Editor’s note: As the coronavirus pandemic swept New York this spring, Adirondack Explorer staff asked those who know and love the Adirondacks for opinions on the upcoming season. Their timing spanned late-March to mid-April, and a roundup of online and emailed submissions were published in the May/June 2020 issue of the Adirondack Explorer magazine (subscribe here). What follows is some of the responses. With Memorial Day behind us, we feel this conversation continues to be one worth having. We welcome your thoughts in the comments below.
It’s Debatable: Should the Adirondacks discourage visitation during COVID-19?
Although I currently live in Monroe County, working as a nurse practitioner, I am from and love every chance I have to return to the North Country. However, as I learn and unfortunately witness this virus unfold its tentacles rapidly throughout western New York, which has a fairly good health care system, it’s in the best interest of all to avoid interregional travel at least through June. Hopefully this timeframe allows the hospitality business to brainstorm/plan how they might accommodate social distancing while slowing the infection curve.
—Fran McCarthy, Monroe County
Given that visitors to the Adirondacks and other parks during this terrible time have proven to be irresponsible, it is time to close the park to outsiders. We cannot afford to have our pristine community ruined at a time that is so critical.
—George Penrose, Queensbury
Throughout the country, choices for life are being put above livelihood. While we certainly feel for those small businesses who will be set back financially, the ADK renters and businesses need to follow the same course. If everyone does that, maybe the period of pain will be shortened. If immediate gains are placed ahead of sound thinking and action, the virus will continue to spread. My business is closed until further notice, and who knows how long?
—John Neu, Bucks County, Pennsylvania
If I had a second home in the mountains, I would remain in my primary home … even if I lived in Manhattan! To think I might be a non-symptomatic carrier of a virus that might transfer to and potentially kill others would be (is!) unacceptable to me personally.
—Carol Crawford Peterson, Queensbury
“Stay Home” means STAY HOME. It’s that simple. Folks from away should stay home just like we should. Vital services everywhere are geared to where folks are from. Population shifts contribute not to controlling coronavirus but rather to spreading it and stressing services not able to accommodate increased demands, thereby exacerbating problems, not making them better.
—Kurt Wisell, Lake George
One interesting thing that happened in 1918 is that, just when the influenza epidemic seemed to be resolving and people started getting out again, many more people got sick in a second wave of that pandemic. The second round of illness hit people worse since the virus had mutated and become more virulent. I think people should be discouraged from traveling to the Adirondacks during the pandemic and probably for a few months afterward. Our infrastructure is not geared to handle even the outbreak we have now.
—Peggy MacKellar, Lake Placid
I know that during this time of isolation and quarantine going outside is the perfect thing to do—but why not explore trails locally? If we’re all being encouraged to work from home, not go out to restaurants, bars, etc., then why would we encourage people to travel to the Adirondacks, where only essential businesses are open?
The Adirondacks aren’t going anywhere—those mountains aren’t going to move or change. And, it’s the beginning of mud season anyway, when people are encouraged to keep to low-elevation trails. I believe that for the next month or two we should ask people to be thoughtful and reconsider their trips to the Adirondacks. Reducing the amount of people coming to our small communities can help slow the spread of the virus in our small communities. After a month or two, let’s see where we all stand and go from there.
—Charlotte Staats, North Elba
I live in the exurbs outside New York City, and will be retiring in June. My wife and I have planned on coming up to my camp in Hamilton County, and (mostly) staying until fall. I would spend most of my time in the woods, on my bike, and in my canoe—away from others, and socially distancing when I’m not. But now, I’m not so sure, and have so many questions. Will the curve have been flattened by then? Will the North Country have been spared? (I doubt it.) Should we self-quarantine for two weeks before coming up? Will we and other downstaters be welcome?
—Scott MacMillin, Campbell Hall
Please don’t discourage visitors or make them feel unwelcome, as long as everyone follows the rules of distancing! The Adirondacks is a respite and has been through other diseases. Its untouched beauty has the power to heal us in many ways.
—Donna Norris, Syracuse
We’ve been going to Lake George for the past 40 years. We travel from Connecticut to our boat, which is kept in rack storage in Bolton Landing. We get on our boat and stay on it all day. Our son has a house off the lake, so we do spend multiple days. I think as long we follow all the distancing rules we would be able to go. Now, of course, that’s if the marina opens up. Let’s hope for the best in these terrible times.
—Rich Kreuzer, Terryville, Connecticut
I’ll address the question of second home owners. I remember a “Simpsons” episode where (power plant owner) Mr. Burns sought to leave a nuclear meltdown in an escape pod. When (personal assistant) Smithers pounded on the door and begged that there were two seats in the pod, Mr. Burns replied, “I know … but I like to put my feet up.” There’s a lot of space in the Adirondacks, yet the attitude of many locals is very much like Mr. Burns, and it’s selfish and reeks of entitlement. We’re all in this together, and we all should be staying in our homes, no matter if it’s our first or second home. If we follow the recommendations, we’ll all come out of this OK.
—Ed Roulston, Syracuse
A very serious effect of the pandemic is exponential growth of stress and “cabin fever,” if you will, as people have to stop congregating at work, shopping, or socially. New Yorkers need, need, need a pressure-relief valve. Parks offer perhaps the best one available. Music and laughter, too, of course.
—John Carstens, Northville
There has been much lack of compassion and understanding concerning out-of-state cars parked at trailheads. I find this to be a form of localism, and misdirected. What the people are missing is this: Out-of-state college students have returned home to weather the pandemic with family. Many people who live and work here put off changing plates. Second home owners have chosen to isolate here instead of a city (you would too). The immune-compromised may be relocating to safer places. Family members travel to be available to care for at-risk family. To direct anger and aggression at others in these times is uncalled for. We need to give people the benefit of the doubt, be compassionate and come 6 feet together, not apart.
—Nate Jeffery, Lake Placid
Most second home owners will arrive soon, and many are already here. They will come from cities with lots of sickness. So, helping these folks self-quarantine for two weeks will be a good idea. Providing shopping help, meals to go, and so on will be needed. Some towns like Keene double their population in the summer. Others like Lake George and Speculator grow by 10 times in the summer. These places will be a much more difficult situation. Keep in mind Hamilton County has almost no health care system, no hospital. Traditional tourism will be subdued. If we succeed in flattening the curve, the crisis will lengthen throughout the summer. No one will want to stay in a hotel. If we don’t succeed in slowing this by social distancing, we will have been through a terrible national trauma, vacations will not go on as normal. Either way, it will not be normal.
—David Mason, Keene
The Adirondacks has a treasured history of being a place of well-being and cure, most notably between 1873 and 1945 when Saranac Lake became famous for its treatment of tuberculosis. The Adirondack wilderness and clear air should also now provide opportunity for people to get fresh air and exercise through hiking and other no-contact activities. People in more urban areas cooped up for weeks or possibly months in their home are mentally going to start going crazy, and will need safe places like this to have balance in their life. All visitors should self-verify themselves as virus-free before coming to the Adirondacks, of course.
—Johnathan Esper, Wilmington