Sheriff shares warning about overcrowding at popular park and waterfall


COPAKE, N.Y. (NEWS10) — With so many people seeking recreation and escape in state parks, lakes and waterfalls, the fun could be coming at a cost. NEWS10 ABC’s Anya Tucker shares one local sheriff’s warning.

By mid-morning they were here. More than 40 vehicles belonging to visitors to Bash Bish Falls in the small Columbia County community of Copake.

Some drove from hours away. But, here in the park, the fun may be too much of a good thing.

“You know we have a little thing called COVID going on,” Columbia County Sheriff David Bartlett said.

Sheriff Bartlett said he is growing very concerned about a lack of social distancing at the Falls. He pointed to recent photos of people close together and not wearing masks.

He also added that residents who live nearby are often stuck cleaning up the piles of garbage that visitors now carelessly leave behind.

“Vehicles on people’s yards. People urinating. People setting up picnics on private property, on people’s yards.”

“Our park can fit 300 cars total,” Chris Rickard, Taconic State Park Manger Copake Falls and Rudd Pond, said. “We have been getting crowds of 1,000 to 1,500 cars a day. This is a state problem.”

So why is there a rise in visitors? The short answer: COVID-19.

The virus has worked to shut down more tyipical attractions for recreation and cooling off, and most state parks are only allowing 50 percent capacity during the pandemic.

People are now spreading the word about the falls and swimming holes on social media. But the man who is sounding the alarm is also being called out.

Some people said a recent comment from Bartlett’s personal Facebook page was racist when he responded to a post about a park visitor urinating on a resident’s lawn. He said the comment was misconstrued and was aimed solely at visitors who are not respecting the rules.

“We welcome everyone,” he said. “There’s no issues as far as anybody coming. I just spoke with several families going by now walking into the falls. Diverse group of people coming in and out, and it’s great to see the people here. Just please abide by the rules that the park has set.”

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