By MIKE LYNCH
The state announced this week that it plans to limit parking at busy trailheads in the High Peaks, but a leading environmental organization says it needs to take that plan one step further.
Adirondack Council says the state should implement a permit system that requires people to make parking reservations ahead of time at busy trailheads.
“Rather than having a permit to go onto the Forest Preserve, you would have a permit for a parking spot at the trailhead,” said Adirondack Council spokesman John Sheehan. “They would be numbered. You’d make a reservation online, or at a kiosk nearby, or one of the Northway exits.”
Last week, the state put down striped parking lines at the five Cascade parking areas, two parking areas near the Ridge Trail for Giant Mountain, and at the Round Pond trailhead parking area. It plans to paint additional lines at Chapel Pond, Ridge Trail West and Roaring Brook Falls. State police plan to enforce parking at these areas later in July. The state is also increasing the number of portable bathrooms along state Route 73, and installing information kiosks. The state’s efforts have been focused mainly on state Route 73 trailheads so far.
Large-scale changes include moving the Cascade Trailhead to the Mount Van Hoevenberg Olympic Sports Complex.
Adirondack Council is the second environmental group to call for a permit system to deal with overuse in the High Peaks. Last week, Adirondack Wild called for a wilderness permit system for users in the High Peaks Wilderness, including Boreas Ponds.
Both environmental groups referenced the DEC’s no-cost permit implemented at the Blue Hole in the Catskill Park. The Blue Hole is a popular swimming hole that has become overrun in recent years due to popularity gained on social media and the Internet. People must now get a permit to visit Blue Hole. The permits are free, must be acquired 24 hours in advance, and cannot be acquired more than a week in advance.
Sheehan said the parking permit for popular High Peaks trailheads should be free, and that there be a number of first-come, first-serve spots at the parking areas. He said if a lot is full, the reservation system should recommend alternative hikes in less popular areas.
“We would prefer this not carry a cost the hiker or camper or the person seeking access to the Forest Preserve, and there’s been a long tradition of there not being a monetary cost for that sort of thing. So we would strongly favor a system that did not require a fee,” he said. “It might not be able to fund itself. It would be something the state would do to protect its natural resources.”
The state also needs to hire more staff, including forest rangers, foresters and land managers to deal with popular areas, Sheehan said.
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