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DEC blocks off Route 73 parking areas

Despite the “no parking” sign at right, many vehicles are parked on the shoulder of state Route 73 next to the Roaring Brook Falls trailhead lot in St. Huberts on Sunday, July 7, 2019. Frontcountry stewards were working at the time at this location to try to educate hikers about rules for things such as roadside parking, but they aren’t always able to control it. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

KEENE VALLEY — The state Department of Environmental Conservation has closed two parking areas off of state Route 73 near the Roaring Brook Falls trailhead and limited the scenic overlook lot, where people pull off to view the falls, to 15-minute parking.

The parking areas were blocked off because they’ve created “parking safety issues in the past,” DEC spokeswoman Erica Ringewald told the Enterprise on Tuesday.

Ringewald said these parking area closures, plus “delineators” that have been installed along the shoulder of the road with help from the state Department of Transportation, were part of the DEC’s “comprehensive efforts to promote public safety along Route 73 and encourage sustainable visitation.”

“The Roaring Brook Falls lookout has been posted for 15-minute parking only to allow for its intended use as a scenic overlook,” she said. “The delineators will help to prevent unsafe parking and reduce pedestrian traffic to help address ongoing public safety issues. These efforts will be monitored and adjustments made in the future if adverse effects are identified.”

On peak holiday weekends, hikers can often be seen parking at these unofficial parking areas and walking along the roadside to reach their desired trailhead. This scenario, which has become more frequent in each recent year, is one the DEC attempted to quell in 2019 by imposing a roadside parking ban on a section of Route 73, upping enforcement of parking restrictions and more recently by issuing alerts about the parking lot through the 511NY traffic alert system. The DEC also established pop-up hiker information booths in Keene, Lake Placid and North Hudson last summer to help educate visitors.

A committee created by the DEC in 2019 was asked to submit recommendations for how to address hiker traffic in the High Peaks region. The High Peaks Strategic Planning Advisory Group recommended in its final report that the DEC consider parking passes or permits as an option to limit hiker traffic into wilderness areas.

The parking areas that have been blocked off aren’t far from a property owned by the Adirondack Mountain Reserve, where a new parking reservation pilot program is taking place this year.

Reservations are required for the 70 parking spots in the AMR lot starting May 1. Hikers who walk to the AMR lot from elsewhere and don’t have a reservation won’t be allowed to access to trails on the property, nor the trailheads to Round and Noonmark mountains, which are accessed by walking through the AMR property. Hikers who access the wilderness elsewhere — such as if they hike in through the Elk Lake pass — will still be allowed to exit through the AMR property, according to the DEC.

Reservations can be made up to two weeks ahead of time.

“This effort complements state and local efforts already underway to reduce dangerous parking, including variable electronic message boards and additional signage, bolstered social media outreach and education, and increased law enforcement presence and parking enforcement,” Ringewald said of the parking area closures. “In recent years pedestrian traffic, illegal parking, and roadside stopping along Route 73 have created a dangerous environment for hikers and motorists alike.”

(Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said in the first paragraph that it was the Roaring Brook Falls trailhead lot the DEC limited to 15-minute parking. It was the falls scenic overlook lot. The Enterprise regrets the error.)

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