Hiker safety initiatives planned this summer in Adirondacks
New York state and regional officials were in Keene Monday to discuss initiatives planned for the upcoming hiking season in the Adirondacks and Catskills.
The Route 73 corridor in the Town of Keene is a primary entry point to Adirondack High Peaks hiking trails. New York state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said visitation exploded during the pandemic and continues to increase.
“Welcome to the Adirondacks. This is New York’s Yellowstone. Beautiful, remote, protected, pristine. You see the incredible visitation even pre-pandemic, you know a 22 percent increase to the Adirondacks and the Catskills over the course of the last ten years and then during the pandemic of course we know that the numbers exploded. So of course we saw huge traffic here in the Adirondacks and down in the Catskills.”
The trails’ booming popularity is vital to the area economy but it has led to a number of challenges regarding public safety and impacts to the front and back country. In preparation for what is expected to be a significant hiking season this year, Seggos says the DEC is announcing a number of new and renewed strategies to address sustainability and safety.
“Public safety really begins with the visitor. These are not areas to be trifled with. These are very remote wild places and if you don’t go into the woods prepared you’re really asking for trouble or worse. On the Road. You can see these beautiful shuttles that enable, that transport bikes as well, and these will bring people from parking areas to trailheads ultimately keeping these dangerous parking situations in check. A second one is continuing the pilot parking reservation system at AMR and of course there’s an education campaign which never ends.”
The Adirondack Mountain Reserve, or AMR, is working with the DEC on the second year of a parking reservation system to ease crowding along the Route 73 corridor. General Manager John Schuler says the point of the initiatives is the sustainability of the Adirondacks.
“All of us here are stewards of these lands for today, tomorrow and forever. And as Basil said it’s all about education. It’s about education for safety. It’s about safety along Route 73. It’s about access, providing safe access for everybody that comes and enjoys this area.”
The state and Essex County are investing in two new shuttle buses, bringing the total to four, to bring hikers from designated parking areas to trail heads in order to relieve overcrowded and illegal parking in the Route 73 corridor. Board of Supervisors Chair Shaun Gilliland says it’s one of several initiatives Essex County is partnering with the state on to protect the Adirondacks.
“Essex County, one of two of the counties fully within the Adirondack Park. Our future is melding and being symbiotic with economic prosperity through the safe and well managed preservation of this pristine environment we have.”
Adirondack Mountain Club Deputy Executive Director Julia Goren says the group is thrilled by the initiatives the state is expanding or implementing this summer.
“We’re thrilled to announce that we will be working in partnership with the state to have front country stewards at our new Cascade Welcome Center this coming summer and we look forward to opening those doors very soon to the public so that we can greet those folks as they’re coming along Route 73 and share some of that message and help spread this important message of how to recreate responsibly and spread stewardship of this place.”
Many of the initiatives are being funded through the state’s Environmental Protection Fund.