Outdoor recreation in the Adirondack Park has grown significantly in recent years, rising from an estimate of 10 million visitors in 2001 to over 12.4 million in 2018. The popularity of the park has not been inconsequential.
The High Peaks Wilderness has been ground zero for major impacts, with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) listing overcrowded trailheads, trail deterioration, undesired trails, campsite and lean-to deterioration, water pollution, and impacts to wildlife as some of the negative consequences of high public use.
Some trails and mountain peaks are seeing large crowds on weekends. It’s not unusual for Cascade Mountain to see 1,000 hikers on a weekend. Many High Peaks are seeing 30,000 to 40,000 hikers on their trails each year.
A 2018 study by the Adirondack Council estimated that 130 miles of trails in the High Peaks Wilderness have been damaged due to overuse, poor design, and lack of maintenance. In addition to the physical effects of high usage, many visitors have noted the social consequences that throngs of visitors have on the ability of the park to provide Wilderness with “outstanding opportunities for solitude” as stated in the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.
As the DEC works to develop a new High Peaks Wilderness Unit Management Plan, conservationists are urging that the plan manage the overflowing and inadequate trailhead parking, crowded summits, trash and human waste on trails, lack of trail maintenance, and noise pollution that are increasingly common occurrences in the High Peaks Wilderness during peak hiking season. Many are calling for strategies to deal with increased use, and some conservation organizations are advocating for the implementation of a hiker permit system.
As Environmental Studies majors at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, we are working to better understand public perceptions of management options for the High Peaks Wilderness for our senior research capstone project.
We have designed an online survey that gauges the degree to which overuse is perceived as a problem, as well as the popularity and preferences for varying management options and environmental protection techniques among users of the High Peaks Wilderness.
Whether you have been hiking in the High Peaks your whole life, you’re an aspiring 46er, or a newbie to the region, please consider taking our brief online survey. A diversity of responses is necessary for us to achieve a more holistic understanding of High Peaks Wilderness users’ opinions.
Our online survey can be found at www.tinyurl.com/ADKskidmore. The survey period ends March 31, 2019.
Colin Cameron, Sam Vogel and Greta Binzen are seniors at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. All three are studying environmental studies with an emphasis on land conservation and public land management.