park crews have already begun evaluations of the trail.
"This initial assessment will identify what additional steps, if any, need to be taken to open the trail for the 2018 summer season."
The trail, which requires users to climb up and down a series of stairs to reach the cliff-face path, was closed on July 2 after a 60-year-old woman was struck in the head by a falling rock. Rescue personnel carried the injured woman to higher ground on a stretcher, and an ambulance crew rushed her to Albany Medical Center Hospital.
The 2,500-acre Thacher park draws about 300,000 visitors each year to its picnic areas, scenic overlooks and unusual features, like the Indian Ladder trail. A new $3.8 million visitors' center opened near the west end of the trail last spring, giving the park a focal point.
This will also be the first year in which the Vroman's Nose property, overlooking the Schoharie Valley near Middleburgh, has been under state ownership, following decades as a private preserve that was open to the public and as an informal hike for more than a century before that. At Vroman's Nose, a 600-foot-vertical climb gives hikers an unencumbered view of a wide, flat swath of the agricultural valley.
The property was donated by its owners to the state, which announced the acquisition in December. Under state ownership, the park has remained open through the winter, but some safety warnings have been added.
The DEC has installed new signs, including warnings about dangerous cliffs and slippery footing, and has posted information at the parking lot kiosk, including how to contact a forest ranger, state land regulations and a trail map.
The 632-acre Plotterkill Preserve in Rotterdam, meanwhile, is being prepared for $600,000 in safety improvements, including trail repairs and installation of viewing platforms near the main falls. The preserve is full of steep trails in a rugged gorge with three waterfalls. It has been the site of one fatal accident in 2015, as well as a suicide late last week that led to the preserve being closed to the public over the weekend as authorities investigated. The preserve has since re-opened.