By Mike Lynch
On Sunday I 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 I arrived in St. Huberts at the lot at 8 a.m., I was greeted by a smiling AMR rep, Mike Ryan, who was asking drivers if they had permits. I said that I did, and he quickly asked for my name, checking me off a list he held in his hand.
From there, I proceeded to drive into the nearly empty parking lot, which had been reconfigured from the last time I had been there. There were several vehicles in the lot and two pairs of hikers chatting as they got geared up for their day’s hike.
After gathering my gear, I started talking to two men (the group of two women had left already). They had 46er patches on their backpacks and said they were planning on going up Gothics, one of numerous High Peaks that can be accessed via the conservation easement on the 7,000-acre AMR property. When I asked them about the permit system, they politely declined to speak, not wanting to wade into the debate.
But shortly after they left, a pair of men from New Jersey pulled into the lot. They seemed unfazed by the new parking system, and apparently had few issues with it. After a few minutes of talking, I left the lot, passing the two Gothics hikers who were now chatting with Mike Ryan.
I saw no others walking as I made my way along the road to the entrance to Lake Road, which is a roughly four-mile dirt road that has numerous trailheads off of it and leads to Lower Ausable Lake. The public isn’t allowed on Lower Ausable Lake, but they use the road to access hikes to places such as Dial, Nippletop, Bear Den, Indian Head and other hikes. Access to the lake is one of the perks to being a member of the Ausable Club, which owns the AMR land.
As I arrived at the trail register, a public safety officer popped out of a small building and politely asked my name and where I was heading.
From there, I walked down Lake Road, looking for hikers to talk with about the permit system, which had been put in place May 1 by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and AMR to manage the large crowds of hikers who had been showing up in recent years. On Lake Road, I found few people on the trails. Those I did run into seemed to be hiking to Rainbow Falls and Indian Head.
Most people said they didn’t have any major problems using the hiker reservation system that particular day, but said it did raise questions for the future.
Several people were concerned about the impact it would have on the long-term access to AMR lands and also what type of precedent it was setting for other public lands. Would similar permit systems follow in other areas of the park? How would that impact access to lands that had been traditionally first-come, first-serve?
Some hikers were concerned that people would need to sign up in advance to visit these lands and couldn’t simply show up late in the day for a short walk or trail run. Others wondered if the system would result in empty AMR parking lots throughout the season. After all, many of the people who had made reservations this weekend had been no-shows.
Several of the people I talked with offered to have their insights recorded and their thoughts can be heard by listening to the clips below.
I think in principle it is good to have a system because it does help keep track of usage… but I think it does create a barrier to access.
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“So far this morning it was pretty smooth. The lot was mostly empty when we rolled in at 8:30, which I’ve never seen before up here.”
“Having been in the White Mountains and parts of Maine, I have not seen the use here that I have in other parts of the country.”
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“I was really happy to find out today that they’re going to be putting in a gate that has a sensor so we’ll be able to get out after 7 o’clock, if needed,” – Ashley Karashay
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“It was kind of an unknown… We sort of found out about it by chance,” – William Truesdale