New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos has announced a new strategic planning initiative, with a goal of sustainably managing public use in the Adirondack High Peaks.
The High Peaks Strategic Planning Advisory Group, comprised of what a DEC press announcement called “key stakeholders with expertise in local government, recreation, natural resource protection, business, tourism, and other priority areas” are expected to collaboratively provide advice on how to balance issues associated with the increased public use of the High Peaks,
“DEC and our partners are working hard to address impacts associated with increased use of the High Peaks because we all recognize the tremendous opportunities that will be created when we ensure this majestic region is sustainably managed for the enjoyment of both current and future generations,” Commissioner Seggos said in an announced sent to the press Thursday. “DEC has assembled a team of talented and committed people to work together to provide advice on a strategic approach that will support the Adirondacks’ local economies, protect the environment, and provide safe, quality recreational experiences for visitors.”
DEC has identified five goals for managing public use in the High Peaks Region: 1) ensuring public safety within communities, along roadways, at trailheads, and in interior areas; 2) protecting natural resources and recreation infrastructure; 3) providing a quality recreation experience; 4) supporting local economic vitality; and 5) making decisions based on science using the best available data.
To accomplish these goals, DEC is launching a formal Strategic Planning process, guided by Acting Executive Deputy Commissioner Judy Drabicki and led by Division of Lands and Forests Director Rob Davies and DEC Region 5 Director Bob Stegemann.
Commissioner Seggos also named a High Peaks Strategic Planning Advisory Group their announcement said, “to create a framework of policy recommendations to achieve the goals for the initiative, incorporate, expand, and/or modify the recommendations made to date to identify priorities, determine whether additional data is needed to inform the group, and identify actions for implementation.”
The group includes:
Rocci Aguirre, Director of Conservation, Adirondack Council
Sandi Allen, Retired DEC Counsel
Pat Barnes, Region 1 Director, New York State Department of Transportation (DOT)
Teresa Cheetham-Palen, Owner of Rock and River Guide Co.
Shaun Gilliland, Chair, Essex County Board of Supervisors
James McKenna, CEO, Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism (ROOST)
Pete Nelson, Adirondack Wilderness Advocates
Mike Pratt, President & CEO, Olympic Regional Development Authority
Dr. Jill Weiss, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
Joe Pete Wilson, Supervisor, Town of Keene
Charlie Wise, The Mountaineer outdoor specialty store
Adirondack Park Agency representative (ad hoc)
New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation representative (ad hoc)
DEC has been working with partners and stakeholders to implement long- and short-term improvements to promote sustainable use, particularly in the High Peaks. Examples include delineating parking on Route 73, working with DOT, New York State Police, and the towns, reducing congestion in areas around the High Peaks, highlighting alternative hikes and activities elsewhere in the park, and promoting sustainable use with partners through Leave No Trace to help visitors understand how their actions affect and protect the resource.
The strategic planning process announced Thursday is expected to build on these actions to develop both short- and long-term actions. The High Peaks Strategic Planning Advisory Group is expected to begin meeting this fall and include opportunities for broader public input.
The group is charged with finalizing and submitting a strategic planning framework to DEC Commissioner Seggos in 2020. Upon completion of the framework, DEC is expected to develop a draft Strategic Plan for Managing Public Use in the High Peaks Region of the Adirondack Park, which is expected to be made available for public review and comment.
Photo: Summit of Cascade Mountain, one of the most popular peaks in the Adirondack High Peaks (photo by Dan Plumley).