The Open Space Institute has announced that it will invest a million dollars in its property at the southern edge of the Adirondack High Peaks. The goal is to provide an alternative entry point and ease overcrowding on other popular trails.
In 2003 the Open Space Institute bought the 10,000-acre Tahawus tract near the Town of Newcomb. The group transferred all but 212 acres to the state and is now improving the historic structures on the site and trailhead access leading to the High Peaks from the south. President and CEO Kim Elliman says while the overcrowding issue is a factor, there was always a long-term plan to make the property a hub for access. “The urgency, the immediacy and the need has increased over time and it’s certainly affected the design of what we will do there and our push to dedicate money to build it. I think that the uptick since 2016 of use of all parks, but let alone the Adirondack Park, has really put in stark or dramatic contrast what has to be done to offset some of the overcrowding at other trailheads.”
The Tahawus property includes the headwaters of the Hudson River, Henderson Lake and an 1850’s era iron ore blast furnace. The MacNaughton Cottage is where Teddy Roosevelt began his midnight ride in 1901 after President McKinley was shot. Elliman says along with improving those they are adding more trails and hiker amenities. “What we are going to do now is build a bigger parking lot, create more trails, do a better interpretation of the Lake Henderson-headwaters of the Hudson. We will have outfitters. We’ll have a ranger station. We’ll have bathrooms. So it’s sort of ratcheting up the accessibility and the usability by the public.”
Recreational use of the Adirondack backcountry particularly in the High Peaks is surging, and overcrowding is a concern especially along the northern trails to the High Peaks region. This has led to efforts to redirect hikers. Adirondack Council Executive Director Willie Janeway praises the Open Space Institute effort to attract hikers to alternative southern trailheads. “The overuse of certain areas of in the High Peaks at certain times of the year is destroying and negatively impacting the wilderness experience that visitors have and are threatening visitor safety. What’s needed is a comprehensive plan and a comprehensive approach that includes more people doing traditional ranger work, more trail crews, and better management and infrastructure at the trail heads. So the Open Space Institute investment is a really important piece of that.”
Adirondack Mountain Club Executive Director Neil Woodworth is working with a number of stakeholders on overcrowding. “It’s going to have to be a broader effort and for the last few weeks we’ve been meeting with stakeholders including the owners of hotels and B&B’s and different people who interact with people who are new to the High Peaks to get them to try new locations.”
Improvements to the Tahawus Tract are expected to take about 18 months. The land has been and will remain open to the public.