‘Leave it to Nanny State New York to require people to get a permit to walk in the woods.’
If you put it that way, it does seem overreaching for the state to impose a permit or parking reservation system for certain overused areas of the Adirondack Park.
But then consider the destructive impact that tens of thousands of hikers are having on sensitive areas of the park.
Consider the fact that something drastic needs to be done to curb the damage from too many people destroying trails and promoting erosion in these popular areas, leaving garbage behind, damaging surrounding wooded areas, and ruining the experience for themselves and others.
There aren’t enough parking spaces on narrow Adirondack roads to accommodate all the vehicles on busy weekends. There aren’t enough forest rangers in all the right areas to educate people about proper use of trails or to redirect visitors from the most popular areas to other areas they might enjoy.
And there seems to be no end in sight to the growing popularity of the Adirondack Park experience.
If none of the existing solutions to preserve the trails and the wilderness experience are working effectively, and if popular hiking areas will continue to suffer damage due to excessive human traffic for the foreseeable future, then suddenly some kind of online permitting system to limit the number of visitors doesn’t seem so outlandish.
Before you go back to the Nanny State argument, realize that permitting systems, exit quotas and other efforts to limit use in popular outdoor areas have long been in place throughout the state and country, including national and state parks, campgrounds, day-use areas and special-use areas.
Asking people to register online for a day hike or overnight trip is no different than asking people to reserve a campsite for a night.
The permitting system needn’t be expensive so as to limit access only to people who can most afford it. And any fees generated should go directly into rebuilding and preserving trails.
The permitting system also needn’t apply to all trails — only to those in the most environmentally sensitive areas, those that get the most overuse and those most in need of protecting because of existing damage.
Current efforts to preserve sensitive areas are becoming less and less effective, and the damage is becoming increasingly more difficult to prevent.
A permitting system might not be the ideal solution. But it might be the best solution we have.