By Brandon Loomis
Hikers who tested the Adirondack Mountain Reserve’s hiking reservation system on its first day arrived to a mostly empty parking lot and a brilliantly sunny day on the trails.
State and club officials said all 70 permits slotted for Saturday had been reserved online, but a late-season snowstorm on Friday may have altered some hikers’ High Peaks plans. The lot, near the southeast end of Ausable Road in St. Huberts, held fewer than 20 vehicles by mid-afternoon.
Saratoga hiker Dave Pawlick hoped no-shows won’t become the norm, unless the hikers who change plans cancel far enough in advance for others to take their spots. The private reserve’s new system, a first for limiting potential hikers who can cross club land to reach public trails, assures visitors of a spot – but only if they beat others to the website to secure permits up to two weeks out.
“There’s a lot of days where you look out (on the site) and they’re grayed out,” said Pawlick, who hiked Rainbow Falls and Indian Head on Saturday.
He had made his free reservation on the website’s first day of operation, and found that it calmed his usual rush to reach the High Peaks on a weekend. On previous Saturdays, he might have arrived at 5 a.m. to beat the competition to a parking spot.
“I’m an early bird,” he said.
On Saturday, though, with reservation confirmation in hand and a relatively short mud-season hike ahead of him, he pulled in from State Route 73 at 8:30.
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That was part of the plan when New York State agreed to this reservation “pilot project,” said Katie Petronis, deputy commission of natural resources for the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Although the reserve is private land, owned by members of the Ausable Club, it carries a longstanding conservation easement through which the state secured public access to the popular trails beyond it.
Making a reservation – as opposed to hoping and jockeying for a parking spot – should give hikers “some security of trip planning that they don’t normally have in the High Peaks,” Petronis said.
Hikers making a reservation must select an open time slot between 5 a.m. and 3 p.m., or choose one of the overnight slots for camping on state land beyond the reserve – a scheduling system that some had bristled at in the prodigious online chatter leading up to Saturday’s opening. There are a handful of slots each day at 5 a.m., when the lot opens, and many hikers want that early start for long hikes, Ausable Club General Manager John Schuler acknowledged.
The slots are only suggested arrival times, though, Schuler said, to discourage motorists from arriving together and creating Route 73 bottlenecks or safety hazards. The reservation is good for the day, he said, and someone with a later slot won’t be turned away if they arrive when the gate opens.
The state is also considering public complaints about the lot’s 7 p.m. closure, Petronis said, and will soon announce a change for after-hours departures.
“Indian Head is a pretty sweet spot to look at the Milky Way,” Schuler said, again acknowledging the public’s interest in early and late hikes.
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Officials also have changed the maximum number of hikers per reservation from six to eight, Petronis said, to ease the process for guides and camps that deliver hikers in 15-passenger vans. Now they’ll need to secure two permits instead of three for a full van.
The system’s opening follows the recent placement of steel posts blocking nearby roadside parking. Petronis said the state will work on finding a solution for rock climbers who fear this will force hikers to occupy a pull-off that they normally use. The closures were planned with the state Department of Transportation to reduce traffic danger, she said.
Keene Town Supervisor Joe Pete Wilson Jr. agreed that the strip of highway, with a hill descending to the turnoff to Adirondack Mountain Reserve lot, had become too hazardous.
“The DEC is in a bind,” he said, and will anger some people by restricting parking, but will risk motorist or pedestrian fatalities if it does nothing.
The combination of roadside barriers and reserved parking should help, he said. Testing them out now, while the usual spring wave of Canadian hikers is blocked by the COVID-19 border closure, makes sense.
“It’s a good way to ease into it,” he said.
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I think there should be a confirm system hrs prior to arrival so if you dont confirm you forfiet spot for someone else to be able to call like a no show list.
What an embarrassment – the DEC should be ashamed of themselves. There were 50 safe places to park off route 73 that just sat there unused all day, but we’re supposed to believe that this is all about traffic safety, right? At least Willie Janeway and the members of the Ausable Club will be happy.
Todd Eastman says
This system is A fool’ mission…
… as safety is the stated reason for limiting parking, the DEC and the DOT could have changed the speed limit from Malfunction Junction to Keene or some spot l closer to Lake Placid to 40mph.
This stretch of road is scenic with drivers frequently going slowly; the time lost by changing the speed limit would be insignificant.
Could mesh with a salt reduction policy…
yes! Doing a traffic study or at the least debating / considering a speed limit reduction would have been a very logical step in the progress. Has anyone read thru the report to see if they did that? I don’t think they did, but I can’t stomach reading that lengthy BS report.
In other words no-shows can take all the reservations, effectively blocking many people who might want one of them. The goal to almost eliminate access appears to have been achieved.
Todd Eastman says
Yup, fool’s mission hidden in polic y-speak…
Murray's Rush says
If this isn’t about limiting total number of hikers accessing public land through private property via a public easement, then why does a single 15 passenger van, taking up a single parking spot, require two (formerly 3!) of these supposed “parking” reservations? Why does a single bicycle, parked on a dedicated bike rack and not occupying a parking space, require a standalone reservation and thus deny access to a vehicle and it’s up to 8 occupants which could otherwise utilize the now empty parking space? Why not allow walk-ins, who aren’t using a parking space in any fashion, unless they have a bus ticket? The pedestrian safety argument goes out the window with the bus ticket exemption. Those people are going to have to walk miles down 73 from the diner to access their hike. Why are locals being given special exemptions to this “we swear it’s not a permit” system while the rest of the states taxpayers are being denied access to public lands?
ADK Camper says
Can’t wait for a lawsuit to take this out.
Lou Harv says
I used the reservation system and it worked fine for me. I understand that some people aren’t going to like change, but this was long overdue. Now I don’t have to get up at 4 AM to try and get a parking space. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve arrived to find a full parking lot. I live about 1 1/2 hours away and knowing that I’ll have a spot guaranteed is much better. This system is new, it’s going to take time to improve, but simply saying “I don’t like, I never will” isn’t the answer. Let’s give them time to work out the kinks and see if it can’t be improved rather than gathering our torches and pitch forks and forming an angry mob.
rest of story says
I don’t think you understand the whole picture, I’m glad this worked out for you since you have a long drive and I agree it might be nice to not have to get there so early. I’ve run into that same problem myself. But it’s not just this one issue that has everyone upset with the DEC, the ADK club, the AMR and APA, etc. There are a whole lot of other issues that many, many hikers are upset with by what has been going on, and this was one of their first steps to address all of the issues they have been talking about for quite a while, whether they really are an issue or not. For example, many are upset about them removing parking spots along the roads when the parking was already severely limited. So now it has become a very serious problem for anyone who likes to hike a lot, especially on weekends. And we don’t even have the Canadians back yet. So we read all of these stories and we can’t believe the steps they are taking and what they have been talking about. They need to do the opposite of what they’re doing, They need to build parking lots that will accommodate maybe 10 times more than the current capacity. They also need to hire more Rangers and other staff, they need to re-build the trails, and they need to reduce speed limits instead of putting up dangerous parking spot closing hardware and let us park along the roads like we have done safely for many years. (unless they build lots). Many people see these steps as commonsense instead of “driving people away” which they have been doing, either in actions or in reports of what they have planned,
Boy you really miss the point. Crowds are not only ruining the trails and endangered alpine plants but also the experience.
I’m not missing any points, I catch every single one. The crowds aren’t ruining the trails. The poor design of the trails are ruining the trails. Sustainably designed trails are the new benchmark, they have been for a very long time (decades). The high peaks supposedly have built one of these sustainable trails at Cascade but it’s not open yet. It was supposed to open over a year ago, along with the new trailhead parking lot. Instead of finishing that up, a whole lot of funding went to ORDA instead of the high peaks. Apparently Whiteface ski center and all of the other venues need the funding more than the high peaks. I guess they just want to continue to rely on the 46ers to do all of the trail work and lean to building ect for free, like they have been doing for half a century. And about crowds ruining your experience, maybe you should just stay at home if you don’t want to be around other people. Many of us enjoy the camaraderie and safety in numbers of this LIGHTLY used resource.