The covid crisis is bringing about a lot of “new norms” for us all to get used to.
Remote schooling. Remote working. Masks. Curbside delivery. Elbow bumps.
Some of these norms came directly from the current crisis and will probably end with the crisis. People will stop wearing masks and start shaking hands again.
But some of the norms were already in the works before the crisis, and circumstances pushed them along.
If you like to hike the popular trails in the Adirondacks or Catskills, one of the permanent new norms is going to be permit parking and hiking by reservation.
And it’s starting with the new pilot program for a portion of the Adirondack High Peaks off Route 73 in the town of Keene.
The state announced Monday that it was launching a pilot reservation system for the Adirondack Mountain Reserve from May 1 to Oct. 31, by which people wanting to hike that particular nugget of the Adirondacks would have to secure a parking permit for one of the 70 spaces.
The pilot program also places a limit on the number of hikers who can enter the area at any one time, requiring that they, too, get a reservation to enter.
Not only do large numbers of visitors create traffic jams and parking problems in many areas of the state park, they also damage the trails and ecosystem, stress park facilities and increase the demand on a very limited number of forest rangers.
The problem didn’t start during covid.
Environmental advocates have been calling for some kind of permit system for years to protect these areas.
But when people were forced during covid to find other things to do to occupy their time that didn’t involve gathering in large crowds, many discovered the great outdoors. And that pushed up the timeline for some kind of system to control the crowds in particularly sensitive areas.
While they call this a pilot program, you can bet permit parking and hiking reservations, at least for the most popular areas, is here to stay. That’s a good thing.
For one, it will ensure the long-term viability of the trails and at least control some of the damage from overuse.
It also will force people who still want to enjoy the wilderness to find less popular but equally enjoyable places to go.
A parking permit system limiting access to some areas will force the issue because people will be forced to go elsewhere.
The state should seize the opportunity to expand its marketing of alternative trails and consider expanding the reservation system to other popular areas, even before the pilot program ends.
Embrace the change. It was needed, and it was a long time in coming.
The covid crisis just helped it along.
For more information on the new reservation system, visit https://www.dec.ny.gov/press/122634.htm.