Council report says the High Peaks trails ‘need major work’
LAKE PLACID — The Adirondack Council released a preliminary report on the condition of trails in the High Peaks Wilderness Area and found that well over 100 miles of trail “need major work.”
The report, released earlier this month by the Elizabethtown-based green group, said that in addition to the 130 miles of trail it deemed to be in need of “significant redesign, reconstruction and/or repair,” all of the 250-plus miles of trails in the High Peaks also need annual maintenance and upkeep.
“We need to consider hiker safety, erosion, wildlife habitat degradation, user experience and other natural resource impacts on overused and under-maintained trails,” Council Executive Director Willie Janeway explained in a release accompanying the report. “Many trails were created without the benefit of sustainable trail design standards. Trail design and maintenance should account for slope, soil types, water, vegetation and other physical features. So each trail presents a unique set of challenges.
“The state can play a significant role in controlling the impact of trails by following sustainable standards, while dedicating funding to user education and new staff who are dedicated to trails and wildland management.”
The state Department of Environmental Conservation did not respond to numerous requests for information on the number of trail crew employees it has or how much trail work it does each year. However, the department does contract with the Adirondack Mountain Club’s trail crew as well as the Student Conservation Association’s Adirondack Program for trail work. Various organizations — such as the Adirondack 46ers — also conduct volunteer trail work.
Dan Plumley of Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, said in a release that working on trails is good, but the state needs to limit the number of people who venture into the High Peaks.
“Absent proper, effective, inclusive and easily adaptable permit controls, limiting and mitigating far too high hiker numbers on these long identified impacted trail segments, trail designs and trail management will always, eventually fail,” Plumley said. “Effective and true wilderness management requires both: sustainable trail design and re-construction, as well as proper wilderness limits on the number of daily users on the most popular trails.
“One without the other is merely a fool’s game, which is what we have been playing for 19 years.”
The analysis of trails includes the newly expanded High Peaks — which now includes the former Dix Mountain Wilderness — as well the Giant Mountain and Hurricane Mountain wilderness areas.