Thousands of hikers use new parking system

The Adirondack Mountain Reserve parking lot in St. Huberts, pictured Oct. 5, 2019. Elizabeth Izzo/Adirondack Daily Enterprise

ST. HUBERTS — More than 15,000 hikers signed up to use the new Adirondack Mountain Reserve pilot parking reservation system over the summer, AMR and the state Department of Environmental Conservation announced Monday.

The online reservation system, HikeAMR, was launched in May in an effort to mitigate safety issues and traffic problems on a stretch of Route 73 near the entrance to the AMR lot, which boasts several popular trailheads to the High Peaks Wilderness.

In the past, when the parking lot would get full, there was no way for hikers to know it was full before they arrived. Upon arrival, some hikers would choose to park illegally along the roadside and walk the road to their desired trailhead. Tested in the AMR parking lot this year, the pilot program gives High Peaks visitors the opportunity to register for a parking spot in advance. The system will continue to operate for at least the next two years.

While AMR typically averaged about 15,000 hikers per year as recently at 2014, that number soared to more than 30,000 hikers who visited the High Peaks in 2020, according to a news release from the AMR and DEC.

All 62 counties in New York are represented in HikeAMR’s registrants this summer, with the Capitol Region bringing the most visitors, according to the AMR and DEC. Registered hikers came from almost every U.S. state, with the exception of Hawaii.

John Schuler, general manager of the AMR, said in a statement Monday that the website garnered those numbers in less than four months.

“We worked very hard to bring a hospitality approach to this system including creating a user-friendly site, answering hundreds of emails, and listening to our users and making adjustments based on their feedback,” he said.

The reservation system went through several changes before reaching its current flow. One of those changes was installing an automatic gate so hikers could return to their cars and exit the AMR lot at their convenience. Previously, there was a manual gate that employees shut at 7 p.m. nightly; some hikers expressed concern that they might not have enough time to descend to their cars before closing.

Hikers can also now make their parking reservations just 12 hours in advance, as opposed to the original requirement of 24 hours in advance.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a statement that the DEC will continue to work with AMR to hone the system for next year.

“With a rainy summer behind us, DEC and AMR are looking forward to a wonderful fall in the Adirondacks and continuing to build on the success of this pilot to strengthen public safety and improve the region’s visitor experience,” he said. “We will continue to work with AMR, the hiking community, and local stakeholders to adaptively manage this reservation system going forward and continue to provide safe public access to the High Peaks.”

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