By MIKE LYNCH
A new hiker shuttle will run between Lake Placid and Wilmington this fall as part of the continuing effort to divert people from popular High Peaks trails.
The shuttle will run on weekends from Friday to Sunday this fall from Lake Placid to Wilmington, starting Sept. 13 and continuing through Columbus Day weekend. The free shuttle will stop at the trailheads for Whiteface Landing, Copperas Pond, Bear Den Mountain and Whiteface Mountain ski lodge. It will pick people up in Lake Placid at Mirror Lake Park and Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort.
Willsboro Supervisor Shaun Gilliland, who is the chairman for Essex County Board of Supervisors, said Essex County is paying for the shuttle and suggested the idea to state Department of Environmental Conservation. The shuttle is being run in collaboration with the DEC, Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, and the Olympic Regional Development Authority. The idea came after a July meeting that DEC had in Keene with stakeholders to address hiking overcrowding issues.
Gilliland said the shuttle bus is the same one that runs during the ski season, and if successful this fall, it could be used next summer and fall.
“What we’re trying to do is to essentially (alleviate) the pressure on Route 73 by offering access and information on other hiking venues,” Gilliland said.
Keene supervisor Joe Pete Wilson applauded the shuttle idea and said it was a “well-thought out pilot.”
The announcement of the shuttle bus comes just days after an extremely busy Labor Day weekend on trails in the Keene and Lake Placid region.
“This weekend. It was just overwhelming,” Wilson said. “This weekend, there were cars – dozens and dozens and dozens and dozens – illegally parked on 73, on Ausable Club Road … . This weekend there was just no way to control it,” Wilson said.
Wilson and Gilliland both said that while this bus is a good step, more still needs to be done to address issues related to the increasing numbers of hikers at popular High Peaks trailheads.
Wilson said he would like the different agencies and organizations working on the problem to create a comprehensive plan that takes into account all the different facets of this complex issue.
For instance, he said, “if we’ve got a shuttle running from Lake Placid to Wilmington, how does it tie into the Keene shuttle? How does that tie with transportation out of Mount Van Hoevenberg?”
He said it’s time to take all the little ideas and create a “functioning overall system.”