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Waumbek
11-20-2005, 09:33 PM
From today's NYT:

[start quote]
November 20, 2005
Can't See the Forest for the Hikers? Big Groups Face Limits
By MICHELLE YORK
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. - Over the Columbus Day weekend last month, a 16-member group of Boy Scouts and chaperons from Rochester began an overnight hiking trip in the Adirondack High Peaks wilderness area. But for their efforts, the group earned something less illustrious than a merit badge.

Forest rangers evicted them from the park for violating rules that restrict the size of hiking groups after spotting their tents clustered together and the group hiking en masse. Then, state environmental officers gave tickets to the two Scout leaders, who had been warned of the rules beforehand. Only 15 people are allowed to hike together for day trips, and overnight camping groups like the Scouts are limited to eight.

"I feel bad for the kids when that happens," said Peter L. Price, an assistant forest ranger, adding, "I must have spoken to them four times, warning them to split up."

Concerned that large groups were destroying the woods - and the peace - New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation began enforcing stricter limits on group sizes in the wilderness area. As a result, though a few try to flout the law, many have stopped coming.

Since the rules took effect, the number of hikers has dropped steadily, reversing the surge in the 1980's and 90's. Last year, roughly 94,000 hikers visited the High Peaks - down from the highs in the late 1990's when nearly 140,000 hikers visited, according to department statistics.

The state is now reviewing its master plan to see if the drop has been enough to protect the area, or if further restrictions are needed, said a spokesman, David Winchell. The review might take several months.

Some environmental groups, like the Adirondack Council, would like to see even fewer people visit the High Peaks. "I think 85,000 people a year is a good starting point," the executive director, Brian Houseal, said.

Big groups widen the trails. They tend to leave behind more garbage, creating a potential for encounters with bears, and they trample flora on the mountaintops. They also have a harder time keeping track of their members, state officials said.

But restricting them is a problematic policy in a region that depends on tourism. When the rules were enacted, many organizations that used tour buses stopped coming, and other groups, like the Boy Scouts, found it difficult to provide more adults to supervise smaller groups.

"It's a double-edged sword," said Carl Gronlund, the director of operations for Mirror Lake Inn in Lake Placid. Though his business has not been affected so far, he fears further restrictions.

According to a survey in April released by the Lake Placid/Essex County Visitors Bureau, hiking is the main draw for 37 percent of visitors - more than the Olympic sites that provide a showcase for Lake Placid's sporting history. Each visitor is estimated to spend about $243 a day. Some business owners fear continued decreases in annual hiking could cause a significant loss of revenue.

"Without tourism, there wouldn't be much here," Mr. Gronlund said.

In spite of that, most retailers say they are happier, so far, that the High Peaks seem to be on fewer people's itineraries. "There's definitely a decrease in bus groups, but it was getting bad," said Vinny McClelland, the manager of the Mountaineer, a hiker's supply store in Keene Valley. "A bus would pull up and 60 people would get off, with the bus staying there, idling all day." He added that half the people would go into the woods to urinate.

An assistant manager of Eastern Mountain Sports in Lake Placid, Bill Schneider, said he has heard complaints from business owners unhappy about the decrease and from large groups that arrive unaware.

"But I moved here to be in the country, and I enjoy it," he said. "It doesn't hurt my feelings that huge groups aren't tramping through the woods."

Ludger Lebel, the manager of DéTour Nature, a tour business in Montreal that used to visit the High Peaks, scoffed at the suggestion that large groups were disproportionately destructive. "We're well organized and well disciplined," he said.

Because of the regulations, he has scheduled more tours in Vermont and New Hampshire instead of the Adirondacks. "Especially on long weekends, we don't go anymore," he said. "But if I don't go with my bus, people are taking their cars. I don't know which is better for the environment, one bus or 25 cars."

Josh Baker, a director of the outdoor education program at Colgate University, said he has rearranged the college's excursions, taking more frequent bus trips with smaller groups of students, which has increased expenses. "What it's doing now is squeezing us," he said. "We are going to other places as well, but we can't stop going to the High Peaks because it's beautiful."

Rangers often stop groups at the trailheads and break them into smaller parties, hiking at least a mile apart. "Most are understanding and willing to accommodate, and some get irritated and frustrated," Mr. Price said. "We tell them they are definitely more destructive whether they intend to be or not."

The Boy Scout group from Rochester, which received 2 of the 10 tickets issued so far this year, took it in stride and was apologetic, Mr. Price said, adding that once they understood the reason behind the rules, they "actually thanked us." [end quote]

Raymond
11-20-2005, 11:24 PM
I'm pretty sure that Susan and I met Ranger Price the second time we climbed Algonquin Peak, on October 7, 1999. He told us that we wouldn't be able to make the summit without crampons, but we were and did. However, we didn't go on to Iroquois — it was too icy —, and I took a spill during our descent, so he wasn't far wrong.

I doubt very much that many hikers are staying at the Mirror Lake Inn.

It just occurred to me that we met a big group of hikers in August on Noonmark. We saw them arrive in a bus, and they reached the summit ten or fifteen minutes after we did., but I didn't think to count their number. I'm sure it was greater than eight, however. Four or five of them barreled past us on their way down, tearing full tilt down the trail, and there were many more of their party still above.

"Citizen's arrest! Citizen's arrest!"

lumberzac
11-21-2005, 08:58 AM
It just occurred to me that we met a big group of hikers in August on Noonmark. We saw them arrive in a bus, and they reached the summit ten or fifteen minutes after we did., but I didn't think to count their number. I'm sure it was greater than eight, however. Four or five of them barreled past us on their way down, tearing full tilt down the trail, and there were many more of their party still above.

"Citizen's arrest! Citizen's arrest!"
Something to keep in mind is Noonmark is not in the High Peaks Wilderness. It is in the Dix Mountain Wilderness, which doesn’t have as strict rules, although I believe the group limits are the same.

Neil
11-21-2005, 09:12 AM
From today's NYT:



According to a survey in April released by the Lake Placid/Essex County Visitors Bureau, hiking is the main draw for 37 percent of visitors - more than the Olympic sites that provide a showcase for Lake Placid's sporting history. Each visitor is estimated to spend about $243 a day. Some business owners fear continued decreases in annual hiking could cause a significant loss of revenue.

I didn't think hiking was so expensive! I've really been dragging that average down!

spaddock
11-21-2005, 09:34 AM
I didn't think hiking was so expensive! I've really been dragging that average down!

I was thinking the same thing when I read that figure. The most I usually spend is about $15 on dinner on the way home. Occasionally I'll spend the night in a hostel/motel so tack on another $20-50 for that. If I ever get out before they close I like to stop at the Mountaineer.

I highly doubt the boy scouts are spending that much.

I was also surprised that 37% of the visitors were hikers. I was under the impression that the vast majority of the visitors were couples getting away for the weekend, at least in the Lake Placid area.


-Shayne

Daniel Eagan
11-21-2005, 09:44 AM
I doubt very much that many hikers are staying at the Mirror Lake Inn.


The issue for the Mirror Lake Inn is that it sponsors guided snowshoe hikes and guided backcountry hikes for its guests. If two families out of the many staying there sign up, the Inn and its guide are already over the group size limit.

I have more of a problem with school groups who arrive by the busload. I've noticed a St. Lawrence schoolbus more than a few times at the Cascade trailhead. No way those students are dropping $243 a person before heading back to campus.

spaddock
11-21-2005, 09:49 AM
If two families out of the many staying there sign up, the Inn and its guide are already over the group size limit.

The original article said the day limit was 15. The overnight limit is 8. Those would be two big families... ;)


-Shayne

Nessmuk
11-21-2005, 09:57 AM
I was thinking the same thing when I read that figure. The most I usually spend is about $15 on dinner on the way home. Occasionally I'll spend the night in a hostel/motel so tack on another $20-50 for that. If I ever get out before they close I like to stop at the Mountaineer.

I highly doubt the boy scouts are spending that much.

I was also surprised that 37% of the visitors were hikers. I was under the impression that the vast majority of the visitors were couples getting away for the weekend, at least in the Lake Placid area.
-ShayneThink about it... At the risk of sounding stereotypical, if you are a couple responding to such a survey (as Lake Placid tourist type visitors), the guy will say as "hiking" regardless of the truth, and the gal may also but would more likely than the guy include "shopping". There may be some of each, but no doubt both will end up doing a fair amount of shopping. A stop at EMS or the Mountaineer can put one dangerously close to that average upper dollar figure without even figuring a hotel stay. So you get both a high percentage of "hikers" and lots of dollars spent.

Like most here, I spend very little on hiking/backpacking trips and I'm not likely to be in a place where surveyors would interview to me. Unless my wife also comes along :D

mavs00
11-21-2005, 10:21 AM
Raymond (and others)

just a thought....there may be a lot YOU ARE NOT READING. I am from Rochester and I know the troop in question. My son is heavily involved in scouting here (but not with THAT troop). Without going into detail (which really would not be appropriete here), suffice to say, this was NOT a case of "big brother" prowling the high peaks looking swing an axe in to the very foudation of American youth-building (scouting). They were specifficaly told beforehand that a permit would be needed to camp in group size that large, and were given the opportunity to split up before being ticketed. Rules were deliberatly disregarded in this case. The troop and the Otetiana Council (the parent council of the group in question) eventually went on to THANK the DEC for issuing the citations, once the reasons behind them were explained.

To the best of my understanding, the Dix Mountain UMP, much like the Giant Mountain UMP, has been published (January 2004), but not yet codified. So while the documents are in that long drawn out process, the regulations contained in them, including a max day-use group size of 15, are not really enforcable. The HPWA UMP (High Peaks whien the BS infraction) occured is codified, and thus, citations for violations can and are given.

I think, while its easy to assume that the Ranger wanted to be a hard a$$ in this situation and nail the BSA with a fine, there just MAY be other factors in play that the rest of us are not privy to. Just my thoughts. I wasn't there, but there has been more local media coverage of this event here in Rochester, plus more backchannel discussions among the BS community in town.

mavs00
11-21-2005, 10:48 AM
As an aside, between GAS, food, lodging and incidentals, when we (my family of 4) travel to the Adirondacks for the express purpose of hiking, we easily spend between 250-350 bucks for a 2-3 day trip. Figure eating out, for a family of 4 (hungry from a days hike), can easily approach $80-$100 alone. Add a lodging and bam, another $50-$70 is down the drain, Hitting that our total ain't hard. We RARELY SHOP there, but if we did the daily per person total quoted (which I think is high) could get approached.

Could we go cheaper, yup........ and when it's just me (or me and my son) we do, but when we go as a family, we hike, camp (or motel it in cold weather) and then go out to eat at one of our favorite post-hike joints for food (and a few brews for me ;) ). It's family time, not subsistence time.

We do this, as a family unit, easily on average of 9-12 times a year. When it's just me, I'm liable to drive up, crash at a car campsite/trailhead, hike the next day and bolt from the park after the hike. done that at least 5-7 times this year times. That's probably how many of us hardcore folks (on VFTT) do it. But you got to remember, particularly in the warmer months, there are many families, or groups of hikers less "hardcore" than us VFTT folks that do in the style that I do with my family.

Lets face it, it's much more appealing to folks whose lives are less consumed by peakbagging (and may only go a few times a year) to spend a little extra and have some comforts. I can tell you, despite being quite good hikers in their own right, certainly my wife (ADKatie) and 12 y/o daughter, prefer post hike showers & good meals. Keeping them happy (and for our kids, still interested) is enough to justify between $3000-$4000 clams out of the old annual family budget be dedicated to it. Even though, we could probably trim it in half doing it on the cheap, we choose not to and the price is more than worth it. With the kids at 12-14, keeping it appealing to them is important to us.

............. And truth be told, I'm kinda fond of my steak and (even more so) the few LPB IPA's at the end of long day hiking ;). It sure beats ramon noodles or a Stewart's steamed weenie and a bag of chips on the go that typical for my solo trips.

I'm willing to bet, there are MANY other folks out there just like us (the family unit), and those figures, which also seemed a touch high to me, probably reflects people in that category, moeso than it does people in the "solo Mavs" style, which is the way many of us VFTTers might do it.

Plus, if they consider skiers (x-country and downhillers) in that "hiker" (or folks doing outdoor activities) category, than NO DOUBT could that total be reached, and quickly. We'd condsdered a weekend ski trip for 4, in the aformentioned style, we couldn't do it for under $700 bucks, no chance.

Just a though anyway.

Pete_Hickey
11-21-2005, 12:38 PM
Read carefully. 37% of the visiters are hikers. Each visiter spends an average of $243... 66% of the visiters are not hikers. I'll bet that the average spent by the 66% is way higher than the average spent by the 37%.

But it's always bitching. I used to hear that hikers weren't liked, because they don't spend as much as the snomobilers and skiers.

Day size limits have been in the high peaks area for a few years now. I find it kind of strange that this pops up now. Sounds like someone with an agenda to me.

mavs00
11-21-2005, 01:16 PM
Read carefully. 37% of the visitors are hikers. Each visiter spends an average of $243... 66% of the visitors are not hikers. I'll bet that the average spent by the 66% is way higher than the average spent by the 37%.

Good point, Pete. One that makes it seem more logical.

Still, I'm sure that on average, many of the people you find day-hiking in the ADK's around the northern trailheads do spend some cash in LP, Saranac Lake, or region in general. Perhaps not this crowd persay, but kicking around LP, I always see fellow hikers in pups, restaurants, campgrounds, shops in and around town. In fact, I rarely go into the EMS on Main Street anymore, cause its always PACKED. Many people in there are picking up hiking stuff for hikes planned. Just cause you may only be johnny joe, visiting LP for the first time, about to tackle Cascade or Mt. Joe for the first time, it doesn't, in the single moment, you are considered less a hiker than....... say, those of us that may be a considered more regular in our habits.

I guess what I'm trying to say, in my ever loquacious way, it that if you put the VFTT crowd on the scale of all those 94'000 High Peaks visitors, you might find our names in the books more often, but certainly we'd be further down the "$$ spent per hike" list than the average ADK hiker.

spaddock
11-21-2005, 01:38 PM
I guess what I'm trying to say, in my ever loquacious way, it that if you put the VFTT crowd on the scale of all those 94'000 High Peaks visitors, you might find our names in the books more often, but certainly we'd be further down the "$$ spent per hike" list than the average ADK hiker.

For sure. Before I ever realized there was a 46er list I went down to Lake Placid with my wife for my birthday weekend. We stayed at the High Peaks Hostel for 2 Nights, ate out for breakfast and dinner, and on the 3rd day my wife went shopping while I hiked... not because she likes shopping but she needed something to do while waiting for me.

That being said, I think the $20-$50 I spend on each trip is better than not coming at all. Every bit helps the locals I would think.


-Shayne

imarchant
11-21-2005, 03:37 PM
Raymond (and others)

just a thought....there may be a lot YOU ARE NOT READING. I am from Rochester and I know the troop in question. My son is heavily involved in scouting here (but not with THAT troop). Without going into detail (which really would not be appropriete here), suffice to say, this was NOT a case of "big brother" prowling the high peaks looking swing an axe in to the very foudation of American youth-building (scouting). They were specifficaly told beforehand that a permit would be needed to camp in group size that large, and were given the opportunity to split up before being ticketed. Rules were deliberatly disregarded in this case. ......

As a scout leader, who lead a group of scouts to the high peaks region this summer, I asked the DEC rangers about getting a permit for more than 8. I was told there are no permits that will allow more than 8 for an overnight, no exceptions. The rules were made very clear. We met another scout troop that was more than eight and they were required to split into two groups, which they did. It is unforunate that this group deliberatly defied the rules, it does not make the scouts look good. My experience was that the DEC rangers were more than glad to have the scouts there. We also performed a service project while camping. I am posistive that the rangers do not have an "axe to grind" with the BSA. This is hopefully just an isolated case.

rhihn
11-21-2005, 04:02 PM
I am posistive that the rangers do not have an "axe to grind" with the BSA. This is hopefully just an isolated case.

The article mentioned the ranger's comments, which certainly gave the scouts ample warning: "I must have spoken to them four times, warning them to split up." To me, that doesn't sound like a ranger with an axe to grind, but one who bent over backwards to get them to comply before ticketing them.

Nessmuk
11-21-2005, 07:24 PM
The article mentioned the ranger's comments, which certainly gave the scouts ample warning: "I must have spoken to them four times, warning them to split up." To me, that doesn't sound like a ranger with an axe to grind, but one who bent over backwards to get them to comply before ticketing them.I personally know several rangers fairly well, all good guys in my book who I keep on the good side of. I also am intimately familiar with the BSA High Adventure program. Treks out of BSA summer camps are accompanied by a trained guide, to include detailed trip planning and all equipment and food for 5 days of high adventure backpacking and/or canoeing in the Adirondacks. It generally works well for troops and leaders with no experience or idea of what to do and where to go. A guide is typically a college age person who has completed a rigorous 8 day class and backcountry field program, wishing to be employed by a BSA summer camp. Meeting and talking to rangers about DEC regulations is included as part of the training program. However, BSA does not prevent troops from going out on their own with whatever experience and judgement their leaders happen to have.

Unfortunately I also know of a different but similar example from a couple of years ago, when a large troop was split up into 2 treks and given different guides. They were warned by the ranger at least 3 times to separate themselves before the guides were fined $100 each for camping in adjacent campsites. They paid it out of their own pocket. Given the facts I definitely agreed with the ranger and was extremely disappointed in the guides' judgement.

The numbers are not on BSA's side. Given a max group size of 8, including the guide and at least one mandatory additional leader, there's only room for 6 boys. That is rarely the case as usually 2 or more leaders come along, resulting in even fewer boys. Having the camp come up with extra guides and transportation arrangements because the troop decided to add one more boy or leader at the last minute just does not work - excess guides are not just sitting around waiting for work. A bit more planning is necessary, and the scout councils are as responsible as anyone for dropping the ball.

Pete_Hickey
11-21-2005, 07:40 PM
To me, that doesn't sound like a ranger with an axe to grind, but one who bent over backwards to get them to comply before ticketing them.
Like I said before, it sounds to me, like someone who has an axe to grind against the DEC and these regulations.

Someone who wants to paint the DEC as bad guys. I wonder who went to the newspapers, and why they interviewed those that they did.

Follow the money.


On the spending side....My spending record on a trip, was $1.06. That was all I spent on the entire trip. No gas, nothing but something from the $0.99 menu at the burger king in Saranac Lake. Oh yeah. My transportation on that trip was a bicycle.

Grumpy
11-21-2005, 11:14 PM
Rules is rules. Abide by them.

I learned that in Boy Scouts, many decades ago.

G.

forestgnome
11-22-2005, 06:33 AM
Rules is rules. Abide by them.

I learned that in Boy Scouts, many decades ago.

G.

Well said! The two leaders acted like spoiled children, providing a horrible example for the scouts, exactly the opposite of what they should be learning. Just another example of the spoiled, arrogant attitude of this generation. :(

WalksWithBlackflies
11-22-2005, 09:16 AM
"My spending record on a trip, was $1.06" ---

Oh yeah, well I've been paid to hike :D Gotta love those jobs in the Adks that I complete in 4 hours!

beverly
11-22-2005, 09:23 AM
Rules is rules. Abide by them.

I learned that in Boy Scouts, many decades ago.

G.

I guess you skipped grammar class to go to that meeting.
:D

Neil
11-22-2005, 09:28 AM
My spending record? Glad you asked. $00.00
Drive to the dacks, get out of car, hike, get back in car where food and drink awaits, drive home. Who knows, maybe there's someone who hiked the 46 without spending a cent.
In these days where what's good for the ecology is bad for the economy hikers have to have a bad rep. We want to preserve the wildreness but we don't spend money there. (Thanks Mavs00 for boosting our average!)

Dynotrick
11-22-2005, 05:44 PM
My spending record? Glad you asked. $00.00
Drive to the dacks, get out of car, hike, get back in car where food and drink awaits, drive home. Who knows, maybe there's someone who hiked the 46 without spending a cent.
In these days where what's good for the ecology is bad for the economy hikers have to have a bad rep. We want to preserve the wildreness but we don't spend money there. (Thanks Mavs00 for boosting our average!)


So whats the secret to free rooms at the Ark Trail??? ;) :p