A pilot reservation system is launching this spring for people who want to park at some trailheads leading to popular Adirondack High Peaks trails.
The Adirondack Mountain Reserve/Ausable Club is a 7,000-acre private club near the Adirondack High Peaks Wilderness area. An easement allows public access to specific Forest Preserve trailheads. On Monday, the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation and the club announced a pilot program to require reservations for parking at the club’s parking lots along Route 73 – where most people access the trails.
Adirondack Council spokesman John Sheehan says a reservation system makes sense.
“In order to get to the Forest Preserve about 99 percent get there by car," Sheehan explained. "This will essentially reserve you a parking spot, one of the 70 that are located at the trailheads at the Adirondack Mountain Reserve. Essentially the parking lots themselves have been designed to a size that really is comparable to the number of people that should be allowed to recreate in there before you can expect that damage is going to occur.”
Town of Keene Supervisor Joe Pete Wilson says work has been on going to manage visitation to the overused areas of the Park to make it safer and to avoid degradation of the trails. The pilot is one more effort towards the management goal.
“There’s no single solution for this magnitude of visitation and for the desire to protect the environment and provide a good and safe experience for visitors," he said. "So the pilot reservation system is one more tool to see what happens in this really specific area and in this really stringent way managing the number of people who can access a specific set of trailheads or mountains.”
Wilson emphasizes that this is a short-term test of a reservation system within a conservation easement.
“It’s one set of parking lots, one road that leads through private property to multiple popular trailheads,'" Wilson said. "It is not the entire High Peaks. It is not the entire Adirondack Park. It's a very focused pilot program to manage the use in a very specific area.”
A number of efforts have been undertaken to limit overcrowding in popular areas of the Adirondack wilderness but Sheehan says a parking reservation system hasn’t been tried yet.
“Limits is really the one thing they haven’t tried yet," Sheehan said. "It requires enforcement. It takes additional personnel and additional resources and the DEC was not ready to jump into that yet. With some more money coming, hopefully with some additional personnel, there’s a real interest in seeing an investment in the open spaces of the Park now that so many people have decided to come and enjoy them.”
The pilot will run from May 1st through October 31st. A new website will begin taking reservations on April 15th.