Adirondack recreationists may have heard the buzz before about the possibility of a hiker permit system to counter the overuse of trails. In response to heavy traffic on the trails this past summer, the conversation has come up again. A recent Siena College poll indicates that 68% of New York State registered voters want state officials to protect heavily used public lands in the Adirondacks.
Land Protection Over Accommodating Hikers
The question posed to voters was essentially: should we prioritize the preservation of the Adirondacks and limit the total number of hikers allowed at a trail on any given day, or should we instead focus on accommodating the increased number of hikers by expanding parking lots and widening trails?
The results speak for themselves. In the Siena College poll, 68% – a margin of 3:1 – of voters said yes to protecting public lands “by enforcing resource capacity limits, rather than building bigger and bigger parking lots to accommodate the surging crowds.”
New Yorkers Who Participated in the Poll
The poll consisted of 795 New York State registered voters and was conducted between August 30 and September 3, 2020. There is a margin of error of +/- 3.7%.
“Support was strong among all ethnic groups (65 to 77%),” Adirondack Council Spokesman John Sheehan told the Sun Community News; Adirondack Council is the nonprofit that commissioned the study. “Youth showed the strongest concern at 75% (18 to 34 years old), with ages 55+ coming in second at 67%. Levels of support didn’t vary at all among religious faiths or income brackets.”
Further, Democrats and Independents had equal levels of support for capacity limits at 71% with Republicans also supporting limits by a wide margin of 56% to 36% with 7% undecided. About 41% of those polled live in New York City, 34% in Upstate NY, and 25% in the suburbs.
More Hikers = More Cars in Parking Lots & More Trash on Trails
Groups like the Adirondack Council, Adirondack Mountain Club, and Adirondack Mountain Reserve have been gathering information on trail use by monitoring trails and speaking with hikers about parking, traffic, and more – and how it’s only increased over the years.
Even with the Canadian border closed and a pandemic, trails have continued to experience overcrowding, with parking lots filling early in the morning, and motorists parking illegally along roadsides, particularly in the High Peaks.
As just one example, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise reported the parking lot at Rooster Comb was nearly full by 4:45am on Saturday, October 10 (Columbus Day Weekend). An increase in trash on trails has been reported, in addition to campfire pits and tent sites found in no-camping areas on sensitive summits.
The Adirondack Park is a Designated “Hot Spot”
The State has acknowledged the overuse problem and has attempted to expand education about protecting our trails, including promoting Leave No Trace initiatives. Leave No Trace issued their own report in 2019 that dubbed the Adirondacks a “Hot Spot,” or an area that has experienced severe impacts from overuse.
This report lists overuse, crowding, trail degradation and erosion, human and pet waste, parking problems, and unprepared visitors as the issues of highest concern.
Looking Into a Hiker Permit System – What Do You Think?
The Leave No Trace report recommends a permit system for high use areas (primarily the High Peaks), which is what the majority of voters polled said they support. The Adirondack Council suggests a version of this, a web-based parking reservation system for busy trailheads in conjunction with enforcement of parking rules at trailhead parking lots.
There would be a fee to make a reservation online, and this fee would ideally be as low as possible so as not to inhibit low-income residents from hiking.
What do you think? Would a hiker permit system or a parking reservation system be appropriate to combat overuse of trails? The DEC is collecting input and you can share your views by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Adirondack Almanack: Siena Poll shows support for limits on High Peaks use
- Adirondack Daily Enterprise: Hikers again flock to High Peaks for Columbus Day
- Sun Community News: Loved to death? Voters want wilderness protected
- WAMC: Leave No Trace Report Offers Recommendations To Relieve Overcrowding In The Adirondacks