As the summer hiking season intensifies, the state Department of Environmental Conservation announced several initiatives on Monday to promote public safety and wilderness protection in the Adirondacks and Catskills this year. , including hiring 19 assistant rangers to work in the Adirondack Park.
Many of these initiatives are funded by the state’s $400 million Environmental Protection Fund, according to DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos, who presented the department’s campaign to Keene on Monday. Seggos touted increased state investment in the EPF — which he said was a $136 million fund when he started at DEC six years ago — as well as the proposed law on the $4.2 billion environmental bond for clean water, clean air and green jobs, which will go before voters in November.
“What we’re looking at here is a value for New York State, that’s what the budget says,” Seggos said Monday, pointing to the mountains around him. “And it’s important that we leave it that way for future generations and improve it – of course – where we can.”
Seggos stressed the importance of being prepared when recreating in the park, urging the public to engage with the department’s public safety information. He said rangers have countless stories of people in danger in the park because they were unprepared. Last weekend, Seggos said, rangers rescued a man who had broken both legs on Giant Mountain.
The DEC plans to increase its public safety measures this year, including bringing 19 new assistant rangers to the Adirondacks to assist rangers and provide stewardship on the trail in high-use areas.
Some public safety measures that were implemented last year are continuing this year, including the pilot parking reservation system in the Adirondacks Mountain Preserve – which returned on May 1 – and the pilot shuttle service from Route 73 weekend that connects Marcy Field to Rooster Comb, Giant Mountain and Roaring Brook Falls trailheads. Shuttle routes are expected to expand this year, according to a DEC press release, and new shuttle routes and schedules will be announced soon.
The DEC, in partnership with the state Department of Transportation, also plans to set up message boards when needed to direct overflow traffic or indicate when popular parking areas are full or limited. The DEC plans to share weekend parking and reservation statuses on Twitter and Facebook @NYSDECAlerts.
The DEC also wants to install new “Your speed is” signs at two unofficial stops along National Route 73 where there have been problems in the past.
Visitor Usage Management, Education
This year’s EPF includes $600,000 to support a new visitor use management framework similar to those in national parks. The DEC plans to send out a request for proposals to support new visitor use management initiatives — largely informed by recommendations from the High Peaks Strategic Planning Advisory Group — in June, according to a DEC press release.
Part of this work includes a public comment period on the pilot AMR parking reservation system. The survey is part of a study of the system that the DEC has contracted with Dr. Jill Weiss, an assistant professor at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. The survey will be launched online in a few weeks at https://tinyurl.com/tfvwxv8b. People will also be able to complete the survey at the hiker information booths.
The DEC also plans to expand its information kiosks program for hikers this year. Last year there were stations at Mid’s Park in Lake Placid and the High Peaks Rest Area on Interstate 87.
The DEC is also working with the Adirondack Mountain Club — which completed its purchase of the Cascade Ski Resort on State Route 73 earlier this year — to provide information to hikers at the center this summer, according to the executive assistant director of the DEC. ADK, Julia Goren. She said ADK hopes to open Cascade’s doors to the public “very soon.”
The DEC is also adding more portable toilets to high-use areas of the High Peaks this year to reduce waste in the environment. The Ausable River Association is partnering with the ADK 46ers to add more portable restrooms around the Ausable River this year as well, adding new restrooms at the Marble Mountain and Cascade trailheads.
DEC is doubling down on its EPF-funded contract with Tahawus Trails to perform sustainable trail work in the Adirondacks and Catskills. Trail work this year will include work on the Cascade and Mt. Van Hoevenberg trails, as well as new walkways in the Independence River Wild Forest, according to the DEC.
Small town in a big park
Keene Town Supervisor Joe Pete Wilson, Jr., who hosted Tuesday’s press conference, said Keene’s success is made possible by the town’s partnerships with DEC and other organizations that invest in the park.
“With the small footprint of this city and the number of visitors we see, we couldn’t do anything without the many partners,” he said.
He said many of the groups represented at the press conference — like ADK, AMR, NYSDOT, the New York State Police and others — worked together to form real partnerships and share resources over the years. last years.
“This press conference is not just a eulogy”, said Wilson.
Due to a computer error, the press – including the Enterprise – was only notified of the press conference with Seggos about DEC’s plans for the summer eight minutes in advance. The DEC then provided a video of the event.