This year, I went back on a summer weekend, a day I figured to be a busy weekend, on Saturday, July 9th, the height of the hiking season in the High Peaks. I’ve looked at the AMR reservation system as an important experiment in public use management in the High Peaks Wilderness, an area that has seen remarkably little experimentation over the years.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos joined state and local community leaders to announce initiatives planned for the 2022 outdoor recreation season to protect public safety and promote sustainable recreation in the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserve. Many of these actions, bolstered by $8 million from the State Environmental Protection Fund specifically for Adirondack and Catskill visitor safety and wilderness protection in the recently enacted 2022-23 State Budget, support a comprehensive strategy to improve safety, sustainability, and equitable access of those enjoying the outdoors during the upcoming warm weather months.
She also asked and received answers to some of our questions. Take a read through and chime in with your thoughts in the comment area below. What other questions do you have for the people in charge of this permit system?
In September I had a chance to try out the Adirondack Mountain Reserve’s reservation system. The Monday Dave and I went, it was pouring and there were a handful of cars in the parking lot and no people. Not exactly a good start for a journalist looking to chat with folks about how they liked the new system.
We sat in the car for a bit, and sure enough a car drove up and based on the amount of time it was parked near the parking attendant shelter, it looked like they might not have a permit. I secured my raincoat, grabbed my recorder and dashed to the vehicle in case it was about to turn around and head out to Route 73. Instead, the car drove into the parking lot and the couple that got out were equally eager to talk to me. They asked if they could jump on my hiking permit as they did not have one. One free permit can be good for up to eight people.
Explorer staffers have begun traveling to other parks this summer to learn what lessons they may hold for managing popular trails and attractions. These stories will appear in the magazine later this fall and winter, and will focus largely on New England. This week, though, I’m mixing personal travel with some research, meeting my son at Grand Teton National Park for some backpacking on a permit that I reserved months ago.
Editor’s note: This commentary is in the March/April 2021 issue of Adirondack Explorer magazine, as part of our “It’s Debatable” feature. In this regular column, we invite organizations and/or individuals to address a particular issue. Click here to subscribe to the magazine, available in both print and digital formats: www.adirondackexplorer.org/subscribe.
The question: Should the Adirondack Mountain Reserve require reservations?
Last Monday after this newsletter went out, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Ausable Club announced a new pilot reservation system at the Adirondack Mountain Reserve. The reserve, for those who may not know, is a gateway to nearly a dozen High Peaks and some very popular hikes like Indian Head and Rainbow Falls. It is also private property, accessible to the public through a foot traffic easement. The original press release left many questions, including whether or not this reservation system included a fee, or if it was free. The answer–it’s free to make a reservation.
It was also confusing because the state has called it a pilot parking reservation system, but it’s not. It is a full-on reservation system. You cannot be dropped off and walk in without a reservation. You cannot bike to the AMR and walk in without a reservation. The only way you are allowed to be on the AMR property without this permit is if you have a Greyhound or Trailways bus ticket from within 24 hours of your arrival to Keene Valley.
The Adirondack Mountain Reserve is a privately owned 7,000-acre land parcel located in the Town of Keene Valley that allows for limited public access through a conservation easement agreement with DEC.
The pilot reservation system does not apply to other areas in the Adirondack Park. The reservation system, operated by AMR, will facilitate safer public access to trailheads through the AMR gate and for Noonmark and Round mountains and improve visitors’ trip planning and preparation by ensuring they have guaranteed parking upon arrival. In recent years pedestrian traffic, illegal parking, and roadside stopping along Route 73 have created a dangerous environment for hikers and motorists alike.
A Siena College Research Institute poll of New York voters in September showed that by 68% to 22% they overwhelmingly want New York State officials to protect heavily used public lands in the Adirondack Forest Preserve by enforcing resource capacity limits. The poll results were released by the Adirondack Council.
The Governor and the State have acknowledged the overuse problem, expanded education and public information efforts, and appointed a Wilderness Overuse Task Force. The Center for National Center for Leave No Trace recommendations have been endorsed by the task force, and include testing hiker permits to improve visitor access and help communities.
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