Adirondacks: Hiking for free, or for a fee?
Tourists and locals alike both value the Adirondacks for the miles of unspoiled hiking trails dissecting the forest. But would the pastime remain as popular if hikers were charged a fee to enter the woods?
Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - 22:41
INEXPENSIVE VIEW: Mountains with majestic views, like this one from Bald (Rondaxe) Mountain, can currently be accessed for free in the Adirondacks. (Photo: Janelle Hoh)
When the summits of Adirondack mountains are reached, that age old adage "the best things in life are free" rings true. But the Crown Point, N.Y. Town Supervisor, Charles Harrington, wants to explore the idea of charging a fee for the usage of public trails in the Adirondacks.
In an article for Plattsburgh, N.Y.'s Press Republican newspaper, Harrington expressed his beliefs that a fee could create a lot of revenue for New York State by having hikers purchase a "hiking permit." While that could be true, if the cost doesn't drive hikers away, a fee, and associated permit, could pose a few problems.
First off, all trails on public Forest Preserve lands in the Adirondacks are managed by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), so that would mean DEC officials would have to monitor and enforce the fee. Where would the money come from to staff every trailhead in the Adirondacks? Would it be possible to enforce a hiking permit with thousands of hikers visiting the Adirondacks each year?
Secondly, the Adirondack Forest Preserve is a free area, meant for everyone to enjoy. David Winchell, DEC Region 5 spokesman, said in the Press Republican article, "It continues to be the policy of the state and DEC to provide free access on lands managed by DEC, including the Forest Preserve." Charging a fee directly interferes with that decree.
Nothing is official yet with regards to a future hiking fee. Harrington merely proposed the idea. But the idea has still sparked spirited debates. Some places, like the Adirondack Loj near Lake Placid, N.Y., charge for parking already, and there aren't generally any problems associated with paying that fee. Would people have different feelings if a parking fee (or hiking fee) was applied to the entire Adirondack Park?
What do you think? Is charging a hiking fee something in the future for the Adirondacks? Or will the land remain Forever Wild, and (for the most part) free?