December 11th, 2019

ADK (Adirondack Mountain Club) has been awarded a $66,000 Smart Growth grant by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to use towards improving parking and interpretive signage at the Heart Lake Program Center. This is part of a $600,000 commitment by New York State and Governor Cuomo to support organizations and communities in the Adirondack Park. Smart Growth Grants are funded by the New York State Environmental Protection Fund to encourage the development of public services that support visitor use management, distribution, and experience.

Hosting one of the busiest trail heads in New York State, the Heart Lake Program Center sees over 100,000 annual visitors, making it a critical location for disseminating educational information and encouraging sustainable recreational practices. Though it has always been a popular site for hikers, visitor numbers have skyrocketed over the last decade. To keep up with higher visitor traffic, the Heart Lake Program Center underwent a multi-year development starting in 2018 that included a renovation of the High Peaks Information Center, the construction of an education yurt facility, and upgrades to the Wilderness Campground. However, further infrastructure is needed to provide visitors with an experience that encourages education and stewardship—both major aspects of ADK’s mission as an organization—while meeting the needs of increased visitor use.

The next step in this process will involve redesigning the hiker parking lot complex and property signage to improve accessibility and the educational experience for visitors. The specifics of these changes will be determined after a consultation phase but will not involve an expansion beyond the current car capacity of the parking area. The goals and plans outlined in the Heart Lake Property Master Plan—a document developed in 1993 to determine how the property can develop to meet modern demands while still preserving its wilderness character—will help direct how these changes manifest in the future.

ADK is working on these improvements alongside the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the town of North Elba, both of which manage the lands and roadways surrounding the Heart Lake Program Center. Further details will be provided as we move forward with the consultation phase and begin development projects on site.

The High Peaks Information Center exterior