High Peaks problems

To the editor:

The new parking restrictions in Keene Valley are a step in the wrong direction for the start of a new unit management plan by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Over the past decade or so, the popularity of the High Peaks has greatly increased, and not much was done beyond the status quo to address the increased use.

The decision to close off miles of parking to the public and handing out fines of $250 per offense is not the way to solve the problem. I guess I haven’t had a parking ticket in a long time — I would have thought $30 was enough; $250 sounds more like running a red light. And of course the expensive towing fee. There are alternative solutions that might be better, like obviously more (or bigger) parking lots. A lot more. The Ridge Trail to Giant Mountain doesn’t even have a parking lot — it’s always been the shoulder of the road. And that area is just as dangerous as farther along toward the village, where parking is prohibited.

Another option is to reduce the speed limit. It’s 55 mph all through the area, and it really should be 45. It’s a scenic route, and people tend to gaze out the window, and it’s a windy stretch with a lot of change in elevation. Add up all of those factors, and you should equal 45 mph.

What we don’t need is a police state with state troopers, sheriffs, DEC officers and forest rangers all policing the area to hand out parking tickets. It’s not a high crime area. (Actually it’s just the opposite.) We’re not sending the right message to promote tourism. We advertise the area as a premier destination (which it is), and people who drive several hours may not get a chance to hike where they want to hike. We are driving people away.

And to make things worse, more roads in Keene Valley were added to the list of no-parking areas. And the Garden parking lot is closed this summer, except for the use of a shuttle bus, which only runs 12 hours a day. Many of the hikers need more than 12 hours to hike some routes, so they would have to walk the road back to Marcy Field, adding 3.5 more road miles to their 15- to 20-mile hike.

Also, telling people to go to other areas of the park is not the answer, either. It may work for some people, but a lot of the hikers (probably at least 40%) who are climbing the High Peaks are doing the 46, and you can’t tell them to hike other mountains.

We have to keep in mind that this land and these recreational opportunities are for the people who pay the taxes (state land). It is our land, for our use, free of charge. Therefore, our state government needs to find ways to make it usable.

Finally, I think we need to make all of the unmarked trails (of the 46) marked. They don’t need to be maintained to be marked. I would bet that a larger percentage of the calls for help arising from lost hikers are due to the unmarked trails. This leads to dangerous situations that we can fix by installing relatively cheap plastic trail markers and a few wooden signs.

Thomas Lyng