Lake Placid, NY– June 22, 2020 – The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has released a list of short-term recommendations (pdf link) compiled by the High Peaks Strategic Planning Advisory Group (HPAG) for managing high recreational use in the High Peaks region of the Adirondack Park. This plan was created as part of a six-month long deliberation process between local and state representatives, including ADK (Adirondack Mountain Club). These recommendations offer short-term recommendations to DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos for managing high use in the High Peaks region. Public comments were included in the process and collected via email.
ADK commends the strong emphasis on education and stewardship found throughout the advisory group’s recommendations, including its support for investments in Leave No Trace outdoor skills and ethics education and already existing stewardship programs in the Adirondack Park. “Stewardship programs like the Adirondack High Peaks Summit Stewardship Program have shown that educational messaging mitigates impacts in sensitive ecological environments and empowers visitors to be stewards themselves,” said Michael Barrett, ADK Executive Director. “ADK is excited to see that the advisory group recognizes this and is advocating for more investment into stewardship.”
With high numbers of first-time visitors traveling to the High Peaks Wilderness each year, ADK argues that solutions provided by the State should take advantage of the educational opportunity this presents and provide visitors with an experience that enhances their knowledge and stewardship ethic. As parking management underpins the success of some of these recommendations, ADK also encourages the State to extend this educational emphasis into parking enforcement in order to enhance the user experience.
The HPAG recommendations include a strong focus on collecting user data in order to inform potential decisions on limiting public use on the Forest Preserve. ADK supports this data-driven approach and would like any decisions to restrict public use, such as a permit system, to be made only if investments in public education, frontcountry and backcountry infrastructure prove unsuccessful in managing high use. This would include a coordinated education and outreach plan between DEC and stakeholders, funding for stewardship programs, increasing the Forest Ranger force, building sustainable trails, installing bathroom facilities and facilitating the spread of use throughout the forest preserve. “ADK was founded on the premise of improving backcountry access while encouraging responsible recreation,” said Cathy Pedler, Director of Advocacy. “Especially in a time when accessibility and equity are such pressing issues, we want to be sure that any decisions to limit use are data driven and preceded by investments into impact-reducing infrastructure.”
The advisory group also supports a shuttle system, which could play a role in data collection and help control the flow of visitor traffic. ADK sees this as a promising program that, if managed correctly, could create a better wilderness experience for visitors. ADK would like to see investments made into electric shuttles and charging stations, as well as a feasibility study by the State to aid in developing an effective shuttle management plan.
Originally set to dissolve after sending recommendations this month, delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic will cause the advisory group to continue meeting twice a month through Columbus Day Weekend of this year in order to finalize a second set of longer-term recommendations. ADK is excited to be involved in this process and will continue to advocate for investments in educational and stewardship efforts throughout the process, as well as push for further public input as the group develops the next set of recommendations.
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ADK (Adirondack Mountain Club) is the only nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and advocating for New York State’s wild lands and waters while also teaching people how to enjoy natural places responsibly. Since 1922, the organization has offered people opportunities to stay and play in as well as protect, discover, and explore the outdoors. Today, ADK has 30,000 members in 27 chapters statewide and is served by a professional, year-round staff. The organization is recognized as a vital voice in the commitment to environmental stewardship and ethical outdoor recreation in New York State. For more information on membership or making a difference, head to ADK.org or follow ADK on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.