Temporary Parking Closures, Parking Permits, Shuttles & Trail Closures Acceptable to Users
Two leading conservation organizations, The Adirondack Council, The Adirondack Mountain Club, and the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF) released the preliminary results of a two month hiker survey for the High Peaks Wilderness Area, showing most hikers preferred solitude and wildness, and would welcome limits on visitation in order to prevent damage to the “forever wild” forest preserve.
The survey, “Recreational User Experience and Perspectives: Adirondack Park” is undergoing its initial analysis, but the institutions involved look forward to releasing the final results in a few months.
Wilderness Experience Expected
673 Adirondack hikers were surveyed in the High Peaks region, 79% of which said they came to enjoy the solitude of the wilderness. 7% of hikers had no expectations of the sort, while 13% remained neutral. Over 90% had heard of “Leave No Trace” but were not pressed to prove their knowledge.
Over 50% of those surveyed supported visitor management tools such as closing parking lots, requiring parking permits, shuttle buses to transport hikers from off site parking areas, limited trail-access permits, and temporary trail closures for over-crowding. Temporary trail closures were the most popular option when it came to visitor control with 79% of respondents opting for it. Shuttles were a close second at 72%, while limited trail-access permits, parking lot temporary closures, and parking permits were rated at 59%, 57%, and 50% respectively.
Planned Ahead, But Many Couldn’t Park at Destination
About half of the respondents were able to legally park at the trailhead which they planned, while 210 had to use the shoulder of the road near a trailhead. 90 people were shut out entirely and 13 had not planned where to park. Over 60% of hikers had been planning their trip a week to a month ahead of time, and 13% said they had been planning for even longer. 4% said they lived elsewhere and came without a plan while 2% did the same, except that they lived nearby.
Other interesting preliminary findings from the survey:
- Nearly 80% of respondents said COVID-19 had not influenced their decision to visit the Adirondack Forest Preserve, they would have visited regardless
- The largest concentrations of respondents hailed from the New York metro area and Capital District, followed by Syracuse, Buffalo and Rochester. Philadelphia and Boston were two of the largest non-New York clusters, while some came from as far away as Colorado, Texas, Utah and California, as well as Washington, DC, Florida and Puerto Rico.
- More than half of respondents were hiking alone or in a pair (107; 319), while about 7 respondents said they were part of a group of 9 to 12 hikers (day-use limit is 15).
- Most respondents were between 25 and 44 years old (315), with the second-largest group between 45 and 64 (186).
- About 92% of survey respondents self-identified as white; of the non-white respondents, 15% were Hispanic/Latinx; 3% said they were black/African-American; 1% African; 2% Asian; 2% Native American; and 8% said they were “other.”
- Most respondents were here for the second time or more (318); while 237 said they had heard about it from a friend or family member; and 184 relied on the All Trails smartphone application; about 120 found it in a guidebook and 112 relied on materials/websites provided by the NYS DEC.
“The initial analysis of this summer’s survey data is still being reviewed and analyzed,” said the Adirondack Council’s Deputy Director Rocci Aguirre. There were some open-ended questions where they are several possible combinations for the answers. Those results are still being compiled by Dr. Jill Weiss and her team at SUNY ESF who have been spearheading the data analysis on this project, he said.
Adirondack Explorer photo by Mike Lynch