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Adirondack Explorer

Monday, July 2, 2018

State announces initiatives to address overuse

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Foot traffic in the High Peaks has increased dramatically, as evidenced by the rise
in people signing the registers for the Van Hoevenberg Trail (which leads to Mount
Marcy) and the Cascade Mountain Trail. Also, the number of hikers joining the
Adirondack Forty-Sixers each year has skyrocketed in the past decade.
2016 ILLUSTRATION BY JERRY RUSSELL

The state announced several initiatives today to address issues related to overuse in the High Peaks.

The High Peaks, Dix, Giant and Hurricane Wildernesses, Baxter Mountain, and the Saranac Lake 6’er peaks are attracting an unprecedented number of users, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The increase in hikers, climbers and campers has resulted in dangerous driving conditions along the state Route 73 corridor from Chapel Pond to Cascade Mountain during peak days in the summer and fall. That’s because parking lots overflow and people park alongside the state highway. In addition, trails have become eroded, garbage has increased in some places, and search-and-rescue missions have gone up dramatically.

In an attempt to improve safety on Route 73 and decrease the impact on natural resources, the state has decided to take several actions. These actions are the result of four focus group meetings held this past winter to generate ideas and information, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The meetings were held in partnership with the towns of Keene and North Elba and involved a wide range of stakeholders. Actions will be implemented over the next two years. 

Actions along the Route 73 corridor are scheduled to start this week and are being implemented with state agency partners and municipalities. The first phase of actions include:

  • Striping parking spots in designated parking lots;
  •  Increasing the number of portable bathrooms along the corridor;
  • Installing kiosks along the corridor that provide information on nearby, under-utilized alternate hiking opportunities;
  • Installing electronic variable messaging boards along the corridor directing hikers to the kiosks:
  • Installing displays which provide information on nearby underutilized alternate hiking opportunities at two other locations:
  • King Phillips spring pull-off (Northway Exit 30)
  • Marcy Field in Keene
  • Olympic Regional Development Authority’s (ORDA) Mt. Van Hoevenberg Olympic Sports Complex
  • Northbound High Peaks Rest Area
  • Lake Placid Visitor Information Center

In addition, by the end of July, roadside parking will be prohibited in areas around parking spots and along the roadside in certain areas adjacent to roadside parking lots when necessary to improve line of sight for drivers. Limiting parking is an issue that has been criticized by members of the public, including climbers who are concerned about losing access to places such as Chapel Pond.

“The New York State Police will be working together with the Department of Environmental Conservation on the overuse issues on the Route 73 corridor. Troopers will be patrolling the area to ensure motorists are obeying the parking restrictions. Those who are not in compliance may be ticketed or their vehicles may be towed,” said state police Major John Tibbitts in a press release. 

This summer, DEC will launch a social media campaign to highlight experiences outside of the Adirondack High Peaks with information on safety, sustainable outdoor recreation (Leave No Trace), and trip planning tips. Additional strategies will build on continuing DEC efforts to promote sustainable recreation, including the highly successful pilot relocation of the trailheads for Cascade, Porter and Pitchoff (West) Mountains during Columbus Day weekend in 2017:

  • Pending approval of the High Peaks Wilderness complex amendment, DEC will construct a new, designed trail up Mt. Van Hoevenberg from the new trailhead in time to open Columbus Day weekend 2018.
  • In anticipation of Columbus Day weekend, DEC is working with partners to develop a plan to pilot a shuttle bus at the Mt. Van Hoevenberg Olympic Sports Complex.
  • Pending approval of the High Peaks Wilderness Complex Amendment, DEC will permanently move the Cascade Mountain Trailhead to ORDA’s Olympic Sports Complex and construct a new, sustainably designed trail up Cascade Mountain from the new trailhead, which is expected to be open in 2019.
  • A traffic study will be initiated to assess traffic patterns and usage of major travel corridors.
  • This summer, new volunteer campground ambassadors will distribute messages that encourage proper planning, preparation, and practices which facilitate safe, enjoyable, and low-impact outdoor recreation.
  • DEC is also working with partners to expand the presence of trailhead stewards; develop additional digital technology to assist the public in trip planning; and facilitate a voluntary dispersal of the recreating public by highlighting alternative recreation opportunities.

Read More

Adirondack climbers want voice in High Peaks plan

Parked cars on Route 73 create safety hazard

Controlling Crowds in the High Peaks

Beyond Peak Capacity

Mike Lynch

Mike Lynch is a staff writer and photographer for the nonprofit Adirondack Explorer. His favorite outdoor activities include paddling, hiking, fishing and backcountry skiing.

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