Wednesday, April 10, 2019

High Peaks Need Bold, Comprehensive Management

As winter shows sure signs of releasing its grip on the Adirondacks, a new hiking season in the High Peaks Wilderness is coming into view. The allure of the High Peaks is immense for hikers, which is understandable.

There is simply no other place anywhere east of the Mississippi River that provides the experience like that found on the summit of an interior High Peak surrounded by dozens of others. The views from Gothics or Colvin or Colden or Haystack mountains, or any number of other High Peaks, are simply stunning.

It’s no wonder the High Peaks Wilderness is in the midst of a major boom in the number of hikers, which has stressed the region’s management.

This article examines the major questions facing the management of the High Peaks. In an essay published Monday I wrote about the need to build a sustainable trail system. This article focuses on the need to build a new, comprehensive management system that integrates the High Peaks, Hurricane Mountain and Giant Mountain Wilderness areas.

The importance of the High Peaks Wilderness unit in the Forest Preserve and New York State demands improved management. Because of the vast and varied landscape and the crowds, the challenges are immense. The Forest Preserve in the Adirondack Park is a checkerboard with big blocks of Wilderness lands and fragmented Wild Forest areas crisscrossed with roads, power lines, and private lands. There are hundreds of access points to both Wilderness and Wild Forest areas, many far flung, which provide 24/7 access every day of the year. There are dozens of access points to the High Peaks and associated Wilderness areas.

The High Peaks Wilderness is the most popular and heavily used area among the 2.6 million acres of Wilderness and Wild Forest areas in the Adirondack Forest Preserve. It’s a landscape unlike any other in the Adirondacks and one that cries out for new and improved management. A comprehensive management system for the High Peaks will not be cheap, but when New York State can spend more than $9 million to build a new, unnecessary campground at Frontier Town, that at best will see a fraction of the use of the High Peaks, it can certainly marshal the serious resources needed. For reasons unknown the Cuomo Administration simply refuses to adequately invest in the High Peaks.

What would a new and improved management system for the High Peaks, Hurricane Mountain and Giant Mountain Wilderness areas look like? In addition to building a sustainable trail network, here are the key elements of a new comprehensive management system for the High Peaks and associated Wilderness areas.

Education and Interpretation: One of the most significant management programs in the High Peaks is the multi-award winning Summit Stewards program, which has helped to protect rare alpine summit vegetation on a dozen mountaintops and has educated hundreds of thousands of hikers about Leave No Trace (LNT) practices for backcountry recreational use. This type of direct public education is indispensable and highly effective. Changes in the management of Forest Rangers has limited their backcountry presence and their ability to directly educate large numbers of hikers.

A hiker who is educated about LNT has a lower impact than an uneducated hiker. The best opportunities for educating hikers are at two points of their hikes: when they arrive at a parking area or trailhead and when they reach a mountain summit. The Summit Stewards have covered the most popular summits, and in the last two years the 46ers have pioneered trailhead education. The work of the 46ers at Cascade Mountain to provide outreach to hikers was very successful and this type of work needs to be expanded to a number of popular trailheads and parking areas. DEC staff undertook similar outreach and education work when parking for Cascade Mountain was shifted to the Mount Van Hoevenberg Ski Center last fall.

This type of education and outreach needs to be expanded in the High Peaks. Trailhead stewardship needs to be formally organized and could be undertaken so that the busiest dozen trailheads are covered by trained public outreach staff, especially on weekends. Trailhead education needs to be supported by robust online information about hiking in the High Peaks that is updated regularly. Northway rest areas also need to be improved with special displays about hiking in the High Peaks, with appropriate signs on the highway that encourage hikers to stop in, and the Beekmantown station needs a display in French as well as English. The Northway “High Peaks North” station has one display case about hiking preparedness, but nothing about LNT. There are no LNT brochures for visitors to take with them. There is nothing specific about hiking in the High Peaks and hiking etiquette. The new Adirondack Information Center north of Exit 17 on the Northway has zero information on LNT or about hiking in the High Peaks, though it encourages the public to buy the NY Fish & Wildlife app.

Safe Parking at all High Peaks Trailheads: The problems of trailhead parking in the High Peaks is that parking areas fill up quickly and early on most weekends and summer days, and, now, on many winter weekends too. This is not new, but something the state has been wrestling with for more than 20 years. The 1998 High Peaks Unit Management Plan states “Parking problems routinely occur at the Garden, South Meadows, the AuSable Club, and along NYS Route 73. In each case, the number of parked cars is often triple the desired capacity.” (p 92) The state’s response has been twofold. First, the successful Keene shuttle has stopped overflow problems at the Garden parking area, which created problems for local residents, but facilitates overuse. Second, overflow parking has long lined the roadside for miles on Route 73 at busy times.

Across the Adirondacks parking lots at Forest Preserve trailheads have been used to limit public use, which is first-come, first served. Think of the tralheads at Little Tupper Lake or Lake Lila. This system is overwhelmed when public spillover parking is allowed unchecked on roadsides, which was the case until recently on the Route 73 corridor, and continues to be the case along the Adirondack Loj Road and at the Ampersand Trailhead on Route 3.

Parking is important for two reasons: hikers need a safe place to park and start their hike; the size of a parking area should bear some relationship to the intended use of an area. In the High Peaks, it’s been a free for all. The Keene Town Supervisor has aptly referred to the dangers of roadside parking on Route 73 as a 55 mph parking lot. The DEC has taken some steps to control use. They signed long stretches of Route 73 near the Roaring Brook/AuSable Club parking areas with “No Parking” signs. The area begs for a longer term solution between improved off-highway parking and possibly shuttles.

At Cascade Mountain the state has looked longer term to sharply limit roadside parking on Route 73. They are in the process of rerouting the Cascade trail so that the public can park safely in the ample parking lots of the Mount Van Hoevenberg Ski Center. This will provide the opportunity for better trailhead education as well. The new trail up Cascade is unlikely to be completed this year and the transition for most public use from the Route 73 trailhead to the Van Hoevenberg new trail will take a few years to be fully phased in. Yet, this is progress and shows a commitment by the DEC to look for a long-term solution at Cascade.

The other major parking dilemma is the miles of cars that spill out of the ADK lot at Adirondack Loj. Parking along the Adirondack Loj Road is not as dangerous as Route 73 given the lower speeds, but points to chronic management failures. Parked cars often run for miles from the Loj to beyond the South Meadow Road. Parking is ad hoc on the South Meadow Road, an unnecessary protrusion into the Wilderness.

Again, the parking issues on the Loj Road and South Meadow Road are not new. Here’s what the 1998 UMP stated:

Concurrently, DEC will construct a new 100 vehicles South Meadows parking facility near the intersection of Adirondack Loj and South Meadows Roads within 500 feet of the wilderness boundary as permitted by the APSLMP, making this the main point of entry into the HPWC. In conjunction, DEC will request the Adirondack Mountain Club voluntarily hold their parking lots to a maximum capacity of 200 vehicles. A coordinated effort is required and reference is made to ADK’s Heart Lake Property Master Plan (1992) for the Club’s position. The South Meadows parking lot will by constructed by YEAR TWO.

The recommendations in the 1998 High Peaks UMP to close the South Meadows Road and build a new parking lot there were the right ones. A parking area at South Meadows would both limit public use and provide opportunities for public education and outreach. There’s a similar need for a safer parking area at the Ampersand trailhead with a new off-highway parking area.

Public Recreational Use Decisions Should be Driven by Science: Perhaps the biggest challenge for state managers is to create a system within the DEC that effectively measures public recreational impacts to facilities, such as trails and campsite, to natural resources, and to the Wilderness character of these lands. The state has struggled to do this effectively and consistently over the years. The state struggles to do basic things like gathering and tracking public use with trailhead registration data, which historically has lots of gaps, to say nothing of more complicated recreational management use analyses.

A High Peaks UMP amendment approved last year included a skeletal program for long-term monitoring of the “carrying capacity” of High Peaks Wilderness. The DEC stated that this plan will be constrained by limited resources and that it will be phased-in accordingly. The DEC’s program is built on identification and long-term monitoring of changes to a series of indicators that shape the public’s use, impacts and experiences in the High Peaks. This program marked a departure from boilerplate language in recent UMPs about complex monitoring programs that were never undertaken. This program marks a step-change at the DEC and Adirondack Park Agency (APA) to try and start some form of long-term scientific analysis program to measure the impacts of public use. The big questions going forward concern DEC’s staffing commitment to this enterprise, the quality of the data and analysis, and how this analysis will be used to shape management.

Ideally, some kind of “carrying capacity” analysis would help to determine the acceptable level of public use in different areas of the High Peaks, such as the number of people on a trail or mountain summit and the ability of an area to withstand this use. In this way, science would drive management. All facilities, such as campsites, the size of parking lots, the level of trail work, placement of education and outreach staff, among many other things, would be driven by this type of scientific analysis.

Permits for the Certain Trails and Mountains: Recently, proposals have been released for permit systems for trailhead parking areas and for hiking trails. While permits in some form for hiking in the High Peaks is a historic inevitability, the State of New York is currently ill-equipped to undertake these actions. Yes, the arc of Adirondack history bends towards permits in the High Peaks, but the challenge is that the state simply can’t move from 0 to 60 mph in a place as complicated as the High Peaks. The APA and DEC do not possess either the leadership or personnel to manage a comprehensive and functional permit system.

The state has experimented with a day use permit system at the popular Blue Hole in the Catskills and has long charged for reservations at State Campgrounds. The Blue Hole experiment was largely successful and has perhaps emboldened the state to start to think broadly about a permit system in the High Peaks. The state abandoned a permit system for the Essex Chain Lakes, but that system was poorly designed and made no sense given low public use due to the state’s failure to coherently classify those Forest Preserve lands. Permits are widely used to regulate access to wildlands across the U.S. Some form of Mount Katahdin-style permit system makes sense for the most popular mountains in the High Peaks, especially on weekends. While permits would transform use in the High Peaks, they are consistent with the long trajectory of management changes that have slowly been implemented, like bear canisters for food storage while camping, bans on campfires and glass bottles, group size limits, and leashed dogs, being the most significant.

The state should look at pioneering a permit system on weekends and summer days in July and August for Giant Mountain or Cascade Mountain.

Other Major Management Actions: There’s a direct relationship between the quality of High Peaks management and the number of staff at the DEC dedicated to the High Peaks. State staffing is bare-bones. For instance, there’s no science director at the DEC for the High Peaks. There’s no education director. Clearly, more Forest Rangers are needed across the Adirondacks and Catskills, but especially for those focused on the High Peaks Wilderness.

The DEC would be well advised to overhaul the High Peaks Wilderness UMP to codify changes in management. The re-establishment of the High Peaks Citizens Advisory Committee would be a positive step, create an opportunity for regular feedback, and create a system of accountability. The DEC should look at major issues, such as building trails on the trailless peaks where many mountains see a maze of herd paths.

The DEC has taken steps to limit parking on Route 73 at Roaring Brook, is working to reroute the Cascade trail, has approved a formal nascent carrying capacity monitoring program, held a series of meetings with stakeholders, is building new pit privies along many popular trails, and is exploring new parking hubs/shuttles at the Route 9/73 intersection or Frontier Town. These are all pieces of the comprehensive management system that needs to be organized for the High Peaks. It’s high time for the Cuomo Administration to act boldly and deliberately and make the badly needed investments in the management of the High Peaks, Hurricane Mountain and Giant Mountain Wilderness areas.

Read Part One: Cuomo Administration Needs to Invest in High Peaks Wilderness

Photo of Hikers on Cascade Summit by Peter Bauer.

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Peter Bauer is the Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks.

He has been working in various capacities on Adirondack Park environmental issues since the mid-1980s, including stints as the Executive Director of the Residents' Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and FUND for Lake George as well as on the staff of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century. He also worked at Adirondack Life Magazine. He served as Chair of the Town of Lake George Zoning Board of Appeals and has served on numerous advisory boards for management of the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve.

Peter lives in Blue Mountain Lake with his wife and two children, enjoys a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities throughout the Adirondacks, and is a member of the Blue Mountain Lake volunteer fire department.

Follow Protect the Adirondacks on Facebook and Twitter.




33 Responses

  1. Chris says:

    What do you think is causing the explosion in visits? I’ve seen charts that show a 3x increase in two decades. The population hasn’t grown that much. Do we know where everyone is coming from? Has tourism dollars grown apace?

    • ADKBfly says:

      Social Media promotion

    • Boreas says:

      Chris,

      Some people believe that some of the increase is due to the lingering effects of the Great Recession for US citizens. Many people I know are now used to vacationing closer to home, and the ADKs are often the destination. In addition, Canadians were not hit as hard by the recession, and are able to spend more time in the US despite the current exchange rate. Being close to the major population centers in CA, the Park is a perfect destination. And I shudder (shutter?) to think, but social media combined with advertising campaigns by NYS is likely another reason for increased tourism in the Park.

      • Suzanne says:

        Boreas,

        I believe that you’re quite right about social media and the NYS advertising campaign creating a major impact upon the increase of tourism. It is now possible to send one’s “selfies” to just about the entire universe, thus encouraging more people to go and enjoy The Wilderness Experience. Also, there is more interest among younger people to get out into nature, although arriving on top of Giant or Cascade to find 200 other folks already there yakking on their cell phones would find me, a geezerette from the Good Old Daze, somewhat discouraged. However, tourism is important to the North Country economy, and the money brought in keeps local businesses going, so discouraging tourists is counterproductive. Since the High Peaks get the burden of tourists, perhaps there might be more effort made to suggest more alternative hikes to places less traveled. NYS, 46ers, ADK et al could help with this.

  2. adkDreamer says:

    Something appears missing (possible typo), last paragraph, end of first sentence.

    As for the the thrust of the article pertaining to parking and overuse, there is one absurdity that bears mention. Stated clearly is the failure of the Keene Shuttle to the Garden to mitigate over use. Yet in a following narrative, the author proposes a shuttle for the Rt 73 Roaring Brook area.

    If the goal is to control over use, then a shuttle system cannot possibly be a qualified answer for any trailhead parking area. Simply restrict parking (like DEC is doing) in all these places and more so as a first step. See how that goes before spending enormous sums of money think-tanking so-called comprehensive solutions, the narratives of which may never come to pass.

    I do not believe that this over use issue needs to be solved by a Parkingologist, Trailologist or a Crowdcontrolologist or is in any shape or form some cut from whole cloth de novo science that demands some quasi-professional emergency response team.

  3. James Marco says:

    Well, yes, there are some very different alternatives to permits.
    For example, close the existing parking lots. Move them 5 miles further away. This “increased distance” will cut back on the number of people. Few will be the number of day hikers willing to do a 20mi day to visit Mt Marcy. But, what happens to Heart Lake?
    Ahh well… I suppose there are limits to this…

    Too many people, too many problems… let them trample down, and pave roads. It is easier than the endless debates… Declair the EHP a playground for the rich and famous. Have helicopter rides to all the peaks, and clear the ones that don’t have space. ‘Cose you have to pay 250 a head to get there rather than walk 15 miles lugging a 25pound pack. We can close all the trails, at least eliminated the garbage, and need for trail maintenance. No more daisies in spring! Hell, even a 5’4″, 300pound woman can see Vermont from Skylight in an hour! But what of John’s Brook Lodge? Well, shit happens I guess…

    Of course we could always rent some good motorized transportation to the toorists. Got to be a way to make money from this…

  4. Todd Eastman says:

    Improve the infrastructure and allow more people into the HPs.

    Update parking as needed, make trails as resistant to erosion… as possible, provide for appropriate education, and encourage healthy outdoor activity for people.

    If solitude is required, the Sawtooths off Averyville Rd. await, but stop the relentless fretting about crowding in the HPs; learn to enjoy the company of others while hiking. You are not special…

  5. James Marco says:

    Sure, go for it…
    I won’t go there. I won’t condone it. I will not be part of the destruction. Sure lets really push for more tourists in the EHP, everyone need to be there. This is the greatest wilderness on the planet. Why not add in a few more million people? We need to have boats stashed on Lake Tear’o’the Clouds. We need to clear more areas for campgrounds. We need more outhouses. Oh yeah, a few garbage dumps for all the junk that gets left behind. Go for it!

    • Suzanne says:

      James,

      I understand your frustration and agree with much of what you say. I don’t “enjoy the company of others” either, unless they are my others. However, what is done cannot be undone, so it is necessary to search for solutions rather than lament what used to be.

      I remember when there were real garbage dumps in back of all the leantos — big pits of tin cans and trash. Four Corners was a mess. That doesn’t happen any more. As for boats stashed on Lake Tear? Oh, come on, Lake Tear isn’t a lake–it’s a bog where no boat would fit. (Although come to think about it, years ago I did meet a guy struggling up Iroquois with a kayak on his back, planning take it to Lake Tear, so one never knows!)

      • Boreas says:

        Suzanne,

        Indeed, people have carried various watercraft to LTOTC in order to float the Hudson River from its source. I would be curious to know many people have done this. Not for me…

  6. Boreas says:

    Peter,

    I believe you are right in the assertion that bold moves need to be made – at least in the HPW. In reading your suggestions and other comments on the situation, I would say BOLD moves would be an understatement. I believe a major rethinking of the HPW needs to be made. But in digesting much of what has been said here and other places over time, I believe outside-the-box thinking may be in order.

    If DEC/APA decides that the HPW should take on a more “wilderness” nature, I think a likely unpopular alternative to the status quo should be given consideration. A plan that would be carried out over several decades and administrations would look like this:

    FIRST – MAKE A REASONABLE, LONG-TERM COMPREHENSIVE PLAN!!

    Then:

    1. Make backcountry travel in general less streamlined and efficient by eliminating most or all major trunk trails and their associated large parking areas.

    2. Providing more, SMALL parking opportunities to destinations relatively close to roads. Keep and harden the trails to destinations that are close to the roads. Close trails to many of the rest.

    3. Instead of networking trails like a major highway system, create and re-route destination trails so that they are more gradual and less prone to damage. Make the trails less efficient and lengthier. Make it much more difficult to climb 10 peaks in a day.

    4. Consider eliminating trails that extend farther into the interior. Perhaps “trailless” peaks and bushwhacking should be revisited. With fewer trunk trails to feed them, there may be less of a damage problem than there once was.

    5. Build more indirect and longer “linking” trails between some backcountry destinations, but discourage the trunk trail/arterial highway philosophy.

    6. Emphasize wildness and minimize crowds – possibly by assigned parking permits.

    This is would be a departure from the arterial highway system that we currently have that maximizes efficiency and minimizes effort. It could help return a little wilderness character that the EHPW has lost. Otherwise, I believe we should simply reclassify the area as Intensive Use and manage accordingly.

  7. Charlie S says:

    Suzanne says: “tourism is important to the North Country economy, and the money brought in keeps local businesses going, so discouraging tourists is counterproductive. ”

    Maybe what could be done is the townships can start building mini theme parks within the communities, sorta like Disney World in miniature, but instead of Mickey Mouse they could promote Mickey Moose with an Adirondack theme. Get the people into the towns and have at-the-ready, electronic device things, things to keep them fixated such as handheld gadgets but in larger formats with games and/or sports themes relative to them thar woods. Install booths for food vendors who sell moose pies, moose burgers, moose soup, moose ravioli, moose granola, moose juice, etc… Some good imagination can go a long ways. Get the people there and entertain them with outdoorsy themes promoting the Adirondacks but which keep them in the towns. Flat-screen tv’s will keep them there. Adirondack beer can be sold at the Moose Lodge, or the Moose Inn. It don’t take much to keep society fixated on trivial things and so maybe they can carve out small parcels to erect structures that house such things. I know some would disagree with the parcels being carved out to put up more structures but if it takes the loss of a few trees to save the forest I think this just might work.

  8. Suzanne says:

    Well, Charlie,

    If that’s your idea of sarcasm, it’s heavy-handed and stupid, to say the least. You know that neither I nor anyone else on this forum would suggest commercializing the Adirondacks, although Lake Plastic is already a lost cause and has been for years. Local people who have restaurants, grocery stores, bed and breakfasts and small shops do depend on tourists and hikers for their income. It’s a short season for most, and people need to make a living. Places like Valley Grocery or the Noonmark Diner in KV would be hard put to survive without the tourists. Rather than making snarky sarcastic comments, try offering some constructive ideas instead.

    • Boreas says:

      Suzanne,

      Although tongue-in-cheek, I believe Charlie has a point. It wasn’t long ago local communities were suggesting opening the new Boreas Ponds tract to full auto access and glamping. Before that, the ACR in TL and how to situate the great camp and other smaller lots within the new golf course development (that already contained the old Big Tupper ski area) was another hot debate. Look at the communities adjacent Smoky Mt. NP to see how out-of-character development can proliferate within communities to attract tourism. Not everyone is a fan of the APA and other agencies that have the task of regulating development within the Blue Line. Not everyone is a fan of environmental design and law. There are many that would like to see the entire Park abolished. So sarcasm, yes, but it is more acute if it contains a bit of truth.

  9. Charlie S says:

    I thought it was a good idea Suzanne! Look at it! The whole idea is to get people there to spend their money. I mean that’s what it’s all about right? Money! Money, money, money, money! Tourist dollars. Damned be them woods so long as the coffers reap in the bucks. You know as well as I do that society at large, generally speaking of course, is in a daze, which I believe is by design…or in some cases it could be a genetic imbalance. We all know that without a tv, or a handheld device, society would be lost. Knowing this, we can utilize those two mediums alone just to get people to the Adirondacks and keep them within the perimeters of the townships. It can be done and one way of doing it could be what I say above. It don’t take much to keep the population dazed evidently so why not utilize our resources and dazzle them with big screen tvs at sports emporiums, or maybe we can create localized networks within the townships for interactive games with smartphones. This will surely keep them out of the woods which is what this is all about right? To protect that resource? So that future generations, who might so be inclined, will have a wilderness haven to find their balance, which by then will surely be out of square wholly the way we’re going.

  10. roger dziengeleski says:

    There is no overuse of the high peaks. There is a lack of stewardship and trail maintenance, design, and preparation. NYS is not a good steward regardless of how many mountain top stewards are deployed. The high peaks are the main draw to the Adirondacks and use will self regulate with users more interested in solitude using more remote parts of the Park. Permits and other artificial attempts to limit use are merely a move to limit Park use to the elites.

    • Boreas says:

      There’s that word “elites” again. Just a word intended to polarize people, not solve problems.

      Going back to the creation and intention of the Forest Preserve (which was created to preserve these lands for the citizens of NYS), there is nothing in the Forever Wild language that says its main intention was to develop tourism and provide revenue for nearby communities. It was designed to preserve lands in a natural state, not to provide hardened access to every backcountry destination in the Park so that international tourism could be developed. This is a much more recent change in attitude that may need to be re-evaluated to see if it complies with the spirit of the original legislation.

      • roger dziengeleski says:

        Thanks for the comment. I disagree that “elite” is a word intended to polarize. It is an adjective describing policy proposed by Peter Bauer’s article. One which limits who can go to the High Peaks. The Forever Wild language says nothing about limiting the use of wilderness areas. The language also allows construction of trails. Interesting that the national debate about the southern border is about letting people in while the debate about Adirondack Wilderness is about keeping people out. Especially since nearly every addition to the Forest Preserve is justified as being for the public.

        Ah well, we won’t agree but I hope there is a middle ground somewhere between limiting use and making trails capable of handling the traffic/public use without damage.

        • Boreas says:

          Roger,

          Please explain how Peter wants to limit use of the Park to “elites” – perhaps I missed something. Who is he saying shouldn’t have access to the peaks? Limiting usage is not the same as limiting certain types of individuals and allowing only “elites”, at least the way I see it.

          The Forever Wild language also mentions nothing about encouraging free, unlimited, international access to the FP. That is a relatively recent push that needs to be addressed within the scope of a possible amendment.

          • roger dziengeleski says:

            Any system that limits access to the HPs, either by permit or by limiting permits creates haves and have nots. The haves are special and elite by default.

            FW language also doesn’t limit the number of people who can use the HP or any other wilderness on any given day. That is the tragedy of the commons associated with public ownership.

            • Boreas says:

              Roger,

              OK, now I think I understand. What you are describing with permitting isn’t really haves vs. have-nots. If you get to a parking lot after it is full, you are a have-not and the others who got there earlier are elitists? The next morning you could be the have and I could be the have-not. I am not a fan of permitting, but applying for a permit or a securing a parking space is typically a pretty level playing field – but it does require planning for best results.

              The amendment language does contain the famous “untrammeled by Man” phrase. To me, that illustrates the overall spirit of the amendment, not unlimited, unrestricted access to lands that were purchased and set aside for conservation purposes to be enjoyed by future generations. But that is just my personal interpretation – I guess we do disagree.

              • roger dziengeleski says:

                Thanks Boreas,

                Yes we disagree. Not on the need to conserve the Preserve and Wilderness, but on the how to do it dilemma. You mention the “untrammeled” phrase but not the “who gets to define what level of access is defined” as “untrammeled”. Regarding hiking, it is allowed in wilderness. So are trails. Now we want a regulatory fix that limits the users (your solution?). My position would be to encourage use at the most popular features of the park (and plan for that use) thereby keeping the vast majority of Preserve acres remote and really “untrammeled”.

                Having bureaucrats determine who gets to use the Preserve, either through permits or limiting infrastructure causes a dilemma for me. No votes for the public that paid for the Preserve? Limiting use is a major change that should be legislative not administrative in my opinion.

                Thanks, Roger

                • Boreas says:

                  Roger,

                  Thanks. In my reply to Peter above I described what I would suggest as a possible long-term solution. It is actually similar to what you are suggesting. Basically pull heavy usage close to the roads – and not restrict, but make access to the center of the HPW much more challenging. This might take at 50 years or more to accomplish by closing and remodeling single segments for perhaps 10 years at a time. I would only suggest significant overall restriction as a possible short-term solution to an unfortunate situation. Ultimately, DEC will likely be choosing the lesser of several evils.

                  Appreciate your thoughts.

  11. James Marco says:

    Roger, I disagree, strongly.

    “There is no overuse of the high peaks. ” This is a trumpism.

    The wilderness area of the EHP was never planned to have the number of hikers (day hikers or overnight hikers) that has been going there in the past 20 years. Wilderness areas have always appealed to those seeking solitude, but, perhaps more importantly, seeking to view nature as nature. Not as an artifact of more of mans works. Good stewardship means leaving things alone. Not creating paved trails, roads and parking lots. Not being afraid to walk two days to get to a destination. Not to climb a ladder over a rock, but to find a another way around or over it. Not to have help at a call to 911 if you trip over a root, but to have the self reliance to know you can handle it. Not to give up when the going gets a bit rough, but to persevere and work to accomplish your goal. Not to have a “walk in the park” but know there are risks that could result in your death to reach your goal. Of knowing the satisfaction of saying, “I did that”, if only to yourself. NOT the crowds in the EHP.

    Yes. The extreme overuse has certainly deterred me from going there. I cannot go there and be able to view nature as anything but leftovers of destruction with people wandering through the ruins. Those damned elitists kicked me out so they could fill new outhouses with their crap.

    “Permits and other artificial attempts to limit use are merely a move to limit Park use to the elites.” Wow, are you off the mark… The only reason for even considering licensing/permits/limited parking is to limit the number of people from destroying what is left of nature. How can you equate “elites” with wilderness hikers is beyond me… Whatever is decided, it will NOT be good for the EHP Wilderness.

    • Todd Eastman says:

      James, you were born a hundred years too late…

      … good luck with encouraging taxpayers to vote for reduced access made possible with costly programs.

    • roger dziengeleski says:

      Appreciate your position but this has nothing to do with national politics. Rather my view is, for me at least, a realistic view of the high peaks. Using an analogy, the high peaks and especially Mount Marcy, are to the Park what Old Faithfull is to Yellowstone. We should embrace their popularity. There are plenty of other areas in the Preserve that are remote and where you can walk for days without seeing another human.

      The Park is for everyone to use and it is a NYS responsibility to take care of it by engineering and designing appropriate infrastructure to prevent damage by public use. This is the only way to prevent damage and erosion.

      The high peaks “trails” will never be wilderness other than artificially in language, as even with small parking lots and permits, they will continue to be the most popular feature of the Park.

      • Boreas says:

        “The Park is for everyone to use and it is a NYS responsibility to take care of it by engineering and designing appropriate infrastructure to prevent damage by public use. This is the only way to prevent damage and erosion.”

        They did a great job hardening Whiteface. Not much erosion with elevators – and the sidewalks are very similar to the ones at Old Faithful as well. But Old Faithful has more benches for people waiting for the main event. Perhaps they can afford benches and Rangers to help people because they charge admission fees.

        • M.P. Heller says:

          “They did a great job hardening Whiteface.”

          Around the summit you mean? Because the thousands of people seeking 46er recognition mostly use the trail from the Wilmington reservoir and that trail is anything but “hardened”. A little side trip out to Esther along the way to “bag” another high peak will easily demonstrate how poorly this area is maintained.

          A little interpretive area atop a paved highway is not trail hardening, in the context of this article and it’s comments it’s a non sequitur.

          • Boreas says:

            How about the highway and castle? 46rs aren’t the only people using the HPW. Obviously you missed my point. Hardening has its consequences. The more people you invite, the more hardening is necessary – just like Old Faithful.

            • roger dziengeleski says:

              Enjoying this discussion. The next question is which came first the hardening or the people? I would suggest the people came first, drawn by the uniqueness of the geologic feature and the hardening came in response to the popularity and use.

            • Ed says:

              These features on Whiteface aren’t in a designated wilderness area so I don’t quite see how this applies…

              • Boreas says:

                Ed,

                You are right – and Old Faithful isn’t even in NYS. My facetious illustration of Whiteface was to show what type of hardening is required for heavy usage. Every leap in usage requires even more serious hardening of trails which degrades the wildness of the setting. There is only so much hardening that can be done – even with proper routing, switchbacks, drainage, and bridging. Paving with gravel is the next step, then blacktop. Compare the parking capacity for the Whiteface summit vs. the Loj lots.And most people parking at the Loj are using the same trunk trails to the same destinations. Not a good situation for backcountry trails IMO.

                DEC has two options – harden the trails dramatically to support even more unrestricted usage or restrict usage to preserve a semblance of backcountry character to the trails in the HPW. I would prefer the latter option. Neither option is ideal.

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