Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Adirondack Wild Calls For DEC To Address High Peaks Issues


An Adirondack Park advocacy group wants the state Department of Environmental Conservation to re-establish a High Peaks Citizen’s Advisory Committee to address increasing usage and resulting impacts to the High Peaks Wilderness.

Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve sent a letter to DEC Region 5 Director Bob Stegemann today, asking for the department to address the surging number of hikers in the High Peaks with a comprehensive approach that includes possible updates to the High Peaks unit management plan.

“It has been 24 years since a High Peaks (Citizen’s Advisory Committee) was last convened, and 18 years since the (unit management plan) was adopted,” states the Adirondack Wild letter. “We believe, therefore, the time is ripe, and current pressures serious enough to benefit from a constructive exchange with informed High Peaks stakeholders prepared to help the DEC and Adirondack Park Agency tackle current user management challenges. Our mutual objective, of course, is to sustain and enhance wilderness quality and conditions, particularly in the eastern High Peaks zone. More comprehensive discussion of the entire complex area and amendments to the UMP are clearly warranted.”

The High Peaks has seen a surge in the number of hikers in recent years, as detailed by a series of articles published by the Adirondack Explorer and the Adirondack Almanack, including  “Beyond Peak Capacity: A Boom in High Peaks Hikers”  and “Group of 67 people ticketed on Algonquin Peak.”  The increase has come as a result of  marketing of the Adirondacks by the state, more awareness of the Adirondacks on social media and the internet, and an interest in hiking challenges such as the 46 High Peaks. The surge in hikers is similar to trends in other mountainous areas, such as the Catskills in downstate New York and White Mountains in New Hampshire.

The increase in users has resulted in potential dangerous parking situations for trailheads along state Route 73, put pressure on alpine vegetation on the summits, and resulted in problems associated with unburied waste and toilet paper on and near trails. In addition, search and rescue missions for Forest Rangers jumped to about 100 in 2015, about double from a decade ago. At least two editorials have been written calling for more staff for DEC to manage the situation.

The High Peaks issue came to a head on Labor Day weekend when thousands of hikers hit the trails. The Adirondak Loj trailhead saw at least 2,563 hikers from Friday to Monday on Labor Day weekend, according to stats provided by the ADK’s summit steward program. Plus, Cascade Mountain had at least 1,577 hikers, with 665 people hiking Saturday and 640 on Sunday.

The excessive number of hikers overwhelmed Adirondak Loj staff, according to ADK Executive Director Neil Woodworth. The large crowds and usage forced ADK’s High Peaks Information Center to shut down its bathrooms. “From South Meadow Road to our entry station [on Adirondack Loj Road], we had people parked on both sides of the road,” Woodworth said.

Woodworth said having cars on both sides of the roads was a safety hazard for hikers walking along the road to trailheads and could have caused problems for emergency vehicles needing to access the area. After the weekend, DEC announced it was limiting vehicle parking on Adirondak Loj Road to one side of the road and not allowing parking further than South Meadow Lane on weekends through Columbus Day. It also has started a campaign to encourage hikers to use nearby mountains.

Adirondack Wild recognized the need for the DEC to deal with the pressure to the High Peaks but cautioned that “redirecting heavy use to the region’s smaller peaks (like Owl’s Head, Baxter Mountain, Baker Mountain and others) only adds to those peak’s overuse and erosion woes.”

The organization has asked that the DEC undertake a “Limit of Acceptable Change assessment” of critical issues in the Eastern High Peaks to inform management of the area. The assessment method is used by natural resource managers to determine the appropriate resource and social conditions in recreation areas.

“The explosive growth we are experiencing now in day use and resultant negative impacts on the High Peaks resource and wilderness experience calls for a thoughtful discussion and reassessment of High Peaks management policies and actions by a variety of stakeholders,” stated Dan Plumley,  a resident of Keene and a staff partner with Adirondack Wild. “The harm being done to the wilderness resource is significant and the DEC and (Adirondack Park Agency) have a number of private partners who can help them focus on today’s and long-term critical problem areas. A focused CAC process could be very helpful in moving forward a discussion to restore wilderness integrity, conditions and characteristics to the High Peaks which are of such statewide, regional and global importance.”

Photo by Mike Lynch: Hikers on Cascade Mountain.


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Mike Lynch is a staff writer and photographer for the nonprofit Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly news magazine with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues. Mike’s favorite outdoor activities include paddling, hiking, fishing and backcountry skiing. In 2011, he paddled the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail from Old Forge to Fort Kent, Maine. From 2007 until 2014, Mike worked as an outdoors writer and photographer for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise in Saranac Lake. Mike welcomes story ideas and can be reached at mike@adirondackexplorer.org.

99 Responses

  1. Thank you Dan and Adirondack Wild. We need thoughtful discussion and analysis, not knee-jerk reactions.

  2. Boreasfisher says:

    Good public stewardship initiative from ADK Wild. Hope the suggestions get some traction. All that marketing money seems to be having an impact –thoughtful mitigation is clearly needed to protect the lands for everyone’s enjoyment.

  3. Chris says:

    It is not intuitive why there is a significant increase in hikers on peak weekends over the recent years. To my knowledge, there hasn’t been anymore parking spaces added at the Loj, Cascade or Garden parking lots. As long as I can remember, these locations have always filled early on certain weekends. Are there more buses or increased carpooling that is causing the issue?

  4. Neil Luckhurst says:

    I think the “harm” being done to the HPR is being overblown. The heavy traffic in the HP’s is confined to the most direct “trade routes” to the 46er summits. All other trails are pristine. And of course, as soon as you venture off-trail the only man-made artifacts you encounter are those GD balloons.

    But, on those aforementioned trade routes there is indeed a mess that needs cleaning up, let there be no question about that. But, to suggest that the HPR as a whole is being harmed or damaged is to exercise tunnel vision and to see the HPR as no more than the narrow confines of the trails that lead directly and most easily to the 46er summits.

    • Penn L. Hoyt says:

      Good for you!! Adirondack Wild is just another organization that would put a fence around the park and do its best to drive out all the people who live there.

      • Alan Vieters says:

        Why would you make such a statement? Why is it when an environmental group makes a statement about doing right by our land there is a fraction that accuses them of trying to do harm to locals or the economy.

  5. Paul says:

    “The organization has asked that the DEC undertake a “Limit of Acceptable Change assessment” of critical issues in the Eastern High Peaks to inform management of the area. The assessment method is used by natural resource managers to determine the appropriate resource and social conditions in recreation areas.”

    seems like this story should have a description of this that readers can understan. explain the method?

    Limit of acceptable change?

    • PeterD says:

      Roughly speaking, Limits of Acceptable Change (LAC) is a “tool” or system of measuring and informing management with regards to the recreational or carrying capacity of a given area. I am oversimplifying but the method uses standards, criteria, and objectives to guide decision making and follow through. It requires training, inventory, and monitoring. Given staff levels at DEC and the skills involved – it is an ideal to strive for but perhaps unreasonable to expect.

  6. Todd Eastman says:

    Great way to address the often stated need to get more people outside to learn the ways of nature and natural challenges in the mountains…

    … by demanding limits to access to public lands…

    … this increase in use has been anticipated since the 1960s, and the planning by the land managers has been non-existent!

    This is simply the result of poor planning and confused lobbying by advocacy groups that want to regulate access.

  7. Neil Luckhurst says:

    This summer in high season I did a 15-day backpack in the High Peaks and Dix Wilderness. I crossed 33 of the 46er peaks and about 18 trailless peaks from the ADK-HH list. My trek took me both on and off trail and i covered about 300 miles. I camped out in Lean-to’s and also completely off trail deep in wild places.

    I saw more mylar baloons than toilet paper and the only peaks where I encountered a lot of people were Porter and Cascade. I did those peaks from the Garden and saw 3 people and zero litter. While training for the trek I did most of the Great Range trail 3 times (on weekends) and do not recall any litter, toilet paper or crowds.

    This leads me to re-state that the problem is confined to a small handful of trails and parking lots. Let’s hope the DEC continues to work on those target areas (planking, stairs, proper signs, thunderboxes and privies) . But let’s also hope they don’t buckle under public pressure and do just “anything” to make it look like they are doing “something”.

    • Mike Lynch says:

      There isn’t litter in most places. However, there are areas near popular summits, lookouts, etc., where you can find a significant amount of toilet paper and other assorted items. The litter is not always obvious from the main trail. You often have to take one of the short spur trails to find it.

      • Mike Lynch says:

        That’s why the DEC has been installing privies near summits.

        • Taras says:


          I invite you to hike up to Cascade’s privy and check out how well that’s working out. I was there several weeks ago and the area around the privy was littered with TP. This is the level of obliviousness that the authorities have to deal with.

          I look forward to the upcoming (next season?) implementation of a Trail Steward at the Cascade trailhead. Newbies need to become house-broken at the trailhead, well before they venture up Cascade and do “bad puppy!” things.

          • M.P. Heller says:

            Who is the more oblivious group? The people who make a ring of poop around the privy or the land managers who thought that summit privies would be the correct solution to the problem?

            • Boreas says:

              The former.

              • M.P. Heller says:

                I’m not so sure. There is decades of evidence that this ring of poop issue occurs wherever a backcountry pricy is located. Expecting different results at the newly placed summit privies is a bit crazy from my point of view.

                The hiker license just went up a buck because now everyone needs to receive a plastic trowel with their annual renewal. (Because I knew that you would want to know what alternative I would suggest)

          • Neil says:

            The problem with the privy just below the summit bloc on Cascade is that it is visible from and directly faces the trail. Anyone using it would be presenting frontal views of their most intimate anatomy.

  8. I agree that something needs to be done (not a fence). The situation needs to be assessed and acted upon thoughtfully as Neil & Brandon suggest. Giant, Cascade, Loj are all hotspots that I avoid as a resident. There are issues dangerous issues whether on trail or in the case of parking (I nearly hit someone at Giant Mtn. who had parked his car w/in 3 feet of the yellow line IN the road-the car extended 5 feet into a 55 mph zone).

    The mylar baloons are another issue; I’ve removed 2 from Panther Gorge and find more bushwhacking than on trail where I find the toilet paper, applicators etc. Education on many fronts will be key and that’s where Dan and ADK Wild can truly be a part of a good focused conversation with others.

  9. Ray Mainer says:

    I have hiked extensively in the White Mountains, the Green Mountains, the Adirondacks, and elsewhere. The trails in the Adirondacks are by far the worst in any region. Does anybody do any maintenance on them?

    • Boreas says:


      Yes, but only as much as funding and manpower – both paid and volunteer – allow. The Adirondack Park is a very large area with a large range of trail types and usage. Trail maintenance and management has been poorly funded for a long time.

    • Neil Luckhurst says:

      The trails themselves (not the litter on or near them) is a whole ‘nuther issue. The ADK trails, especially some of them leading to 46er peaks (the “trade routes”) were not designed. They formed spontaneously by smaller numbers of people following handrails (ie. drainages) and by “climbing” straight up the mountain.
      Nowadays,the carrying capacity has been completely overwhelmed of these organic soils that sit atop impervious granite on steep moisture-laden slopes. This has resulted in horrible hiking conditions and ugliness on certain trails. I give the first prize to Seward North as the worst one of all!

  10. Boreas says:

    Unique problems often require unique solutions. Ultimately, I believe the best management solution for the problems in the Eastern HPW should start with a new land use amendment to the SLMP to allow for a High Peaks Special Use Corridor (HPSUC). This would effectively be spot management that would designate high-use CORRIDORS within the Eastern HPW, not necessarily a blanket re-classification of the entire area. This would include the major trunk trails and spurs to the majority of popular peaks over 3500 feet. It would also allow for extensive trail-hardening and re-routing as well as sanitary stations near major junctions. The HPSUC would also allow for new safe parking areas near popular access areas including pay-for-use shuttles where appropriate. The new designation would also give DEC the OPTION of limiting access to these corridors, ie. mud season, excessively wet conditions, high-use weekends, etc. when necessary.

    Again, this certainly isn’t an ideal solution for a Wilderness Area, but it is about the only solution I can see that wouldn’t start with area-wide restrictions, limits, or certification/licensing options. As usual, there is no easy solution that would satisfy everyone.

  11. Bob Waltersdorf says:

    I would be in favor of a program where certain areas, lets say the Dix Range are closed off for many years allowing it regenerate. Then after that period of time open it with permit only to hikers who have completed a training program and close another area. This was the way early farmers kept their fields healthy, maybe we should stop thinking about our personal desires, like becoming a 46er in one year or less and consider the long term.

    I recently posed the question on Aspiring 46ers web site, Where is the wild life, look at the difference since the turn of the 20th century. Some responses were the deer are all in the suburbs, or the high peaks don’t provide the wild animals the proper environment or 20 years ago blah blah blah. So I guess most people can’t think back past their merger lives. For anyone who doesn’t know the turn of the 20th century was 1901, not 1996 and since when is the deer considered the sole category to evaluate an areas wild life? Wolf, Moose, Otter, Turtle, Mountain Lion, etc… wildlife.

    So we keep expanding the human foot print, my thinking is this area will be just a bunch of trees on some large granite Mts soon. People will get their “Kodak Moments” and the wilderness will be gone. Oh wait, I think its already happened. I know I am not perfect in my logic but, I just want to offer an idea to help and start a conversation. Thanks

    • Taras says:

      “Regeneration” can take decades. A short section of the Van Hoevenberg trail, east of Marcy Dam, was closed and rerouted shortly after Tropical Storm Irene (2011). The closed section is still easily identifiable as a trail.

      Trails that have been closed for a generation, like Twin Brooks and Colden (from the east), are now difficult to locate; it takes a long, long time.

      Closing trails to the Dix Range for a generation seems like an impractical solution. All it would do is cause hikers to bushwhack to the summits and create new (braided) herd-paths (as was done in the past). Closing down the entire area to foot-traffic, for 10-20 years, to allow for regeneration would be a tough sell (and an enforcement headache).

      Best bet is trail-hardening and/or re-routing short sections.

  12. Bruce says:

    As late as last June during mid-week, travel along Rte.73 through the HP was scary. People were coming from around parked cars without looking, and bridge construction only added to the confusion. I didn’t dare stop to take some pictures, and I was never so glad to get clear of an Adirondack road in all the years I’ve been coming up for vacation during the “uncrowded” time (mid June).

    • Taras says:

      If I’m not mistaken, there are at least four small parking areas serving the Cascade and Pitchoff trailheads. A rough guess suggests room for 50 cars. That’s reasonable for preventing chaos on the highway and controlling the number of hikers accessing the trails.

      What is a wonder to me is why parking along the highway’s shoulder is permitted. It effectively expands available parking to hundreds of vehicles. It also creates a hazard for pedestrians and motorists.

      What prevents the installation of “No Parking” or “No Stopping” or “Tow Away” signs lining the road for a mile in each direction?

      Anyone foolish enough to park in the posted zone would contribute to the town’s coffers.

      • terry says:

        If there is a safety issue drop the speed limit too 15MPH for mile that starts at Pitchoff where the road narrows too 1 lane and ends past the Cascade parking area.

        • Paul says:

          Terry, you can’t have a 15MPH speed limit on a major highway like that. This isn’t some sort of residential area.

          • Todd Eastman says:

            Let the potholes grow to their natural size…

            … “Free the potholes!”

          • terry says:

            Really, ever been through a toll booth?, or Keene Valley?
            the speed limit should be 15 or 20 MPH on 73 in several spots.

            • Paul says:

              Good luck, I say it will never happen. Not even sure it would be legal. This is not like a school zone.

            • Boreas says:


              It seems like a reasonable solution to me. If it requires an act of congress, so be it.

              • Paul says:

                Creating a 15MPH speed limit to facilitate many cars parking illegally along the side of the road does not sound reasonable to me. 50 cars is plenty of cars for those two mountains. Hikers can go somewhere else if the lots are full. That seems more reasonable and better for the trails if you ask me.

                • terry says:

                  It’s not to facilitate many cars parking, it’s to keep the people safe while walking to trails.
                  Although the speed limit is 30 in both Keene Valley and Lake Placid it is almost impossible to drive the limit during the summer or busy fall weekends.Same here.
                  I would guess that since you care about the trails so much you have not been on them for many years so as not to add to the problem.
                  These are popular trails and peaks.
                  People who visit the HP as tourists want to use them. Thats a good thing.

        • Bruce says:

          The problem isn’t the speed limit. The problem is people parking where their cars are not a safe and sane distance from the road. When I went through there this past summer, people were parking with their cars actually over the white line, out in the travel lane. And when they weren’t over the white line, their doors opened into the road.

          Also as I said, people parking on the opposite side of the road from where they wanted to go, were seen crossing without looking for traffic. It’s this kind of single-mindedness making it difficult for those of us who try to be responsible.

          Between that and the bridge construction in several places, the speed through there was pretty low to begin with. It was still very dangerous, and I went through before the “season.”

  13. Dave Gibson says:

    Thanks for the question and good answer regarding the wild land management tool known as Limits of Acceptable Change. We (Adk Wild) should have explained it in our release. The High Peaks Unit Management plan adopted by DEC + APA in 1999 was very conversant with the “shortcomings of the carrying capacity approach…by focusing on determining how many visitors an area could accommodate, it was found that managers often lost sight of basic wilderness goals and objectives – the very things they were trying to achieve. This changed the question from ‘how many is too many’ to ‘how much change is acceptable.’ Thus, LAC is a process used to prescribe what kind of resource and social conditions are acceptable (for wilderness in this case), compare them to on the ground conditions, and identify the management policies and actions needed to maintain or restore the desired wilderness conditions.

    • Taras says:

      ” … LAC is a process used to prescribe what kind of resource and social conditions are acceptable …”

      Who defines “acceptable”?

      What is the current benchmark for “acceptable”?

      Where is this benchmark published?

    • Paul says:

      “actions needed to maintain or restore the desired wilderness conditions”

      Figure out how many people we need to kick out of that area to get it back to a wilderness condition. It’s a lot.

  14. tim-brunswick says:

    Hurray for Todd Eastman….he hit the nail on the head.

    The majority of the so-called “Advocacy Groups” are solely focused upon creation of more “wilderness” and consequently limiting access by New Yorkers that are not physically fit, handicapped or otherwise mobility impaired.

    THANK YOU Todd!!

    • Taras says:

      The majority of the earth’s surface is unfriendly to the unfit or mobility impaired. It’s not all that easy on the fit and mobile either.

      • Paul says:

        What are you talking about most of the earth is water. Boats are perfect for getting around if you have a disability. Perhaps a good reason why we should make it easier to get a canoe to these ponds!

    • Alan Vieters says:

      Referring to an advocacy group as “so called” when you disagree with their position, doesn’t negate the fact they are indeed forwarding a viewpoint. There are very few advocacy groups that even offer an opinion on land classification. The most common type of lobbying organizations in the state are political, business and religious. I think you are so hyper focused on your narrow vantage point that you think this issue is larger than it is.

    • Todd Eastman says:

      Tim, I am a strong supporter of Wilderness and its ability to provide life altering experiences away from mechanized devices and their sounds. Wilderness, even when crowded along certain trails also provides the highest level of ecosystem services including improving air and water quality.

      What I am not in favor of is the concept of limiting access to Wilderness for day trips because suitable trail development has not occurred and in some cases is opposed by advocacy groups.

      Taras is in my opinion correct in noting serious hardening of the treadways could be done. Another possibility, and one I know conflicts with my dislike of mechanized devices and their noise, is to allow a longer window on the calendar for trail crews to use chainsaws in the High Peaks and other busy Wilderness areas.

      The amount of good provided by even a crowded High Peaks is truly amazing!

  15. lpbob3 says:

    I worked many different national parks out west back in 80’s and 90’s and If I remember correctly most of those parks required back country permits to be able to stay overnight in those areas. As I worked for the private companies providing lodging, food, gas etc there didn’t seem to be any lack of business due to this permit policy. A dollar fee for hiking has been mentioned many times here over the years and also limits of numbers also. The hiking fee is a good place to start as many summit trails go straight up and could use work and the limit of number idea is a good idea but don’t see that happening any time soon.

    • Neil Luckhurst says:

      Charging hikers, say $10 per day each to hike would not be a deterrent but it would raise plenty of money that might get lost in the general fund.

      While it is true that permits to hike in many places cost money I would hate to see the Adirondacks go that route.

      The potential (paradoxical) problem with trail hardening, ladders, planking etc. is that it raises the carrying capacity higher still. Reminds me of the green revolution that basically only served to further increase the size of the world’s population living at starvation levels.

      Great point above about deer and the Aspiring FB page . Like who cares that there are 300 species of lichens between the HPIC and the summit of Algonquin? Or that Boot’s Rattlesnake Root is a rare fragile alpine plant.

      • Todd Eastman says:

        That would rack up fast if I were still training for skiing and hiting the trails every day…

        … imagine how the locals read a $10 p/d fee, access to the Wilderness areas are frequently an offset to the low wages and high costs of living in the region…

        … season passes would not affordable for many families.

    • terry says:

      This leads to “outfitters”(scalpers) getting all the slots and selling them at a premium.
      limiting access only leads to:

      1 turning people away( i would never come back)

      2 driving up the price so only those that can afford the cost can hike.

      • M.P. Heller says:


        That’s kind of the idea. A fee/license/permit system would be perceived differently by different individuals. You say that if you ever got turned away that you’d never return. Others would have different reasons that would impact their decision making. For instance, some people would not agree to pay for a permit. In both cases the intended outcome of a fee based system is achieved. Less users. For whatever reason.

        • terry says:

          Really? So only someone that could afford to pay a reseller can afford to hike a trail?
          Part of the beauty of hiking is the fact that its free.

          • M.P. Heller says:

            It’s only free if you never plan on returning something to the land and resources you enjoy as a hiker.

            If resellers are a concern, the license could either be only valid for the person it was issued to, and/or language could be put in the enabling legislation prohibiting reselling. Scalpers are a straw man.

            • terry says:

              What world do you live in.
              You only offer excuses and never solutions and contradict yourself as long as it leads back to limiting people on the trails.

  16. Pete Nelson says:

    This is a good recommendation from Adirondack Wild. A focused discussion between DEC and stakeholders is needed. The idea of “carrying capacity” has within it critical concepts of ecological capacity. That has been undervalued and needs consideration.

    I hope this call is heeded.


  17. Charlie S says:

    Neil Luckhurst says: ” as soon as you venture off-trail the only man-made artifacts you encounter are those GD balloons.”

    Kevin MacKenzie says: “The mylar baloons are another issue; ”

    What are these balloons that we’re talking about? My first thoughts are balloons sent up from party-goer’s that are wind-blown & far removed from the area where they were sent up.

    • Paul says:

      The mylar ones are probably weather observation balloons. I have found a few (and the other stuff they are carrying) over the years. Just take them home and toss them. Not that big of a deal. Same for the party ones.

  18. Craig Catalano says:

    Give more jobs to people who live in the Adirondacks to maintain and protect them. You can not spend millions of dollars on advertising, and then turn people away when they get here. Environmental groups sucks!

    • Boreas says:

      Wouldn’t the people you suggest we hire to to protect and maintain the Adirondacks then be considered Environmentalists/Preservationists?

      • Paul says:

        No they would be like the guy you see driving the DEC boat up on Lower Saranac – the one that has the giant poop vacuum on it for pumping out outhouses!

  19. Bill Ingersoll says:

    It would be very interesting to see the High Peaks CAC revived. The issue of overuse in the High Peaks first popped up about fifty years ago, when the actual visitor levels were far less than they are today. Each time an action is taken, it seems to address the symptoms but never the root causes, whatever they may be. The High Peaks are not an infinite resource; we can only build so many ladders, reroute a worn-out trail so many times, staff so many summit stewards, rescue so many underprepared people.

    For anyone interested in the story of the original CAC, I highly recommend Barbara McMartin’s book “Perspectives on the Adirondacks” published in 2002. Pages 264 through 276 in particular. This has always been my favorite part of that book, filled with lots of intrigue.

    • Bruce says:


      I agree with your assessment about we can only do so much, but
      here’s a quote from Peter Bauer in an article in the “Times Union” by Rick Karlin:

      And Peter Bauer, executive director of the conservation group Protect the Adirondacks, said people shouldn’t be kept from the area’s beauty.

      “I don’t think we can keep the crowds away from the High Peaks nor should we,” he said.

      He added that certain spots in the High Peaks have always been draws, such as the state’s highest point, Mount Marcy.

      He recalls descending Mount Marcy during one nice fall day two decades ago and counting 400 people along the trail.

      The issue, to him is one of resources from the state – especially for improvement such as rebuilding trails with switchbacks, which cut erosion”.

      It sounds as if his assessment is to keep building and rebuilding which begs the question…at what point does Wilderness start suffering, or is it already? Apparently in Mr. Bauer’s view, hiking in wilderness(short of trash, human waste, etc.) is something we need to encourage more of, even in areas becoming devastated by hikers. He’s already demonstrated a propensity for new trails and their associated other man-made constructions for hikers in currently untrammeled wilderness areas.

      • Boreas says:


        I have a slightly different take on Mr. Bauer’s quotes. To me, not “keeping people away” does not equate to encouraging more use – just not restricting use. But that is just my take. I also don’t see that creating switchbacks, hardening, and reroutes as a “propensity for new trails”.

        I am unsure of what proposed new trails you are referring to. But I do feel that strategically routed new trails could have the net effect of reducing use of the most heavily used & damaged trails – possibly even leading to their closure in favor of more stable and manageable routes.

        Virtually all of the HPW trails were laid out by guides seeking the easiest and quickest route to a destination. Trail erosion was a foreign concept. 100-1000 users/day was inconceivable to these pioneers. If it is decided that hiker restriction is forbidden, then a major rethink and renovation of the current HPW trail system will be necessary. It may take several decades to accomplish, but would help preserve the resource for the future.

  20. Jim Jette says:

    The problem is and has been for over 20 years, the ADK LOJ. Where is the parking problem? ADK LOJ. Where was the TP problem after the restrooms were shut down? ADK LOJ. They are a huge problem. Big problems with the trails that approach the area from the south? Nope, no LOJ. Newcomb overrun? North Hudson traffic jams? You built a LOJ and they have come. How about some big signs on the Northway at exit 29 that point to the west and say “High Peaks Access”. Just look at the ADK club on this site, they ask for more people even though they can’t handle more people.

  21. Tony Goodwin says:

    Lots of opinions, but no clear answer. As a member of the High Peaks CAC, I participated in the formulation of most of the regulations that currently govern the High Peaks Wilderness and to a lesser extent Dix and Giant.

    The limits on groups size, designation of herd paths, fire ban, strategic relocation of campsites, and years of high quality trail work have, I believe, actually improved conditions in the High Peaks – despite the increase in use. That said, not every area has seen improvement, I think there has been a net gain – a gain that can be sustained going forward.

    As others have said, this major impacts are limited to a few corridors to particularly popular peaks. Step a few yards off these corridors, and it’s still untouched wilderness. Climb a peak like Porter via a longer route such as the trail from the Keene Valley Airport, and you’ll see hardly a soul until you reach the summit. Wilderness and solitude are there if you only take a moment to look for it. And it should be the individual seeking the wilderness experience and not the government controlling that experience via some permit system.

    Parking at places like Cascade is clearly a safety issue, but putting up “No Parking” signs does no good unless there is someone to enforce it. The rangers all say they have more important things to do on weekends as do the state police.

    I can accept that Adirondack trails do not look as nice as trails in other ranges. The problem is that Adirondack rock is often just smooth slab with a few inches of organic soil on top. This is in comparison to to both the Whites and Greens where the rock is generally broken and gravel is still present under the layer of organic soil. So trail crews have done (and are still doing) what they can at lower elevations. At higher elevations, the only alternative is major structures of imported wood. Love it or hate it, that’s about the only solution.

    Long comment, but to sum up the woods can handle this latest surge and still come out looking better that before the 1990 surge that led to the CAC’s recommendations for todays regulations and management policies.

    • Taras says:

      >>Parking at places like Cascade is clearly a safety issue, but putting up “No Parking” signs does no good unless there is someone to enforce it. The rangers all say they have more important things to do on weekends as do the state police. <<

      The DEC recently announced rangers will be stationed near Meadows Lane on weekends to turn away motorists when the Loj's lot is full. I realize issuing parking violations isn't exciting work but I can't imagine redirecting traffic is all that much more interesting.

      If no one wants to enforce no-parking zones then I'm not sure how one goes about limiting the number of vehicles. Stationing rangers to redirect cars, all weekend long, hardly seems cost-effective.

      If the goal is to redirect people *and* tell them where else they may hike , again, is this the best use of a ranger's skills? Stationed in the frontcountry and operating as a parking attendant/tourist guide?

      Perhaps someone from the ADK Mtn Club, like the attendant at the entrance booth, can double as a tourist guide (they're quite knowledgeable). The ranger normally stationed at the Loj can periodically patrol the road and issue parking violations (as has been done for many years).

      • M.P. Heller says:

        It’s a super Hazzard right? There doesn’t appear to be too much debate about that anyways.

        So it’s potentially highly dangerous and life threatening to allow the situation to continue it stands to reason the deterrent to such behavior must be large. In this case large fines for violating a new parking ordinance that clearly needs to be passed. Something like 100 dollar minimum for first time offenders with clear signage indicating this. That would more than pay for a few town employees to go enforce the parking ordinance so the Rangers and Troopers can be available for other purposes.

        The real question is what is more important to the officials in the town. Creating safe conditions for travellers and trailhead users on 73 in the troubled area or continuing to allow as many people as possible to use the area and support the economy.

        Unfortunately the answer to this kind of question is usually the latter until someone gets seriously hurt or killed.

  22. Paul says:

    You could start by making this part of the Adirondacks a little less easy for hikers to wreck. Close the the Adirondack Loj and the Johns Brook Lodge and give the land to the state. ADK is the main group that is over promoting the HPW.


    When you do this don’t be surprised when lots of people show up.

    • Todd Eastman says:

      You got a blackfly up yer butt?

    • Neil says:

      The flip-side could be that the people are actually coming first and foremost for the mountains. It’s possible that if those ADK facilities were removed that people would still come in the same numbers. The concentration of hikers into lodges, cabins and onto “hardened” surfaces and lean-to’s may result in less soil damage, trampling etc.

      I have never stayed at the ADK facilities but I wonder if they also educate their clientele as to back-country ethics.

    • Boreas says:

      “Close the the Adirondack Loj and the Johns Brook Lodge and give the land to the state.”
      By eminent domain? That would go over like a fart in church.

      • Paul says:

        No the ADK would sell the land voluntarily if it were the right thing to do for the environment. Don’t worry they are not selling. I agree with Neil I think they probably do more good than harm. They do control access at the Loj. These are state lands where access to some extent is controlled by a private entity. So it is kind of a weird arrangement.

        • Boreas says:

          Indeed! But perhaps they should just sell the main parking lot to the state (along with the trailhead) and focus on their lodge(s), H/C building, and camping properties for income. Then let the state take charge of the problems originating at that trailhead.

  23. Paul says:

    It is funny you look at these pictures and you hear about how there is 100 people on the summits of these popular peaks and you gotta wonder why so popular? I get it for something like Everest or K2 but Cascade? Doesn’t look fun at all. I would think that these articles alone would stop the problem. You should just look at it say no thanks! Guess it is all relative if you frequent places like Manhattan or Montreal.

    • Neil says:

      I live in Montreal and on nice autumn weekends there are thousands (not hundreds, thousands) of people up on Mount Royal walking around. Cascade is actually a much nicer destination than Montreal’s Mt. Royal.

      If geology built it they will come.

    • Taras says:

      I have a good photo of the view from Cascade that explains its appeal. I’d post a link to the photo but Cascade doesn’t need more promotion. 😉

  24. Charlie S says:

    Craig Catalano says: “You can not spend millions of dollars on advertising, and then turn people away when they get here. Environmental groups sucks!”

    It’s the State and the governor spending on advertising for people to go to the Adirondacks Craig! The environmental groups are necessary and a godsend thank you!

    • JohnL says:

      What are you talking about Charlie? Craig is right. How many articles have been written on this forum advocating diversity and attracting more people to the Adirondacks so they’ll appreciate what they do for us. The argument is always get more people and they’ll support the protection of the mountains. You can’t have it both ways.

      • Charlie S says:

        Okay.. so it’s both the State and the governor and advocates on this site. For sure though the State is spending a ton of money to get people to go to the Adirondacks.My friend on Long Island has told me so…she says she has never seen such a big push for the Adirondacks on tv and in the papers.And that’s just on Long Island! I would assume it’s the local governments also who want more people because times are tough the economy sucks and whatever it takes to fill up the town coffers….at the expense of the environment and ecosystems as per norm. I like the Adirondacks for it’s serenity,solitude,magic & O’ those sweet earthy aroma’s in the air……not for the crowds that seem to be increasing as time moves along.

  25. terry says:

    Why not partner with Paul Smiths College.
    The kids from the school already work the canoe/kayak access points to make sure people know about cleaning the plant matter from trailers.
    let them do their internships at the trail heads, mid trail and summits on the busiest peaks. Also let them earn credit, experience(and tips ) working as guides on these trails as a service.

    • M.P. Heller says:

      The kids doing the launch ramp work are doing so through a partnership between the DEC and The Adirondack Watershed Institute. AWI is affiliated with PSC and that’s how they have access to the student base for interns.

      For your idea to work, another separate agreement would have to be reached with DEC. That could probably be done but it would take some time. Nobody would be able to guide as part of this program if they didn’t have a licence though. There are laws about who is authorized to guide.

  26. Todd Eastman says:

    The gap between education and enforcement is an issue. Though the ADK and other orgs can deliver the soft messaging, the real work must be done by the agencies that are tasked with managing the public lands.

    NYS has failed to shoulder the burden with policy, regs, and money creating the current perception of a failing system.

    Rather than depending on the efforts of the orgs to do State’s job, NYS needs to deliver the actual numbers and a public process that defines would be required to run the High Peaks as a Wilderness that provides the infrastructure to allow the current and anticipated day use. Limiting day use reduces necessary exposure to Wilderness and is an insult to those who have chosen to live in the area.

    • Paul says:

      Todd, look at NYS’s finances. Where is the $ for this enforcement going to come from? The state is too busy spending money on more land that it cannot properly manage or maintain. Boreas is just another example.

  27. Boreas says:

    Reading the comments on this particular discussion should make it obvious how the EHPW situation has become the problem it has. People seem to equate all state lands as being equal, which means free, unlimited access. However, not all state lands are designated as Wilderness, which by law affords the highest land protection possible in NYS. Whatever the reasons for heavy usage in certain portions of any Wilderness area, the DEC currently is charged FOREMOST with preserving the land, not promoting/providing free, unlimited access. But Albany is trying to keep everyone happy, which is failing the conservation of this particularly unique resource in the HPW.

    What we see today is the result of not addressing this basic tenet of the DEC’s responsibility. Opposing factions tend to negate each other in Albany so nothing is done. Albany has been content to wring their hands, hoping the problem would go away. Well, it hasn’t.

    Now is the time for Albany and NYS citizens to decide what these special Wilderness areas mean to them. Do we limit numbers on high-traffic routes to help preserve the resource? Do we promote even more access to these overburdened trails and peaks? Do we create a new land designation specific to the EHPW trails/peaks to allow more access via trail hardening/re-routing/sanitation services or a more strict designation that allows DEC to regulate access?

    Any change in regulation is going to have fierce opposition, which illustrates today’s polarization of citizens. Ultimately, Albany has to defecate or get off the thunder box and make some hard choices for this particular area of the EHPW. But it does need to be addressed NOW and NYS citizens should all have a say in the process. Maintaining the status quo will do nothing. Write your representatives and let them know your feelings.

  28. Paul says:

    One of the major approaches to the great range is via a road that has vehicular traffic. The road into the ausable lakes on AMR property (remember the old green hiker bus?). That road goes right to the boathouse on the lake. You could almost throw a rock from rainbow falls to the road if you had a good arm. All that land near the road once you get in the woods is as much “wilderness” as anywhere. Here in Boreas you are not talking about having a road anywhere near as close as there. I know some will say wait that road is private. There is still plenty of vehicular traffic on it, it is basically the same thing. The road will not impact the wilderness character of the ponds themselves. In fact you could have left the lodge there (for people to stay in and keep their poo in a septic system instead of all over the woods like we have seen in some of these other posts) and it wouldn’t be much different than the clubs boathouse on the lake. Big difference is that the public could have used it. Under these circumstances Boreas might attract a good number of users and take some of the pressure off other parts of the HPW. But it is too late for any of that. Too bad.

    • Boreas says:


      You may have mixed up your threads. The discussion here is about how to fix the HPW, not the road issue at BP.

    • M.P. Heller says:

      Besides being in the wrong thread Paul, I think that you are conflating private property and wilderness. It’s still a good opportunity to point out that wilderness is governed by laws and private property by its owners.

      The AMR is a bad example to use because it’s not wilderness and doesn’t have to conform to the standard. The boathouse and the Lake Road most assuredly are NOT wilderness features. Neither is the upper boathouse or the Warden’s Camp. As such the AMR is managed much more like a Wild Forest than anything else.

      • Paul says:

        Yes, guys sorry. MP my point was that the proximity of that road to the Great Range really in no way deters from the wilderness experience once you (very quickly) get off AMR property and into the HPW.

        • M.P. Heller says:

          That is true to a large extent when it comes to the state land portion of the FP in both the Colvin/Pinnacle and Great Ranges insofar as once you leave the road and evidence of its presence disappears in relatively short order. Impacts would be different if that road wasn’t there and it was FP instead of private though.

  29. Charlie S says:

    “It’s still a good opportunity to point out that wilderness is governed by laws and private property by its owners.”

    Owners who arm their security guards with handguns. The world is sure-a-changing.

    • M.P. Heller says:

      I don’t have any security guards. Does that mean I have to arm myself?

    • Paul says:

      armed security guards are a new thing? actually i think they are an old thing?

      Read up on how Rockefeller and other large landowners used to guard their Adirondack property around the turn of the 20th century.

    • Boreas says:

      Now they probably just use armed drones…

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