More parking issues, more rescues, and an over-reliance on mobile apps
Due to the pandemic, this summer saw a surge in outdoor recreational pursuits this summer at the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Heart Lake Program Center, according to a press release from the ADK Mountain Club.
As a result of this major increase in hiking traffic (from unprepared novice recreationists), there was a rise in illegal camping, discarded trash, unburied human waste, and in increase in conflicts between humans and wildlife. ADK has continued its efforts to educate visitors to minimize their impact on the environment, there has been several emerging trends that make doing so challenging. Data collected through the Adirondack High Peaks Summit Stewardship Program, the Recreational User Experience and Perspectives: Adirondack Park survey (RUEADK), and a partnership between ADK, the Adirondack Council, and SUNY-ESF sheds light on some of these trends below.
More in-state hikers, earlier arrivals
Data has shown that overall hiker contacts within the Summit Stewardship Program has been consistent with years past, even with the Canadian border being closed. This indicates that a significant number of those hiking are American Visitors, and mostly New York residents at that, according to the RUEADK survey. A shift in popularity occurred as well between the high peaks Algonquin and Marcy, with the average number of daily hikers on Marcy increasing from 109 to 111, with the average number of daily hikers on Algonquin dropping from 99 to 87. Algonquin is particularly popular with Canadian hikers, while many novice New York hikers opt to climb Marcy, it being the tallest peak in New York.
Hikers are arriving earlier than in previous years, according to data gathered by ADK and the Heart Lake Program Center. Over an 89 day period from July 1st to October 12th, the 200-car lot filled on 61 days, with 5:00 am being the earliest fill time.
Over-Reliance on Apps, Last-Minute Planning
Hiker planning and preparation continues to be an important issue, following a year of record breaking rescue numbers by the New York State Forest Rangers. Several of these rescues were caused by a general lack of preparedness form hikers (like being caught in the dark without a source of light). The RUEADK survey revealed 27% of respondents used the AllTrails digital app for information, while another 16.8% used DEC resources, and 18% used commercially published guidebooks and maps.
“Given the accessibility of apps like AllTrails, it isn’t surprising that they are used as a resource for trip planning,” said Ben Brosseau, ADK Director of Communications. “The problem is when hikers become over-reliant on electronic information in the backcountry. If a cell phone dies or breaks, it can lead to a rescue situation because the hiker is left without any form of navigation.”
As policy makers determine the state budget for next year, ADK hopes that the state continues investing in the High Peaks Wilderness.
“Given that 10-12 million people are coming to the Adirondacks each year, we simply are not doing enough to equip visitors with the necessary information, tools, and facilities for them to have a safe and enjoyable experience,” said Michael Barrett, ADK Executive Director. “We look forward to working with the state and local partners to continue collecting data so we can develop long-term and fact-based solutions to high use.”
More data from the summer can be found in the following “Adk News Briefing” roundup