Park injuries overwhelm responders

| 05 Aug 2015 | 06:36

By Anya Tikka
— Dingman's fire chief says local emergency teams are overwhelmed by injuries incurred by park visitors, who take unnecessary risks by leaping into water holes, or who slip and fall on trails.

"They’re not always jumping," Chief Mark O'Brien told Dingman supervisors. “Sometimes it’s a 250-pound person we have to carry for several hundred yards. The machines can only go so far.”

Emergency services in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area are provided jointly by Dingman and Delaware townships.

“We’re there to assist each other," O'Brien said of the two towns. "We have the equipment, we have the ATVs, vehicles, that kind of equipment, and the manpower.”

Supervisors said the area's natural beauty, and the prospect of cool water in the recent hot weather, are tempting visitors to jump.

“All these people at the falls — they’re beautiful, and they want to jump," said Supervisor Kerry Welsh. "But how many incidents have there been in Pike County — four or five?”

O’Brien said the number was more like six to ten. The fire department is obliged to be on the scene when there's a mishap, he said.

“There are rocks and cliffs, and it’s dangerous," said Supervisors Chair Tom Mincer. "Young people trip and fall. They’ve been witnessed walking up and down at the top of the falls. The park service is patrolling, but they get used to doing it, and they get away with it.”

Mincer said the visitors often consume alcohol, making for very dangerous situations.

"People don’t have any common sense," he said.

Park service's warnings ignored

Most of the falls are in the Delaware Township part of the recreation area. O'Brien said the emergency teams work with the National Park Service (NPS), when they're there.

“They’re the lead agency," O'Brien said. "It’s their property. We’re there to assist them. They’ve set up patrols, and there are fines."

The park service is always there to warn visitors off, he said. But when there's a problem, local responders get called. And rescues take a great deal of time and effort.

“It’s a huge problem because we’re associated with getting them out of the woods,” said O'Brien.

Most of the offenders are young adults, O’Brien said.

“If there’s a will there’s a way," he said. "They will do it. It’s that youthful invincibility."

Dingman has two falls, both in the Cliff Park area: Hackers Falls, across the road from Dingman's municipal building, and Raymondskill Falls. A girl was hurt while cliff jumping at Hackers Falls this year, but her injury wasn't serious, O’Brien said. The Milford Fire department handled the incident.

Visitors were also injured at Delaware Township’s Adams Creek and Child’s Park, which contains Factory, Fulmer, and Deer Leap Falls. Indian Ladders Falls has not had any incidents this year.

People ignore the warning signs posted, said O'Brien. The park service has stepped up its patrols in these areas, and those who get caught are fined.

He said that in summer, most cars parked at the entrances to the recreation area do not have Pennsylvania plates. He believes most come from urban areas in New York and New Jersey.

“If you go on YouTube and search for Adams Creek, you see all kinds of video of people jumping in," he said. "There’s a lot on social media. You see your friends jumping in, and you want to do it. It’s a lot of people out of the area.”