Monday, August 12, 2019

Route 73 Top Priorities: Planning, Money, Permits

In recent years, public lands throughout the Adirondack Park and across the country are seeing dramatic increases in the number of people coming to recreate.

Increasing numbers of people has led to an increase in human impacts to our public lands, including damage to trails related to increased use during sensitive times such as mud season, more trash on trails, including human waste and toilet paper, damage to sensitive mountain plants, animals such as bears becoming habituated to human food, and a loss of a wilderness experience.

More people enjoying the Adirondack Park can also mean more people working to protect this world-class treasure, but it also requires management and care to see that neither the natural beauty nor the experience people seek are damaged.

The challenge of overuse can be considered a need to protect three things: the safety of the visitor, the natural resources themselves, and the wilderness experience that all users seek. Each is important, and without assurance of any of these three, the value of the Adirondack Park is diminished.

high peaks overuse graphicsRecently, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation convened a meeting of partners and stakeholders to discuss both the problem and solutions being undertaken and planned to address overuse. These proposals addressed a variety of aspects, from solutions to the parking challenges along the busy Route 73 corridor, to an increased need for education and outreach strategies both prior to and upon the arrival of visitors, to the need for a modern, sustainably designed trail network, to a need for data to underpin the decision-making process.

Morning and afternoon sessions allowed Department personnel to ask questions and hear ideas and solutions proposed by the nearly 60 attendees. At the conclusion, some areas saw broad consensus while other proposals saw a greater range of opinions.

Clear consensus emerged on the need for a comprehensive plan to address each of the challenges, goals, and strategies in a holistic manner. Such a plan would address these challenges not only as they impact the High Peaks, but as they affect other areas. The strategies proposed by the DEC are many of the pieces that would fit within such a plan, but each and the whole would be strengthened by knitting them together under a broader framework. Resources are also required in order to create such a plan with needed stakeholder input.

A second area of broad consensus was a need for increased funding and resources, whether on the subject of trails, staff, partnerships to accomplish educational objectives, or research.

A third area of consensus was a need to start testing ways to limit overuse at some locations and some times. Piloting a permit system was supported via an informal vote by many of the participants. Finally, a need for good data to base decisions upon was strongly supported.

These strategies not only had broad support from the group, but also connected the topic areas discussed, from education to transportation. A comprehensive plan addresses the challenges in both of those topics, using and building upon many of the strategies already proposed by DEC staff.

At the conclusion of its meeting, the DEC committed to continuing to update stakeholders, to refining their strategies and plans, and to moving the process forward. Overuse offers challenges that will not go away without a sustained effort by the DEC and many partners. Many actions have been taken by the DEC to date to address this problem, and these are positive steps, but the challenge is complex and will require a long-term investment of time, resources, and energy. The Adirondack Park deserves no less — it is an extraordinary place. With planning, effort, and proper implementation, the ways that overuse are addressed in the Adirondacks can serve as a model for stewardship of public lands around the world.

Read more about this issue HERE.

Photo of cars lining Route 73 by Mike Lynch.

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Julia Goren is Director of the Adirondack VISION Project for the Adirondack Council, a privately funded, not-for-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park. Julia has worked in the Adirondacks since 2004 as an environmental educator, researcher, and advocate focused on stewardship of alpine summits and of public land throughout the Adirondacks.




49 Responses

  1. Todd Eastman says:

    Please explain how a permit system will address parking and overuse issues…

    … the costs of implementing and running such a system usually drain the generated funds and do nothing to fix the situation…

    • adkDreamer says:

      I hate the idea of permits. I hate the idea of licensing. “Show me your papers” is the control method of the third reich and other regimes.

      I suppose the theory is that only a limited number of permits will be available for selected ‘over use’ areas. However if someone begins their hike/camping in a non permit area and hikes to the permit required area the entire system fails.

      Not a very robust solution to anything.

      • Balian the Cat says:

        I have backpacked all over the PNW, Alaska, Wyoming, etc. I have always had to hang (either paid for, or free) a permit on my pack/tent and have occasionally chatted with backcountry rangers whose job it was to protect the resource – not once was their a nazi involved or did I feel controlled. I felt as if I was being a responsible partner in the stewardship of important areas that were susceptible to overuse. Is this a mindset issue?

      • Vanessa says:

        I think we need to save the Nazi comparisons for people who shoot people because of their race or people who *ahem* chant to send regular citizens “back to their countries” ….

        …but otherwise I think I get you here, Dreamer, and it seems you’re also concerned re enforcement. I agree that it’s really unclear how one would fairly enforce the rules in a big amorphous space like the ADK. National parks, for example, have gates you have to drive through. Would we put “gates” at the entrance to popular trailheads?

  2. Carl Heilman II says:

    I totally agree with Todd. Funnel funds that would be needed for a permit system into hardening the trails that handle the numbers. They have done it in the Smokies in sub alpine terrain and all along the Blue Ridge. No hiking permits needed there – only for overnight camping. Trails are in great condition and open to all. The same can be done here with proper funding.

  3. Vanessa says:

    Actually, numerous perspectives on this have convinced me. I am still skeptical, but let’s try a permit system.

    Enforcement is gonna be tricky, however. Trying to enforce simple parking rules has already been less than ideal, according to perspectives on the ground (poor Pete Wilson having to deal with jerks, etc).

    As long as there is a fair and not super punitive way to help people do the right thing, I’m game. Let’s hope no one has to convince the corporate types….

  4. Balian the Cat says:

    I sincerely don’t understand the objection folks in the ADKs have to a permit system? There are public lands and recreational activities all over the country that require some form of it: USFS passes, back country permits, camping permits on through-trails, duck stamps, fishing licenses, rafting permits, elk tag lotteries, etc. I mean, it is hardly a new or untested process? There is a sound (1000x times over) resource protection/allocation need in this area and we have a known/tested method to ameliorate some of the significant issues involved – what am I missing?

    • Boreas says:

      B t C,

      Some people will object to anything new. Disruption of the status quo can be scary.

      Anyone who has ever had a license for anything knows the “show me your papers” idea is BS and is simply a scare tactic. If you screw up or draw undue attention to yourself, you may need to show your license. Follow the rules and it is a non-issue. Licensure requires much less enforcement, BUT it should not be used to reduce numbers of enthusiasts. It is more a tool for safety and education for users of the resource, which is a different issue that certainly should be addressed. Backcountry licenses could be lifetime, annual, or anything in-between.

      Permits are an entirely different animal. They are typically short-term permits that, to be effective, need to be enforced closely. If trailhead and other volunteers are not able to enforce a permit system, who will? A half-dozen Rangers? That is my biggest objection to permits. With a realistic number of PATROLLING Rangers, it could be effective, but once people realize there is little enforcement, I doubt it would have much of an effect in reducing numbers. Permitting is certainly a possibility, but ONLY if NYS or local governments are willing to enforce it. I doubt Albany has the political will to institute a workable system.

      This brings us to another possibility – LOCAL enforcement authorities that work with DEC. These county or town “rangers” would have fewer responsibilities than DEC Rangers, therefore requiring require less training and lower salaries/benefits. These local rangers could be both seasonal and full-time and would have authority to write illegal parking, permit, camping, and other tickets. They would primarily be responsible for front and backcountry patrolling, parking, permit, and general regulation enforcement, and would be less responsible for emergency S&R, although this could be a possibility if properly trained. Think local police vs. state police. This system would still rely heavily on state funding, but counties/towns would share in the expense, supported by ticket and permit revenue. Another benefit is this type of system would also create decent local jobs.

      The problems the HPW and Adirondacks are experiencing are many and varied. Proper planning will involve multiple solutions. There is no single magic bullet and any implemented solutions will need to be rationally integrated and properly funded. I don’t feel attacking each individual solution is helpful because each aspect needs to be viewed as just one piece of a reasonable, synergistic, long-term plan.These closed-door spitball sessions throwing out many possible solutions should not be taken as any type of a comprehensive plan. This is just a list of disconnected, narrow solutions which may or may not be integrated into a future Park plan. Proper planning will eventually involve evaluating each solution on its own merits and determining if it can fit into an overall plan. But there will be no quick fix.

      • adkDreamer says:

        Licensing has never provided for continuing education of anyone, ever. As far as enforcement – that is the non-issue because it simply will not be done efficiently or effectively. For example: the New York State statutes for transfer of aquatic invasive species – been on the books for what, six years now? Not one arrest or fine has ever been levied. Not one.

        Make all the laws and statutes you want to make you ‘feel’ good – does nothing unless enforced. Inadequate staffing levels has and will be the straw that breaks.

        • Boreas says:

          “Licensing has never provided for continuing education of anyone, ever.”
          Incorrect. I MUST acquire a required amount of continuing education every year to keep my healthcare license. So there is one person.

          That aside, who said anything about continuing education?? Licensing typically requires one to have the basic education required for any given activity – unless the activity requires regular updates, such as in healthcare. Despite changing regulations, hunting and fishing don’t even require continuing education, but simply require you be familiar with any changes in the game laws. Most people hunt with licenses, fish with licenses, fly with licenses, and drive with licenses with very little overt enforcement and very little resentment. Those who don’t have them often have had their licenses revoked. 100% compliance? Certainly not, but 80-90% of newbies actually knowing the basics is better than nothing. I doubt any Ranger would disagree.

          Currently, hikers are being “educated” at popular trailheads by volunteer staff – at least in warm weather. Why is no one considering that an affront to their liberty? I would rather show my license and avoid the interaction altogether. Get a license online and bypass the trailhead education. Hell, for all I care, once hikers are educated at the trailhead, give them a license so they don’t have to repeat the experience!!

          • adkDreamer says:

            Who said anything about healthcare? I thought this article was about outdoor recreational activities. There is no requirement that mandates I keep up with any hunting or fishing regulations. So people don’t get pulled over on the highways while they are driving? That’s hard to believe. Drivers licenses is a really bad comparison anyways – there are way too many crazy drivers out there, licensed and unlicensed.

            • Boreas says:

              adkDreamer,

              Your statements were general statements about licenses. I was replying to your statements.

              Regarding outdoor licenses, creel limits, seasons, bag limits, dates, etc. change all the time. If a licensee knowingly keeps themself ignorant of those changes by not reading the annual Special Regulations and overall regulation guide for changes, how can they know they are complying with current regulations? Most ECOs aren’t going to take ignorance of the law as an excuse. That is up to a judge.

              Yes, people DO get pulled over while driving, but not to specifically check for licenses. They get pulled over for alleged infractions and need to produce a valid license. Even the rare checkpoint where police are checking for vehicle inspection stickers do not require people to show licenses unless their inspection sticker has expired. Virtually any type of license I can think of is like this. The license needs to be up to date and available “upon demand” by enforcement. The principal is, you are required to have a license for that particular activity, but there isn’t going to be enforcement making sure you show a license before you get in your car, step into a stream, or walk into the woods with a gun.

              From the NYS website:

              “License Holder Responsibilities

              Have your license on hand: You must have your license on hand while conducting any sporting activity permitted by the license.
              Display your license as requested: You must display your license(s) on demand to any police officer, peace office, or the owner, lessee, or other person in control of the lands or waters while on their property.
              Do not access private property without permission: A license to hunt, trap or fish does not give the holder any right to go on private property without permission of the landowner.
              Ensure your license has all the correct information: Carefully check it immediately after purchase or as soon as delivered in the mail. If you discover an error, have it corrected as soon as possible. Errors render a hunting or fishing license invalid.
              Do not let others use your license: A license, permit, tag or stamp (except Deer Management Permits or Lifetime Licenses) is not transferrable and may be used only by the person to whom it was issued. It is not legal to possess another person’s license, permit or stamp (except a transferred Deer Management Permit), unless accompanied by the person to whom it is issued.
              ****Abide by harvest limits and sporting regulations: You are responsible for checking and following regulations for harvest limits and seasons before going fishing, hunting or trapping.

              Licensing systems have worked worldwide for decades because most people are responsible enough to obtain the license and are afraid of the repercussions of being caught without one. But statements by some about having to “show papers” every time they walk in the woods are simply unfounded, alarmist, and not based in fact.

              Enforcement of any license will always be variable due to staffing and practicality. In my experience in NYS, the only time I have been asked for an outdoor license was when fishing from a boat, and DEC was checking all boaters at the time. But most readers here will attest that obtaining and complying with outdoor licenses is hardly onerous. In fact, many licensees embrace the systems because they help preserve resources and improve safety. That is what we are discussing here – preserving resources and improving safety through education.

    • Todd Eastman says:

      Backcountry or parking permits?

      The primary USFS system used in the PNW is a parking permit that overrode the problem if charging for public access by putting up an outhouse and slapping in a picnic table at every access point so as to label those trailheads, “picnic areas”. It has taken 20 years for the public to grudgingly accept the pay-to-play mode, and since the funds are now dedicated to local ranger districts, those districts are allocated less operating and maintenance funding from the feds.

      Backcountry permits issued by the NPS and USFS are for camping and involve extensive patrols, active enforcement, and lengthy waiting lines that frequently result in trips assigned to places people had not planned for… these permits do not limit day use.

  5. Chris says:

    Has anyone done a study of what is driving the drastically increased usage of parks everywhere in the last decade?

    • Boreas says:

      Chris,

      Probably. But this increased tourism isn’t only related to parks and outdoor venues. Many cities based in tourism around the world are encountering the same issue of increasing numbers of visitors. Probably much of this involves the spike in retired/retiring baby-boomers – many of which actually have pensions. When baby-boomers and early retirements are a thing of the past (as are pensions), things may settle down some.

      • Vanessa says:

        This millennial is reading about pensions being a thing of the past and I’m ROFL over here🤣

        Our generation has to keep hiking so we stay healthy, because Medicare and social security seem like they might not be around for us either….

    • John Warren says:

      Nationally it has been, I think mostly accurately, attributed to social media which has in effect turned everyone into their own media outlet. I haven’t seen any wider studies as to the cause.

      In the Adirondacks, the small studies that have been done by individual organizations have mostly focused assessing the scope of the various problems (human waste, parking, education, numbers).

      There was a slowly growing undercurrent of increased use which I think can be largely attributable to 46er inspiration; you’ll recall they reached 10k not long ago and have been growing fast the last 25 years. The internet (sites like the forums, the Almanack, online tourism promotion) have also contributed as has increased and better organized tourism promotion on the state and local levels.

      Increased visitor-ship is what most locals have wanted all along, to help boost local economies. Regulating access should shift some usage to lesser used areas, and those areas (Indian Lake and Newcomb for example) will benefit.

      Those are my thoughts anyway. This all really came to public notice with the keg party on Phelps Mountain back in 2015, and then the UMP changes three years later. We’ve had about three dozen related stories since. You can read them all here: https://www.adirondackalmanack.com/tag/overuse

      John Warren
      Founder and Editor
      Adironadck Almanack

  6. Ray Mainer says:

    The trails are not overused; they are under maintained.

    • Jim S. says:

      I couldn’t agree more. Harden the trails where necessary and increase parking . Parking fees make a lot of sense to me.

    • Paul says:

      What Ray said! This is a problem during the summer, especially weekends and on national or Canadian holidays. Issues with erosion is mostly limited to the trails, some of them worn down to bedrock and thus unable to be eroded further and there is vast acreage that never sees a footfall. Since there are so many portals of entry in the Adirondacks, as opposed to other areas that may limit access by having only a few inroads, I don’t see how a permit system could work, especially with a very limited ranger force. h

      • Foulhooked says:

        Yes, yes and more yes. Still not understanding the re-route of cascade/porter trail…that trail has pretty much reached equilibrium, what are they trying to save? Build some more parking and keep the use concentrated.

        • John Warren says:

          It was closed by the landowner.

          • Foulhooked says:

            Not the temporary trail that was used in 2017 John, the standard route that AFAIK is completely on state land. Which is still open for the time being. Though technically I guess you are still correct, as the state plans on closing it and is the landowner.

  7. AdkAck81 says:

    Again i’m torn. A permit i am actually leaning towards at this time… I look at it like a fishing license or USGA membership.. Enforcing would be tough. Lets start with the basics. Needing help while hiking happens. When it happens, couldn’t we start by making sure these people in need are first prepared with basics. Enough water, lights, map? Have a permit if enforced? Did they park in a designated parking area and did they sing in at the trail head? These would be situations where we could enforce some sort of law.

    This is tough all around. We need to start somewhere and reading every week about mostly unprepared or lost hikers really irks me..

    • Ed says:

      ” A permit i am actually leaning towards at this time… I look at it like a fishing license or USGA membership.”

      So what you want is probably better termed a license, not a permit. The other items you mention might better be handled via a system similar to NH’s (pay for rescue due to negligence unless you carry hikesafe card, pay for rescue due to recklessness regardless). Not entirely sure where I fall on these options, but they are much more reasonable and feasible than backcountry permits.

  8. AdkAck81 says:

    Again i’m torn. A permit i am actually leaning towards at this time… I look at it like a fishing license or USGA membership.. Enforcing would be tough. Lets start with the basics. Needing help while hiking happens. When it happens, couldn’t we start by making sure these people in need are first prepared with basics. Enough water, lights, map? Have a permit if enforced? Did they park in a designated parking area and did they sign in at the trail head? These would be situations where we could enforce some sort of law.

    This is tough all around. We need to start somewhere and reading every week about mostly unprepared or lost hikers really irks me..

  9. Dan says:

    A permit system means another bureaucracy, or at least part of one. I’m not for it.

    Limited parking means limited use to some degree. There are plenty of other beautiful places to hike in the Adirondacks. Aggressively promote these places via the same awareness campaign used to advise visitors of the limited parking. Over time, it will become the norm.

    • Aaron says:

      People are not going to go to “other areas” when they very clearly want to hike in the HPW. This is how it’s been for decades. The notion that we can entice hikers to suddenly change their interests and start visiting ponds, lakes, and smaller mountains is fanciful at best. I mean the whole reason the Adirondack Interpretive Center was built in Newcomb in 1986 was to attract visitors to another area of the Park. How did that work out? Or the Essex Chain? Or now Frontier Town? The numbers and data don’t lie; more than 80% of the Park’s visitors frequent the Route 73 corridor from Chapel Pond up into Lake Placid. That’s where the need is, and it’s a STATE issue which, thus far, they’ve utterly failed to address in any coherent way.

  10. Lakechamplain says:

    There is a huge and gaping gulf between debating a permit system of some sort, planning for that system’s structure and……..then implementing it.

    You establish rules of compliance. How is this going to be funded? How many people are going to needed to make it work and pay them meaningful money? (and don’t just dump this in the Rangers’ lap). How are you going to enforce it? Monitors at each trailhead? Go ahead, start counting all the trailheads, even if just to the popular peaks and sites, and I’ll be finished typing this before you finish. Or have ‘roving’ patrollers on the trails? What will the penalties be for not having a permit? What level of the court system will summons/tickets be handling these violators?

    I’m not saying that a permit system doesn’t offer some appealing ‘benefits’. But creating a new bureaucracy might in the end, be counterproductive. Imagine if is enforced sporadically; how would you feel if you’d gone through the hassle of getting a permit and you meet others on the trail that are blithely ignoring it with the attitude that ‘they’ can’t do anything to me.

    The good news is that good people in meetings like the one held and forums like this are discussing possibilities and generating ideas.

    Personally, as several commenters have already opined, I think hardening and modernizing(and yes, I am talking switchbacks) is for now the most reasonable approach to heavy hiker traffic.

    • Boreas says:

      Lakechamplain,

      I am not a fan of a permitting system either. Just education and properly-sized parking areas. But something I posted a year or so ago got zero response here. That was to totally re-develop the HPW and other bordering or nearby Wilderness areas. This would be accomplished in sections over probably 20+ years. The basic concept is to reroute and harden trails nearest roads to allow intensive use. This would necessarily involve re-classifying zones or corridors within these areas to allow motors for regular and emergency maintenance, rescue, etc.. Deeper in the interior, trails and infrastructure would ideally be few and far between with many trails closed, especially up peaks. Return many peaks to being trailless, and keep them difficult to access – requiring navigation and backcountry skills. Wilderness rules would apply. The idea is to concentrate most casual hikers to hardened, intensive use trails nearer roads and reserve the deeper backcountry for a more challenging and robust wilderness experience.

      However, to work, this should involve buy-in by the ADK 46rs. I would like to see the 46rs change their requirements from climbing the 46 highest peaks to something more benign and spread out across the Park. For instance, ANY 16 high peaks, any 10 remote (10-20 mile) lake hikes elsewhere in the Park, any 10 remote waterfalls, and any 10 remote camping experiences. Still 46 requirements (we can even keep the same name!) but evolve into something other than a peak-bagging club zeroed in on the most fragile area of the Park (and the northeast!). I believe this would have the effect of lessening damage to the HPW while encouraging a more well-rounded hiking goal. You could even throw paddling into the requirements. Even though the 46rs are a MAJOR contributor to trail maintenance and stewardship, I think we need to look at what we do TO the lands as well as what we do FOR them.

      • Trailogre says:

        Motors……even for maintaining trails is idiotic

        Create smaller designated parking areas
        And get rid of road parking altogether…..
        Even if you have to walk an extra mile or 2

        Why do people have to park 6 inches from their destination

        No motors!!!!!!!

        Keep them in Central Park

        • Boreas says:

          Trailogre,

          I hear ya, but what is the big issue of motors for occasional maintenance or emergencies in what would be an Intensive Use corridor? One can currently hear vehicles and aircraft from almost anywhere in the HPW! People who ask for intensive trail maintenance, re-routing, hardening, etc. are being unrealistic if they expect it to be done properly and efficiently without motors. Why should we demand DEC staff and/or volunteers perform these occasional intensive tasks without motors or even adequate staffing? It is unrealistic.

          I agree motors should be prohibited from areas classified as Wilderness, but I feel the HPW in its current state is improperly classified as such. The HPW classification either needs to be revised to reflect usage, or usage limited to reflect classification. The current plan is not logical.

          • Trailogre says:

            We put in over the last 2 years over 30 miles of hardened hiking bicycling trails
            With only shovels and pickaxes
            No motor vehicles
            With an average crew of 10

            There is no need for motors

            Why are you so adamant for using motor vehicles………..?????

            Where they do not belong!!!!

            • Boreas says:

              “Why are you so adamant for using motor vehicles………..?????”

              Because of lack of people to do the required work without them.

              You don’t seem to understand what I am proposing. The areas where the motors would be used would no longer be classified as Wilderness – it would be Intensive Use. Motors are allowed in Intensive Use areas.

  11. Steve B. says:

    A permit system is needed in intensive use areas and where parking is a problem. Simply enacting a requirement and having a computer based system (visitor center ?, local hiking store ?) generate a permit, that can deny based on too many issued for particular areas on particular dates, would likely be a huge start in reducing the overcrowding. A computer system can easily be programmed to make a recommendation as to alternatives, based on the current demand.

    If an individual or hiking group is denied a permit they are unlikely to ignore the requirement and do the hike anyway as there’s always the potential for a fine due to an unexpected enforcement. Which in turns means you don’t have to enforce every area all the time, only appear to be doing that. Same reason most folks don’t drive 100 mph down I87, you never know when a cop is out there.

    Then better road/parking spot signage at difficult trail heads are needed. Painted designated parking spaces, maybe a designated space keyed to the permit and placed on the dashboard, plus more “No Parking” signs and enforcement with parking tickets (that generates income for local municipality) and the word gets out.

    And trail hardening. It’s done extensively in Europe and works.

    • Foulhooked says:

      And yet…
      Who has defined “overcrowding” (or “overuse”) and determined that it is the problem? We see plenty of evidence of misuse, parking congestion and some very limited trail degradation. How do backcountry permits fix these issues more efficiently than simply trail hardening and parking expansion? Misuse is an education and enforcement issue, not an access issue. Parking permits? Sure, fine, whatever, as part of a comprehensive approach if you want. Backcountry permits? That’s a complicated and costly “remedy” to a problem that has not yet been defined, and I have yet to see a compelling argument for permits that addresses both intent and implementation to any reasonable level.

      • Steve B. says:

        When you have overflow at the available parking lots, when 20 years ago you didn’t, then the correlation is you’ve got an increase in traffic on the trails and at the peaks.

        Is that a problem for the trail infrastructure ?, good question and can only be answered by the managers who maintain the trails. The consensus of those who use the trails regularly seems to be Yes, but some of that is just general impressions. I think the report done on the status of HPW trails seems to indicate that the increase in foot traffic is causing more serious issues, compounded by old trail designs that could never handle the usage. Thus the call for hardening, which is probably needs to be at the top of the list of solutions. It that takes money and years of effort and there are a lot of trails. Thus short term may mean permits for day use as well as restrictions on parking.

      • Boreas says:

        I doubt we are going to see much parking expansion – at least AT trailheads. Ever notice many existing trailhead lots are about as big as they can be because of terrain? Also, when built they were sized based on expected usage. Unfortunately, overflowing parking has been ignored for decades without any plan for hardening trails or determining usage standards. Politics as usual.

        So now we are talking shuttles to allow more users without the restriction or “funnel” of trailhead parking lot size. Assuming a very robust, infinitely flexible shuttle system, DEC loses all control over trail usage when that is exactly their responsibility – determining the capacity of EACH trail system – but has yet to do so. Until they do, there will be no long-term solutions to anything and discussions on potential solutions are really meaningless. But even if they do come up with these numbers soon, will they ultimately fluctuate due to ever-changing political pressure in Albany and DEC leadership?

        What we see right now is more of an emergency plan than any long-term planning. Unfortunately temporary fixes often become permanent fixtures.

  12. Foulhooked says:

    “The consensus of those who use the trails regularly seems to be Yes, but some of that is just general impressions.”

    I don’t know that these impressions are particularly accurate. Of the hundreds (thousands?) of miles of trails in the wilderness areas of the high peaks (including Dix & Giant Mt wildernesses), there seem to me to be maybe a handful of trouble spots. Most of the mileage along the most popular trails have effectively been “hardened” by decades of hiker traffic and erosion, plus active trail work. A trailbed on bedrock or rubble isn’t going to get worse by taking additional footsteps. People avoiding mud pits or ledges does widen the trail and lead to additional side-paths and erosion, but again, re-routes and hardening can fix this. Anybody who thinks re-locating the cascade mt trail is going to result in less erosion at this point vs more is in denial. So yeah, invest in hardening…it takes time but with some actual investment by the state maybe we would see a bit more progress.

    I still fail to see how a backcountry permit system can be rolled out more expeditiously than constructive parking solutions (increasing parking, expanding shuttles, etc.). I would expect it to take the better part of a decade to implement any sort of cohesive permit system. And again, it is a very convoluted way to address the most visible (glaring, really) issue, which is…lack of adequate parking.

  13. Eric Avery says:

    A permit system would destroy the only advantage we have over the “big” parks out west. The most beautiful thing about the Adirondacks is it’s freedom. You don’t need a government permission slip to go. You get up feeling spry, the weather looks good, you just go. If you want to see just how awful a permit system is just go to try visit Baxter SP in Maine without planning for it months in advance. It’s awful.

  14. Neil Luckhurst says:

    By restricting parking as has been done there will probably be less people on the trails whether that was the real motive or not. Over time, there may well be less people in the stores and other places of business. Unless Marcy field has unlimited parking and the state beefs up the shuttle capacity.

    It is interesting to see how much influence a non-governmental organization seems to be wielding over state park policy. But, with someone of Julia Goren’s integrity and track record being involved I am confident that the ship will be steered well.

    Also of interest is the way that parking issues and overuse have become enmeshed as if they were the same thing.

    I’ll add my voice to those who consider a key issue to be insufficient infrastructure. Ie. trails need work, parking capacity and trailhead facilities need to be expanded, ranger presence increased.

    • John Warren says:

      The idea that less people are going to come here has no basis in fact. There has never been a time in the modern era when that was the case, and it never will be. We are increasingly surrounded by a megalopolis which is growing at an incredible rate.

      • Neil Luckhurst says:

        The most important fact that can have influence over the numbers of hikers would be the number of available parking spaces. This may well be a measurable finite number and it can be controlled to the extent people obey the signs. From Marcy Field to say, the North Fork Crossing have the numbers of spaces increased or decreased as of late?

        And who knows? Perhaps the roadside parking didn’t represent all that big a percentage of the total. Just south of the AMR/Roaring Brook lots I noted a number of pullouts that did not have no parking signs so some roadside parking is still available.

        One would have to factor in a potential compensatory increase in the number of hikers per vehicle as people adapt. Also, a few people might get dropped off and picked up.

        • John Warren says:

          I think you have a recreationist perspective, while I prefer a historical one. Factors influencing the numbers of hikers are largely external – the economy, access to transportation, population at the periphery, and state tourism promotion and social media.

          It’s my view that limiting the number of hikers at a few places will have almost no bearing on the larger numbers. It will impact a few of the most crowded spots where use already exceeds the idea of a walk in the park. Those people are going to find somewhere else to hike, and it’s not going to be the Whites, or the Catskills. We have a monopoly on accessible scenery and mountain peaks for 60 million people around us.

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