Ongoing series explores strategies for welcoming, accessibility
Outdoor spaces saw extra love in 2020 and 2021, and the Adirondack Park was no exception. Even decades before the COVID-19 pandemic, people in the park talked about an increasing number of visitors and worried about impacts to the natural environment and the degradation of trails. These concerns have brought up challenging conversations around keeping the park a welcoming and inclusive place, collecting more data to learn baseline conditions and implementing visitor management actions when evidence shows they’re needed.
Different visitor management strategies are happening all over the world, and in 2021, the Explorer visited a few places outside of the park to see what’s working and what’s not.
This Solutions series began in November 2021 and rolled out through the summer of 2022.
We explored backcountry camping permits in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park, while checking out the permits in New York’s neighboring forest preserve, the Catskills. The Explorer continued its investigation into the use of various permit and reservation systems from Acadia National Park and Baxter State Park in Maine, to the Flume Gorge tickets at Franconia Notch State Park in New Hampshire, to the reservation system inside the Adirondack Park at the Adirondack Mountain Reserve.
Some worry management actions could be roadblocks for public spaces that should be accessible to all. As these conversations about managing visitors are happening, so are conversations about bringing more diversity to the Adirondack Park.
A July 2020 study by the Center for American Progress reported that communities of color are three times more likely than white communities to live in nature-deprived areas. About 70% of low-income communities in the U.S. live in such places. The Explorer spoke with groups inside and outside the park about the balance between developing management activities and building bridges to communities that face additional challenges visiting public spaces.
When implementing solutions for expanding access, some land managers are using shuttle systems, which also address traffic congestion. The state Department of Environmental Conservation, town of Keene and Essex County are also developing shuttle programs.
Stewards and educational centers are additional tools used at popular outdoor destinations. Informative websites, welcome centers and hiking coalitions are providing knowledge about Leave No Trace, an outdoor code of ethics. The Adirondacks have a long history of stewardship programs, particularly through the Adirondack Mountain Club. The National Park Service and New Hampshire’s Franconia Notch State Park have extensive steward networks.
The Explorer spoke with a panel of recreation experts this summer at the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Cascade Welcome Center in Lake Placid, talking through some of the management strategies in the High Peaks. The Explorer will continue to cover them as they evolve. — Gwendolyn Craig