Sunday, July 14, 2019

It’s Time to Build and Staff a High Peaks Information Center

I recently visited the rest areas on Northway that have been hyped as information hubs for the Adirondack Park as a tourism destination and as locations that will guide the public about hiking in the Forest Preserve, especially the High Peaks.  These facilities are newly built and function adequately as typical rest areas with bathrooms, vending machines, and places to stretch your legs.

Unfortunately, there is scant information about hiking in the High Peaks or the Forest Preserve. As they stand now, these centers, especially the Northway northbound “High Peaks Center” between exits 29 and 30, and the major new tourism information center on the Northway northbound lane between exits 17 and 18, are major missed opportunities.

In many ways working for environmental protection is heartbreaking work because it often involves loss no matter the scale of the victory, no matter the lands saved, it’s never enough to mitigate the profound loss of environmental health and ecological integrity that defines our age. These rest areas are heartbreaking because they’re a squandered opportunity and so easily could have been made, and still could, into fully functioning, useful and important sources of public information about the High Peaks and the Forest Preserve. As they stand now, they’re yet another missed opportunity.

Lets start with the new retrofitted Visitors Information Center on the northbound lane of the Northway between exits 17 and 18. It’s a newly built center that is stylish and loosely adheres to the Adirondack rustic architecture vernacular. Adirondack chairs are positioned outside the building. This area has stocked its vending machine food court with local products like Saranac and Cooper’s Cave sodas, Martha’s cremewiches, Oscar’s cheese spreads, Barkeater chocolates, Dak Bars, and a variety of locally made pancake mixes, pasta sauces, chips, and coffee; it’s a big step up and innovation over the standard highway vending machine fare.

The facility is built around a great room that is centered with a wall-size screen that flashes popular Adirondack Park and North Country tourism destinations that runs for about 15 minutes and is replayed in an endless loop. The photography is generally high quality with lots of drone and aerial footage. The people pictured at various destinations are racially diverse, with lots of families and couples of all ages. Everyone is smiling. Everybody looks healthy.

This video is standard I Love NY fare. The destinations include Lake Placid, the Minnehaha on Lake George, the Nicandri Nature Center, Wilmington Gorge, John Brown’s Farm, the North Star Underground Railroad Museum, AuSable Chasm, Whiteface Memorial Highway, Whiteface Mountain, Great Camp Santanoni, Natural Stone Bridge & Caves, Fort William Henry, the Adirondack Wine Coast, the Hogansburg Reservation, Prospect Mountain Scenic Highway, Lake Placid Brewery, Robert Moses State Park in Massena, the Sagamore Hotel, Crown Point Historic area, Cumberland Head, the Miner Center, Cascade Lakes, aerials of the High Peaks, White Pine Camp, the Wild Center, the Olympic Museum, Gore Mountain, Valcour Island, the Adirondack Experience (Museum), Fort Ticonderoga, and Mount Marcy, among others. There are several pictures of each with appropriate text identifying the images.

This is all perfectly adequate tourism promotion. What is missing is any useful information about how to use the Forest Preserve, where to hike, how to prepare for a hike, where to obtain hiking supplies, recommended hikes relative to difficulty, maps of hikes, information about Leave No Trace hiking practices, or any information about overuse or parking issues in the High Peaks Wilderness and associated areas. There is no sign on the Northway alerting travelers to stop and get information to plan their Adirondack hike, which would be useful given the huge number of day-users who come to the High Peaks straight up the Northway. There are three illuminated signs in the building that all advertise the free “Pocket Ranger” NY Fish & Wildlife App. The only hiking information on this app is a list of State Campgrounds that have hiking trails nearby.

The “High Peaks North” rest stop on the Northway northbound lane between exits 29 and 30 has a little more information than its southern counterpart. It has a poster about the Adirondack Park mounted on the wall that advertises “A Park Like No Other,” which provides information about its size, about the fact that the Park has no gate, and, interestingly, that in the Adirondack Park “No single organization oversees management of the Adirondack Park.” The station hosts a trailhead kiosk with information behind glass that encourages hikers to go to “Trails Less Travelled.” This poster lists a half dozen hiking opportunities on less popular trails near the High Peaks. Two suggested trails, the Crows and Owls Head in Keene, currently have less than ideal parking so I question the wisdom of directing large crowds there.

The poster ends with an odd message: “Trails in the eastern High Peaks, to Dix and Giant Mountain are often crowded, ruining the Adirondack wilderness experience.” There are no hiking maps or brochures for the public to take with them, no information or brochures about Leave No Trace, though there is a display case entitled “Ready, Set, Hike” that provides information about the basic supplies that hikers should take in the woods: map, compass, food, water, flashlight/headlamp, matches, crampons, first aid supplies, appropriate clothing. This would be improved if there were a brochure as part of this display with the same information that a person could take with them.

The issue of a High Peaks Information Center has been recurrent since the 1998 High Peaks Wilderness Unit Management Plan was approved. The new Frontier Town Campground is supposed to have a Visitors Center, but it’s a detour off the Northway and I’m doubtful that many people will seek it out. It was a political decision to build a new state facility on that site, not a carefully considered decision made as part of a serious park-wide plan to meet public demand and provide public information and education. It suffers from the same political logic that has beset the two longstanding interpretive centers at Paul Smith’s and Newcomb, which are similarly located off the beaten path, though both ably provide basic Adirondack Park natural and political history information and have information about nearby hiking opportunities. (Thankfully, the Cuomo Administration has started to fund the two interpretive centers to help keep the lights on and people behind the counters.)

Why is it that in the Adirondacks we keep building Visitor Centers in places that visitors rarely go? Why can’t we build visitor centers in places where visitors go in high numbers?

I have long envisioned a High Peaks Wilderness Visitors Center located on Route 73 at Exit 30, or at the Crazy Corners intersection of Routes 9 and 73, or in downtown Keene Valley. In my wildest dreams I’ve seen a High Peaks Visitors Centers as something akin to a Visitors Centers operated by the National Park Service at national parks. The basic formula at National Parks is an attractive building with many large dioramas of the park the center serves. There are lots of maps available for the public. There is lots of information about current hiking conditions and recommendations about the gear that people will need that is current with the season and conditions. There’s plenty of information and videos about Leave No Trace and hiking etiquette to protect the natural resources, wildlife, and the hiking experience. But the biggest thing in my High Peaks Wilderness Visitor Center dream is that, like the National Park visitor centers, there is a person, a real human being, if not several of them, at a counter covered with maps and dressed in green field clothes who not only looks the part of a Park Ranger but who has loads of first-hand information to advise people about how to use the resources and plan their trip in the High Peaks. Why is it that the Adirondack Park cannot muster investment in a National-Park-scale visitor center for the High Peaks?

The failure of the Cuomo Administration to invest in the High Peaks Wilderness and associated Wilderness areas is mystifying. Why year after year does the High Peaks receive scant attention and funding? Everything is done on a shoestring. The two High Peaks trail crews that are working this summer on the new trails on Mt. Van Hoevenberg and Cascade Mountains will take 17 weeks to relocate/build a mile of new trail. These two crews, totaling ten people, may complete four miles of trail this summer, and likely not complete either of these new trails. Given the difficulty of trail building, especially at high elevations, in the High Peaks, it shows the need for far greater investments by the Cuomo Administration to build a sustainable trail network in the High Peaks. The Cuomo Administration just spent $25 million to build the new Frontier Town Campground and day use area. When will the state make a $25 million investment in the trails and public education of the High Peaks Wilderness?

The need for enhanced public education has long been recognized. The High Peaks Wilderness is a world-class landscape that merits world-class management. It’s high time for the State of New York to invest in the management of the High Peaks.

Photos of Adirondack Northway Rest Areas.

Related Stories

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 was the co-founder of the Adirondack Lake Assessment Program (ALAP) in 1998, which has collected long-term water quality data on more than 75 Adirondack lakes and ponds. He has testified before the State Legislature, successfully advocated to pass legislation and budget items, authored numerous articles, op-eds, and reports such as "20% in 2023: An Assessment of the New York State 30 by 30 Act" (2023), "The Adirondack Park and Rural America: Economic and Population Trends 1970-2010" (2019), "The Myth of Quiet, Motor-free Waters in the Adirondack Park" (2013), and "Rutted and Ruined: ATV Damage on the Adirondack Forest Preserve" (2003) and "Growth in the Adirondack Park: Analysis of Rates and Patterns of Development" (2001). 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, has two grown children out in the world, and 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 Threads.

52 Responses

  1. Bob Kibbey says:

    Peter,you have to remember, there are hundreds of things one can do in the Adiroundack. How do you expect a visitors center to cover every aspect of things to do, in detail? I like to fish, but I don,t expect to find every lake and their species of fish and how to catch them listed somewhere, Or maybe I do?
    So maybe there should be tables with computers set up and designed so an individual could type in a search on subjects, like,
    hiking,camping,fishing,boating,site seeing, historical sites, etc.,etc.
    Maybe, that,s what you mean!, yes?

  2. Michael H Hay says:

    Peter, the first on is between exits 17 and 18…. not 16 and 17 as you stated!

  3. Suji says:

    “Downtown Keene Valley” needs a visitors’ center??

    • Avon says:

      I’d say, Keene Valley doesn’t need a big visitors’ center. I wouldn’t like it at all.
      But VISITORS really do need one – it would be a lot better for them than one located in most other places, such as where “centers” are now. How to compromise?

      The middles of Keene, Keene Valley and North Elba could each use a prominent sign, preferably rustic style, directing folks to a roadside visitor’s center within 1-2 minutes’ drive. Such a location works fine for The Mountaineer retail outfitter; once people know where to go and why, they will go there, for stuff and for advice.

      Something is needed. Sure, hikers already know what they need, and usually how to get whatever else they specifically need. But there are thousands of tourist type visitors who, once in the High Peaks region, get struck by the beauty of the land and intrigued by the idea of plunging in – and those folks badly need some encouraging guidance to be safe and responsible hikers/boaters. Some do get it; but too many plunge in unprepared.
      As in caring for a restless baby who maybe can’t know (or just can’t say) what they want/need, let’s “Try many solutions” and “Meet them where they are.”

      • Suzanne says:

        This is pretty much what the stewards are doing at the Keene Valley airfield, and from what I’ve read, it seems to be helping. KV is a very small town, as is Keene, and the idea of a visitors’ center doesn’t seem feasible (at least not to me, but then I live there so I have rather strong feelings). Who is going pay for it, and where would it be located? There are visitors’ centers along the Northway, built at considerable expense and paid for by our New York State taxpayers, and they should be revamped so they actually might work. The Mountaineer are a business — although they are always more than willing to offer advice, should they be expected to be an information center?

        • Avon says:

          You’re making sense, and of course the Mountaineer shouldn’t be expected to be an information center (although, to some extent, I’m sure they intentionally benefit by answering questions from drop-in inquirers, which may well lead to hikers buying the right equipment/supplies).
          I meant that the Mountaineer should be an example of how to draw people’s interest and serve their needs (informational, in the case of a visitors’ center) without unduly ruining the host hamlet. If there were several, 5-15 miles apart from Underwood to Saranac Lake, they needn’t be large or ruin the landscape, yet they’d serve the people who need ’em better than the Northway centers do now.

  4. Pwilliams says:

    In the National Parks, in my experience, there are staffed visitor centers spread around in the area, near tourism highlights. Its the staffing that makes the difference. They are not rangers but they know a lot about their immediate area. I think they are mostly seasonal employees.

    Having staff means people can get real-time info and change their plans accordingly. A bunch of displays just doesn’t have the same potential.

  5. Boreas says:

    I don’t know how practical it could be, but many parks have radio stations (with signage to tune to the station) and/or websites that deliver non-stop information loops about current trail conditions, weather, and regulations. I assume they would be cheaper than paying staff and don’t require parking lots.

    The Hiker/Camper building at the Loj is somewhat unique because it is actually AT a trailhead! It shouldn’t be. The Mountaineer is another such place that could also serve as an information center with interactive kiosks where virtually any information could be attained, but parking is limited. Why not an interactive information center at/near DEC Ray Brook? Both of the existing VICs could also be issued the same kiosks. And many hamlets also actually HAVE visitor’s Centers – advertise and use them for such interactive kiosks. Even many businesses scattered around the Park could get a boost from such interactive kiosks.

    “Why is it that in the Adirondacks we keep building Visitor Centers in places that visitors rarely go? Why can’t we build visitor centers in places where visitors go in high numbers?”

    I believe part of the reason, at least with the VICs, was to purposely bring visitors to areas in tiny hamlets that could use the additional tourism. The VICs never should have been abandoned by the state. How long did they think the budget crisis was going to last? Make a commitment and stay with it. Just like Ranger staffing – you can’t set up a huge Park dependent on Ranger staffing for safety, education, and management, then make the decision to not staff it adequately and hope to supplement it with minimally-trained volunteers. Simply a history of poor, long-term planning and commitment by Albany.

    • Chris says:

      @Boreas, you’re showing your age with the radio idea 😉

      I’d think that the problem with VIC’s in the hamlets is that people need to get to them to use them. The thinking was probably to site the VIC in places that can intercept people who wouldn’t go to a hamlet and direct them there.

      I just finished a long article on Disney World. You can image how much thinking goes into their “yield efforts” in directing traffic. That sort of thinking is so missing in other parts of our world that could use it. While certainly less polyester, the DAK’s are a theme park to tourists.

      • Boreas says:

        Time marches on, but most cars still have radios – whether or not people can figure out how to use them.

    • Suzanne says:

      Oh, come on now, Boreas. Do you seriously think the Mountaineer wants to “serve as an information center with interactive kiosks where virtually any information could be attained”? How are they supposed to set that up? While they are always happy to offer advice, The Mountaineer is a retail store, there to do business and sell stuff, not to be an information center.

      • Boreas says:

        This is where hikers go. It is something the state would set up. It was just an example of a location. The kiosks would be outside. Most businesses are receptive to increased traffic to their business. But this would need to be set up someplace with a reasonable amount of parking -perhaps Marcy Field – and The Mountaineer could just be a sponsor.

  6. F ballou says:

    Hikers should pay a $25.00 a year fee and then they’ll have some money to pay for improvements . They should also have to take a coarse in hiking .New York state spends lots of money going to get idiots that get lost etc.

    • Todd Eastman says:

      Thanks for your well-considered note…

      … perhaps some time hiking would help your nerves…?

  7. Chris says:

    What strikes me is that anyone who has decided to get in their car and drive for at least a few hours and like an overnight, wouldn’t already have most of this superficial information already. These “hype stations” are rather typical in cheerleading the visitor’s experience. Not terrible, as you say, but likely don’t alter their existing plans or knowledge a great deal.

    From a user-experience perspective (which one would get if they did a good job at planning this), a major goal would be to help the visitor deepen their existing plans, engagement, and attachment. Like, “Going to X? Be sure to also check out Y.” Or, “Going to X? Here’s some info that will make your visit more interesting.”

    These add-ons and expansions deepen the visitors’ engagement and can do a lot to “convert” them into the next level of commitment and increase repeat visits and spending.

  8. Paul says:

    A “visitors center” seems like such a dated concept?

    This probably isn’t where people get information.

    • Chris says:

      That’s a good observation, Paul.

      Most likely, the travelers have already been logged in as “visitors” during their pre-trip planning on the web.

      How about these centers really help advance the traveler’s journey and connection to the Park with an interpretive center like the one around Heart Lake or via stewards such as on summits?

      I bet they would do a huge service, and “cover lots of “ground” with welcoming, engaging people as guides to simply reach out to ask where they are going and offering a few tips and tricks.

      • Paul says:

        I think that is a good idea. One thing I have always wondered about the current “visitors interpretive centers” like the one Paul Smiths is – the signage.

        It just says “VIC” and the building is set way back not visible from the road.

        How does anyone driving by there have any idea what that is?

        • Chris says:

          Agree on the use of insider knowledge-required signs (or lack of them).

          They all seem to be getting there but still could use a marketing approach that thinks through the user’s perspective, gaps, and needs.

          I am only just getting used to the word “interpretive” as I don’t encounter it anywhere else in my life.

          Guide…explanation…history… nature guide… local knowledge… just about anything else requires less “cognitive effort” to get past and onto the actual content!

          • Chris and Paul…I like and agree with where your conversation has been going with this. As a visitor to the Adirondacks, usually at least once a year, sometimes twice…I have as you point out, already done a large amount of research via the Web and books to places we’re planning on climbing, hiking or canoeing. However, no matter how many blogs or posts I’ve read, sometimes having that last-minute one on one conversation with a local “expert”, can be very helpful. And as we know with the lots filling up and parking options being played with, sometimes there needs to be an Plan B…or C…or even D, and once you’re there, it’s very hard to do that successfully.

            Always enjoy following along with the discussions from locals like yourselves that make the Adirondacks such a special place. Now, if I could convince my wife to make the move from Central Pennsylvania…I’d be happy to help chip in 😉

            • Chris says:


              You bring up a good point that is being confused here. Seems there are two different needs:

              1 educating hikers so they preserve the wilderness
              2 getting non-hiking tourists a better, broader experience across the park to bring spending to overlooked areas.

              In both cases, it seems that an “intercept at the beginning of the trip” could go a long way. In both cases, the key is to get educators in front of people as they enter/start their trip.

              I think a really good education center (better than the current VIC’s) at the first exits into the park would help the latter.

              I then wonder if they have, or have considered, “trailhead stewards” to simply remind people of the care they should show. That would seem to be a good way to help the on-trial situation, as well as the parking. A couple of roving interns could probably do a lot of educating in a few hours each weekend morning at the key trailheads.

              Trailhead stewards are a logical “marketing tactic” since they get people at the beginning of their trip, not when they are halfway through it.

  9. Curt Austin says:

    I’m not sure anyone is happy with the “Adirondacks Information Center” or whatever it’s called, on northbound I-87 near Glens Falls. Looks snazzy, but information is not readily available They must have thought brochures are old-fashioned, opting instead for big interactive computer screens, but there really is no better way to browse, then leave with a printed description (with a map!) of something.

    To speak more to the subject: yes, let’s have one or more NP-style Visitor Centers. Sell flashlights cheap, bivy sacks maybe. Big graphic showing flip-flops behind a slashed red circle. Some happy people at the top of a mountain, but also what people really look like on the way out – muddy, bloody, exhausted. I can provide a good photo of that look.

  10. Todd Eastman says:

    A tick, blackfly, deer fly, and mosquito index can be developed as part of a visitor center. It could be similar to the Smokey Bear fire signs.

    A listing of appropriate treatments for tick bites seems reasonable.

    In addition, a moving/talking life-sized replica of CP Fish delivering the “death-by-cotton” sermon would chase away those not scared off by the bugs!

    Such information would reduce potential visitors and negate overuse issues…?

  11. John says:

    Most people get their hiking information online, for better or for worse. If somehow a group like ADK could partner with Google maps you would really be able to get information out there on trail conditions, warnings, etc. I know that 20-somethings don’t use anything but online resources, and it is not much different for many of us old farts. Put the information where the eyeballs are!

  12. Big Burly says:

    I nominate Peter Bauer to staff and operate such a center.

  13. Chris says:

    Agree on the use of insider knowledge-required signs (or lack of them).

    They all seem to be getting there but still could use a marketing approach that thinks through the user’s perspective, gaps, and needs.

    I am only just getting used to the word “interpretive” as I don’t encounter it anywhere else in my life.

    Guide…explanation…history… nature guide… local knowledge… just about anything else requires less “cognitive effort” to get past and onto the actual content!

  14. John says:

    The experienced hikers will find the information no matter where it is located. The inexperienced don’t know where to look or what to ask. Today that means nearly 100% of trips start with Google, Instagram and Google maps. That’s where the information needs to be. I have talked to visitors who are absolutely stunned they can’t just Google up something like Mt. Marcy and instantly get hiking maps, guide information, regulations, etc. Yes, you can eventually piece it all together online, but not unless you know what you need to know.

    • Boreas says:

      That is the crux of the problem – people with short attention spans who don’t feel they need to research their venture. The information has always been somewhere. Back in the day I bought guide books, maps, and actually used them. Now it is available online. But if 1000 Instagram pix are posted daily from the HPW, how hard can hiking up there be?? Why bother researching? A smartphone, water bottle, and 2 granola bars should be sufficient.

      • John says:

        It doesn’t help anyone to denigrate the newbies. You won’t reach people by telling them you need to change who you are. Just won’t work. Newspapers tried lecturing everyone that people who don’t buy newspapers are idiots. Didn’t work. You reach people where they are, and that is on their phones, in Instagram, and on the Web.

        • Boreas says:


          I am not trying to reach anyone here. I am expressing my views on what seems to be a popular mindset. The culture is changing.

          Either you do the research and plan, or you don’t. People that do usually manage to stay out of serious trouble.

          • Balian the Cat says:

            I am kind of with Boreas on this one. The notion that the bar has to be continuously lowered because folks are different now seems counterproductive to me. No one of us who is an experienced hiker/backpacker got where we are by having it fed to us. Gear mistakes, upgrades – trial and error with map and compass – cold wet nights in the process of fine tuning fire making skills, these things are the norm. Moving the baseline for anything is a bad idea as it distorts reality. Some things are dangerous. Technology is a wonderful thing, over reliance/dependence on it however makes us helpless, not better. Darwin and Murphy will always be out there, we can’t engineer that out of life – no matter how “good” it might be for the economy.

            • John says:

              I’m not arguing what is right or wrong or what is proper, just what is effective. You will not reach new hikers with visitor centers, period. It has to be online.

              • Balian the Cat says:

                Point taken, John.

              • Boreas says:


                I agree – a better online repository of info would be helpful. As someone else said above, some people don’t know what they don’t know. Is it practical to have trail stewards at every trailhead 365 days/year?

                • Chris says:

                  Obviously, like any “business,” you’d staff for the most effective use of resources.

                  Say there are 5 trailheads that have the most traffic, and the key “intercept” times are between 8-12 on Saturday and Sunday.

                  So adding 8 hours a week at 5 places is 40 hours of intern service per week. Memorial Day to Labor Day and add Columbus Day as well, something like 15 weeks.

                  That isn’t impossible, totaling “one” added staffer for less than $10,000 for the year. I’d guess that would cover 90% of the “need” to educate travelers and be very effective in preserving our Wilderness.

                  • John says:

                    But wouldn’t it be better to supply the information that the trail is overcrowded and the weather likely to be terrible on the top long before the carload of hikers arrives at the trailhead?

                    • Chris says:

                      I’m thinking that there are two different needs here, one for hiker education and one for tourist direction to overlooked parts of the park. Sorry, I diverted the conversation away from the later.

                      In both cases, I think person-person education is the most effective means to improve the activities (assuming that everyone has done basic web searching and minimal reading.)

                      So the hiker-intercept idea is the same as the visitor-intercept idea. One is on the first rest area into the park, and one is at the trailhead.

                    • Joshua says:

                      Wow…this is a detailed thread! Obviously a great conversation…glad to be following along for those of you who have been lucky enough to live in the Adirondacks and experience this issues first hand!

                      I see what Chris and John are saying…the 2 different needs. I agree with the person to person aspect, at a visitor center/rest stop, and for the trailheads where it’d make most sense. Even as someone who researches the hell out of a trip months before I get there, having someone at a trailhead or center that has firsthand, up to date knowledge of conditions would be incredible.

                      Not sure how everyone does it, but I’ve stopped checking the forums and websites up until the day I leave…once I’m on the way, it’s really difficult to get up to date information on routes and trails. Most folks who take the time to comment on trail conditions and forums are doing it days or even weeks after they’ve returned as there just isn’t the time for most of us once we return home to post information. As you know better than I, even a couple days following, trail conditions may have changed substantially from the last post/report.

                      Pie in the sky…if there was a way to incorporate the two concepts together (visitor/traveler center AND trailhead), even better. Meaning as conditions change on these trails, that would be passed along to the visitor centers so they had that information as well when folks show up.

                      And sorry if someone commented to this already, but the radio messages the National Parks use I always found quite helpful for up to date information on trail updates, closings, etc for the major trails and areas when I visit. For the same reason as mentioned with researching places online…the most up to date information may not have been posted to the web yet.

            • Chris says:

              As to the despair that the “bar has to be lowered”, if you haven’t noticed, the reality is that it is constantly being lowered. We either deal with that reality or disregard it at peril to the environment.

              • John says:

                It isn’t that the bar has been lowered. The standards have been raised, and there are more people. Back in the day there was a shelter at the top of Marcy that was used as a latrine, many High Peaks trails were river beds during rainy periods, and campsites at places like Marcy Dam featured huge bonfires and every tree around was stripped bare. Leantos had garbage dumps next to them. Things are far, far better today. Most of the people are reasonably prepared and don’t cause problems, but when you have large numbers of hikers there will inevitably be more problems. Plus, what in the past might have been a bad day in the woods becomes an expensive rescue operation after a cell phone call. Yes, cell phones have saved some people, but they also mean a lot more calls for things that just would have been dealt with on scene in the past.

  15. John says:

    By the way, the High Peaks Information center run by ADK seems quite effective, yet we still see lots of problems on the trails. There are just too many trailheads reached from too many ways to solve the problem with one or two other High Peaks Information centers. One of the biggest problems is people not having the right gear for the conditions, or basics like a map and compass with the ability to use them. I don’t see those issues being solved by any sort of information center. People need to receive this information long before they head up to the mountains, when there is still time to learn and purchase the right equipment, which is mostly done online today too. Look at where we are discussing this whole issue–online.

    • Boreas says:

      I agree – but how? The information IS there and MOST people figure out how to access it. But how do you get ALL hikers to educate themselves? Some form of licensing or trailhead stewards/Rangers at all trailheads. Neither is likely to happen. As long as people can dial 911 and get evacuated free of charge wherever they hike, why bother with education and preparation? I remember the days of minimum safe group sizes where one person would stay with a victim while another 1-2 people would HIKE out to summon help. Those days are long gone in an area with cellular lifelines.

      • John says:

        Licensing doesn’t prevent many people from driving poorly and killing themselves. Any sort of hiking license would be much less strict. We will never be able to cure stupid, but we can make the information much more accessible for those who will use it. Yes, the information is online, but is scattered all over the place and buried amongst lots of misinformation. I could see billboards on highways with a URL for trail conditions, weather, and warnings. Something like

        • Boreas says:

          Licensing does require knowledge of basic safety practices and regulations in order to obtain one. Isn’t that the problem – obtaining basic safety information and regulation knowledge? Right now we have nothing requiring any knowledge. Even trail stewards have limited ability to impart information.

          The information is out there and has been for decades. Some people just don’t know they need to prepare, or don’t care. Look at the teens that got in trouble last winter. One was properly prepared, the other two weren’t. Why do some people heed common sense advice and others ignore it? Ya got me…

          • Todd Eastman says:

            Licensing would require more expensive bureaucracy and deliver information no better than what is currently available…

            … unless you love regulations and top-down management of your outdoor experiences… ?

            • John says:

              Who wants to be accosted with “show me your papers” when hiking in the Park?

              • Boreas says:

                If you don’t understand how a license works, don’t criticize it. Drivers, hunters, and fishermen have been doing it for ages. I have never been puIled over just to show my license, and I don’t recall ever having to show my fishing license. Personally I am glad my doctors are required to be licensed and a driver’s license is required in this country. Can you imagine the thrill of driving if licenses weren’t required?

                • John says:

                  Insults are not arguments. I have numerous licenses, which have informed me they are useless in terms of informing people as to how to hike safely. Many of the worst wilderness offenders are hunters and fishermen who are licensed. Read the ranger reports of all the injuries and rescues amongst that licensed group, along with the law breaking and disregard for rules and regulations.

            • Boreas says:

              The bureaucracy is already in place – why not use it? How much are information centers going to cost to build and staff?? Licenses aren’t designed to deliver information they are designed to require basic knowledge or skills for safety before beginning the activity.

  16. Aaron Miller says:

    Keene already has a proposal on the shelf from the 1985 effort to bring the Adirondack Park Visitor Interpretive Center to the town but which Newcomb ultimately won. The site itself is found at a designated Scenic Vista on the Adirondack Park Land Use Map near the intersection of Route 73 and 9N, close to where the unfortunately demolished iconic “Red Barn” was located. Having dug out a copy of the proposal from the library archives much of it remains compelling a relevant today. Surely worth revisiting?

Wait! Before you go:

Catch up on all your Adirondack
news, delivered weekly to your inbox