Anyone who regularly drives Route 73 between the Northway and Lake Placid knows there has been a tremendous spike in activity in the High Peaks over the last few years. Parking has exploded, with vehicles sometimes lining the road for a mile between Chapel Pond and St. Huberts, dangerously crowding the trailhead at Cascade Mountain and overwhelming lots at Adirondac Loj, the Garden, Ampersand and elsewhere.
Trail use has soared correspondingly. The Cascade trail regularly sees hundreds of people on summer weekends. Many other trails are badly eroded and even remote summits can be crowded. This increase is no anomaly: the trend lines show it is the new normal. » Continue Reading.
From publications such as the Lake Placid News and Peeks, and from agencies such as the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the Adirondack Council, a dark narrative has been presented during the past few years, one that communicates the High Peaks region is facing grave peril due to increased hiker use.
This popular crisis narrative has us envision this region plummeting into a post-apocalyptic dystopia that rivals any scene from Mad Max. It will be a grim future, this total annihilation of the mountains, and at the end of it the purveyors of the crisis narrative will have but one smug question left for us: “Are you happy now?” » Continue Reading.
I listened to NCPR’s Brian Mann recent report about NYS DEC Forest Ranger staffing, and the great pressures on the static ranger staff resulting from so many emergency incidents. DEC Commissioner Seggos’ remarks appeared to be resistant to the need for additional Forest Rangers. He was quoted as saying that the entire DEC staff must rally to help to relieve the pressures on the Rangers and – I would add – on all natural resource professionals at the DEC. In other words, don’t worry members of the media, members of the public, we always do more with less.
In my experience, this Commissioner is very responsive to issues facing him and pays attention to detail. I also know he supports his people in the field. However, it was important for him to hear the support for more DEC Forest Rangers from local government representatives, like Wilmington Town Supervisor and Essex County Board of Supervisors chair Randy Preston. The supervisor was persistent because he knows what we all know: that the DEC Commissioner has no authority to increase the number of rangers, or foresters, or wildlife or fisheries, or operations or campground professionals. The urgent message that DEC natural resource and lands and forests and ranger personnel are at the breaking point must get to the Governor. Local government officials make excellent messengers. » Continue Reading.
Important shuttle information for access to Cascade Mountain for Columbus Day Weekend
1. All parking for the Cascade Mountain trailhead along Route 73 will be closed October 4th – October 8th.
2. Parking will be located at the Olympic Sports Complex.
3. Shuttles will pick up hikers at the Olympic Sports Complex.
4. Shuttles will run to and from the Cascade Mountain Trailhead on the half hour beginning at 7am each day. 5. The last shuttle to Cascade trailhead will leave the Olympic Sports Complex at 3pm.
6. The last shuttle to the Olympic Sports Complex will leave Cascade trailhead at 7pm each day.
7. Only the shuttles will be allowed to drop off and pick up people at the Cascade Mountain trailhead. Other vehicles are not allowed to enter the trailhead area.
8. No dogs will be allowed on the shuttle.
9. There is no overnight parking at the Olympic Sports Complex.
The Porter and Little Porter Trail from the Garden in Keene are closed this 2018 hiking season by decision of the private landowner. A reroute is being planned, but will not be completed this hiking season. As this will limit access to Cascade via Porter – further crowding the Route 73 Cascade trailhead – approach Porter Mountain via the trail from Marcy Field until the reroute is complete.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced that the State is prohibiting parking on the shoulders of both lanes of State Route 73 near the Roaring Brook Falls Trailhead starting Friday, Sept. 21. According to an announcement by DEC: “The parking prohibition supports DEC’s multi-year, comprehensive effort to promote sustainable tourism and address public safety in the Adirondacks.”
Parking will be prohibited on the shoulder of the northbound lane from the entrance to the Roaring Brook Trailhead Parking area north to the bridge over Putnam Brook. Parking will be prohibited on the shoulder of the southbound lane between the guiderails south of Putnam Brook Bridge. » Continue Reading.
The July/August issue of the Explorer carried an impassioned call from Chris Amato for the Department of Environmental Conservation to implement a permit system for the High Peaks Wilderness Area.
Amato’s rationale was that the High Peaks no longer meet the definition of a “wilderness area” contained in the Adirondack State Land Master Plan (ASLMP). The ASLMP definition includes the phrases “untrammeled by man” and “outstanding opportunities for solitude.” » Continue Reading.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is reminding people to practice Leave No Trace Principles when visiting Bald Mountain’s Rondaxe Fire Tower in near Old Forge.
Leave No Trace Principles include: planning and being prepared for hiking; disposing of waste properly (pack it in, pack it out); leaving rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them; and respecting wildlife, flora and fauna. » Continue Reading.
Given ongoing evidence of recreational crowding, overuse and resource damage of the eastern High Peaks Wilderness, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve has called on our DEC to institute permit systems, sometimes called Limited Entry systems, to assure and restore Wilderness preservation, character and opportunity in the most heavily used portions of the High Peaks. Such systems are widely used around the country.
The internal debate at DEC over whether to institute permit systems for the High Peaks has gone on for more than 40 years. Meanwhile, the U.S. Forest Service is considering the expansion of such a system within 500,000 acres of federal Wilderness in Oregon’s Cascade Range. » Continue Reading.
Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve is calling on the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and NYS Adirondack Park Agency (APA) to institute wilderness permit systems for the Eastern High Peaks and the new Boreas Ponds gateway to the Wilderness “in order to reduce and prevent human recreational overuse of a highly vulnerable and limited Wilderness resource.”
While casting her vote for the Boreas Ponds land classification known as Alternative 2 on February 2, 2018, one Adirondack Park Agency board member told the audience gathered at the agency’s headquarters in Ray Brook that we should “take a leap of faith,” even if the public wasn’t getting the wilderness classification it wanted. She said that we should trust the Department of Environmental Conservation to protect the Boreas Ponds in its forthcoming unit management plan (UMP) for the area, where environmental safeguards would be written into the proposals for recreational access.
Unfortunately, that faith has proven to be unwarranted. DEC has released a pair of management plans that will impact the future of not just the beautiful Boreas Ponds, but the entire High Peaks Wilderness. The scope of these two documents far exceeds the available time to read and assess everything they contain, but even with a cursory review it is abundantly clear that our state agencies are failing to meet the public’s expectations. » Continue Reading.
I’d like to recognize the Adirondack Daily Enterprise for its recent editorial “APA, DEC Skimp on Public Meetings.” The newspaper wrote that two public meetings, both held on the same day (Wednesday, May 23) about numerous management amendments to the High Peaks Wilderness and Vanderwhacker Wild Forest:
“while important, are also severely wanting. These lands belong to the people of New York, and folks near New York City, in Syracuse and Buffalo, Watertown and Ithaca all deserve to have APA and DEC staff come explain what the plans mean and hear the public’s concerns. Together, the two UMP amendments run to more than 300 pages, and it would be beneficial to the public to have them explained by the people who wrote them.”
Now that the classifications are decided and amendments to the unit management plans (UMP) are underway, the process seems highly accelerated and rushed. » Continue Reading.
As the upcoming Canadian Victoria Day holiday weekend (May 19-21) kicks-off the start of the busy season in the Adirondack High Peaks, local advocates and officials are assessing overcrowding, making plans to accommodate more visitors, and proposing new regulations and a sweeping expansion of backcountry facilities. » Continue Reading.
This Columbus Day weekend I decided to put the issue of overuse in the High Peaks region to a little test. I visited three of the most crowded trail heads in the area and hiked from two of them. I also investigated the State’s grand relocation of the Cascade trail and parking.
What I saw confirmed a working theory I have been informally discussing with both private folks and local and state government employees. The theory isn’t mine, indeed a number of people have the idea. It’s a simple concept, really: back country overuse can be mitigated in large part simply by addressing parking issues. In other words, we can manage recreation capacity by more effectively managing transportation capacity. » Continue Reading.
On September 16th I hiked Cascade Mountain and wrote about the experience. On that day over 500 people hiked Cascade. I returned the next weekend (on Saturday September 23rd), with a friend and survey sheets and clipboards to ask hikers a series of questions. The interviews took about two minutes and many people graciously answered questions. At busy points, we were both talking with groups as others walked by us. This was a rough survey, undertaken as much to learn about what is necessary for conducting this kind of survey as it was for getting some basic data from the hikers on Cascade Mountain. » Continue Reading.
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