Does social distancing mean discouraging Adirondack visitors this spring and summer?

Many Adirondack businesses and organizations are closed or working remotely during the coronavirus outbreak. How long should it last? Photo by Brandon Loomis

First came word that the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism was suspending ads touting the Adirondacks.

Then the governor urged people to stop gathering in groups, and ultimately ordered employers to send workers home. This week the American Alpine Club asked members to enjoy the outdoors close to home: “This is not the time to head to the desert or rally to your favorite national park for ‘social distancing.’”

As the novel coronavirus spreads through America—and especially New York—the question of what will become of the Adirondack Park’s summer plagues the North Country. What will become of the businesses that rely on the millions of visitors who typically visit the mountains and lakes? What risks await the region’s aging rural population, already short on medical resources and home health workers?

What to do?

The Adirondack Explorer wants to know what readers, visitors and all who love the Adirondacks think. In a twist on our magazine’s standard “It’s Debatable” pro-con column, we ask that people with constructive ideas for handling the crisis submit them for a crowdsourced opinion piece that will list a variety of viewpoints.

The question: Should the Adirondacks discourage visitation during the coronavirus outbreak?”

If you have an opinion about this, please comment on this post, on our Facebook page, or in an email to me at brandon@adirondackexplorer.org.

Thanks, and stay safe.

— Brandon Loomis, editor

About Brandon Loomis

Brandon Loomis is editor of the Adirondack Explorer.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. John says

    Based on the princess cruise ship it should be allowed to run its course. They were allowed to party and mingle as the ship ventilation system prevented individual quarantine. Of 3500 passengers, 700 got sick and six died. Only 1% of the sick or .2% of the entire ship. A truly large number if allowed to spread, but there would be significant overlap of dead from virus vs people who would have died anyway due to age and comorbidities.

  2. Denise Dramm says

    I think we should be working on a plan for June and beyond. Restaurants could be contacted so we have a list of businesses that can/will do take out. Hotels/motels/B&B’s could also be contacted for their protocol on dealing with safety of staff and guests, i.e., wiping handles and surfaces on a regular basis, etc. I do believe we should wait out April to see how things go, but a plan of action should be decided during this time. We have open spaces for people to enjoy, and there is no reason hiking, outdoor attractions, or drive to the top of Whiteface in your own car can’t be enjoyed and encouraged. However, once a plan is put in place, we would need to access the situation. Sincerely, Denise Placid Bay Inn, Lake Placid, NY

    • Beverly Stellges says

      However, my concern is our small hospitals. We are ramping up for an influx of Coronavirus patients especially if and when we can get more testing. Our hospitals will be taxed to the max and really don’t need a hiker with a broken ankle or a severe head wound to have to tax our health care workers even more. Plus those who would drive here would have to stop for gas and maybe food and potty breaks endangering those workers! Just saying!

  3. Sara says

    Sadly, I think we should stay home. It’s important to put the health of the community first. Some visitors would surely bring new infections with them.

    • Lillian Antoci says

      I deeply agree. Let us heal as a nation before we think of money or having fun. I love the Adirondack and camping there but not this year. I want to be safe as many may flock carrying the virus with them not knowing they have the virus. When the threat is over, I will be back. Stay safe.

  4. Johnathan Esper says

    The Adirondacks has a treasured history of being a place of well-being and cure, most notably between 1873 and 1945 when Saranac Lake became famous for it’s treatment of tuberculosis, which involved exposing patients to as much fresh air as possible under conditions of complete bed-rest. The Adirondack wilderness and clean air should also now provide an opptunity for people to get fresh and excersize through hiking and other no-contact activities, which is in keeping with social distancing. People in more urban areas cooped up for weeks or possibly months in their home are mentally going to start going crazy, and will need safe places like this to have balance in their life. All visitors should self-verify themselves as virus-free being coming to the Adirondacks of course. I continue to have families that have already been constrained to their own home for a week or two, but all healthy, be really relieved and excited at the opportunity to come up to stay in one of my vacation rental homes.

    • Beverly Stellges says

      And what about our very small hospitals who will be very busy but what happens to a hiker with a broken ankle or a head injury?? They have to be taken care of by our very busy health care workers!

  5. Tom D'Aquanni says

    Let’s see where we are in April, a month from now.

    By mid April the level of severity and the trajectory of this pandemic will be much clearer.

    At that point we can then do intelligent planning looking ahead to the summer.

  6. Ted Elsasser, PhD says

    Perhaps this time should be viewed as an opportunity. I certainly appreciate the physical and emotional benefits to experiencing the Adirondacks. As more and more folks want to experience this and see if “it’s for them” it does as we know put stress on the very elements that make this region what it is. This is even more so during the spring when the entire area again passed through mud season. Let’s turn this time of response into an experiment, albeit only “an n of 1”. If it turned out that by limiting use during mud season actually made the rest of the year more resistant to the effects of heavy use…what would that say about how we might better manage access…just thinking here!

  7. Boreas says

    In my opinion, the “Adirondacks” as a whole should never actively discourage tourism. There is plenty of Park to enable recreation without the need for social distancing concerns. In the HPW, the current state-mandated social distancing advisory coincides well with annual mud season advisories to stay off sensitive trails. That is a good thing.

    No one knows for sure, but I would guess social distancing will be less of a concern by the end of April to mid-May – especially if we can get personal protective equipment broadly available again. I would expect restaurants and services to be allowed by the state to function fairly normally again, assuming the demand is there. I do not feel localities within the Park should actively discourage visitation as an over-arching policy throughout the breakout, which could conceivably last more than a year. We simply need to use common sense based on current CDC information.

    • Lillian Antoci says

      I love the Adirondack and have been camping for many, many years. I understand that the Adirondack depends on summer visitors for their survival but not at this time. I am positive many who are flocking to their summer homes to escape the city may have the virus or be a carrier. Ad far as social distancing, IT DOES NOT WORK. I have seen people flocking in groups by the groves. They do not listen. FOrget about 6 feet apart. I know it will be hard but if we stop the spread now, the Adirondack will be stronger and more enjoyable in the future. We cannot enjoy it now as we would like too for fear of contracting the virus.

    • Lillian Antoci says

      What about campgrounds that are sighted to open soon? What about all those people who come up from the city and congregate at these campgrounds. Children play with other children and families attend park events and activities? Social distancing does not work. I understand parks are a place to relieve the stress and tension of being cooped up but you are putting those who live and work there at risk if they are carries and this virus has not been eliminated. I go camping every year but not this year. I am using my common sense as this virus may go on for a longer period of time then suggested.

      • Beverly Stellges says

        They are closed until April 30. To me it’s about patients going to our small hospitals!! Can’t express this enough!!!

  8. Char says

    Hi. I am a local. I know that the Adirondack communities need tourism to keep our little economies going. However, I know that a large part of our population is on the older side. And I also know that the medical facilities in the Adirondacks cannot handle a massive outbreak of COVID-19, if one comes (https://www.northcountrypublicradio.org/news/story/40873/20200318/north-country-hospitals-lack-icu-beds-and-ventilators-as-covid-19-epidemic-hits?fbclid=IwAR0J5FYiD7B2hpEu4FxEh9LKG0-TMR6f03Oyjnqx0ZRKWq5xp0dXUTfnwp4).

    I know that during this time of isolation and quarantine going outside is the perfect thing to do — but why not explore trails locally? If we’re all being encouraged to work from home, not go out to restaurants, bars etc. then why would we encourage people to travel to the Adirondacks, where only essential businesses are open??

    The Adirondacks aren’t going anywhere — those mountains aren’t going to move or change. And, it’s the beginning of mud season anyway, when people are encouraged to keep to low elevation trails.

    I believe that for the next month or two, we should ask people to be thoughtful and reconsider their trips to the Adirondacks. Reducing the amount of people coming to our small communities can help slow the spread of the virus in our small communities. After a month or two, let’s see where we all stand and go from there.

    • Nancy says

      I whole-heartedly agree with Char. The Adirondacks will be here when we are beyond this nightmare. As everywhere, people are out of work or working from home as in the entire state and most states. Most businesses are closed. All people have been told to stay home except for ‘essential’ workers. The Adirondacks are no exception. “We can’t go anywhere so we’re bored. Let’s go to the Adirondacks” does not apply. Vacation rentals should all be empty if the regulations are followed. Sadly, the owners of many of those rentals don’t live here so they only care about their incomes from the rentals. Stay home and wait just as we are.

    • Lillian Antoci says

      Thank You. I agree. The mountains will still be there when we recovery. I know there is a large older population as I have been throughout the park. Let keep them safe. Stay home and slow down the spread.

    • Susan says

      I agree. Our healthcare resources are stretched in “normal” times. Many of our healthcare workers work 2 jobs during the season, which would put them in contact with many people. I sure would hate to see our nursing homes, senior housing, etc be affected because of this. On the flip side, I don’t want to see my town close up because of lack of business. We need to figure some kind of balance, and think that will be determined by how the virus spreads and the timeline.

  9. c. micheels says

    Everyone MUST stay at home. This is no time to dicker around. Stay home take care of yourselves and your family. The added benefit for the Adirondack is that trails, and areas of heavy use will get a break from human traffic. As far as the economy goes… Ya know folks us Adirondacker’s have always been a rough and tumble bunch we will survive.

  10. Rancidray says

    Social distancing is not openly discouraging visitors to the Adirondacks. Social distancing is closing all the public restrooms, gas station restrooms or any restroom to which the public might have access.

  11. Todd Hazard says

    It is too early to have this discussion. They haven’t even accepted the reality that the Olympics need to be scrapped. The next two weeks will be telling. Social distancing is a must. We made 10 visits to the adks last year and social distanced every time. I have basically spent my entire adult life social distancing. Go outside enjoy the mountains keep your distance. Count your blessings it will be a long haul

    • Beverly Stellges says

      The small hospitals not being able to handle any influx of emergencies!! Last week an experienced local hiker, mt climber, and ice climber met a woman at the top in a fluffy long dress coat, high top sneakers, and one very small camelback for water! Go figure!

  12. Patrice says

    I own a second hike on Lake Champlain and I feel I should be able to visit and/or live in that home just as I live in my home in Saratoga County. We are seniors and we are self quarantining ourselves. If we drive to our lake house and stay indoors or on our deck, what is the harm?

    • Billy says

      Something like you described doesn’t have any real issues – you will be no better (or worse) off by staying in one house than in another, and any interactions needed in the travel between the two should be minimal and no more than you would staying in your current location and still having to get supplies for regular living.

  13. Chris K says

    The park actually belongs to all New Yorkers and it seems like we are creating an “Us against Them” attitude by even having this discussion. Brandon is a talented writer who has done wonders for the Adirondack Explorer, but I believe this topic should be avoided.

  14. Petra Weber says

    We need to discourage people now so we can hopefully move forward in June. But to do nothing now. Will be detrimental.

  15. Richard Harris says

    I think a small adjustment to the current messaging around the stay at home directive could help. The fact that it is open ended and we don’t know how long it will be for makes it difficult to manage and maybe even discourages compliance. If the instruction was to all be strict about staying at home until a set date (maybe 1st May?) and then review where we are then I think it would be received better. That will give us the best shot at minimising the virus and give us time to monitor the situation. We can always extend if we need to but if this is done with a clearer timeline for review points I really think this would help us all a lot.

  16. Nate Jeffery says

    There has been much lack of compassion and understanding concerning out of state cars parked at trailheads. I find this to be a form of localism and misdirected. What people are missing is this. Out of state college students have returned home to weather the pandemic with family. Many people who live and work here put off changing plates. Second home owners have chosen to isolate here instead of a city(you would too). The imuno compromised may be relocating to safer places. Family members travel to be available to care for at risk family. To direct anger and aggression at others in these times is uncalled for. We need to give people the benefit of the doubt, be compassionate and come 6 ft together not apart.

  17. Scott says

    So, I live in the exurbs outside NYC in Orange Co. and will be retiring in June. My wife and I have planned on coming up to my camp in Hamilton Co. and (mostly) staying until Fall. I would spend most of my time in the woods, on my bike, and in my canoe; away from others and socially distancing when I’m not.

    But now, I’m not so sure and have so many questions. Will the curve have been flattened by then? Will the North Country have been spared (I doubt it)? Should we self-quarantine for two weeks before coming up? Will we and other down-staters be welcome?

  18. David Gibson says

    The NYS Constitution mandates keeping and caring for our wild forests, forever. The people and the wildness of the Adirondack Park endure in all times. They offer beauty, wisdom, teaching and healing in this emergency.
    So, visit:
    • intentionally – make every visit, actual or symbolic, with greater intention and purpose.
    • conservatively – by practicing restraint, humility and common sense in your visit.
    • carefully – consider more how you and your animals impact others, large and small, human and more than human.
    • enduringly – use this time to recommit to the Park as a park, with enduring value, mission and potential
    • generously – continue giving to the many (more than 700) nonprofits at work in the Park and spending at businesses when you and they act responsibly.

  19. Bertha Rand says

    I think stay home means stay where you are. We don’t need people coming to their summer home from places that have confirmed cases. We don’t have large stores to get our basic necessities from so don’t come here to stock your summer home now. Therefore depleting the needs of the locals and forcing us to go further away from home to get our needs. Stay where you are and when the virus is gone come enjoy the Adirondacks.

  20. Naj Wikoff says

    Yes, we should discourage tourism and the return of seasonal residents for the immediate future. Our healthcare systems are modest in size; we don’t have sufficient staff and protective gear to support a spike in coronavirus cases plus it puts the people who serve them at great risk.

    Already, people fleeing the New York City for the further reaches of Long Island have brought the virus with them. We don’t need that here. The number of cases in the urban centers is still going up, I appreciate that’s tough for people living in those environments and that we are going through brutal economic times. But the best way to get through to the other side is through social distancing, staying in place, washing hands – the basics. We need to listen to and follow the advice of the medical experts.

  21. John Marona says

    Of course, listen to the governor, stay home or close to home. Secondary exposure is very likely, don’t spread this disease, especially in an area with limited health care options. This is the worst time of year to hike with high water crossings and lots of ice on the trails, and folks from outside the area don’t really understand the present trail conditions. Other than hiking, no tourist options are available at all. Fishing is not opened yet, paddling is not an option, etc.

  22. JoAnn Chmielowski says

    I agree with discouraging visitors and hikers from other places, even though that includes me! Where I live the health care system is extremely taxed and inadequate during a regular flu season and we have to travel far for specialists. I strongly agree with the recommendation.

  23. Jack Carney says

    Certainly, keep everything shut up like a drum until all clear sounded — i.e., when COVID tests, when we finally get them in sufficient quantities, indicate not only a flattening but a sharp downward trend in COVID curve in the Adks; when ICU’S in local hospitals are emptying of COVID patients; and when local primary care physicians report a sharp downturn in symptomatic patients, let our visitors return; but, one final caveat, they be assessed for symptoms at checkpoints north and south of blueline, a process that should begin sooner than later.

  24. Boreas says

    I am disturbed by how some residents are viewing part-time residents. A property owner that pays local taxes within the Park has a responsibility to maintain their property and the right to enjoy it. They are part-time residents. Their property and school taxes contribute to the infrastructure – including healthcare infrastructure – of the community where their second home resides. They are hardly visitors or tourists – they are an integral part of the community.

    Not everyone with a second home here lives in a CV hot zone. They may actually live in an area that has fewer cases than our ADK counties. Their main residence may be in NYC or South Dakota. A person or family can self-quarantine in the ADKs as effectively as anywhere. ALL people are supposed to be observing contagion precautions wherever they are. But it isn’t going to keep the virus from spreading. Our ADK hospitals are going to be overburdened just like every other hospital in the country when CV hits their area. It isn’t IF, it is WHEN.

    While I certainly believe all people should continue all contagion precautions, I think it is important who we consider “outsiders”. It seems to be OK for ADK residents to travel a great distance to a larger city to buy groceries, get their car fixed, see their doctor, then return home (possibly with the virus), but not the other way around. Can or should we really be asking others who have seasonal homes here to stay away? I can see trying to limit typical tourism to some extent, but not people who have an ongoing investment in our communities.

    We are ALL at risk, and it is likely most of us will contract the disease at some point. We got started too late to effectively reduce the spike of contagion we are now seeing downstate. Pandora’s box is open. But we need to remain civil at all cost and avoid viewing fellow residents as outsiders simply because they don’t live here year round. Try to show some empathy.

    • Vanessa says

      Thanks Boreas, this makes this seasonal visitor feel very “seen”.

      I think there is a very legitimate concern for the health care system that has morphed for some people into “localism” that is unproductive. I’m sad about that. But part of my work to try to be compassionate is to forgive that, because we’re all really stressed out.

      I hope to have an opportunity ASAP to be back in the woods proving that visitors are friendly and kind to locals 🙂

      But for now the best way to be friendly seems to be to stay away 🙁

  25. Jolyn says

    I have a second home in Essex County and the growing “Stay out of Essex County” movement is upsetting, divisive and hateful. The press release put out by the Essex County super didn’t help. It sowed more ignorance and added to the confusion in messaging.

  26. Al Worthington says

    If testing for COVID19 is in place, meaning generally available, and infected persons can be readily identified and appropriate action for each taken, bring on the summer! If not, nobody move. Stay home. Same as today or possibly worse.

  27. Donna Norris says

    Please don’t discourage visitors or make them feel unwelcome, as long as everyone follows the rules of distancing!
    The Adirondacks is a respite and has been through other diseases. It’s untouched beauty has the power to heal us in many ways.
    Thank you for all you do to preserve it!

  28. Celeste says

    No they should not be discovered but they should be encouraged to bring their own food and supplies so they don’t wipe out the local supply

  29. scott Bennett says

    Not sure why there is even a question about this. I think it’s pretty clear. If the situation still exists then you do what the Governor says. Period! Is people flocking here not going to spread the virus? I mean, common sense should prevail although unfortunately it usually doesn’t.
    But no..stay away!

  30. Fraser says

    Self Quarantine for 14 days. Social distance and be responsible. We are in this together. We will get thru this together. Let’s keep calm.

  31. Jim says

    I am an every few Summers’ refugee to the ADKs from Baltimore. I can no longer speak as a member of a property owning family, but I’ve long known how healing not only mentally but physically the park is for countless people. A great piece of my family history is my mom’s aunt’s miraculous recovery from TB living on the porch at a Saranac great camp, but that’s a fond century-old memory compared to modern pragmatism. Two factors should drive protocol: hospital resources (sorry, as mentioned above, spiritually uplifting time in woods and on water leaves plenty of room for unnecessary everyday injuries) and the Governor Cuomo’s authority to execute a comprehensive plan to blunt COVID-19 by all means possible. New York is almost fighting this with both hands tied. If Summer’s joys must wait until 2021, so be it.

  32. Debra Eisemann says

    Many people own second homes or vacation homes in the Adirondacks. I feel that these homeowners have every right to travel to and stay in these homes. Common sense would be for them to bring what they needed with them and to follow recommended steps as to self isolation and social distancing.

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