Monday, November 8, 2010

Adirondack Economics: How Hikers Help Wanakena

I recently unearthed strong evidence that hikers, like other visitors to the Park, spend money.

As noted in an earlier post, some local politicians deride hikers, paddlers, and similar riff-raff as “granola-eaters” who seldom part with a dime while inside the Adirondack Park.

Try telling that to Rick Kovacs, who took over the Wanakena General Store this year.

Thanks to the creation of the Cranberry Lake 50—a fifty-mile hiking route that circles Cranberry Lake—Kovacs has seen loads of hikers seeking to stock up on provisions. In a typical day during the busy season, ten to twenty hikers would stop in to buy snacks, sandwiches, maps, compasses, T-shirts, and other goods. He sold about three hundred Cranberry Lake 50 bandannas as souvenirs.

“Those who say hikers and paddlers don’t spend money—that’s a crock,” Kovacs told me last week.

The hikers are helping to keep alive a general store that has long been a fixture in the tiny community. When the store closed in January, people were caught by surprise. Kovacs, who also runs Packbasket Adventures in Wanakena, took over the store and reopened it in May. He endeavors to meet the needs of the year-round and summer residents as well as hikers and other visitors.

Wanakena is a major gateway to the Five Ponds Wilderness in the western Adirondacks—one of the largest and most remote Wilderness Areas in the Park. “Unlike the High Peaks, you can have long, lonely stretches where you don’t see other people,” Kovacs said.

Hikers doing the Cranberry Lake 50, which passes through Wanakena, often tell him about animals they encounter on the trail, and so Kovacs keeps a whiteboard in his store that lists recent sightings: moose, marten, bear, deer, fox, boreal woodpeckers—you name it.

The Cranberry Lake 50 was established by Five Ponds Partners, a subcommittee of the Clifton-Fine Economic Development Corporation that was formed to promote hiking in the region. It’s nice to know that some people recognize that hiking is a form of tourism.

To find out what it’s like to hike the Cranberry Lake 50, check out Bill Ingersoll’s story in the Adirondack Explorer.

Photo courtesy of Rick Kovacs: Wanakena General Store.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


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Phil Brown is the former Editor of Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues, the same topics he writes about here at Adirondack Almanack. Phil is also an energetic outdoorsman whose job and personal interests often find him hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing. He is the author of Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures, which he co-published with the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the editor of Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, an anthology of Marshall’s writings.Visit Lost Pond Press for more information.

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