Next steps as recreation economy booms

A gentleman’s limit of heritage strain brook trout. (Provided photo — Joe Hackett)

Following one last winter storm, many local communities had to deal with blackouts and flood waters. The heavy snow and winds also downed trees and broke limbs, leaving many local trails impassible.

The extent of the damage was evident as anglers and paddlers took to the waters last weekend. If you’re planning to pond hop, be sure to bring along a folding camp saw, as many of the routes remain covered with downed limbs and trees.

As always, anglers and paddlers must wear a PFD and be vigilant for gusty winds and floating debris. Similar cautions should be shared and can damage a prop, poke a hole in a hull or take out your lower unit (depending on your speed).

For those who don’t care to fish, paddle, bike, hike or otherwise enjoy the spring woods, there are still plenty of options. Unlike the autumn woods, which tend to be crusty, crumbly and ripe with the scent of decay, the spring woods are fresh and alive with the rebirth of the earth as we know it.

From the valley to the mountaintop, these natural transitions can be observed in the blooming wildflowers, mixed with the daily return of birds, salamanders, frogs, fish, turtles and all sorts of creatures, large and small.

The season of renewal also has a unique effect on our species, which is more evident outdoors than in any other setting.

In addition to the natural transitions, there are an entire suite of outdoor pleasures that will begin to unfold as fishing poles replace ski poles and rafts of paddlers mingle with rafts of migratory birds.

While the course of such natural transitions will continue to take their usual course, the game will remain the same. The spring wild turkey season kicked off on May 1, and it will continue through the end of the month. Travelers may encounter turkey hunters on the edge of fields or wood lots, but it is unlikely to find them near trails.

Hiking, birding, biking and the whitewater seasons are already underway on the Hudson, the Black and a number of other whitewater hot spots across the region. Similarly, the open season for brook trout and salmon is here, and pike, bass, walleye, etc. will follow in order over the coming weeks.

As usual, the thaw will include an opportunity to make your first blood donation to a black fly. When you find the first trickle of blood behind your ear, it will seal the deal and spring’s arrival will be confirmed.

Big money in the woods

A recent economic report revealed tourism in the Adirondacks represents a $1.3 billion industry. With more than 12 million travelers flocking to the region annually, the impact is evident financially, aesthetically and physically.

There’s no doubt about it, the draw of our woods and waters has become increasingly obvious.

While the economic impact has certainly been considerable, so are the social and cultural advances. Due to a variety of factors, primarily the worldwide web, Adirondack residents are no longer alone. Potential visitors can now explore the Park from the comfort of their own home. They can take a virtual rafting trip, witness weather conditions or watch the ice melt on Long Lake from anywhere on the planet.

While the advent of the internet, hand-held GPS technology and cellular communications has radically reduced the risk factors for those who seek to “get away” from it all, there remains an undeniable element of risk in any mode of outdoor travel.

While some may scoff at such an assessment, there is ample evidence in the numbers. Last year, state Department of Environmental Conservation forest rangers responded to rescue calls at a pace that exceeded one a day.

Rarely has there been such obvious evidence to illustrate the pressing need to develop a comprehensive public program of outdoor recreation and education.

With the obvious and ever-growing popularity of peak bagging programs in communities from Cranberry Lake, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Newcomb and beyond, there will come a more pressing need for outdoor recreation and wilderness education. Fortunately, there is already a key component of the solution in place.

While the fabled Adirondack 46ers organization, the Adirondack Mountain Club and a host of similar advocacy groups continue to provide outdoor education and recreation skills programs for the public, it is physically and fiscally impossible for them keep up with the clear need for such training.

Arguably, the Adirondack region encompasses one of the last, less traveled patches of wild country in the country. And amazingly, in this age of bitcoins, credit cards and money to go, wherever you go in the vast, multimillion acre state, there are no tolls, entrance fees or impossibly long lines.

It should come as no surprise that the multibillion dollar economic impact of outdoor travel is considerable.

Frankly, I expect it will grow larger.

However, after visitors cross over the virtual Blue Line, which is located somewhere north of Glens Falls, many visitors will never have a reason to reach for their wallet again. In contrast, fees at our National Parks currently range from $7 to $77 per person, depending on the season.

The Adirondacks are a true bargain by comparison, and they just keep getting better due to the inclusion of additional tracts of formerly wild lands that have been closed to the public for decades.

l say, let it grow, for our children and generations beyond, but there remains a pressing need to establish control. It is a task that cannot be achieved without effort, education and opportunity, which can happen at places like visitor centers and campgrounds. These facilities can be used to provide travelers with some of the skills and knowledge necessary to safely utilize the Park.

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