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October 12, 2012

Hike for a fee?

CROWN POINT — If you want to hike in the Adirondacks, Crown Point Town Supervisor Charles Harrington thinks you should pay for the privilege.

He wants to explore charging a fee for use of public hiking trails.

“This should be thoroughly explored,” he said. “This (public discussion) is the channel we should be using.”

He said fees could generate a lot of revenue for the state.

“The parking areas at the trailheads are usually quite packed,” Harrington said. “It’s (most hiking) well planned and organized.”

He said hikers could buy permits using PayPal, an Internet-based payment system.

“The technology is out there.”

The state trails, pointed out Moriah Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava, are administered by the State Department of Environmental Conservation.

And he said hikers spend money in the areas around the trails, and fees would likely decrease hiking.

“Those vehicles you see at the trailheads, those people are eating in Essex County, staying overnight in Essex County,” Scozzafava said. “DEC has a difficult time doing what they have to do now.”

MANY VOLUNTEER

There haven’t been any DEC proposals or discussions recently on hiking fees, Scozzafava said.

“The chances of it happening are (that) it will probably never happen,” he said. “But I’d certainly be willing to look into it.”

DEC Region 5 spokesman David Winchell said Wednesday there hasn’t been any proposal by DEC or the Legislature to seek fees from hikers.

“It continues to be the policy of the state and DEC to provide free access on lands managed by DEC, including the Forest Preserve,” he said in a statement. “Access to the Forest Preserve is free for a multitude of recreational activities, including camping, hiking, paddling, boating, hunting, trapping and fishing.”

Winchell said many trails and camping areas are maintained by volunteers.

“Each year, hikers, campers, paddlers and others put in thousands of hours volunteering to maintain trails, campsites and other facilities on the Forest Preserve. So although they are not paying a fee, they are contributing to the stewardship of the lands and waters and the maintenance of the recreational facilities used by the recreating public.”

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