There’s little more primitive than a hiker’s hand-written entry in a trailhead logbook. And there’s little more sophisticated than a computer-generated Geographic Information System (GIS) map based on digitized data. Thanks to a project involving students from the New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry at Syracuse, the two forms are being put together, to the benefit of all the various agencies and interest groups that are responsible for and care about the Adirondacks.
The logbooks, which ask for the signer’s name, date, destination, length of stay, address and number in party, are there primarily for safety, so rangers can tell who is in the woods, who has come out — and if they didn’t, where they were going in case a search is necessary.
But that information, if put into digital and map form, could be extremely valuable to those who want more detail about how the park is used, when, where tourists come from, etc. Knowing such things could help the Department of Environmental Conservation in determining how to prioritize maintenance, protect trails from overuse, locate amenities like lean-tos, assign personnel, classify land. It could help the Adirondack Park Agency with land-use planning. And it could help businesses target their advertising and marketing.
The project would be useful, as a snapshot of current usage, even if it stopped after this summer’s compilation of 2012 records. But the plan is to continue with it, analyzing logbooks all the way back to 2000 for recreational trends.
“Too much information” is an expression often heard these days when people are being overly revealing about themselves. But when it comes to the Adirondack Park, and the constant balancing act of protecting it while allowing people to use it and make a living from it, there can never be too much information — or at least good information. This project is providing that, and New Yorkers should be grateful to the students for it.