PLATTSBURGH — After experiencing continued rapid growth in the number of people visiting the Adirondack High Peaks in recent years, the state has unveiled a new strategic planning initiative for managing public use in the region.
The High Peaks Strategic Planning Advisory Group, comprised of key stakeholders with expertise in local government, recreation, natural resource protection, business, tourism, and other priority areas, will collaboratively provide advice on how to balance the critical issues associated with the increased public use of High Peaks resources in order to protect these resources for future generations, according to a news release.
“DEC and our partners are working hard to address impacts associated with increased use of the High Peaks because we all recognize the tremendous opportunities that will be created when we ensure this majestic region is sustainably managed for the enjoyment of both current and future generations,” Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said.
“DEC has assembled a team of talented and committed people to work together to provide advice on a strategic approach that will support the Adirondacks’ local economies, protect the environment, and provide safe, quality recreational experiences for visitors.”
DEC has identified five goals for managing public use in the High Peaks Region: ensuring public safety within communities, along roadways, at trailheads, and in interior areas; protecting natural resources and recreation infrastructure; providing a quality recreation experience; supporting local economic vitality; and making decisions based on science using the best available data.
To accomplish these goals, DEC is launching a formal Strategic Planning process, guided by Acting Executive Deputy Commissioner Judy Drabicki and led by Division of Lands and Forests Director Rob Davies and DEC Region 5 Director Bob Stegemann.
Seggos also named a High Peaks Strategic Planning Advisory Group to create a framework of policy recommendations to achieve the goals for the initiative, incorporate, expand, and/or modify the recommendations made to date to identify priorities, determine whether additional data is needed to inform the group, and identify actions for implementation.
The group includes:
• Rocci Aguirre, Director of Conservation, Adirondack Council
• Sandi Allen, Retired DEC Counsel
• Pat Barnes, Region 1 Director, New York State Department of Transportation (DOT)
• Teresa Cheetham-Palen, Owner of Rock and River Guide Co.
• Shaun Gillilland, Chair, Essex County Board of Supervisors
• James McKenna, CEO, Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism (ROOST)
• Pete Nelson, Adirondack Wilderness Advocates
• Mike Pratt, President & CEO, Olympic Regional Development Authority
• Jill Weiss, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
• Joe Pete Wilson, Supervisor, Town of Keene
• Charlie Wise, The Mountaineer outdoor specialty store
• Adirondack Park Agency representative (ad hoc)
• New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation representative (ad hoc)
ACHIEVE A BALANCE
State Asemblyman Billy Jones (D-Plattsburgh) is hopeful some strides can be made.
“Overuse of trails and resources in the Adirondacks has been an issue to localities for the past several years,” Jones said.
“It is my hope that with assembling this fine group of stakeholders we can achieve a balance that allows people to enjoy all our region has to offer while ensuring localities and the public at large are protected.”
Assemblyman Daniel Stec (R-Queensbury) an avid Adirondack hiker, also said he is glad to see the issue being addressed.
“This is an issue that I am passionate about, and I think this is a good list of stakeholders. Especially Joe Pete Wilson because he has been living this the past few years,” Stec said.
“Is this an issue? Yes it is, but the good news is that this is solvable.”
DEC is already working with many local partners and other stakeholders to implement several actions, including long- and short-term improvements to promote sustainable use, particularly in the High Peaks.
Examples include delineating parking on Route 73, working with DOT, New York State Police, and the towns, reducing congestion in areas around the High Peaks, highlighting the great, and underused alternative hikes and activities elsewhere in the park, and promoting sustainable use with partners through Leave No Trace to help visitors understand how their actions affect and protect the resource.
The strategic planning process will build on these actions to develop both short- and long-term actions to ensure sustainable use in the High Peaks that benefits users and protects the environment.
The High Peaks Strategic Planning Advisory Group will begin meeting this fall and include opportunities for broader public input.
The group will be charged with finalizing and submitting a strategic planning framework to DEC Commissioner Seggos in 2020.
Upon completion of the framework, DEC will develop a draft Strategic Plan for Managing Public Use in the High Peaks Region of the Adirondack Park that will be made available for public review and comment.
The Adirondack Council, which has been lobbying for some plans to address the issues, was also looking forward to some progress being made.
“We applaud the Governor and DEC for recognizing that New York’s successful investment in tourism promotion has led to significant recreational pressure on some areas of the Adirondack Park, threatening natural resources and the wild character of the landscape,” William C. Janeway, executive director of the Adirondack Council, said in a news release.
“We are eager to work with and support this effort, bringing to the discussion current data and information on the latest techniques and best practices for user management and public education that can sustain our precious and fragile wilderness areas for generations to come.”
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