Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Adirondack Wild applauds pilot reservation system at AMR

AMR lotThe non-profit Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve applauds the announcement by Commissioner Basil Seggos of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation of a pilot reservation system for accessing selected trails from the privately-owned Adirondack Mountain Reserve located off State Rte. 73 in the Town of Keene.

“This pilot program for the upcoming High Peaks Wilderness hiking season is part of a critically needed set of user management tools for both the DEC, the Town of Keene, and the adjacent, cooperating private landowner, the AMR,” said Adirondack Wild’s David Gibson.

“We have been calling for a pilot reservation system for a number of years to reduce Wilderness congestion, restore wilder conditions, and increase both hiker education and public safety. Now, we wish to thank the High Peaks Strategic Advisory Group, the DEC, the Adirondack Mountain Reserve, the Town of Keene, and other stakeholders involved for their study of the problems, and for their upcoming cooperation and commitment to initiate this pilot beginning on May 1.”

“We have no doubt that the pilot will contribute to improved management of hiking pressures off of Rt. 73,” Gibson continued. “It will help protect this limited Wilderness resource, enhance opportunities to experience more wilderness solitude and naturalness, respect the private landowner providing access since 1978, and increase public safety in the Town of Keene along this heavily traveled corridor.”

“We look forward to cooperating in any way we can to make this a successful pilot reservation project and to participate in its evaluation. Our expectation is that traffic and hiker congestion at this particular hiking hub will begin to ease and the hiking public come appreciate even more the wilderness values they are there to experience while minimizing public health and safety risks for the entire community.”

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David Gibson

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 Preserve

During 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.




36 Responses

  1. Vanessa Banti Vanessa says:

    Yup. Big news yesterday. I actually asked for this last year so let’s see how it goes. I am very open to the possibility of it improving everyone’s experience. I have never hiked “Instagram mountain” and I hope to be in the area this summer on a week day, so I will try the site out and report back.

    But I saw very little info so far on advertising of this change and crucially, about enforcement. Are we gonna just tow everyone who doesn’t get the memo? We’ll see how cool or not people are – I hope they understand and play by the rules. Hell, I hope I can get a spot in such a way that doesn’t resemble a COVID vaccination queue!

  2. Tim says:

    Boomers are hell bent on ruining everything for younger people before they all finally die. Why do they need to mess up hiking? If we can’t be on the summit for sunrise or sunset what’s the point?

    • Justin Farrell says:

      You make it sound like there are no other options for a sunrise/sunset hike.

    • Boreas says:

      Tim,

      I may be wrong, but I believe AMR policy has always required hikers be out by dark. They have never allowed camping. It is private land with an easement.

    • Ben says:

      I haven’t seen statistics from any surveys but my guess is that young people might approve of this system at a higher percentage than boomers.

      You can summit at sunrise on hundreds of other hikes in the Adirondacks without using this system!

  3. Zephyr says:

    Completely ruins it for me since I can not know when I might be able to go hiking until often the day of, and in any case I won’t go unless the weather is good. I have a feeling this is the beginning of the end for spontaneous hiking in the High Peaks region. For me having to make a reservation ruins the wilderness experience in the first place. I just keep my pack packed and ready to go and take off at a moment’s notice when I get the chance, the weather is right, and possibly if I have someone to go with. By the way, I’m a Boomer and have been doing it that way for more than 50 years. Not sure why Boomers are being blamed by Tim when the vast majority of hikers are younger.

    • Ben says:

      Completely ruins *one hiking zone located on private land*. There are hundreds of great hikes in the Adirondacks you can get into at a moments notice.

      • Zephyr says:

        In 1978 the state purchased a lot of AMR land and an easement across their property. It is a state public right of way to state Forest Preserve Lands.

        • Ben says:

          From Adirondack Explorer- Adirondack Mountain Reserve easements address closing trails September 4, 2020:

          Can the club close trails to the public without state approval?

          According to the easement, the state and AMR — “with the consent of the other, which shall not unreasonably be withheld” — may close trails, paths or road and may deny access when there is environmental damage, a fire, drought or other disaster. They may also deny access if there is “a threat either to the public health, safety or welfare, or to the natural, aesthetic, scientific and educational resources” of the property.

  4. M.P Heller says:

    Interesting. The AMR board finally achieved its NIMBY goals.

    Ironic too, because when they were broke and begging NYS for some sort of tax compromise the hiker easement deal was heralded as a great boon to the public and a first of its kind preservation initiative.

    Fast forward to the 21st century and the financial stability of the AMR has changed. Hiking is seeing an increase in popularity and now its time to restrict access in this location. Why a pilot here and not in a different location? Arguably, access to the Great Range via the AMR is one of the most stable and least impactful routes due to the presence of the Lake Road.

    I will be interested to see if this decision will be able to withstand the legal scrutiny which is most certainly coming. It strikes me as an overreach by the DEC and a private entity combining to stifle the very rights these entities granted the general public decades ago.

    • Vanessa Banti Vanessa says:

      I think that AMR is doing it partially to provide cover for the state, actually. So if this pilot goes south, the DEC doesn’t take bad PR. I’m all for having a small test case where the public can air major grievances, rather than diving into a much bigger restriction that could impact a MUCH bigger area in the HPW. A large permit system implemented poorly for all state land could destroy tourism in like one season. Nice to learn lessons on a small scale, imo.

    • Vanessa Banti Vanessa says:

      Not to mention that yea, to your point, there is also a legal question about what extent the state even can restrict use on state land. On private land less of an issue

  5. JT says:

    I didn’t see anything about if the reservation is just for parking. What if I had someone drop me off at the trail head, would I still need a reservation? Last year I hiked Giant and Rocky Peak. Got dropped off at the Rt. 73 trailhead and hiked out to the Rt. 9 trailhead. No parking required. I was fortunate that I could have someone do that. May not be the case for many people.

    • According to the guidelines, everyone will need a permit:
      “Hikers, whether parking a vehicle, getting dropped off or arriving on a bicycle, will need to make one of the reservations, according to a joint news release from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the AMR.”

      • Smitty says:

        Seems like a better way would be to just require reservations (and a fee) for parking. Use the fee to fund trail improvements in the High Peaks and patrolling the AMR parking lot. Even ADK charges a parking fee so what’s the big deal. And if you can find some other way in without requiring parking then good for you.

        • Boreas says:

          Smitty,

          I believe the shuttles are gassed-up and ready to go. COVID put the kibosh on the shuttles last summer.

    • Boreas says:

      JT,

      With the new shuttles running, the only way AMR could control numbers is with reservations. It remains to be seen if they can do it WITH reservations. How many will try to bushwhack past the gate/parking area?

  6. Sandra Weber Sandra Weber says:

    What have we learned from the past? Nothing?
    Permits were attempted by the DEC in 2002. I have 4 of my permits sitting next to me. Most people never filled one out or it ended up as litter. I believe the permit program lasted one year.
    I have never seen one piece of data that was collected from the program. So we basically try the same thing again 20 years later and expect a new outcome.

  7. Bob Meyer says:

    Mr. Gibson, I want to know how this will be equitable for the “visitors” even with camps such as myself vs. full time residents like yourself who are in the Park all the time and have the advantage of being able to pick and choose their hiking days all year.
    Let’s hear your answer.

  8. David Gibson says:

    Bob Meyer,
    This pilot at this one private land entry pt. will work best with strong public communication from DEC using all technologies, new and old, to reach folks in Montreal (once the border reopens) as well as NYC Metro and north. The model we, collectively, have now are the 44 DEC Campgrounds in the Park, where I cannot show up without a reservation I made online. That online process tells me there are reservations to be had..or it’s full and seek somewhere else. So, this summer to reach Noonmark, Round, Colvin, Blake and the Range off the Ausable Club’s West River trail, we all must have made a reservation to access those peaks from this one entry point. We will learn if there’s space or not before we leave home or anywhere we can access the net. I can still access the Range from ADK’s properties further north any day I wish, parking permitting. I can still access the Giant Mountain Wilderness any time I want, parking permitting. The good thing about the AMR new pilot reservation system is …we will know we will have parking if we reserve in advance. Maybe 70 reservations per day is too few. Maybe it’s just right. We will all be learning to do this together, with the private landowner and the DEC and other cooperators getting the word out and advising us.

    • Zephyr says:

      In other words, forget about any realistic chance of getting a reservation on a day you could possibly go. With only 70 slots per day and only for the hours 5am-7pm you have a better chance of winning the lottery. How is it legal for the DEC to allow a private entity to run a permit system for a public easement to state lands? And not allowing hikers to be dropped off? What’s next, toll booths on the trails? You’ll need an EZ-Pass to go on a hike.

      • Chris Amato says:

        Zephyr, good point. I support the permit system but believe that any permit system should make a certain number of permits available on a first-come, first-served basis for “spontaneous” hikers who show up on the day of their hike.

    • Bob Meyer says:

      David, Thanks for replying. Much appreciated. Those who know me know well my long and extensive knowledge of the High Peaks as well as many other areas of the Adirondacks [as Pete Nelson about me]. So, I am well aware of the alternative access points.
      I am also acutely aware of the problems of over use and under preparedness and know there needs to be changes.
      Zephyr’s comment somewhat sums up the dilemma: “In other words, forget about any realistic chance of getting a reservation on a day you could possibly go. With only 70 slots per day and only for the hours 5am-7pm you have a better chance of winning the lottery. How is it legal for the DEC to allow a private entity to run a permit system for a public easement to state lands? And not allowing hikers to be dropped off?”… This is especially true for people who, for whatever reason, cannot plan ahead, do not have the luxury of picking the “right” day weather wise, have time and distance constraints etc.
      I am lucky because I have camp that I can be at for decent stretches of time, but I’m in the minority of non-full time residents. I’m also worried about the “slippery slope of the AMR limiting access even though is legally a Right of Way access to our Forest Preserve… It may end up in court.
      All that said, as you say, let’s see what happens. Let’s learn and let’s bel flexible and adaptable as needed.

      • Ben says:

        Bob,
        Plan your day well in advance and be ready for any weather conditions. Be prepared, have everything ready including your parking spot. This is actually very simple.

        • Bob Meyer says:

          I can plan ahead and I’ve always been prepared for the last 65 years of hiking and climbing. I have that luxury.
          Don’t you understand that many people don’t have the luxury of planning well in advance?

          • Ben says:

            For last minute hikes there are hundreds of trails. Make these hikes at AMR special. Plan on it and enjoy your day. You are over thinking this.

    • M.P Heller says:

      That’s a broken argument built on a false equivalency David.

      Reserving a campground space and reserving a “walking time” are not nearly the same concepts. It would be beyond pedantic to suggest such a comparison, but indeed this is the foundation of the argument that you are making. That somehow a hardened road has a measurable carrying capacity when it comes to foot traffic that is in any way comparable to a known number of available sites in a given campground is an extremely obtuse analogy. Even the straw men are doubled over with gut wrenching laughter at that one.

  9. Zephyr says:

    In the interest of full disclosure it would be good to know if any Ausable Club/AMR members are supporters of Adirondack Wild.

  10. M.P Heller says:

    You beat me to it!

    Excellent question.

  11. David Gibson says:

    Fair question, Zephyr, but Ausable Club members – whether they support Adk Wild or not – don’t influence our positions or our actions. AMR is a cooperating landowner which has done much to facilitate public access to this Wilderness since 1978. We respect the AMR’s concerns but we do not consult or coordinate with the AMR in any way.

    • Zephyr says:

      It is always important to know where the money comes from. The Adk Almanack should demand that any guest writers disclose any and all ties to the subject of articles like any other legitimate news organization does. Are there ties between Adk Wild and the Ausable Club, financial or otherwise?

      • Zephyr says:

        It is important to get this information so that people can judge for themselves the relationships between various parties. I have worked for nonprofits for many years, and money and connections always influences decisions–always. That doesn’t mean it is nefarious, but there is a need to understand these relationships. Several Adirondack nonprofits have close ties to the Ausable Club that has been trying to further limit the easement since they signed the agreement back in 1978.

        • M.P Heller says:

          I too do NGO and NFP work. It’s a very important point you raise. Guidestar does a real good job compiling data on NFP’s. IRS 990 filings, board members, etc. I think I will do a little Easter weekend researching and report back on my findings.

  12. Zephyr says:

    Apparently we are not going to get a straight answer to the question of whether or not there are any financial supporters or other connections between Adk Wild and the Ausable Club. Maybe there are none, but we should be informed if there are any. I hope the Adk Almanack asks this question of all contributors, as they should.

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