Saturday, October 22, 2022

Discussion time: Hiking permits, parking and shuttles

hiker shuttle

The Adirondack Mountain Reserve hiking permit system closes for the season on Oct. 31. Did you use it this summer or plan to make a reservation before the end of the month? Did you take one of the fall foliage shuttles the state started trying this year?

In your opinion, what are some creative ideas the state and/or local communities should be considering to move people from parking lots to trailheads?

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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.

18 Responses

  1. Tim says:

    A hiker shuttle isn’t a hiker shuttle unless it runs 18-24 hours per day. If it only runs 12 hours it’s a tourist shuttle. I had to take the garden shuttle once about ten years ago and it ruined the whole hike because of the time clock ticking in my head all day that I had to be back by 7pm. I felt like I couldn’t slow down or stop and smell the roses and had to keep moving all day. I made it back with over an hour to spare but I swore from that day forward I would never take a shuttle again hiking unless it ran all night.

    My job situation isn’t one that allows me to plan more than a few days in advance so I haven’t been able to hike from AMR the last couple years. I usually find out either Wednesday or Thursday whether I’ll have Saturday or Sunday off. I feel like a lot of people are in a similar position. Not everyone works for the government or is a teacher and knows on advance when they will have days off. Yes, we’re allowed to plan a week vacation months in advance but we use those weeks to go to Disney, not to go hiking. Seems to me everyone could be satisfied if AMR just left half the spaces as first-come first-served instead of making every singe parking space subject to a permit. The people coming here on vacation from out of state can plan and get a parking
    Space and us locals can all hockey at 5am for a parking spot. Win-win for everyone. Having every single space subject to permit is madness.

  2. Bob Meyer says:

    Once again I say the AMR permit system is an elitist, ultimately illegal taking of a legal right if way onto our Forest Preserve lands.
    The Ausable Club, with its long history of racism and antisemitism is, with the help of the DEC, just using this bullshit reservation system as a smokescreen. Janeway and other other privileged elites can obfuscate all they want but it’s not about protecting the Forest Preserve or anything else about solving the myriad issues in the High Peaks.

    • Boreas says:

      The AMR permit system is no different than any other reservation system. Are we allowed to pile 20 deep into a single primitive campsite? Double or triple park at a trailhead? Limits and exclusion are two entirely different practices. Reservations do not exclude us, it just turns chaos into a temporal and spacial order. AMR does not ask our religious affiliation. Nor does the Loj, which has its own darker side – but they still have a limited number of parking spots.

      • Bob Meyer says:

        Hi Boreas,
        There’s plenty of darkness to go around in the history of the Adirondacks as in our state our nation and indeed the whole world.
        But my main point is that the a MRs reservation system is an illegal taking of a legally granted right of way to our public lands. It’s exclusionary in essence and just pushes the problem of overcrowding onto adjacent areas and parking places. If we must end up with a permit system or reservation system, whatever you want to call it, it needs to be uniform either throughout the high peaks or at least the eastern high peaks.

    • Grumpy says:

      Illegal? How so?. Both the DEC and the AMR were involved in this decision, and presumably both parties had legal representation involved. What illegality do you see that their lawyers didn’t? Alternately, if it is so clearly illegal as you (and many others) think why has there not been a single legal challenge in the 2 years this system has been in place?

      As for your other buzzword accusations, what evidence and history do you have of this? The reality of the situation is that the AMR is legally required to provide only 20 parking spaces and they now provide 70. The fact that they graciously allowed far more parking than required for years should not be held against them in the perceived decrease of access to their property.

      There are some changes I would love to see to the AMR system too but some of the online backlash to the system is overblown and reeks of entitlement. The current system is far more equitable for a large population of hikers, namely those who have families, need to plan their time off from work, or who have to travel for more than 1-2 hours to arrive to a trailhead. You allude to racism, but look at the demographics within an hour’s drive of the AMR, those likely to get the parking in a FCFS system. Surely a reservation system gives fairer access to a broader swath of racial and cultural demographics, allowing folks from Syracuse, Albany, or NYC a better opportunity to enjoy our wild spaces?

      I am all for honest critiques and working to create a system that is fair and aspires to work well for everyone but the rhetoric around the AMR in online spaces is downright tiresome. They have done a fantastic job of protecting land and maintaining trails and it should be appreciated that they did not construct guesthouses on summits or subdivide their land prior to the conservation easement.

      So yes, let’s all work to improve things as best as we can but as we do so, I hope that we can keep some fair perspective.

      • Boreas says:


        Well said! I don’t see how a reservation system for the busiest part of the hiking year at AMR constitutes an “illegal taking”. If indeed it is illegal, then someone should take AMR & DEC to court to get the issue resolved. I am sure some pro bono lawyers out there would be glad to take the case – assuming there is one. Frankly, I feel there are more potential issues with the shuttles than the reservation system.

  3. Elk Lake Eddie says:

    Dear Bob,

    I hate that you have turned me into a defender of the AC, but the online system is of the slightest inconvenience compared to some of the other hoops we are required to jump through to enjoy the outdoors. Don’t like it? Don’t use it. There are ample ways to access the HPs.
    In regards to the shuttle: They need to operate sun-up to sun-down or they are essentially worthless for hikers. Great for tourists or leaf-spotters, but with the exception of Giant and BSM, most folks need more time to complete (and enjoy) a hike than the current hours allow.

  4. Bob Meyer says:

    Well now, I’ve opened up the same can of worms that I did originally when I was invited by Melissa to be the NO commentator about this issue a couple of years ago. Sorry to offend some sensibilities here and I do recognize the stewardship provided by the AMR to its remaining lands. Yes, these are different times then the “good old days” when, other than the 4th of July & Labor day, solitude was easy to find in the HPs. As someone in their late 70s I remember those days well. I know that the exclusionary attitudes and policies of the AMR, ADK and others have (mostly) become a thing of the past. I cannot answer why no one has challenged the AMR reservation system as an illegal taking of our right of way.
    Suffice it to say, I still adhere to my viewpoint as stated in the original It’s Debatable column in the Almanack. I’m sure you can find it in the archives.
    In the end I hope we can work out our differences as much as possible and all work together for the betterment of all the issues affecting the High Peaks and the Adirondacks as a whole. This includes, among other things, making new sustainable trails, increased education and stewardship (especially for the many novice hikers) improved and expanded parking because people are going to keep coming, expanded public transportation and access, a truly welcoming attitude toward everyone. It’s better folks, but let’s be honest, it’s not universal. And more Rangers! They are the real heros in all this. I could go on and on: the APA, housing for residents and service providers, money and politics, but enough already. We all love the Adirondacks and that’s a good thing!

    • louis curth says:

      Bob, The points you are making are essential for the future well being of the Adirondacks, especially the need for “a truly welcoming attitude toward everyone”, “increased education and stewardship”, and “more rangers”. If you get a chance, take a look at my essay in AJES Volume #25 due out shortly. I think you may relate to where I’m coming from…

      On a side note, am I correct Bob, that you spent some of your formative years, as did I, down around Loon Lake, in Warren County?

      • Bob Meyer says:

        Hi Louis,
        I will seek out your AGES article. Thank you for the heads up.
        Indeed I spent and still spend time in and around Schroon Lake as our camp is near Pottersville.
        Please enlighten me about our connection. Message me on Facebook if you want or you can contact Melissa Hart and ask her to ask me for my contact info.
        I’m very curious.

        • louis curth says:

          My favorite memories include growing up and going to school in Pottersville where I would have graduated except my parents had other ideas….
          As a teenager, I hiked up with a bunch of my friends, to help Chestertown Forest Ranger Ed Carpenter extinguish a forest fire on top of Kipp Mtn. overlooking Loon Lake (my first fire, of many to come).

          It seems like I read somewhere that your background had some things in common with mine around those times and places. Melissa has my contact info. also, from all the “interesting reads” suggestions that I send her (which she prudently deletes, being the wise and objective editor that she is).

          • Bob Meyer says:

            I remember that fire. Kipp is directly south of our camp and part of the skyline. It looked like Roman candles on the peak.

      • Bob Meyer says:

        And Loon Lk too. 😏

  5. Josh says:

    The AMR fiasco is exactly what Bob Meyer describes, and I refuse to participate in pretending it is doing anything other than excluding ordinary people from a legal right of way was supposed to guarantee access to all, whether connected or not to the elite. As to shuttles, just taking one ruins the wilderness experience for me. I don’t want to ride a bus and hike to a schedule. I go hiking to get away from all of that. I’ll go elsewhere if I have to take a bus.

  6. Bill Schmeg says:

    First, let me say (many have said it before me) that the AMR stewardship of this part of the HPs has been exemplary. I used the reservation system to park and hike on an August weekday this past summer. The lot was barely half full and the trails were quiet and lonesome. So the goal of reducing the visitor days to the AMR was accomplished, at least on that day.
    But we cannot exclude from this argument that those who promulgated this plan, and those who benefit the most, are people of privilege. That fact is just impossible to ignore. And I would doubt that the intent of the easement(s) was to take equitable use of the wilderness in that direction. It might be a little easier to swallow if the land were owned fully by the State of NY, or perhaps by a non-profit like The Nature Conservancy.
    And finally, a question: there are now restrictions on entry by the general public to the AMR. Has the AMR imposed any restrictions on their members or guests?
    Thank you for listening…

    • Boreas says:

      Why would AMR place restrictions on their own members/guests? They are a finite number who visit cabins or the lodge. All of their members are not there at once, and they use both private and easement trails, lakes, and infrastructure. Plus these members, one way or another – even with State tax relief, pay for the maintenance and upkeep of their trail system, taxes, management, etc., etc.. What do we AS USERS pay? Of course, if AMR came up with the plan, it would serve their interest to some extent. But how long would they have to wait for DEC to come up with a plan that would accomplish similar goals? My understanding both AMR and DEC worked together to some extent on the existing plan, but I could be wrong on that since not much was done above board before the start of the system.

      Keep in mind, the reservation system is not year-round, yet user access is. Much of the best hiking occurs after the reservation system shuts down. To me, a reservation system in the busiest part of the season is not an onerous hurdle. But it does require planning, to which many understandably object.

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