DEC: Weekend shuttle to trailheads was a success

SUNY Plattsburgh students Matthew Rine and Alyssa Turner ride the shuttle bus from the Cascade Mountain trailhead to the Olympic Sports Complex at Mount Van Hoevenberg Monday. (Enterprise photos — Griffin Kelly)

LAKE PLACID — The state Department of Environmental Conservation closed parking along state Route 73 this past Columbus Day weekend to curtail the number of cars lined up near the Cascade and Pitchoff mountain trailheads.

Cascade and Pitchoff are two of the most hiked trails in the High Peaks Region. Route 73, which passes by the Cascade lakes, is a windy road and often has dozens of cars parked along the shoulder. In an effort to reduce the congestion, the DEC shut down parking and instead offered a shuttle to the trailheads from the Olympic Sports Complex at Mount Van Hoevenberg, a few minutes drive away. The shuttles were operated by the state Olympic Regional Development Authority.

Matthew Rine and Alyssa Turner, two SUNY Plattsburgh students, hiked up Cascade Monday. This was Turner’s first time on Cascade, but Rine had hiked it multiple times.

“I didn’t think the shuttle was too bad,” Rine said. “The one issue was that you have to wait, like, 15 minutes for it to arrive. I wouldn’t mind it being a regular thing. It’s especially nice not having to park on the road and walk half-a-mile to the trailhead.”

“I liked not having to walk along the road,” Turner said. “I wouldn’t want to park along here anyway.”

Route 73 is seen from a shuttle bus operated by the state Olympic Regional Development Authority. Parking alongside the road was closed over the weekend to curtail the congestion of Columbus Day hikers. Instead, folks parked at the Olympic Sports Complex at Mount Van Hoevenberg and took a bus to the Cascade, Pitchoff Mountain trailheads. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

The DEC and ORDA also opened a new trail to the summit of Mount Van Hoevenberg itself Friday, right next to the parking lot where hikers would catch the shuttle for Cascade and Pitchoff.

The long-term idea, as described in the 2018 High Peaks Wilderness Unit Management Plan Amendment, is to connect the new Van Ho trail to Cascade and Pitchoff. The DEC would then provide more parking at the Olympic Sports Complex and remove the trailheads along Route 73, thus eliminating a need to park there.

In an email, DEC spokesperson Dave Winchell said the road closure was a success.

“During the four days, ORDA safely transported more than 1,300 people to and from the Cascade Mountain trailhead on shuttle buses, more than 300 people hiked the new trail to the summit of Mt. Van Hoevenberg and there were no incidents at any of the locations associated with this effort,” he said.

For Columbus Day 2017, the DEC closed off parking along Route 73 and had folks walk through the cross country ski trails and a temporary trail at the sports complex, which then connected to Cascade.

“The problem was the trail passed through two private areas,” Winchell said. “Plus, it’s just not a good hiking trail. It was designed for skiing.”