About Gwendolyn Craig

Gwen is an award-winning journalist covering environmental policy for the Explorer since January 2020. She also takes photos and videos for the Explorer's magazine and website. She is a current member of the Legislative Correspondents Association of New York. Gwen has worked at various news outlets since 2015. Prior to moving to upstate New York, she worked for a D.C. Metro-area public relations firm, producing digital content for clients including the World Health Organization, the Low Income Investment Fund and Rights and Resources Initiative. She has a master's degree in journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She has bachelor's degrees in English and journalism, with a concentration in ecology and evolutionary biology, from the University of Connecticut. Gwen is also a part-time figure skating coach. Contact her at (518) 524-2902 or gwen@adirondackexplorer.org. Sign up for Gwen’s newsletter here.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Josh says

    The taxpayers of New York paid AMR $750,000 for the purchase of lands and the easement, yet AMR is dictating the terms of who can use the easement and when. This easement is a public right of way that the public is being prevented from using, except for local residents who get special privileges. Why doesn’t the shuttle bus go there and drop people off?

    • Dana says

      Where were these concerns when the state encouraged a 462% increase in foot traffic through AMR property over the years? AMR even increased parking years ago to help the situation for hikers. AMR does have the right (as is clearly stated above) to protect its property, but what was DEC doing to minimize damage to AMR trails and the resource? DEC was perfectly happy to keep kicking the can down the road for another 40 years. What other option did AMR have? DEC allowed the situation to fester for decades, and this was the result.

      • ADKBCSkier says

        What other option did the AMR have? They had the option to continue honoring their legal agreement with the tax payers of NYS, for one option. The debate should have stopped there. This was never, at any point about “safety” or “trail erosion.” It was 100% about optics and how the AMR doesn’t want “hiker trash” spoiling the scenery for its guests who paid $10k+ to sip tea on the deck in white linen outfits.

        Look no further than the shared leadership between AMR and the Adirondack Council to easily spot the agenda. Its not about “protecting our resources,” or “visitor safety,” its about elitism and exclusivity.

        • Boreas says

          Nonsense. My friends and I have always felt comfortable there over the last 40+ years – even before the easement. And a dirtier, sorrier group of hikers couldn’t be imagined. Just because you can’t play Frisbee on the golf greens or sit and drink beers on their front porch doesn’t mean the organization is anti-hiker. If so, why would they have increased hiker parking on their property decades ago? Roadside parking up to their entrance on the narrow road was a liability and risk for emergency vehicles getting through – just like ADK Loj. For many years hikers could actually ride their private bus to the Lakes.

          AMR has also done a great job of keeping the trails on their property in very good condition over the last 50 years despite heavy traffic – something DEC definitely cannot say. AMR also is not the ONLY access into the backcountry in the region. If you don’t want to park there, longer routes exist where you don’t need to make reservations during peak season. It is just the best option.

          Now if I walked into the main lodge in my stinking, muddy hiking clothes and asked for a membership application, I may have likely been viewed with some derision. Although once one of my group became ill on one of the mountains and got lost, they offered their porch/lobby for DEC and our use while the search/rescue entailed. Its membership requirements are likely still pretty stringent, if one wants to call those requirements elitist or discriminatory, I won’t argue. But that is much different from outdoor enthusiasts respectfully enjoying the trailhead access being reviled as you suggest. I never got that impression at all with any members I had conversations with along the Lake Road. While there are people everywhere who may look askance at a stinky, sweaty, muddy hiker, I feel it is unfair to ascribe this behavior to the AMR as an organization.

  2. Contrarian says

    Very pleased with the system. It adds some much needed equity of access to the property. No longer necessary are the Hunger Games of other trailheads where only those privileged enough to be able to get there at 6 am are permitted to use it.

    Contrary to the complaint above, anyone can use the easement property. Just not everyone all at the same time. I’m sure most people find that eminently reasonable and not at odds with the terms of the easement.

  3. Bob Meyer says

    As those who know my previous comments and even an It’s Debatable article in the Explorer & Almanack know, I’m not a big fan of permits before other remedies are really tested. The legality is questionable. As noted above, even the National Park Service is changing its policy on permits in some of its parks. However, if the permit system is going to remain it needs to be modified and improved to better serve the public.
    To call it a parking permit is disingenuous to say the least.
    Finally, as someone who has hiked every trail leading from the AMR it’s obvious that the trails on their land (below 2000′) are almost all in really good shape. The issues of erosion and bad/old school design occur higher up on Forest Preserve land.

  4. jesse gigandet says

    I’m not entirely opposed to this reservation system, but I have a few significant issues with it.

    1. There are not enough parking passes being issued. Period. This parking lot allows access to some of the most pristine hiking in the Adirondacks, including trails to Upper and Lower Wolfjaws, Armstrong, Gothics, Sawteeth, Ausable Lake, Indian Head, Fish Hawk Cliffs, Nipple Top, Dial, Bear Den, Gill Brook Trail, Ladies Mile, Bear Den, Round Pond and Noonmark. 70 cars isn’t nearly enough for almost 20 hiking destinations. It’s also not safe – this past summer I hiked the Gothics, Armstrong, Wolfjaws loop and only saw 4 other hikers the entire day.

    2. This reservation system doesn’t apply to guests and members of the AMR. If this is going to be a mandate from the state DEC, the reservation systems should apply to everyone, or no one. I realize they’ve paid for their homes on the property – but the right-of-way for all hikers was an agreement/bailout with the state to avoid bankruptcy for the AMR – they should not be the “gatekeepers”. If it becomes a mandate by the state, the parking lot should be maintained by the AMR, the access to the hiking should be the DEC. This effort by the AMR was ONLY to keep this to themselves, and limit outsiders.

    3. It’s almost impossible to get a reservation unless it’s made within an hour or two after the access is opened up. This will only be mitigated when more hikers are allowed in. As it is now, the 70 cars the AMR allows (for access to almost 20 destinations) is actually less cars than the parking at Cascade and Porter sees in a single day. How is this fair?

    • swamps says

      “As it is now, the 70 cars the AMR allows (for access to almost 20 destinations) is actually less cars than the parking at Cascade and Porter sees in a single day. How is this fair?”

      Per the easement, the AMR is only legally required to provide 20 spaces. As part of the current system they provide **70**. As a reference, the Garden parking in Keene provides only ~40 for a similar number of destinations. Perhaps I am missing it, but the Garden parking area does not get 1/10th the grousing that the AMR parking does.

      I find the constant chorus that the AMR wants to minimize hikers to be inaccurate. It would be better said that they want to avoid a circus free for all. If the AMR’s only focus was to minimize outsiders as you and others seem to claim they would simply provide the bare minimum 20 spaces and then drag their feet in other ways. But the reality is that they have provided more than double the minimum parking for years before this system was implemented. To go back further, they freely let hikers access their lands before the hiker easement was even created.

      • gebby says

        But there is another way to access the Garden, the shuttle system from Marcy Field. No drop offs allowed at the Ausable Club. Don’t kid yourself. They get this “pilot” system to be permanent, the next thing you’ll see them do, is drop the parking down to the minimum required per the easement.

        • swamps says

          The shuttle system from Marcy Field operated weekends only for 3 months in 2022. That is not all that great an alternative. The AMR permit system is not even in place for half the year! Past that, there are also other ways to access the AMR land and surrounding peaks.

          As for your prediction, I will happily bet that the AMR does no such thing. If anything I can see the lot size and/or number of reservations increasing. Again, they provided 3x the legally required parking for years and years.

  5. Lucas says

    Page 4 of the FAQ on the hikeamr.org website clearly states, in no uncertain terms, “This is not a permit system” but the caption to one of your photos says “AMR public safety officer Mitch Ryan was on duty May 2, 2021, checking permits for hikers.”

    It’d be great if someone could clarify how a parking reservation system that prohibits not only unreserved vehicles, but also walk-ins and bicycles is different from a permit system.

    Their FAQ also states: “You cannot park elsewhere and walk into AMR without a parking reservation.” If I’m not parking on their property, why would I need to make a parking reservation?
    If the issue is limited parking, solve for that. If the issue is too many people on the trails, then solve for that. Currently there is no difference between a single hiker who parked at Marcy Field and biked to AMR versus a minivan with 7 passengers. Both users would need a single parking reservation, despite the fact that one is not parking at AMR and has minimal trail impact while the other is parking a vehicle on AMR property and would cause 7x the wear and tear.

  6. Josh says

    The fact is the existing system was created to limit the number of people hiking across the AMR property because they don’t want people there. There is zero evidence the trails in that area are being impacted worse than other much busier areas, and if safety was truly the concern why not just ban all parking and allow all hikers to access the trailhead via the shuttle bus system? No study of either safety or environmental degradation was done and no evidence was presented other than AMR claims of hiker numbers. While at the same time much worse problems are well documented at other trailheads, like at the Adirondack Loj. Fake problems, fake solution, fake equity, fake claims of success. How many people, like myself, tried to get reservations and were unable to at the few times I could go there? It is hard to imagine it is legal when they allow local people special privileges to access what is a state easement, and therefore should be equally accessible to all.

    • Boreas says

      No one is stopping anyone from challenging the AMR/DEC in court. Rather than opponents simply repeating it is “illegal” without an assessment by the courts is just layman’s opinion and folly. As of yet, no one has taken up the challenge to sue AMR/DEC. Is there a reason for that?

      • ADKBCSkier says

        1: there certainly are legal challenges but they’re still in the crawl/walk phase because its pretty hard to take on a wealthy pay-to-play which shares is leadership with a wealthy and powerful lobby group who is operating semi-autonomously with NYS’ blessing and has granted itself the authority to be the voice all things ADK in the region’s media publications.

        2: “layman’s opinion and folly” is wrong. The legality is actually quite simple to see by reading the agreement between NYS and the AMR. When the easement was “gifted” to NYS it became publicly accessible land, meaning the public now has the right to oversight. AMR did not provide substantial or even real evidence of why they closed the public access for “environmental concerns” when no environmental impact has been published for public review. Why isn’t this presently being aggressively challenged in court”? See #1.

        • Boreas says

          You need to read the entire easement agreement, not just cherry-pick the parts you like. Both parties agreed that the resource was paramount, and either party can place restrictions on usage if it is becoming damaging to the resource, if both parties agree. Now DEC may not have been fully on board with a seasonal reservation system, they also did not stop it – it is an interim trial after all. The agreement to what entails damage and risk are between DEC and AMR, not the general hiking community or other stakeholders not mentioned in the easement. I never saw any language in the easement regarding “public oversight” – whatever that may be.

          The next year or so should afford the opportunity for any legal challenges. After all, we don’t know for a fact what plan(s) will be implemented.

      • swamps says

        I have noticed this too – plenty of folks who are dead certain this is illegal and yet not a single legal challenge has been made public and certainly none have been successful. Somehow all of the legal experts on social media and comment sections know more than the lawyers for the DEC and AMR who were almost certainly involved in the process.

        I find it telling to look at the tone and language of the more vocal naysayers. These comments invariably focus on A. a class difference between the AMR/members and the hiking public or B. the perceived illegality of the current system. It must be easier to rally people when the issue is some sort of class warfare issue or ‘fighting for your rights against the man’ rather than ‘oh it is now a little different/harder to hike how i want and when i want’.

  7. Paul says

    Like with all these places…. Why don’t they just enforce parking regulations? That should be the limitation on how many people can use it at the same time. I see the state police and the dec law enforcement people drive past all the people parked illegally at the ampersand/middle Saranac trail heads all summer long??? I don’t think all this other stuff is necessary. The state (getting cheered on by environmental groups) buys up all this other land that nobody really cares about using. Instead of buying all that just use the funds to enforce the rules for what we already have.

    • Boreas says

      Paul,

      Obviously this was the plan for half a century at most trailheads. But ask yourself honestly, which would be more cost effective and conducive to tourism – strict first-come-first-served parking limitations with all others being towed, or a reservation system? Handing out tickets to cars illegally parked would rapidly just become the charge for a day’s hike and not eliminate any safety issues.

      Parking lot restrictions still work fairly well for many trailheads throughout the Park, but what to do with the ones that are habitually overcrowded and perhaps unsafe during peak season? The reservation system is not ideal, but is there an option out there that will make all stakeholders happy? No.

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