The Adirondacks have been extremely popular for outdoor enthusiasts in the past few years, and overcrowding on some trails and the roads leading to them is a major concern. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has outlined additional plans to deal with traffic flow during what’s expected to be a very busy Columbus Day holiday.
The DEC and the New York State Department of Transportation plan to reduce the speed limit along Route 73 near Cascade Mountain and the Pitchoff Mountain and Roaring Brook Falls Trailheads. It will do the same on Route 3 at the Ampersand Mountain Trailhead. There will be increased patrols to enforce the new speed limits and parking regulations. DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos tells WAMC he is expecting large crowds in the Adirondacks during the Columbus Day weekend. “Usership in the Adirondacks has really spiked in the last three years and the numbers have become less sustainable than we would like. It’s a good problem to have with this many people who want to come but that means we have to manage that experience more closely and ensure that safety is taken into account on the roads; that we have appropriate personnel at the trailheads to advise people on what to wear, what not to wear and to ultimately help them find other places because this is an incredibly large park with so many things to do, so many mountains to climb, lakes, rivers, eetc that just one corridor doesn’t need to be your destination.”
Parking is expected to be at a premium so shuttles are planned. Essex County Board of Supervisors Chair Shaun Gilliland says the county is extending a winter season shuttle into the fall. “It has become an extreme safety issue with people parking and standing in the road. I’m just surprised so far that we haven’t had some really bad fatalities up in there. Hikers come up and they’re going out for what they expect to be a relaxing hike, or a vigorous hike, you know with not a lot of people. Probably the last thing on their mind is traffic control up here in the wild lands of the Adirondacks.”
The Mountaineer in Keene is a popular stop for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts planning outings in the Adirondacks. Owner Charlie Wise says people tend to head to the High Peaks because it’s an area they know or they’ve heard about. “When you get off the Northway and you come down Route 73 you’re right in it. And so that pressure is what we see on the roadsides and I think the challenge and the goal for everybody involved is to let people know that there’s more than just those easy jump off points to get into.”
Wise says his customers are looking for options outside of the High Peaks. “There definitely are people that are seeking those lower pressure areas. Even some of the areas that were considered lower pressure, like say the Sewards, just a few years ago you’ve got to race to get to that parking lot if you want to spend a day or a weekend in that range. So you know it’s a constant process and it’s also a function of the time of year. We’re just coming off the high season. But there will be continued pressure and traffic all the way through Columbus Day.”
Gilliland calls overcrowding a huge problem that is not going away. “There hasn’t been any strategic thinking in the long term in the Park of how we’re going to handle the movement of people who come to the Park. So all the measures that we’re taking right now, I mean that the state is taking right now, are stop gap and short term.”
The DEC is recommending visitors consider hiking in other areas of the Adirondacks such as the Giant Mountain, McKenzie, Sentinel Range and Hurricane Mountain wilderness areas.