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Surveyed hikers support limits

A trailhead parking area on state Route 73 in the town of Keene is seen on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend this year. (Enterprise photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

Two leading conservation organizations and a state college released the preliminary results of a two-month hiker survey, showing that hikers who came to Adirondack Park favor limits on visitation to preserve the integrity of the wilderness.

The survey, the results of which were released on Tuesday, was conducted by the Adirondack Council, the Adirondack Mountain Club and the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. A final analysis and report will be released in the coming months.

“Gov. Andrew Cuomo has recognized that overuse is a problem and his agencies are trying to address this,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director Willie Janeway in a statement. “The preliminary results of the survey show that hikers prioritize Department of Environmental Conservation enforcement of resource capacity limits to preserve Adirondack wilderness for current and future generations — with limits such as reservations or passes — to make sure this precious and unique national treasure isn’t loved to death.”

Of the 673 Adirondack hikers surveyed in the High Peaks region of the park, 79% said they came to enjoy the solitude and wilderness character of state-owned Adirondack Forest Preserve land. Only 7% said they had no such expectation while 13% said they were neutral. More than 90% said they had heard of “Leave No Trace” outdoor ethics, although they were not pressed to demonstrate their familiarity with them.

Temporary trail closures were the most favored means of visitor control, followed by shuttles, a limited number of trail-access permits, parking lot temporary closures and parking permits.

More than half of all respondents said they supported visitor management tools such as closing parking lots, requiring parking permits, shuttle buses that bring hikers to the trailhead from offsite parking areas, limited trail-access permits, and temporary trail closures to manage crowds.

Only about half of respondents, or 345 people, were able to park legally at the trailhead where they had planned to park, while 210 had to use the shoulder of the road near a trailhead, 90 were shut out entirely, and 13 said they had not planned where to park.

More than 60% said they had been planning their trip for between one week and one month ahead of their arrival. Another 13% had been planning for even longer. Four percent said they live elsewhere and came without any plan; 2% said they live nearby and didn’t plan ahead.

Nearly 80% of respondents said COVID-19 had not influenced their decision to visit the Adirondack Forest Preserve; they would have visited regardless.

The 22-question survey was conducted from Aug. 5 to Oct. 11.

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