Christmas Canceled at Popular National Park Due to Hurricane Irene

It is the eighth-most visited property of the National Park Service.

By Brian Thompson
|  Thursday, Dec 1, 2011  |  Updated 9:49 PM EDT
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Christmas has been canceled at a popular national park that straddles the Delaware River in New Jersey and Pennsylvania because of damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

NBC New York

Christmas has been canceled at a popular national park that straddles the Delaware River in New Jersey and Pennsylvania because of damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

Christmas has been canceled at a popular national park that straddles the Delaware River in New Jersey and Pennsylvania because of damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

For decades, officials at the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area -- the eighth-most visited unit of the National Park Service -- have sponsored caroling and other holiday activities on the first weekend of December.

But not this year.

Superintendent John Donahue said the health and safety of visitors had to be his first concern.

"They are likely -- either by car or even by foot -- to fall into holes 3, 4, 5 feet deep," he said.

The Christmas celebration used to take place in Millbrook Village, a long-abandoned rural community still used as a learning center on the New Jersey side of the park.

Thanks to summer storms, the main parking lot is now split by a long gouge, and is too treacherous for cars and pedestrians.

A footbridge not far away across Van Campens Brook has been knocked off its pedestal, and lies at a twisted angle, though it was rebuilt less than a year ago.

And on the other side of this village of a dozen or so buildings, including an old church, the stream overflowed its banks and carved a new course around a barn, piling streambed stones in front of it.

And while the Christmas weekend has been canceled, park officials have even bigger concerns.

The double whammy of Irene and Lee also undermined the main highway through the park, U.S. Route 209, which runs north-south the length of the park on its Pennsylvania side.

Several miles of the highway were closed, and the worst section, with long cracks, will probably be closed until next fall, according to ranger Rich Degnan.

"We just couldn't take a chance," Degnan said.

Many other dirt roads in the park were affected by the storms and have been closed since September.

And then there's the new McDade recreational trail on the Pennsylvania side.

The approximately 200-yard section, carved into the hillside, collapsed straight down by about 8 feet, according to Degnan.

Unlike Christmas, which will likely return next year, this section of trail won't be repaired.

"This is a permanent casualty from Hurricane Irene," said Degnan.

Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY

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