By Mike Lynch
The town of Keene and the Adirondack Mountain Club issued statements Friday asking hikers not to travel to the High Peaks region after the state announced solitary hiking is still a permitted activity under the new coronavirus guidelines.
On Sunday, they were joined by the Adirondack 46ers in asking hikers to stay home.
Parks across the state, including the Adirondacks, are still open to the public.
“In keeping with messaging shared by Governor Cuomo and New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation, ADK (Adirondack Mountain Club) is encouraging its members and supporters to stay home as much as possible and to limit unnecessary travel,” ADK Executive Director Michael Barrett said.
ADK facilities near Lake Placid are closed to the public, but their trailheads remain open.
The Town of Keene issued a statement similar to ADK’s.
“Don’t travel to hike. Our small town has limited EMS & hospital infrastructure. Any extra demand stresses the system,” the message on the Keene website states.
The statements came out Friday, the same day Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that solitary hiking is still a permitted activity under the coronavirus guidelines issued on Friday because it’s done for health reasons. Group activities in public are currently not allowed under the new guidelines and the state has directed people to avoid unnecessary travel.
“Maintain six feet of distance from others. If you have to go out in public for an essential activity like grocery shopping, keep six feet of distance between yourself and others. If you go outdoors to exercise, limit it to solitary activities,” said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a letter to New Yorkers Friday.
But Explorer clarified with DEC that the directive allows for hikers to get exercise with their immediate family. Hiking or recreating locally means staying within close proximity to your house.
“DEC encourages New Yorkers to recreate locally and use common sense,” says the state Department of Environmental Conservation website.
On Sunday, the Adirondack 46ers put out a statement asking hikers to give the High Peaks a break.
“While New York State is on PAUSE due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 46ers urgently recommend that people stay home! Take travel restrictions and social distancing seriously,” wrote 46ers President Siobhan Carney-Nesbitt.
She said people who need to get outside should take a walk in their neighborhood or do a low-risk nature walk near home. This should be done “to avoid unnecessary strain on DEC personnel and local healthcare facilities.”
The message comes one day after forest rangers rescued a woman who had been attempting to hike three High Peaks in one day, including Mount Marcy.
A few days earlier, there was a multi-day rescue in the Dix Mountain range in the High Peaks Wilderness. The rescue came at the same time as the state is deploying forest rangers to other parts of the state to help with the coronvirus outbreak, leaving the High Peaks region with only five rangers, a worry for a crew already feeling stretched thin.
“For those who aim to get outside, please be mindful that forest rangers and other first responders are faced with an enormous public safety concern right now and should not have resources taxed by ill-advised adventure,” said Barrett, in his statement.
ADK said are other factors to consider now, including icy and muddy trails that can be dangerous and unpredictable. DEC and other groups also generally recommend hikers undertake backcountry hikes in groups, which is currently not permitted under the new directive.
(Note: This article was updated Monday, March 23, with information from the Adirondack 46ers and a rescue mission on Mount Marcy that took place Saturday.)