Efforts To Improve Public Safety and Natural Resource Protection Start Week of July 4th Holiday
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today that DEC is undertaking a multi-year, comprehensive effort to promote sustainable tourism, and address public safety in the Adirondacks. The first phase of actions begin ahead of the upcoming July 4th holiday.
Commissioner Seggos said, "Outdoor recreation is increasingly popular for New Yorkers and visitors, reinforcing what many of us already know-New York is home to unsurpassed natural areas, lands, and forests. To protect these precious resources for future generations, we are encouraging people to get outside and explore safely and responsibly and support DEC's efforts to protect the Adirondacks by practicing sustainable tourism. Today's announcement builds on our ongoing work to protect the public, conserve the resource, and spread the economic benefits of outdoor recreation tourism throughout the Adirondack Park."
Popular destinations on DEC lands within the Adirondack Park such as the High Peaks, Dix, Giant and Hurricane Wildernesses, Baxter Mountain, and the Saranac Lake 6'er peaks, are attracting an unprecedented number of users.
To improve public safety and reduce impacts to natural resources in the area, DEC held four focus group meetings this past winter to generate ideas and information to support recommendations, particularly to address overuse challenges in the High Peaks region and the Route 73 corridor between Exit 30 of the Northway and Lake Placid in the Adirondacks. The meetings were held in partnership with the towns of Keene and North Elba and involved a wide range of stakeholders. With input from DEC land managers, the meetings helped the agency identify specific strategies and actions to be taken in 2018 and 2019.
Actions along the Route 73 corridor are scheduled to start during the July 4th holiday week and are being implemented with state agency partners and municipalities. The first phase of actions include:
- Striping parking spots in designated parking lots;
- Increasing the number of portable bathrooms along the corridor;
- Installing kiosks along the corridor that provide information on nearby, under-utilized alternate hiking opportunities;
- Installing electronic variable messaging boards along the corridor directing hikers to the kiosks:
- King Phillips Spring Pull-off (Northway Exit 30)
- Marcy Field in Keene
- Olympic Regional Development Authority's (ORDA) Mt. VanHoevenberg Olympic Sports Complex
- Installing displays which provide information on nearby underutilized alternate hiking opportunities at two other locations:
- Northbound High Peaks Rest Area
- Lake Placid Visitor Information Center
By the end of July, roadside parking will be prohibited in areas around parking spots and along the roadside in certain areas adjacent to roadside parking lots when necessary to improve line of sight for drivers.
In addition, this summer DEC will launch a social media campaign to highlight experiences outside of the Adirondack High Peaks with information on safety, sustainable outdoor recreation (Leave No Trace), and trip planning tips.
Additional strategies will build on continuing DEC efforts to promote sustainable recreation, including the highly successful pilot relocation of the trailheads for Cascade, Porter and Pitchoff (West) Mountains during Columbus Day weekend in 2017:
- Pending approval of the High Peaks Wilderness Complex Amendment, DEC will construct a new, sustainably designed trail up Mt. VanHoevenberg from the new trailhead in time to open Columbus Day weekend 2018.
- In anticipation of Columbus Day weekend, DEC is working with partners to develop a plan to pilot a shuttle bus at the Mt. VanHoevenberg Olympic Sports Complex.
- Pending approval of the High Peaks Wilderness Complex Amendment, DEC will permanently move the Cascade Mountain Trailhead to ORDA's Olympic Sports Complex and construct a new, sustainably designed trail up Cascade Mountain from the new trailhead, which is expected to be open in 2019.
- A traffic study will be initiated to assess traffic patterns and usage of major travel corridors.
- This summer, new volunteer Campground Ambassadors will distribute messages that encourage proper planning, preparation, and practices which facilitate safe, enjoyable, and low-impact outdoor recreation.
- DEC is also working with partners to expand the presence of trailhead stewards; develop additional digital technology to assist the public in trip planning; and facilitate a voluntary dispersal of the recreating public by highlighting alternative recreation opportunities.
Department of Transportation Acting Commissioner Paul A. Karas said, "Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry and a key economic driver in New York State, particularly in the Adirondacks. Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, state agencies are making investments and improvements to boost tourism in a way that protects the unique places that make the Empire State special. We are happy to partner with the Department of Environmental Conservation to help enhance public safety along the Route 73 corridor, as well as increase sustainability efforts so everyone can responsibly enjoy the beauty of the Adirondack Park."
New York State Police Troop B Commander Major John Tibbitts cautions the public about observing the parking restrictions: "The New York State Police will be working together with the Department of Environmental Conservation on the overuse issues on the Route 73 corridor. Troopers will be patrolling the area to ensure motorists are obeying the parking restrictions. Those who are not in compliance may be ticketed or their vehicles may be towed."
Adirondack Park Agency Chairman Sherman Craig said, "The Adirondack Park Agency works in cooperation with the Department of Environmental Conservation to both protect the natural resources of the Adirondacks but also to provide appropriate recreational access to State lands. This series of steps reflects the immediate concerns for health and safety of our residents and visitors while protecting the natural resources of the High Peaks. These are important, but first steps towards resolving the overuse issue. Pending the approval of the UMPs in July, both APA and DEC are ready to implement these projects and continue the planning effort to preserve this valuable part of our Park."
Joe Pete Wilson, Supervisor, Town of Keene, said "The Town of Keene is so happy to be working with DEC to put measures in place that address these urgent needs. Doing so will protect our beautiful natural resources that bring people here while giving our visitors a safe and enjoyable visit to the High Peaks that will make them want to return."
Robi Politi, Supervisor, Town of North Elba, said, "DEC's actions are an important first step and beginning of a broader plan to make the park safe for the public and protective of our beautiful park. We're all working together on these solutions and it's good to see this effort showing results".
Additional future efforts pending the approval of the High Peaks Wilderness Complex Amendment include new parking lots identified in the High Peaks Wilderness Complex UMP Amendment; additional parking improvements along the corridor; and prohibiting roadside parking on other stretches of State Route 73 around trailheads.