Wednesday, March 10, 2021

After months of delay, DEC releases High Peaks advisory group report

Friday was a humdinger.

In the morning, we published a story about how the state Department of Environmental Conservation had delayed a report by an advisory group tasked with brainstorming strategies for managing an increase in visitors to the High Peaks.

It was time to write this story. At first the report was possibly going to be sent to the DEC in October. Understandably, the pandemic has slowed things down. But time and again we were hearing from advisory group members that the report would be released any day now. Days turned into weeks, turned into a couple of months. So on Wednesday last week, I asked DEC when we could expect the report to be released, and I got back “soon.”

The added push we saw the Adirondack Mountain Club article published about the final report (the ADK is a member of the advisory group), so some of the high-level themes were already out there. ADK had published the article with the understanding that DEC would have released the report by now. We find ourselves in similar boats as a bimonthly magazine. It can be difficult to plan ahead that far and still be timely. But, DEC had not yet released the report. So Friday, I wrote about it.

Around 2 p.m., I was told I would have the report that day.

Commence article two!

Click here to read our high-level overview about it. The report is 55 pages, very detailed and full of things both already happening in some capacity, things already proposed and new recommendations. What struck me, however, was the advisory group’s recommendations to the DEC to use two pre-existing documents in its efforts to manage crowds: the National Park Service’s visitor management guidelines, and the High Peaks’s unit management plan.

The number of suggestions the advisory group pulled out from the unit management plan, in particular, is interesting. It’s a way of saying to the DEC, do what you said you were going to do. Also, the National Park Service has already dealt with visitor management, so use what has worked already. I’ve had a number of people tell me managing visitors in the High Peaks should not involve “reinventing the wheel.”

Another point a source made to me was that this was an advisory group and these are just recommendations. This isn’t to slight the work these volunteers put into the final report, but there’s nothing legally binding here.

A few things are already underway, the DEC has pointed out, like a pilot shuttle system in Keene. Depending on the status of the pandemic this hiking season, we’ll see whether or not that can operate. As always, there is a lot more to unpack. We’ll be looking at it, along with what will be implemented this upcoming season.

We’ll have more on this even sooner, as the Adirondack Park Agency will be presenting its own visitor use management plans for the park on Friday. Check out the agenda here for how to listen in.

Crowding on Cascade Mountain, eastern High Peaks Wilderness by Dan Plumley/Almanack archive

This first appeared in Gwen’s weekly “Adirondack Report” newsletter. Click here to sign up.

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Gwen is the environmental policy reporter for Adirondack Explorer.

3 Responses

  1. Zephyr says:

    When the government doesn’t want to do anything they form an advisory group tasked with creating a huge and vague report that can be interpreted a million different ways, and ultimately suggests further study is needed before doing anything. And as the report states there is no money in any budget to do anything that is blatantly obvious but never gets done, like hiring more rangers. I suspect this can will be kicked down Rt 73 for quite awhile.

  2. Eric says:

    The High Peaks is just the place for a wind and solar farm. Gonna need that green energy so everyone can recharge for the trip home.

  3. John says:

    Maybe I fell asleep while reading something, but nowhere do I see a simple account of concrete steps that can me implemented right away (Spring is about here), and a second group of considerations for the future.
    The only thing that can be certain about kicking a can down the road is that you’ll wear out your shoes. But you might even stumble, fall and hurt yourself.