2017-12-21 / Editorial

Dutch Island is full of promise, pitfalls

The recent talk of opening Dutch Island to visitors for the first time since 1990 is exciting and would create myriad recreational possibilities.

The island, which is part of Jamestown but owned by the state would be a perfect site for camping, kayaking, trail walking, lighthouse tours and other activities, some of which the state has expressed an interest in doing.

Concerned the state’s timetable may far exceed theirs, town officials are eager to jump-start the proceedings and discuss co-managing the island with the state Department of Environmental Management. Those conversations should be had in an expeditious manner so the town can know what kind of commitment it may receive — if any — from the state in developing and participating in a management plan for the island.

A lot of work has been done the past two years to turn the 103-acre former home to Fort Greble into a safe destination. Workers removed fuel tanks, closed cisterns, mitigated drowning hazards at the reservoirs, closed the roofs on coal bunkers, filled the mine pit, installed 2,600 feet of barricade railing and clear cut vegetation to uncover historic buildings.

It’d be nice if all that effort could be transformed into an area that could be enjoyed by tourists and local outdoor enthusiasts.

The town said it could use existing resources, specifically parks department workers, to help staff the island and oversee campsites and other recreational activities.

While all this untapped potential lies so tantalizingly close, there are numerous obstacles -- both financial and logistical.

Could the town recoup the costs associated with this project, which would be considerable, as well as enforce the regulations required of opening the land to constant visitors? It’s doubtful the state would be inclined to provide any resources to help in those efforts so that burden likely would fall entirely to the town.

Besides staff, those would include how to handle any type of medical or police emergency, as well as potential liability concerns.

Dutch Island offers many positive possibilities and we commend the town for wanting to pursue them, while encouraging it to be cautious in its approach so any future use of the land can be sustained and its beauty enjoyed by generations to come.

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