Monday, March 15, 2021

Discussion topic: High Peaks use

Now that the High Peaks Advisory Group’s final report is out, have you had a chance to read through it?

Me either, ha ha. But here’s the Cliff Notes rundown from the DEC about the highlights:

Many of the report’s specific recommendations support DEC efforts that are currently underway with State and local partners to improve public safety and sustainably manage use of some of the High Peaks’ busiest trailheads, including:

  • Enforcing parking regulations with an increased presence of New York State Police and DEC Forest Rangers and Environmental Conservation Police Officers on State Route 73 and other roads;
  • Educating hikers and visitors in person and via social media and other means about the seven principles of Leave No Trace (LNT) while hiking, as well as maintaining safe and responsible practices during the COVID-19 pandemic. DEC will be expanding upon these efforts this spring;
  • Advising motorists about limited trailhead parking and closures using electronic variable messaging boards and additional signage on I-87 and Route 73, social media, and additional outreach;
  • Continuing to partner with Essex County to implement a pilot shuttle service along Route 73, in adherence to COVID-19 guidelines and informed by the Volpe Shuttle Feasibility Study. If COVID-19 makes shuttle service not feasible for the 2021 season, DEC will work with Essex County and the town of Keene to develop the supportive infrastructure and educational components needed to operate as soon as feasible; and
  • Working with area municipalities to coordinate human waste management.

So far this past week, we ran the first of a series of insights from:

We’ll have more in the weeks to come, but curious to hear your thoughts on what we’ve heard so far. What are you the most excited about? Which recommendation has the best chance of being put into practice?

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Melissa is a journalist with experience as a reporter and editor with the Burlington Free Press, Ithaca Journal and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. She worked as a communications specialist for the Adirondack North Country Association and is currently digital editor for Adirondack Explorer, overseeing both the Explorer's website and its community forum the Adirondack Almanack. She enjoys hiking, camping and other outdoors activities, and spending time with her husband, their twin daughters, and rescue animals -- two dogs and two cats.

7 Responses

  1. Vanessa says:

    Welllll…I am very bullish on the shuttles for RT 73, and pretty skeptical that the signs will make any difference. I almost wish that that money could instead be spent on an ad campaign saying “do your part, visit on a Tuesday.”

    Drove past one of those signs in the fall of 2019 when we made a last minute decision to try our luck arriving on a sunny, beautiful Saturday in hopes of snagging a spot at a popular trailhead by arriving at 2pm ish. The (deeply flawed! This was a mistake) logic was that someone has to be done hiking or had their kids complain by 2pm, right? …right?

    Well no, of course it was bedlam and chaos. We drove right past the sign off of 87 thinking that surely, we would be that one clever tourist to snag a coveted spot. Instead, we were saved by the Marcy field shuttle. Had a nice hike that day.

    Moral of the story: you’ll have trouble discouraging people who travel hours and have their minds set. You have to corral them to a place with enough parking, and then get them to where they want to be. The shuttle does that super effectively. All the popular national parks survive on this strategy. I bet hikers would accept an even infrequent shuttle rather than fight for parking, if the shuttle was convenient and combined with a bit of friendly deterrence at the trailheads themselves (aggressive ticketing comes to mind).

  2. Zephyr says:

    My biggest takeaway is that we have learned nothing new from this report and I suspect that like most advisory groups the whole point was to delay and create something so full of possible pathways that the DEC can pick and choose what they really want to do and have plenty of justification for it. Plus, with budgets constrained there is no money for most of the new ideas. Personally, I think the whole problem is overblown and we will eventually see a decline in hiker numbers once the fad dies away. There was a huge surge in hiking back in the 1990s and we read all the same articles about the huge damage, overuse, rescues, etc., and yet now a couple of decades later the area is in infinitely better condition than it was back then, and today’s hikers are far, far more environmentally conscious and much better prepared too.

  3. Boreas says:

    I didn’t feel there was enough emphasis on something that is already in DEC’s purview – determining the user capacity of every trail based on established metrics used in well-maintained parks around the world. Until this is done and a plan developed to mitigate usage on each trail, everything else is noise. It makes no sense to increase parking or shuttles to trails that cannot handle more usage.

    • Zephyr says:

      This disconnect between the goals of the various parties is another reason little is likely to change. The local towns want nothing to do with limiting numbers of visitors. They are more concerned about illegal parking and safety issues. Other organizations are more concerned with environmental damage. Hikers just want access and less hassle and know that they love what is there now or else they wouldn’t be coming in large numbers. The DEC seems to have conflicts within its own priorities. On the one hand, they support sustainable trails, and on the other hand they are pushing snowmobile superhighways. All while not increasing the numbers of rangers to police the crowds. Maybe some of that money for huge snowmobile road projects could be spent to hire more staff to handle the surge in hikers?

  4. Chris Cohan says:

    I enjoy your writing style. Informative, approachable and humorous.
    Thank you,

  5. Chris Cohan says:

    BTW, I agree nothing could be scarier than being confronted by the likes of a matt gaetz:-)

  6. Zephyr says:

    And now the Explorer reports that the DEC wants to build a big parking lot on State land off the ADK Loj road near the South Meadows Road. Imagine the number of trees required to be cut for that?! Apparently DEC thinks the current law as interpreted allows tree cutting in the Forest Preserve. In the past, there was a plan to make this parking lot the location of a new visitor center to be staffed by ADK. Not sure if that is still in the plan. Doesn’t more parking mean more people hiking on the trails?

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