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Environmental Groups Ask Governor To Include Funds To Address Adirondack Recreational Overcrowding

August hikers in the Adirondacks crowd a trailhead (file)
Pat Bradley/WAMC
August hikers in the Adirondacks crowd a trailhead (file)

Environmental advocates in the Adirondacks are calling on New York’s governor to commit $10 million to address overuse of the most popular sections of the six million acre park.
Over the past few years the popularity of the Adirondacks, especially the High Peaks region, for hiking and outdoor recreation has seen explosive growth.  It has led to problems including a lack of and unsafe parking, and trail crowding.

Several environmental groups are asking Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo to include $10 million in his 2020-21 executive budget to target solutions.  Adirondack Council Spokesman John Sheehan says the state needs to invest in staffing and a comprehensive stewardship program.  “We’d love to see a comprehensive plan, something that essentially lays out what they’re going to do over the next, not just 12 months, but maybe next 5 or 10 years to try and address the problem. It’s not something that happened overnight. We’re not blaming this administration for the fact that we have overcrowding. In fact this is frankly a good problem to have. But we need to deal with the fact that it is causing some strain on the natural world that we depend upon for these visitors to come and enjoy and the natural world that we depend upon for cleaning our water and our air and making sure that we have open spaces to recreate in.”

State Senator Betty Little, a Republican from the 45th District, says she has always advocated for more money for the Adirondack region.  “For roads and bridges and all the things that we need things for. And the increased tourism in our region certainly is positive for many many reasons and we don’t want to turn people away. But we do need to learn how to accommodate the higher crowds especially on weekends and holidays. I’m not sure you know what the budget is going to look like but now is the time to be advocating for additional funding for our district.”

The Town of Keene is a focal point for much of the overcrowding as a gateway into the High Peaks region.  During the popular Columbus Day weekend, town board members joined Forest Rangers in trying to manage traffic and hikers.  Town Supervisor Joe Pete Wilson says short-term fixes are needed while complex longer term planning is accomplished.  “The infrastructure to handle the busy times is just totally inadequate. We’ve gone so long without sort of the incremental improvements to keep up with use that now we’re really behind and the user numbers are so high you know we need to really develop a total infrastructure system to handle it. And you know that is a big lift. The need is at such a fundamental level, you know the basic infrastructure, the staffing all of those things, we’ve got to address all of that.”

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation held a stakeholders meeting in July to discuss overuse management strategies.

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