AMR permit system enters second year
By Gwendolyn Craig
A reservation system tested last year at the Adirondack Mountain Reserve in Keene will resume May 1 with no changes, state officials announced today.
Those wishing to hike on the AMR’s 27 miles of trails and pathways to popular High Peaks-area destinations will need an online account at hikeamr.org to reserve one of 70 daily spots.
The reserve is the gateway to about a dozen High Peaks including Gothics, Lower and Upper Wolfjaw, Dial and Nippletop. It is also used to access smaller mountains, like Round and Noonmark, and hikes to waterfalls and other scenic spots. The reserve is 7,000 acres privately owned by trustees, who are also members of the Ausable Club. A foot traffic easement allows for the public to hike, ski and snowshoe on marked areas of the property, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s website.
Though the AMR trustees and DEC are calling the pilot program a “parking reservation,” anyone getting dropped off or arriving by bicycle must also have a reservation. Only those with a Greyhound or Trailways bus ticket from within the past 24 hours may enter without a reservation.
Free reservations can be made starting at noon up to two weeks in advance and at minimum 12 hours the day before. One reservation accommodates up to eight people. The hikeamr.org website will open for reservations starting April 17. The system will be in place May 1 to Oct. 31.
In a joint statement, the DEC and AMR trustees did not announce any changes to the reservation system this year. They did highlight adjustments made in 2021, including the installation of an automatic one-way gate to allow for later departures and email reminders of reservations.
When the DEC announced the program last year, it was intended “to provide reliable access and address public safety along a particularly crowded stretch of Route 73 and Ausable Road,” according to DEC’s website. AMR trustees also told the Adirondack Explorer it was intended to protect the natural resources.
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said the DEC put together the second year of the reservation program with “valuable input shared by hikers, local leaders, and other stakeholders committed to making the Adirondacks safer and more accessible.” AMR General Manager John Schuler also said last year’s reservation system improved safety along Route 73, provided “fair and equitable access to parking for all levels of the hiking community” and protected the lands.
The inaugural system saw 16,000 reservations and 21,000 users, DEC said. About 14,200 registrations were New Yorkers and 6,600 were from out-of-state. About 113 Canadians registered, though DEC and AMR officials said they expect that to increase as coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
The officials noted the system helped distribute visitor numbers more equally throughout the week, “reducing the heavy use typically experienced on weekends or holidays.” Illegal parking on Route 73 was also reduced as was traffic congestion.
Early last May, multimedia reporter Mike Lynch visited the Adirondack Mountain Reserve to test out the new pilot hiking permit reservation system and get some input from some of its first users.
When the Explorer asked users their thoughts on the reservation system last year, some said they appreciated the assurance of a parking spot. Others were caught off guard and arrived without one, though they were able to hop on another person’s. Others suggested there should be a few same-day reservations.
DEC and AMR officials did not respond to the Explorer’s question about why there were no same-day reservations.
“DEC and AMR continue to work together to adaptively manage the pilot to improve public safety, ensure equitable access, and promote sustainable use of this popular hiking destination,” the news release said.
Update: More permit questions answered
Editor’s note: Gwendolyn Craig received some answers to some additional questions that came from this week’s announcement.
DEC and AMR are waiting to assess the potential impacts of the opening of Canadian border crossings prior to proposing changes to the program. Last year was a great start, but probably not a true indication of what we’ll see when we get back closer to traditional peak demand, much of which comes from Canada.
AMR and DEC made changes last year throughout the inaugural season to reduce no-shows and we look forward to seeing how this season goes with a full implementation of those changes prior to considering opening up same-day reservations. We will evaluate the effectiveness of these changes in improving no-show rates and simultaneously, will continue to listen to users and the community and consider additional options and adapt as necessary.
While we don’t have scientific data at this point, anecdotally we received feedback from many people directly and on social media that out-of-state hikers and people who live farther away felt they had better access to the peaks through the AMR gate and having a parking spot reserved.
For planning in advance, the hiking public that does not have internet access can always go to a local public library to access the internet. Another option is to send a letter to Adirondack Mountain Reserve, Attention: Hiker Safety, 137 Ausable Road, Keene Valley, NY 12943 and we will grant them access. The letter must be received prior to your arrival. It may be best to send with tracking information.
Part of the reason we implemented the parking reservation system is to alleviate traffic and public safety issues in the Route 73 corridor. To ensure it is inclusive to hikers not traveling by car, the program is open to those who may have traveled by bus or other means. If we allowed for everyone to just drop off hikers, it wouldn’t do much to address traffic in that you’d have people backed up trying to get into and out of Ausable Road. That would defeat the purpose of the parking reservation system in the first place. It includes those being dropped off who may have traveled to the region via bus, etc.
DEC partnered with SUNY ESF to assess visitor experience, recreational interests, and other factors. Data from last year is being finalized and additional information will be collected this year. Results will be shared once the study is completed.