“Crowding.” “Day use.” “Overuse.” “Traffic management.”
Whatever you want to call it — even if you just call it a lot of people enjoying nature — the effort to understand and plan for the rising number of people driving to and hiking in the High Peaks dominated discussions among Adirondack Park advocates, municipal officials and resource managers in 2019.
Other familiar topics also loomed large in park politics, including the Adirondack Park Agency’s leadership, progress on designating rail trails, new ideas for reducing road salt pollution, and financial woes concerning a controversial Tupper Lake resort development.
Some new controversies also erupted, such as what to do with park trail plans after a court ruling limiting tree cutting.
Here are the Adirondack Explorer’s Top 10 topics of 2019:
1. High Peaks use
New York State convened a series of “stakeholder” meetings to vet ideas, from new parking restrictions to hiker permits. Gov. Andrew Cuomo ultimately appointed an advisory committee now tasked with developing a comprehensive management strategy. Stay tuned. This one is likely to make our 2020 list as well.
- DEC launches initiative to tackle High Peaks issues
- Keene Valley looks to better educate throngs of High Peaks hikers
2. Adirondack Club and Resort
The long-planned and delayed Tupper Lake housing and resort development struggled through 2019 with building debts and doubts, until an investor who had bought the mortgage foreclosed at year’s end and — possibly — breathed new life into it.
- Creditors foreclose on stalled Tupper Lake resort development
- Big Tupper resort on hold after legal and tax debts
3. Adirondack Park Agency
An acting chairwoman quit, and the Senate refused to confirm a partial board slate nominated by the governor, all of which raised questions about the agency’s leadership and independence.
- Depleted Adirondack Park board leaves questions about management
- Adirondack Park chair quit in pay dispute
4. Tree Cutting
Who knew the dictionary could cause so much confusion in Adirondack land management? A court ruling about the definition of “timber” halted work on a snowmobile trail and has left other projects in limbo.
- Tree-cutting ruling keeps trail, parking projects in limbo
- Trail progress halts along with tree cutting after Article 14 decision
5. Road salt
The Adirondack Watershed Institute kept documenting the pollution problem surrounding state roads in the park, and state legislators took notice.
6. Climate change.
Albany enacted an ambitious agenda to fight climate change, but the effects of warming continued to become clearer on the land and in the water.
- Warming threatens to upend ecology on Adirondack lakes
- Ticks spread in the Adirondacks as funding to study them shrinks
7. Invasive species
New Yorkers pressed for more action against aquatic invaders in the park, and got one measure of relief with the closing of a loophole on two Lake George boat launches.
- Boat inspectors ramp up battle against invasive species
- State shuts Lake George gates after hours to prevent invasive species
8. Rail trails
It’s been a long time coming, but late in the year the state announced it could begin work on a Tupper Lake-Lake Placid trail by summer. Then the idea of another, from Saratoga to Newcomb, started to take shape.
- Tupper-Placid rail trail construction could start in spring
- More Adirondack rails considered for recreation
9. An ADK stalwart retires
He’s been the face and voice of the Adirondack Mountain Club for three decades. Now Neil Woodworth passes the director’s job to another attorney.
10. Snowmobile struggles
Nothing gets people excited quite like a snowmobile in the wild — but not in the same way for everyone. Motorized trail travel continued to divide Adirondackers in 2019.