Friday, August 28, 2020

Limited Entry System for the High Peaks – Let’s Get Started

I appreciate the Adirondack Council’s recent press release, which highlights the many benefits of permit reservation or limited entry systems and how such a system is needed and necessary now in parts of the High Peaks Wilderness Area. (Editor’s note: See the Explorer’s article about it here) Support from the Adirondack Council for such a system comes at an important moment, as overuse of the peaks continues to spike during this pandemic summer.

Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve has been publicly advocating for a limited entry or permit reservation pilot project in the High Peaks since we met with Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner Basil Seggos in September 2016. For the past four years we have advocated that such a system must be one part of a comprehensive management approach, including Leave No Trace education and use of many information platforms, including High Peaks social messaging to hikers and campers before they leave home.

The commissioner told us in 2016 that every management strategy was on the table, including permit reservation systems. However, he has since backed away from that position, stating earlier this year that in his view a permit or limited entry system, even one that is just a part of a broader management strategy, would be unworkable.

We respectfully disagree and now, apparently, so does the Adirondack Council. In its press release the Adirondack Council quotes Leave No Trace that “permit systems when well thought out, well designed, and soundly implemented, can serve an important function in parks and protected areas.” This paragraph is found on page 42, deep within a lengthy report on “Managing Recreation-related Impacts in the Adirondack Park and Building a Culture of Wildlands Stewardship,” Feb. 2020, prepared by Leave No Trace author Ben Lawhon.

This is the key. Permit systems must be well thought out and designed for portions of the High Peaks Wilderness. Had the DEC begun that planning and design work in 2016 – or had the department followed through on its intention to put this system in place during peak use of the High Peaks in the decade of the 1990s during which eastern High Peaks Wilderness trailhead registration grew by some 40%  – we would know by now what worked, what didn’t work, and why.

Permits: Not a new idea

Today’s crowding, congestion and user impacts are nothing new. The 1994 draft Unit Management Plan called for a permit reservation system for the eastern High Peaks. It echoed previous recommendations by DEC in a 1978 draft UMP. By 1999, in the final and approved UMP those calls had been replaced by a 3-year study of a future, potential overnight camping permit system, followed by a commissioner’s recommendation by year 5 and an amendment to the UMP to implement it.

Despite being well understood conceptually, permits were seen then by some with DEC Ray Brook and in Albany, as the commissioner may see them now, as unnecessary, onerous, unworkable and a violation of the principle that wilderness managers should always employ the least intrusive, preferably indirect method for managing wilderness users. And that is a solid, well accepted principle.

The problem is that in other popular, heavily used and impacted Wilderness areas in the country permit systems have proven necessary, workable, useable and, while imperfect, largely successful in reducing damage to wilderness resources and assuring more people of the opportunity to experience solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation.

Over 20 years, spanning 4 Governors and 6 DEC commissioners, even the limited, hesitant steps in the 1999 UMP were not taken. Commissioner Seggos hardly stands alone. His predecessors, many of them, relied upon the same DEC fallback position that “maybe in the future and only if needed” would a reservation system be implemented.

As the Adirondack Council press release makes clear, the future is now.

Education only goes so far

It is a fundamental principle of wilderness management that direct management techniques, like permit or limited entry, should be tried only after a broad range of indirect management techniques, such as education and information campaigns, are proved insufficient. As stated in the High Peaks UMP itself, ““when human use must be controlled to prevent misuse and overuse, it is best to do so by education followed by minimum degree of regulation necessary to meet management objectives. The latter option is sometimes called the minimum tool rule – application of the minimum tools, equipment, regulations, or practices that will bring the desired result.”  Adirondack Wild has never disagreed.

However, this summer, like last summer, pre-pandemic and during the pandemic, evidence that the minimum tool rule is insufficient is presented right before our eyes, off State Rte. 73, on the trails, and on the summits. Indirect methods have been helpful but insufficient. Summit Stewards now are faced with the nearly impossible task of annually trying to speak to well over 30,000 people annually – or hundreds daily –  about how to behave without trampling on and destroying the fragile alpine summits, not the 9,000 hikers annually they could manageably interact with in 1990.

We heartily commend the Adirondack Council for joining us to make the case that the time has come for a well thought out, well designed pilot limited entry system to be implemented in the eastern High Peaks. As quoted by the Adirondack Council, the Leave No Trace report goes on to state that a permit reservation system not only will benefit natural resources but “can benefit the natural resources and the visitor experience. Additionally, a permit system allows for an educational touch point with visitors before they depart on their trip. Many parks and protected areas have existing permit systems in place such as Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”

2019 stakeholder meeting

In the summer of 2019, DEC Region 5 and Central Office convened a High Peaks Stakeholder conference at the Keene Central School. The purpose was to focus on all management strategies and techniques, including Permits, and to hear from a wide range of folks who enjoy, recreate or benefit from the High Peaks Wilderness. What I found hopeful during the permit break-out group in late July 2019 was that DEC staff seemed highly aware of other permit systems in place or underway elsewhere in the country. In fact, DEC staff brought up the U.S. Forest Service plan to significantly expand their pilot permit or limited entry system for the Three Sisters, Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Washington Wilderness areas of Oregon’s Cascade Range. DEC staff broached that as a possible model to follow here. I have not visited these Cascade Range but reports from there indicate the since a permit system was implemented, crowding and resource degradation due to overuse have stabilized, affording more opportunity to experience solitude and wildlife.

During the break-outs at the Keene stakeholder conference, Adirondack participants raised very legitimate questions and concerns with a permit reservation system, such as how to administer, how to plan, how to go about allocating day use or overnight quotas for a given trail network, whether a permit fee should be involved and how to hold back some permits for residents residing near the High Peaks who wish to spontaneously recreate in the High Peaks on a given day. These and many other details would be part of a “well thought-out, well-designed and soundly implemented system,” as described in the Leave No Trace report and the Adirondack Council press release.

As part of the 2019 stakeholder conference in Keene, participants were asked to rank their management strategy preferences. I was impressed with the level of interest in reservation systems and, given the problems of congestion and overuse, the degree of risk that many participants were willing to invest in a pilot program.

As shown in the photo from that conference, thirty (30) votes were cast for the premise that we should “start with a pilot program, then revise or expand as needed.” These included my vote. Thirteen (13) votes were cast for the premise that “we need more data to make an informed decision” about permit systems. I agree. Eight (8) votes were cast for the premise that “any permit system needs a big education component.” I completely agree. Nine (9) votes were cast for “focus on education, registration, or other ways to address impacts before going to a permit system that would limit use.” I think that has been tried and found insufficient.

Eight (8) votes were cast for “any permit system needs to incorporate a comprehensive consideration of consequences.” Such consideration is necessary and prerequisite to a well thought out, well designed, and soundly implemented system. It’s time to get started.

Photo of crowded Cascade Mt. by Dan Plumley
Photo of the informal vote on Permit Preferences by Dan Plumley
Scenic photo of wetland in front of the High Peaks by Dave Gibson

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Dave Gibson, who writes about issues of wilderness, wild lands, public policy, and more, has been involved in Adirondack conservation for over 30 years as executive director of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks and currently as managing partner with Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest PreserveDuring Dave's tenure at the Association, the organization completed the Center for the Forest Preserve including the Adirondack Research Library at Paul Schaefer’s home. The library has the finest Adirondack collection outside the Blue Line, specializing in Adirondack conservation and recreation history. Currently, Dave is managing partner in the nonprofit organization launched in 2010, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve.

118 Responses

  1. Zephyr says:

    There’s nothing quite like “show me your papers” from a uniformed ranger to ruin your hiking experience. Who is going to enforce this? Where will the money come from? How much will it all cost? You can double whatever answer you get for the costs. A permit system will reduce usage for sure, at least by me. It would be impossible for me to reserve a particular day to go on a hike in advance, and I wouldn’t want to do so. It is unsafe to go until you know what the weather conditions will be. This is going to be a great way to chase people away from the Adirondacks, which I guess is the goal.

    • joeadirondack says:

      Show me your papers. If a ranger or warden asks for my papers I show them a valid hunting or fishing license. Why not the same for hikers?

      • Eric says:

        When you buy a hunting or fishing license do you have to specify the specific date and the specific water body or forest you will be hunting? That’s why it’s different.

    • Steve B. says:

      I’ve stated this before, there’s been a permit system for mt. biking in assorted preserves run by the DEC on Long Island. It’s been in place nearly 30 years and is as painless as can be. It’s free, is easy to get and judging by how many people use these parks and post about their rides on FaceBook, is hardly any kind of burden. I just print mine and keep it with me.

      The major difference for a system for the EHPW is the concept of using a permit system to limit usage as per a quota. Every suggestion for starting this is IN ADDITION to all the other measures needed, trail hardening, smarter parking education for trail users, etc….. none of which will solve the heavy usage issues by themselves.

      I started hiking in the EHPW in the late 70’s. Even then, it was obvious there was a brewing problem and permits were being considered FORTY YEARS AGO !. The problems did not go away, and are now significantly worse and it’s now time to seriously consider a permit system.

  2. Eric says:

    There is so much wrong here it’s hard to know where to start. Let’s start with “limited entry” since that appears so often in the article. Is the writer even familiar with the Adirondack Park? Or is this is a lackey hired from some distant environmental advocacy group? The Adirondack Park doesn’t have an entry gate, we all agree on that right? Next let’s go the 1999 UMP. This document predates the iPhone my more than two years. Some of its basic tenets are no longer valid. For example the UMP assumes usage will be limited by parking. Like it or not; AllTrails, Gaia, and Strava are things which exist now. If you don’t build more parking here is what is going to happen: people will be dropped off at random spots along Rt
    73, they will record and publish their GPS tracks for the world to see, and then everyone else who wants to hike will follow those tracks and create new trails even wider and more eroded than the crappy trails we have now. Any still extant copies of the 1999 UMP should be placed in privies to be used as toilet paper in order to increase their value to our society. Virtually every business in America had to rethink and re-write their plans when the iPhone was introduced but the environmental lobby is still clinging to relics of the past. Limiting parking is going to cause more damage, not less. The writer also seems to adore the onerous permit systems used out west. You do know that in the East sometimes it rains right? What should I do if I have a permit to hike the Trap Dike and the weather is foul? Should i just go for it? That will be the temptation. But that will lead to more injuries and more rescues. Next let’s talk about his out for local residents to hike on a whim even though everyone else needs to get a permit. Do you want an angry mob to burn your city to the ground? Because that’s how you get an angry mob to burn your city to the ground. Ok finally let’s talk about who permits would hurt the most. Namely private sector employees and young people. Retired people and people with cushy state jobs that have set hours would benefit. But that’s not how anyone in the real world is working these days. Most of us are subject to “just in time scheduling”. This means we find out on Wednesday or Thursday whether we will have Saturday off or Sunday off. How in the heck are we supposed to reserve a permit if we don’t know what day we will be hiking until a few days before. It makes no sense.

    • Plattsburgh Hikers says:

      Okay let’s start here. There is NO ONE advocating for a permit style system for the entire park. That is nonsense. No one is advocating for that, so let’s get that clear. This ‘the park is too big’ ‘too many enterances’ logic is constantly used by anti permit folks but I dare you to find anyone who is actually trying to get this done.

      Next a permit or reservation system wouldn’t even need to be the whole high peaks. Just start with targeted lots on the busiest weekends of the year. No one honestly believes we need a ‘trap duke’ permit or permits in winter or permits mid week in the spring of fall. These arguments by anti permit folks are just scare tactics to try to advance any type of limits because they cry slippery slope and infringement on my unlimited hiking access rights.

      At the end of the day a permit or reservation style system at a few places could make a positive difference if accompanied by other resources and rangers. I will forgive my right to anywhere anytime of it means better management for the park because I know I’ll still ha e access to those spots plenty of other times.

      • Glenn Weston says:

        I agree that a permit system aimed at the most overused peaks and parking lots would be a good idea.These places attract the trophy hikers from where ever and a fee to help maintain the trails in these places would not cut down on their traffic, but at least cover some of it’s costs,
        An RFID ski pass system is probably in the future given current trends.

      • Duane Weaver says:

        I strongly suspect the people advocating a reservation system are the ones that use the high peaks the most. For them, it’s all these casual hikers that are screwing it up for them. So for those who have hiked all or most of the high peaks, they have hiked more than their fair share and they need to stop going.

        • Plattsburgh Hikers says:

          Actually it’s not. The people who hike the high peaks the most feel that this will infringe on their right to keep hiking there as much as they like. Often they don’t mind the crowds too much because the high peaks are not as much about solitude anymore for them, but more of just a hard hike, good workout and primo views.

          People who want solitude and are fed up with the crowds by now are seeking refuge someone else in the park.

    • Hikem Always says:

      “Any still extant copies of the 1999 UMP should be placed in privies to be used as toilet paper in order to increase their value to our society.” Love it.

    • Wren Hawk says:

      The fact that you don’t know who the writer is nor of his depth of knowledge of the park, it’s lands and waters is a telltale. The environmental lobby – whatever that is – doesn’t write the UMPs. Finally, you seem to care more about your ability to recreate than the status of the delicate wilderness and wild forest areas in the High Peaks. I don’t even know what to say about the angry mob threat…,

      • Eric says:

        The “that’s how get an angry mob..” bit is a running gag from the TV show ‘Archer’. The point is moot because it is actually illegal to have a different set of rules for some NY citizens that is different from other NY citizens to access NY state owned land.

  3. Ray says:

    It’s not overused. It’s under managed. People got to go somewhere. These are the people that are going to support more public lands.

  4. Aaron says:

    Eric raises a good point, the “just in time” nature of today’s gig economy is real, while a permit system almost certainly relies on notions of a bygone era where trips and vacations are planned weeks or months in advance.

    Speaking of bygone eras, that’s what the existing infrastructure as it stands is, a patchwork of mostly tiny crumbling parking areas, amenity-less trailheads, and erosion-inducing trails constructed in the less-traveled days of the 1970s. In order for fees to be palatable to the public improvements must first be made at scale to justify the cost.

    At a minimum, we need a plan where there is enough access to comfortably accommodate 80-90% of visitors currently found on the BUSIEST days of the year. Fall short of that minimum, and there’s no way to justify pay-to-play access, nor would the revenue generated from the smaller pool of money be enough to result in any appreciable upgrades to the busiest areas of the Park.


    Well, that comes down to the sticky wicket that none of the advocates of “limited entry” seem able to address – who pays these fees? Many have said that locals should not have to pay, but why do locals get a free pass while other NY’ers don’t? NY’ers outside the Blue Line pay for more of the Park’s operations through their taxes than we do, so that doesn’t seem fair. If Adirondackers can enjoy the Park for free, and other NY’ers can, too (or if they get a discounted rate), that means a dramatic reduction in fees as NY’ers comprise about 70% of the Park’s visitors. We cannot assume that that remaining 30% will loyally pony up their money to pay for a permit they will likely only use once or twice a year, especially when the aforementioned challenges of dated infrastructure are prevalent.

    Then there’s the issue of income inequality. One of the beautiful things about the Adirondacks is that ANYONE can come and hike here regardless of income. A permit system puts a serious dent in a uniquely democratic offering the Park has maintained for over a century.

    For these and many other reasons, I am solidly opposed to this idea.

    • Plattsburgh Hikers says:

      It literally would most likely be free, like blue hole in the Catskills. This permits are made available a week a head of time. Not months in advance. Or like $10 at most, like we pay anyways for the Loj and Garden. The only reason it may be $10 is so people follow through on their plans to hike. So again, I’m not sure where all these anti permit people all getting their info because they make it seem like it will be this massively intrusive costly system that keeps people off the trails year round and only for the rich. Like DEC would never do that, I haven’t heard anyone calling for anything like that, so it’s basically just a scare tactic used by anti permit people.

      Also just because you can’t plan ahead to park at a few lots at certain times of a year doesn’t mean you won’t have plenty of other times to access those lots without permits, most likely after Columbus Day or before Memorial Day you can have your ‘spontaneous’ hikes. Perhaps during summer just weekdays. I like spontaneous hikes just as much as the next person, but without a better system at a few of these super packed lots, this derby style parking is just rediculous.

      • Zephyr says:

        Pro-permit people want to both limit use and raise revenue. Otherwise, there will be no additional money to both enforce the permit limits and improve trails and parking. However, it remains to be seen if someone can make a cogent argument with numbers on how much permits will raise vs. how much the system will cost. The existing ranger corps is stretched to the max and they do not need another job enforcing permits. Think of it this way: how much does one additional ranger cost with benefits? Maybe $75,000? If permits cost $10 each you need to sell 7,500 just to pay for that one extra ranger to enforce the limits, ignoring the cost of printing and distributing the permits. State park passes are now $80 for the year. Probably something like that is needed to raise some real revenue. Plus, that number might be high enough to discourage enough people to also reduce use, yet the state parks I have been to this year are pretty busy. To limit use you need to make the price pretty high.

        • Plattsburgh Hikers says:

          Yes it costs money to manage state land. Yes it would take some type of enforcement. Yes any fees associated should go back into trail work or area management. The state can and should do more than one thing at a time.

          The idea that oh we don’t have enough staffing to do this so we shouldn’t properly manage the area is really really weak argument. Of course it will take some investment. We don’t say oh we shouldn’t put up more educational signs because that will cost more money, we don’t say we shouldn’t try to do a trail system overhaul because there’s not enough trail crew as it is, we don’t say oh we shouldnt actually shuttle in MORE people because that will increase SAR and trail erosion. The only thing people say we can’t do is limit access because of resources. Period. It’s just a really poor excuse when everything else takes resources and everyone can agree on the other things excepts permits.

        • James D. Marco says:

          Actually, I get stopped often enough to be asked about a bear keg. They do a fair job with that. Asking for a permit while you are stopped is OK as far as time goes. Only the violators would need be fined. And, this would go a long ways to paying for the associated admin fees.

  5. Zephyr says:

    By the way, I don’t see how you could possibly charge one NY resident more than another NY resident for use of public lands owned by the state. That is a discrimination lawsuit just waiting to happen. That means local people would have to be charged the same if it were a trail permit. You might be able to get away with charging different rates if it was a parking permit and the parking area was not on a state highway, which Route 73 is. Permits also seem like a great way to further chase away the diverse population that some other groups are trying to attract to the Adirondacks.

  6. Brian Joseph says:

    I am so sick of reading about this topic, and sick of the people who want to make this an issue/keep people off “their” trails. These trails are not that crowded! Walk the sidewalks in Manhattan to see what crowded is.

    A few days ago every space at Cascade/Balanced Rock was taken. Then about 15 cars were parked on the shoulders. Yet when you walked the trails, you only encountered other (friendly and pleasant) people every 10 minutes on average. This is typical. What should be done is creating more parking spaces!!

    • Sam Cherubin says:

      So create more parking spaces for more people to destroy pristine wilderness, create more trash and poop on the trails, cause irreversible damage to the alpine and sub-alpine ecosystems, and essentially cause for more search and rescues (which by the way are 100% funded by NY taxpayers and NOT the party/person being rescued)…so if you have the money to tackle all of these problems and to pay more rangers to protect and more stewards to educate, then be my guest…don’t compare the Adks to Manhattan, they’re complete opposite areas and attract different groups of people.

      • Brian Joseph says:

        Waaah waaah waaah. You are Mr “get off my lawn”.

      • Jeanne says:

        Sam, You are 100% correct. I’ve been hiking in the Adirndacks 45 years. What I see and hear are selfish people who haven’t got a clue. We never should build parking lots. Never. We need a bus system. You are a hiker….hike. Enough selfishness! Everyone needs to be kind to nature, I see lots of destruction in the backcountry. Just because you see openspace doesn’t mean you have the right to trash it! Stop ….the me, me,me BS –join a trail crew! Stop whining Brian Joseph!

    • Eric says:

      Exactly. To the people actually hiking, the “problem” in the HPs is a lack of parking. The way you solve a parking problem is to add parking spaces; whether that be at trail heads or in town with a shuttle system. Once you’re a couple hundred yards into the woods nothing is different today than it was 20 yrs ago.

      • Plattsburgh Hikers says:

        Just increasing parking capacity is a short sighted answer to a bigger problem. Even Disney World has a capacity limit.

    • Steve B. says:

      Your experience is not that of the summit stewards, who spend far more time at the summits than you do. The experience of Michaela Dunn and her writing of being on Marcy recently, is a far more accurate description of what is occurring. Witness as well the repeated and ongoing reports of backcountry rescues. The problem IS overuse and is not going away.

  7. Sam Cherubin says:

    The state has ought to shut down the High Peaks wilderness completely for at least a year or two to rehabilitate the severely eroded trail network and upgrade all of the trails that aren’t up to standard, including the “herd paths” along many of the peaks, place more signage for human waste disposal, alpine elevation zone, trail markers, and overhaul the weak front-country infrastructure (parking lots, bathrooms, large signs with regulations and general info). This would let the High Peaks “breath” for a little bit while they get upgraded and renovated to meet the current overuse that we’ve been seeing for years.

  8. Ed Zahniser says:

    Thanks to David Gibson for his illuminating comments on the issue of overuse on public lands. The federal land management agencies’ experience with strategies to limit and/or disperse use in wildlands and designated wilderness has been that public lands users have been and are very supportive, given explanation about the necessity and purpose for protecting user experiences and the character of wildlands as wild. Some bullets need to be bitten, despite the prospects of initial discomfort for those charged with protecting wildlands experiences.

  9. When my wife and I rafted down the Colorado river 25 years ago — is it really that long? — a permit system had been in place for years. Different environment for sure, but addressed same problems — crowding, overuse and ecological degradation. Plus you had to know how to handle that mighty river and where the established overnite camping sites were. Proved essential and worked extremely well and allowed us to travel safely from put-in to take-out. Will work in Adks but will require hard work to put in place and constant study and trial-and-error revision to get it right, as author suggests.

  10. Anita Dingman says:

    What bothers me about the permit system is that some will get a permit for a certain day and then never show up. This often happens at state campgrounds. At the campgrounds they let someone else have the site if the person who reserves it doesn’t show up but that is because the campsite is usually reserved for more than one day. Since the high peaks permits would be for only one day that wouldn’t happen and it would keep someone who really wanted to hike the peak from doing it. BTW…you might think that charging for the permit would keep people from buying them and not showing up. It doesn’t keep the more well off people from buying a week’s permit in the campground-it just keeps the less well off from doing that.

  11. Michael D Anniballe says:

    This is disgusting. You should be ashamed of yourselves for trying to limit access.

  12. Nadia Ranguelov says:

    We don’t need permit to use something purchased with our(taxpayers) money

  13. David Belanga says:

    Whatever those “limitations” might be on paper or reality, those of us who live here locally year round should be exempted from them. I’m a 3-time 46er who lives in Tupper Lake. I don’t mind sharing the area i love too with others, but if it comes to tightening the tap to restrict visitors, i would hope those restrictions aren’t going to apply to those of us who are living here and calling the ADKs home. Those of us who live here year round should be able to continue picking up our packs and heading out without having to join “visitors” in a queue for a day permit. I would have no problem with a fee of some sort to help with trail work, stewards, etc., but the limited access for a local(s) is problematic.

    • Plattsburgh Hikers says:

      You are aware that all other NYS tax payers also pay just as much as you do into forest preserve in terms of taxes. Just because you call it home shouldn’t exempt you from any type of permits that other taxpayers have to go through. NYS tax payments on forest preserve to adk towns support your local government significantly, you can thank all of nys tax payers for that.

      • David Belanga says:

        Point taken, Plattsburgh. I will stand in line for a day-use permit right along with the Montreal-er. No exemptions. By the way, my point (plea?) wasn’t an exemption based on tax paying, but a consideration simply because i already live here. I’m a proud tax payer and wouldn’t mind at all paying more for an ADK plan that included those components we’ve so desperately needed these past years. As i mentioned too, more than happy to pay a fee(s) for any “up keep”. I’m not one of those “i pay taxes, so should be exempt” peeps. Just the idea that as a local i’m given the same consideration as the visitor. Wish there was a way around that, but….i’ll see you in line…??☺

        • Plattsburgh Hikers says:

          Fair enough, I think once something is put in place it will be a lot less intrusive then people think.

    • Hikem Always says:

      No David. You are not special because you live local. It is NY state land. My NY state taxes pay for the land also. If I need a permit so do you. Or maybe you should pay a mandatory yearly tax surcharge to the state for the right to not get a permit.

      For those advocating a permit system. How often does the government actual startup and run a program effectively? All they will see is $$$ signs. Dreams of effective trail management will fall by the wayside.

    • Zephyr says:

      You can’t charge one NY resident a different amount based on where they live. The HP trails are mostly on state land, which means we all have equal rights of ownership. What gives a local person more rights on state-owned land than a citizen of Albany or NYC?

  14. Wayno says:

    IMO, permits should be a desperate last ditch measure, are we at that point yet? I think not. The fact that hiking the high peaks is so popular is a wonderful reflection on our society. The more people who hike the ADK the better it is for maintaining the Forrest Preserve in general. More popularity should translate to more support for the budget and for state land acquisition (ie the Whitney Property) and wilderness classification. We should be encouraging outdoor activity not discouraging it. There needs to be more effort put into spreading out the existing foot traffic, not limiting it. New trails, new access points, more towns promoting challenges like the Saranac 6… I am no marketing expert but this does not sound like an unsolvable goal. The demand is there and the resources are there they just need to be matched up. IMO there has not been near enough put into measures like this. Outdoor recreation is a positive good for all citizens, the Adirondacks are a unique treasure owned by and for the people of NY state. I believe the Park and the people will both benefit from expanded and broadened use of the entire area and that should be the focus.

  15. Eric says:

    The problem is what do you consider a local? Keene sure. Tupper resident in the HPs? Some may call that a stretch. What about me, I live in Sarataoga but spend almost every weekend in the mountains. I also volunteer for trail maintenance and am on a search and rescue team. Am I a local? Hiking is a “lifestyle” just as much for me as the people that live there. I don’t consider myself a visitor when I’m there.

  16. Ed says:

    You could allow access for those parked at certain parking areas and have a limit on both the amount of cars parked there and the amount of people brought in each vehicle . Webcams could be used to monitor behavior from the Adirondack Land Use Ministry , violators could be spoken to over loud speakers . For those who don’t comply , fines and punishment .

    • Eric says:

      I think you need a sarcasm tag. Or at least more directly quote from 1984 or Atlas Shrugged. Web cams and loudspeakers, lol.

  17. Vanessa says:

    Omg we’re here again. At risk of being a broken record, one word: enforcement. How do you make this system equitable? And as others have pointed out, will it actually be effective in limiting use?

    More and more, I’ve been trying to comment that while we need to prioritize protection of the environment, we really shouldn’t be turning people away just for the sake of doing so. A poorly designed permit system will definitely do that, probably without any environmental benefit.

    The states caution on this one is good, imo. Let’s see a pilot proposal and then we can all hop back into the comments section here. I’m kinda tired of this subject until someone who can execute actually proposes a plan. Until then, we’re all just rehashing the same opinions.

  18. John says:

    I very much respect the Adirondack Council’s and Adirondack Wild’s perspectives here, and think they would help reduce the overuse problem. However, there is an ecologically stronger though socially more difficult alternative to conventional permit systems: Close or shorten the access roads to private automobiles. As was done successfully in Denali National Park decades ago, implementing bus shuttle systems for hiker access can lessen the problem of overuse, along with reducing the pollution and road-kill associated with vehicular traffic. If public support could be gained for closing South Meadow Road to motor vehicles and closing Adirondack Loj Road and Tahawus Roads after the last private homes and allowing only shuttle buses (accessible to persons with disabilities, too) from there, some problems of overuse would diminish. Such a shuttle system has already been instituted for the Garden access, no? Respectfully, John Davis, Split Rock Wildway, eastern Adirondack Park

    • Eric says:

      Adirondack Loj Rd has a private business all the way at the end of it (the Loj and HPIC). You can’t just close it. Same with Tahawus Rd, that is the access for various hunting clubs and for the Open Space institute to get to their land. You are making the same fundamental mistake many are making when trying to apply the “well it works out west” argument to the Adirondacks. This is not a national park where the government owns all the land.

      • Zephyr says:

        And the Adirondack Mountain Club’s parking lot is one of their major sources of income. Strict enforcement of illegal parking on the road would reduce use somewhat.

  19. James D. Marco says:

    Enforcement begins with the people. The next is the government appointed people: Rangers, Park Attendants, Stewards, etc. Like the “no fires rule or bear kegs, there is enough patrolling to make building a fire or not carrying a bear keg a risky enterprise.

    I do not hike the High Peaks. Why? There is too many people. If you cannot get a permit within a week, this will LIMIT the number of people. This is what it is designed to do. Sorry! This is EXACTLY what it is designed to do and I do not follow the argument in this context.

  20. Kathy says:

    I am a bit confused on the over crowding issue ….if there are legal parking spots for a certain number vehicles that does not exceed reasonable use of trails then illegally parked vehicles could be liberally ticketed and fined until people learn to move on to other areas less costly with access to hiking? Or has that no effect in deterring overflow?

    • Zephyr says:

      For some reason the authorities find it impossible to enforce existing parking laws, yet some feel that hiking permits will be easy and cheap to enforce.

  21. Big Burly says:

    We sure have come a long way from the late 70s in meetings with Barbara McMartin when folks were VERY vocally against a permit system. Hoping the folks who will create the well thought out, well designed, and soundly implemented system are imbued with wisdom.

  22. John Junker says:

    Lets all remember that this access leads to a business boom for retailers restaurants and all businesses in the park, many of who depend on the summer months for the years survival. There ARE other parks in OTHER states that people can go to to take a hike in or SPEND their summer’s vacation at. While I like the EDUCATION aspect , and agree that some hikers sorely need this I have little interest in obtaining a permit to walk in the woods. While its up to the stewards of the park to make the final decision, do so knowing it will curtail some people from even considering an Adirondacks vacation. This pandemic will pass and families will be flying out of the country for vacations once again – hopefully soon.

  23. Joan Grabe says:

    In the past the Adirondacks were so heavily logged that there were hardly any trees but look at it now ! Not old growth but jungle like new growth. And who knows ( Bill Mckibben probably does ) what will happen to the High Peaks with climate change ? But let’s work what we have – ticket illegally parked cars all the time at the access parking lots thereby using our already established police force. Shut down sections of the High Peaks for trail improvements and whatever else is needed on a revolving schedule ( we do have 46 peaks for people to hike after all ) And work to get the state funding to do these simple things. I am a summer resident and I love this place but I have never stepped one foot uphill since we came here so I don’t actually have a dog in this hunt. But I hate to bicker over something we all treasure.

    • David Belanga says:

      Hey, Joan…i’m a full-time resident, you’re a summer resident, but the reality is we both reside here. But resident, “visitor”, or whatever the “status”, isn’t any of this a matter of the heart, after all? Visiting, residing, or otherwise, we all love the ADKs and so the obvious passion. You do personally have “a dog in this hunt” in wanting to see a good thing kept going. By the way, these mountains and surrounding environs can be enjoyed to the max even if you’ve never placed a foot on Marcy…just sitting on the porch at dusk can do the trick too….?

  24. Tom says:

    Totally unworkable and could cause more problems than it would solve. First, the state doesn’t even own most of the major parking areas used for the High Peaks. The Upper Works (Open Space Inst.), Ausable Club (AMR), Garden (town of Keene), and the Loj (ADK) are all outside of state control. So what exactly would the state be issuing permits for? To use specific trails? People will then just bushwhack and share their routes on AllTrails. Before long there will be a whole new web of trails in the High Peaks. We’ve already seen this with now most popular route to the Dix Range being from the herd path from the bridge on Rt 73 instead of from the tiny Round Pond Parking lot. That trail has gone from being barely discernible 10 years ago to being just as wide as the trail up Giant Mt from Roaring Brook. Trying to limit usage is a dead horse in the age of smart phones. If you want to keep people on established trails give them the needed badly needed additional parking spaces and improve the trails that already exist.

  25. Wally Elton says:

    I already do not go to the High Peaks ares because I can’t find the kind of outdoor experience I seek there. A permit system would give me a better opportunity and protect the resources that draw visitors.

  26. Chad Granger says:

    This is a terrible idea and unenforceable. Stop pushing for special privileges to enter the High Peaks

  27. freethedacks says:

    The High Peaks are obviously in need of a new PR campaign. The current perception is that “Wilderness” is a place where one can go and commune with nature and find solitude. This perception is very attractive to many, thus attracting the hordes seeking social distance from toxic and contagious humans. The new marketing and messaging campaign should warn people of the risks and dangers associated with venturing into “Wilderness” and specifically the now congested High Peaks.

    To start, stop calling this obviously crowded area “Wilderness” and instead rename it for what it is – Intensive Use – just like the ski areas Gore and Whiteface are designated. They both reside next to wilderness lands, but their management reflects what is reality – a lot of people go there, particularly in the high season of winter, due to the presence of ski lifts. The name change alone will discourage usage. Who wants to hike where there’s intensive use?

    Next, highlight what sucks about entering the High Peaks – namely the crowds and lack of parking. Who wants to share a summit with a hundred people, all doing stupid vlogs and instagram updates? And that is if you can get a parking spot near the trailhead. Arrive after 10am and forget it. And since we are all supposed to be afraid of each other – y’know, because of the virus that everyone has – why take that chance. Didn’t you get the memo? “Stay home, stay safe”…didn’t say anything about hiking in the High Peaks as an option.

    Then if that doesn’t scare away the hordes, then highlight the incessant bugs that you’ll have to deal with whilst bagging your 46. Black flies, mosquitoes, ticks, deer flies – and you are their dinner. Some of these buggers carry viruses and other nasty plagues – Zika Lyme and even the DEET laden bug spray you have to lather up with can kill you too. People! the wilderness is dangerous! Stay home! Stay safe!

    Then there’s the risk of accidents that are endemic to wilderness travel. There are rocks and roots that can twist an ankle. Or, taking that perfect selfie with the view behind you could result in an unintended flight to the bottom of the cliff. And it rains a lot in the High Peaks. The old saying is, if you don’t like the weather, it’ll probably get worse before it gets better. Those trendy flip-flops just don’t work good going downhill on a trail that resembles a river during one of the many surprise thunderstorms that frequent the high peaks. “Slide for life” doesn’t just apply to the ski slopes. People actually die in the High Peaks due to mishaps and getting stranded after dark with a dead cell phone. How can this even be legal? Don’t take the risk…stay home.

    So let’s take some cues from the Governors very successful scare campaign on the China flu and direct it towards the High Peaks to discourage visitation…something like this:

    Warning! The High Peaks Intensive Use area is very dangerous, and should be avoided at all costs. Covid infected crowds will pass the virus on to you, and if that doesn’t kill you, the bugs will. Hazards abound, and it is likely you will not survive your adventure. I wouldn’t go there if I were you. If you seek wildlife and true challenges, go to Manhattan.

    This PR campaign will, of course, need some tweaking. Perhaps a public forum should be organized, virtual of course, so that more ideas can shared. We can even lobby a politician to spend taxpayers dollars on a “study” with PR “experts” so as to come up with the perfect message. We must act now, lest our beloved High Peaks get destroyed

  28. Andrew Schoch says:

    I’m a life long resident of the rural Catskills and bought property in the ADK’s for retirement 20 years ago. I finally finished the house 5 years ago and we decided to move up to get away from the mass of NYC and out of state visitors to the area. I was a property manager for 30 years on a large land holding…3400 acres in the Peekamoose Wilderness area. The last 10 years of my job was kept busy with trespassing and garbage cleanup because of the discovery of “ the Blue Hole” right down the road.
    Now it seems that it’s escalating up here because of pandemic and will probably continue. I’m wondering if I made the right choice moving to the ADK’s? I’m not sure what the answer is other than teaching people human decency and having an environmental conscience. That task may be unacheivable overall. I’m not totally discouraged ……….yet…..

    • gabe susice says:

      then leave the adks

      • Andrew Schoch says:

        I have a substantial investment in the ADK’s that amount to more than just money. I’ve been hiking and camping here since 1969, possibly before you were born. I watched the Peekamoose area in the Catskills turn into an over ridden trash pile because of irresponsible
        People from out of the area. I had to work closely with DEC and local officials to protect the land I watched over and lived on only 2 miles from Blue Hole. Endless trespassing, garbage dumping, defecating along the road, etc. I’m an outdoorsman and hate to see this kind of disrespect for our natural resource here in the ADK’s. I’m not going anywhere!!

  29. JT says:

    A hiking permit purchased by an individual should not be for a particular day but should be a season permit. It should also be just for the Eastern High Peaks. This may deter some people from hiking in the Eastern High Peaks and go hike in other parts of the Adirondacks. Revenue generated from the permit helps with trail improvements and maintenance.
    This year I have hiked to Tooley Mountain, Debar Mountain, Loon Lake Mountain, Lyon Mountain, Whiteface Mountain, Giant & Rocky Peak, Sand Lake in the Five Ponds Wilderness and NPT. Saw very few hikers except for Giant and Whiteface. Perhaps Giant Mountain and Whiteface should require the permit too. I try to avoid the Eastern High Peaks for the most part. There are so many other opportunities for the wilderness experience.

    • Zephyr says:

      JT, a regional seasonal permit won’t do the job they want it to do: limit use on a select group of trails on a select group of days each summer. The permits have to be for certain locations and times or they will do nada for the problem being addressed. We pay the $80 fee for an Empire pass for State Parks and some of them have had to stop allowing people to enter on busy days this summer because of overcrowding, despite the fee.

  30. adkDreamer says:

    Oh sure, this topic again – what a waste of time & energy. If anyone seriously desires to control human interaction with the so-called High Peaks Wilderness (it is far from a Wilderness) the answer may be encapsulated into one four letter word: Fear.

    Fear is the most basic human response to an unpleasant or painful experience. People loathe fear. People will avoid being afraid like avoiding the plague. People have an innate desire to be safe. All that is required is to do one simple thing: Make the wilderness a true Wilderness – no cell phone coverage and no sensational rescues by Forest Rangers. Let those that venture in have a true wilderness experience – complete with the knowledge that they are absolutely on their own. If they get hurt and can’t get out they die.

    When visitors start to find decomposing and mutilated bodies in the HPW the news will spread like wildfire – all by itself, organically with zero expense from the State. This is the best and cheapest solution and is self regulating.

    I am dead (pun intended) serious. Think about the impact the movie “Into the Wild” has on those seeking solitude and wilderness in Alaska.

    • Eric says:

      Agree that at the very least they need to stop “rescuing” people who don’t need to be rescued. Like that family on Whiteface last week or countless others. If you’re tired and just overdue and it’s mild temps just spend the night in the woods. I’m a little tired of Scot VaLaer’s rants about how busy the rangers are when half of the crap they respond to is just people too tired to walk out. Spending an unplanned night in the woods used to be a right of passage for an aspiring 46R. Now we go to great expense to make sure no one has an uncomfortable experience. I’m glad they are there to help though when people shatter a knee or break a leg. I’d still want that safety blanket.

      • M.P. Heller says:

        Don’t pick on Scott. He’s the nicest guy you will ever meet. He’s overworked and under-staffed.

        Give the man some respect.

        If you have never met him you obviously have no concept of what I am talking about.

        He is one of the hardest working, most honest and earnest people I have ever met. Hes a dedicated family man. He is a trustee at an Adirondack college.

        Lets not cast ignorant aspersions at anyone.

        • Boreas says:

          Agree 100%. We should consider ourselves lucky to have Scott’s input here. Criticize his comments only after walking in his shoes for a while.

    • M.P. Heller says:

      I knda refrain from comment here these days. Doesn’t mean I don’t read though….

      I do often like your strong continuing message ‘adkDreamer’.

      Its sound, rational, well thought out, and consistent.

      Although I might disagree on some of the finer points, it seems ylur experience in the EHP has well informed your commentary

      Kudos to you for delivering the message even when some of us staunch have collapsed under the ridiculous pressure locally.

  31. Tony says:

    I can’t believe that at this point in 2020 we are still talking about permits. It’s extremely thinly veiled racism and nothing more. OMG there are brown people coming here now, quick we need to limit usage! The only times (very very few) that I have ever heard an actual hiker complain about there being too many people is when they go past a group of minorities. It’s disgusting. Shame on the Almanack for even publishing this trash. SMH.

    • Anonymous says:

      Absolutely Tony. You hit the nail right on the head. Shame on the Almanack. The people advocating for a permit system don’t understand what they are asking for, and they will be the first to complain when it doesn’t look exactly what they think it should look like.

      A permit to hike or use the forest preserve should be the absolute last tactic employed to manage the use we are seeing. No one, and I mean no one has talked about what the actual problem is and come u with objectives to solve those problems.

      Is overuse the problem, or is damage to the resource the problem?? If there were no trash left, and no erosion to the trails, and no trampling of the summit vegetation, And no one parking on the shoulders of the our roads, I hardly think anyone would be complaining. So, how do we fix THOSE problems?

      The DEC is a reactive agency, not a proactive one. It only acts when forced to. It saw these problems early on and did nothing. The fix to the trail erosion problem is easy. Hire full time professional trail crews, and a lot of them. All The major trail networks can be upgraded to MODERN standards in five years at a cost of around $75 million dollars. And don’t tell me the state doesn’t have the money, they came up with $15 million without blinking when midstation burned down.

      Parking is a problem? Restricting parking doesn’t solve that, increasing parking solves that. Explain to me why we are still using parking infrastructure from 1950…please.

      Garbage being left and people not following the rules? Well, instead of taking the few rangers we have out of the back country to write parking tickets, hire more and get them back where the regulations are being broken. The folks who can’t enforce those rules, stewards and assistants, should be front country doing the education component.

      Everyone knows what the answer is, and it isn’t reducing the number of people. The number of people using the land is completely manageable, but the state has to actually do its job, and manage it, not sit back and do nothing.


      • Dana says:


        And you also agree with the ridiculous, political, race-baiting statement Tony made? No shame there??

      • bsmaven says:

        Every time transportation depts build more highways or lanes to help with congested highways it never works, just attracts more traffic. More and better parking will just attract more people after they find out you don’t have to get there at 5 am….and then eventually you will have to get to the new parking at 5am.

    • JohnL says:

      “Thinly veiled racism”. “Complain when they go past a group of minorities”.
      Seriously??? Am I the only one offended by this comment?

  32. Saily Sanchez says:

    This is the best way to keep the beauty of the Adirondacks. Permit systems are being established all over the West coast why can’t we also established a permit system here. Unfortunately this is the only way to preserve the high peaks.

  33. Todd Eastman says:

    Eliminate Exit 30…


  34. Boreas says:


    The Adirondacks are unique, but not that unique. While I am not a fan of permitting here, permit systems exist around the world and have proven both successful and enduring in most cases where implemented. They should be considered as a tool to minimize damage to the EHPW in the short term, but long-term solutions MUST be considered. This is where this discussion always falls flat – and likewise continually ignored by DEC, APA, and Albany. My feeling is a permit system, while perhaps mitigating damage to areas of the HPW, over time will only cause the damage to spread to areas that are currently little-used.

    Although even more controversial than limits (and only discussed in muted tones) is re-imagining the HPW as an intensive use area and manage it appropriately. This contrary suggestion remains for the APA to re-classify the HPW based on usage types, which may require inventing new classifications based on desired long-term usage. Rather than restricting usage, simply ADAPT to the amount of usage anticipated. Will this result in a less “wild” HPW? Absolutely. But most would argue the EHPW is looking at “wild” in the rear-view mirror and this trend shows no sign of reversing.

    To flesh out the idea a little more, think of the most popular destinations in the EHPW being managed more like the the Whiteface summit than a remote, backcountry experience. Now I am obviously not suggesting roads and elevators but rather the trail hardening that is in place between the parking area and the summit, including concrete where needed. Look at how many visitors this small trail handles decade after decade without increasing damage. These are not visitors ensconced with backcountry or LNT principles and education, yet helicopter rescues and Ranger dispatches are not common there. Which principles that have allowed the Whiteface summit to be heavily used for nearly a century can be applied to the EHPW? The Whiteface summit is not hamstrung by a Wilderness classification, meaning modern equipment can be used to harden and maintain trails with less manpower and more efficiency, much like a ski area. Adequate, safe parking is provided. Adequate comfort facilities are in place. Adequate staffing is in place. Usage is channeled and limited to hardened surfaces. Yet many people still enjoy the experience in spite of the fact it is not wilderness.

    I know this view is anathema to many of us, but is it indeed not where we are headed if limits are not imposed? If we assume “wilderness experiences” will become increasingly desired in the future, is it possible to “micro-classify” different regions of the HPW to include intensive use AND remote, backcountry wilderness? Is it beyond imagination to use the EHPW as sacrificial to intensive usage IF it allows us to keep thousands of other acres in the Park to remain relatively untrammeled? I believe that restricting usage in the HPW will ultimately result in high usage spreading to other more pristine areas of the Park. Is that what we really want? The current demands on the resource were not imagined by Article 14 a century ago nor the APA decades ago. Albany, APA, and DEC as well as all of us wishing to share this precious resource need to endeavor to come together to devise a solution for the future, not just knee-jerk band-aid fixes like shuttles and permits that may not be properly thought out (and may likely cancel each other). But if shuttles and permits are intelligently used as a FIRST STEP to get us to our final goal of a well-managed Park, we should at least consider them. But first, the citizens – as owners and caretakers of this unique resource need to agree on a long-term goal. This is the discussion that needs to be taking place instead of what we have here. How about some enlightened suggestions that address the long term health and direction of the Park instead of how we may be personally inconvenienced by short-term solutions? Are we no longer capable of calmly discussing and developing a far-ranging vision of the future of the Park?

    • Zephyr says:

      I would also argue that the problems are vastly overblown. Nobody really knows how many miles of trails there are in the Adirondack Park, but I have heard some throw around the figure of 2,000 miles. Assuming each trail wrecks about 10 feet of width over its course, that means .04% of the Adirondack Park is potentially ruined. Of course, that is a gross exaggeration of the problem, since here we are just talking about the EHPW, meaning the actual area degraded is tiny in the grand scheme of things. As someone suggested above, just shut down selected trails or areas for a few years and let nature take over and it wouldn’t be long before the average person couldn’t even find the trail. In fact, maybe we should just do that instead of permits. During the busiest times of year just shut the trailheads down. Instead of a summit steward have trailhead stewards directing people to other locations.

    • bsmaven says:

      Interesting thinking. I know in Utah’s Zion and Bryce they have hard pack trails and in lower areas ADA accessible trails.

      Let’s not kid ourselves, we already have a defacto “permit” system to limit use. If you don’t live within walking distance you need a “travel” permit with a vehicle and gas, if you are not strong enough or healthy enough you need a “fitness” permit, if you want to stay over you need a $75 or more JBL or Loj or a $150 tent “permit”, and most recently you need a 4-5am parking arrival permit.

      Apparently these permits are acceptable but others are not?

      • Eric says:

        Yes, because none of those involve having to predict weeks in advance what day you want to hike what mountain, what the weather will be, and which of your friends will want to hike that day with you. Also the Loj and JBL are private businesses and not run by the state. You are paying a private entity for a service. But nice try.

        • bsmaven says:

          It’s why I put quotes around permit. It costs money to hike the Adirondacks, it costs money to get to the Adirondacks for 99%+ of NYS residents, it costs money for necessary gear, so let’s stop pretending we all have free access to the wilderness. Laughing at hikers who are oblivious to their privilege while they whine about the cost of a permit and not having on-demand weekend access.

          • Eric says:

            This isn’t a money issue. Most hikers have no problem paying a small fee per hike or a modest fee for a season. The thing making hikers’ heads explode is having to decode more than a day or two in advance where to hike and who to hike with. Something many folks who still work can’t do (because of modern just in time scheduling, etc). It would be a complete change of culture and lifestyle. It’s fine if you’re retired or are older and hiking with a spouse or established hiking friends. But what about young people still meeting their hiking homies and trying to make friends and turning over girlfriends every other month? It’s incredibly biased against young people.

            • bsmaven says:

              Yes, it will be difficult, if you assume every permit will be taken every day. Which could happen, I am privileged in the summer to have flexibility for last minute planning most days although almost all of July I could not hike. I did about 10 peaks this summer and saw no shortage of young people every day. I am on the Aspiring 46er FB page and there were plenty of young people who hiked most or all of the 46 peaks this summer. They probably had flexible jobs or were staying with mommy and daddy. I’m not sure your cries of bias are justified.

              • Eric says:

                So you’re taking a summer where no permits were required and a ton of people were out of work from a pandemic as evidence that permits would work for young people. Uh huhhhh. Ok.

                • bsmaven says:

                  No but was it fair that young people this summer could stay with mom and get to parking lots and sleep over so others couldn’t hike those trails. That’s a fairer system of allocating hiking access? Sorry life is never perfectly fair, random access to permits is no more fair or unfair than the current situation that you calculate you can game better. Puleeeze.

                  • Eric says:

                    So you don’t think first-come first-served is fair? Really? I’ve not known anyone to sleep at trailheads. If anything they start hiking at 2am to get to their summit by sunrise. Or they grab a spot at 5pm while people are leaving to grab a sunset.

                    • bsmaven says:

                      No I spoke to people parked at AMR when I arrived at 5 am who slept overnight in their cars and many people on the FB page admit they sleep over in the lots . I didn’t make this up.

                    • bsmaven says:

                      And how is a permit system not first come first served?

                • Zephyr says:

                  I don’t think it is necessarily a young person or an old person problem, but I do agree there are a lot of us that just can’t plan a hiking trip for a certain day and time weeks or months in advance. And, there are many of us that wouldn’t do it even if we could because it is inherently unsafe to do so. You need to go when the weather and conditions permit, not when your “permit” says you can go. But, there are also people who live right there, within sight of some of these mountains, who want to go hiking in their backyards when they feel like it. It might be a reason why they moved there. Lots of reasons why permits will not be practical or liked, but the main reason I am against them is that I have yet to hear a scheme that sounds practical, affordable, workable, and likely to actually improve the existing situation. I am extremely doubtful any major permit system will be hatched while the state is in a budget crisis.

  35. M says:

    We are western NY residents and visited the Lake Placid and High Peaks Wilderness area for the first time ever last week. Yes it is during a pandemic, but we found it to be the most unwelcoming place we have ever visited. The articles I read to prepare for our trip all included the same “this isnt for you, don’t come here” attitude this article has. We have visited many national and state parks across the country some of which have long histories of problems with tourists behaving badly in the wilderness, but this is the first where at every turn we were asked “are you sure you want to go here/hike this/drive that”. What a disappointment to not be welcome in my own state’s wilderness no matter how environmentally conscious we are. You can be sure if advance bookings for specific day use permits were required for hiking we never would been able to come. You will lose the casual hiker and visitor with this idea. Then again, based on the attitudes of locals when there, and the articles ive been reading, you are keen on our state tax dollars to run the place, but are horrified that more and more people might want to visit the place they are paying for.

    • Plattsburgh Hikers says:

      Still don’t get how if advance parking permit were required you would not have been able to come. Most likely they would be available a few weeks ahead of time for a few areas. It’s not about discouraging usage of an area but figuring out a happy medium for the amount of people using an area each day. I still find it insane to ask people to keep cascade to 150 people per day an infringement on Hikers rights, when I go to Disney and they are full for the day, I don’t say how dare you discourage me from accessing this place. I say it’s maybe good places address over capacity. Of course it is public land but but that doesn’t mean you would never be able to access it ever again or any other of the thousands of places in the Adirondacks to utilize.

      • David Belanga says:

        Plattsburgh…You’ve made some great points, so nothing but respect from me, but if the eastern high peaks were a private entity like Disney World, problem solved…and a long time ago. Our problem (with some not seeing it as one) is we’re speaking of public land that is owned by everyone. And i’m not speaking strictly New Yorker’s. I’m retired and on the the trails throughout the week, year round. I’ll listen as peeps from other parts of the country tell me they too have skin in the game as they leave their multi-millions behind as paying guests. No problem with any of that. But when it comes to formulating a plan, it takes consensus to even get to a rough draft. With so many claiming a stake, and proclaiming their rights to do so, how is that even possible in a climate like that? We Americans are generally reactive versus proactive, so perhaps when the eastern high peaks problem collapses under its own weight we’ll then have the incentive to join hands and come to consensus. At that point, what else to do…

      • Zephyr says:

        Once again, there are already parking limits but the authorities keep telling us they don’t have the resources to enforce the existing limits on where to park. If the existing limits are too high, reduce the number of parking spaces, disallow buses and drop offs, enforce the limits during the busiest periods only. Boom, you’re done. Instead, some want to create an elaborate new system of time-restricted permits that will somehow be easy and cheap to enforce, when they find the current parking limits difficult and too expensive to enforce.

        • Plattsburgh Hikers says:

          People are much more willing to change their plans if they see a lot is full ahead of time. Currently people arrive having built the hike up in their head and refuse to adjust because they have promised that hike to themselves or family and a 40$ parking ticket is just the risk they will be willing to take.

          People are arriving to a situation knowing parking maybe tough so they give it a try. If they knew it would be booked they could adjust plans ahead of time.

          • Zephyr says:

            So, you’ve managed to book a slot to park and the day arrives with thunderstorms predicted. You know it is impossible to book another slot. What do you do? I bet that same family that would risk the parking ticket will risk the hike in possibly dangerous conditions, not knowing how bad it can be. If the $40 parking ticket doesn’t deter people, make it $100. Keep raising it until the tickets work. Or you can do what I know some towns do. Allow towing companies to remove cars at their own expense, charging whatever fees they can get away with. Done.

            • Plattsburgh Hikers says:

              Impossible to book another spot? It’s a big park go somewhere it’s not raining then. If it’s raining everywhere then they are outta luck, until another week.its not the end of the world, it’s not that persons only chance to hike ever again. Like the weather argument is really the most pathetic of the ‘what ifs’ out there. No system will contour to every single person or scenario and it shouldn’t have to be. It’s not gonna be perfect but it’s a lot better than what is the status quo.

              • Zephyr says:

                How is it better than enforcing existing parking laws? I don’t understand this belief that creating a new complicated reservation and permit system will somehow be successful in enforcing limits, when the authorities say they can’t enforce the existing regulations which would also largely solve the problems. I’m just pointing out that any new system will introduce new problems, and many unforeseen I am sure. The reality is that some people are pushing permits as a way to raise revenue. One thing for sure, don’t count on the state for increased funding. It will be just the opposite. Be prepared for drastic budget cuts everywhere.

                • David Belanga says:

                  “…be prepared for drastic budget cuts…” Bingo! If peeps thought getting resources and planning initiatives from the State was akin to pulling hens teeth during relative times of prosperity, we can absolutely write off any State resources for a good time to come as we sit in a $16billion ditch of deficit. Buckle up cause it’s going to get worse before it (ever?) gets better….

                • Aaron says:

                  That’s exactly what will happen. Communities will become more dependent on fees and fines to fill in budget gaps for critically needed services and it essentially becomes another form of taxation falling mainly on locals. This is another reason why permits/fees/fines is a bad one. We don’t have infrastructure in place to welcome large crowds. The state has set unrealistic expectations through a marketing campaign not backed up by on-the-ground investment. Towns (already burdened by a 2% tax cap) will have to somehow plan, design, implement, hire for, and enforce a penalty system on people who just want to walk in the woods for a day or two.

  36. Tom says:

    A big part of the problem is the reluctance of the many environmental groups and others to establish new trails on lesser summits and open these same summits to afford better views.(for example places like Owls Head near Keene) This forces everyone on to the High Peaks trails, to get a view.. for example, if ver Plank hadn’t clear cut the summit of Ampersand Mt, no one would be hiking it, its only 3,300 ft.
    Additionally,, to be fair, the majority of this “overcrowding”is on weekends and even then, mostly in the summer and early fall.
    The High Peaks are so overregulated already, the last thing we need is more regulation.Spend some time out west and you will see the difference.

  37. Robert White says:

    People hiked the High Peaks before the Northway was built. They could hike for days without meeting another person. Once easy and fast access was given to the High Peak trails, the ‘In the woods’ feeling was doomed.
    Now there’s no real fair way to control the population so just let it go or create other opportunities to draw people to the other parts of the Adirondacks. Log the Adirondacks to gain views from otherwise viewless mountains. It would create forestry jobs and spread the hiker tourist money through out the Adirondack towns.

  38. Martin Bayard says:

    Yes, I agree that a permit system for the Adirondack Park is necessary now.

  39. Charlie S says:

    “Yes, I agree that a permit system for the Adirondack Park is necessary now.”

    aka > Yes, I agree we should wrap a twenty foot tall wrought-iron fence around the Adirondacks and allow only those whose name is on a piece of paper, or digitally scanned, in! We’re losing every thing else why not public access to one of the few remaining wild havens on this planet? I’m all for more control over what few freedoms remain.

    • Steve B. says:

      Charlie, yet again you are confused as to what is being proposed. NOBODY has stated this would be for the ENTIRE Adirondacks. It’s Eastern High Peaks Wilderness only and probably only part time.

      This is not the High Peaks we knew 50 years ago. I don’t know about you, but I’ve zero interest in climbing a peak with a few hundred others, some illegally camping, zero toilet facilities for hordes of people, newbies getting lost, etc….. etc…… Leaving it all as is, is not a solution.

      • Zephyr says:

        Nothing has actually been proposed. We are all just speculating. The DEC has publicly said no permits for now, and with massive budget cuts coming soon I don’t think there will be a political will to create a new expensive system of permits that will require enforcement.

  40. Martin bayard says:

    We won’t come to any rational solutions if we just react out of frustrations and throw up our hands in consternation.

    • Aaron says:

      It’s a matter of how solutions are sequenced and rolled out, not nixing solutions altogether. For me, I just don’t see how a permit system can be justified prior to actually solving some of the infrastructure and resourcing issues seen in the eastern ADKs.

  41. Charlie S says:

    Steve B. says: “Charlie, yet again you are confused as to what is being proposed.”

    “Yet again?” I suppose I have let it be known my confused state which at one time I would have attributed to the intake of hallucinogens. Nowadays I blame it on toxins in the air. Thank you for correcting me on this matter, ie..’Eastern High Peaks Wilderness only ‘ I jumped too soon, but surely you understand my edginess.

  42. Charlie S says:

    “Charlie, yet again you are confused as to what is being proposed.”
    > “Yet again?” I suppose I have let it be known my confused state which at one time I would have attributed to the intake of hallucinogens. Nowadays I blame it on toxins in the air. Thank you for correcting me on this matter, ie..’Eastern High Peaks Wilderness only ‘ I jumped too soon, but surely you understand my edginess.

    • JohnL says:

      First the EHP Wilderness only. Then what? The entire Adirondacks???

    • Steve B. says:

      I think part of the problem people have is the idea of enforcement. There’s going to be very little actual tickets written if a permit system gets started, mostly as the philosophy of the current Governor is to not add employees to the state payroll, with the remaining Rangers simply overwhelmed at rescues and other related responsibilities. Part of the idea of any kind of penalty for not getting a permit, is the IDEA of getting a ticket for not having a permit. In the experiences we have locally, it’s so easy to get a permit, why not ?, and why risk a ticket, which they have on occasion issued. Once word gets out that they do issue tickets, that’s often times all the enforcement needed.

      Thus there’s zero possibility in my mind that a permit system would get instituted to the entire park and has not been the experience of the many National Parks where permits are needed for a lot of high use areas, but not for the majority. That’s just an impossible situation for the DEC to enforce and entirely unnecessary. It may come to pass in another 40 years, but many of us won’t care by then.

  43. Eric says:

    Because some people will be able to make plans in advance (retired people, state workers, etc) while many (nurses, police, many in the private sector) don’t find out which weekend day they will have off until like the Thursday before.

  44. JB says:

    I agree with Boreas and others that we need to stop pretending that a place as popular as the Eastern High Peaks can be considered a “pristine wilderness”, and we need to develop more trails and infrastructure to support the levels of use we are seeing. That will actually help limit human impact not only locally, but on the park as a whole. It would also be cheaper in the long run than instituting a permit system. Permits sound good in theory, but they will create many more problems than they will solve. The Adirondack Park is not like other places in the world that have a limited-entry permit/reservation system. People live here, there are towns and roads criss-crossing the entire Park–you can’t just close it off and have rangers check permits at limited entry points. Yes, the argument can be made that you could close off a select-few roads that provide access to heavily used trailheads, but people will just drive a few miles away and access the state land somewhere else, or drive a few more miles and visit other areas of the park. People drive all the way from Canada instead of visiting their Provincial Parks for this same reason! So, now you have thousands of people impacting other areas, and you will need to institute permits there. This becomes even more unenforceable. Needing to police a smaller area is easier than policing a much large area. The DEC is aware of this, and that is why they are basically opposed to permits in the High Peaks. Yes, building infrastructure like thoroughfares or toilets has an environmental impact in the spot that they are constructed, but western civilized nations have been doing this for centuries in highly used areas because they have learned that such infrastructure empowers people to limit the effects that they have on the rest of the environment. NYS DOH actually FORBIDS private landowners from dumping their sewage directly into the ground in nearly all cases, but we are encouraging it for the masses of people visiting protected state lands. Why are we forgetting all of this now? If advocacy groups stopped encouraging untenable solutions like permit systems and said “we need infrastructure”, the State would already be building.

  45. bsmaven says:

    Good comments JB, 3 years ago I hiked the 26 mile Inca Trail to Macchu Pichu through the Andes mountains . Similar park as there are villages, farms and roads along the way. It requires a permit to hike and you must hike with a guided tour or guide to control numbers and human impact. If you want to go in dry season you need to reserve a spot months in advance as the permits are limited and go quickly. They have designated campsites and bathrooms along the way. It is still crowded. I guess my points are that you can have both permits and infrastructure.

  46. Todd Eastman says:

    Ban camping in the Eastern High Peaks to limit the sizable impacts it delivers before playing with permits. Permits without enforcement would be useless. Where are the provisions in the permit advocates plans that guarantee sufficient staffing.

    The DEC currently has grossly understaffed the ranger force in the Park. Does anyone really think the current upper management at the DEC could supervise their way out of a paper bag, much less run an effective and equitable permit program??

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