DEC, Essex County, and Town of Keene Announce New Pilot Route 73 Shuttle System to Launch Aug. 21
New Pilot Shuttle Program Will Be Free for Riders and Help Manage Sustainable Visitation to Adirondack High Peaks Region
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Essex County, and town of Keene today announced the details of the new, pilot Route 73 shuttle system that will launch on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021. The pilot will explore how shuttles may help manage safe, sustainable visitation along the busy Route 73 corridor and in the Adirondack High Peaks region. The shuttle system will operate on weekends and holidays through Monday, Oct. 11, and at no cost to riders.
"Ensuring public safety and enhancing access to the world class opportunities in the Adirondack Park is a top priority, and this new pilot shuttle system is a critical next step in our comprehensive efforts to promote sustainable tourism in the region," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "I commend our staff and our local partners Essex County, town of Keene, and others for developing this pilot program that will enhance the visitor experience for hikers, climbers, and other visitors to this incredible part of the Adirondacks, and look forward to learning from this experience as we continue to advance additional improvements in the area."
Shaun Gillilland, Chair of the Essex County Board of Supervisors, said, "The hiker shuttle is a tremendous example of how local governments and State agencies can join together to provide superlative service to our residents, visitors, and citizens to both showcase and protect the wonderful natural wonders of our Park. Essex County looks forward to this and many more collaborative projects with DEC."
Joe Pete Wilson, Supervisor of the town of Keene, said, "The Route 73 Hiker Shuttle is an important step in providing access to the popular trailheads in Keene. The town is happy to be involved in this partnership and believes that it is a good step towards addressing access, safety, and providing a platform for education."
The new hiker shuttle route will start and end at the Marcy Field parking area and stop to pick up and drop off riders at three popular trailheads along the Route 73 corridor. Stops will include the Rooster Comb trailhead going eastbound and westbound, and the Giant Mountain Ridge Trail and Roaring Brook Falls trailheads on the westbound return. Stewards will be stationed at all pick-up and drop-off locations to assist with navigating the shuttle system and educate hikers on responsible recreation, including preparedness, hiking safety, and Leave No Trace™ principles. A route map and shuttle schedule are available at the Essex County website (leaves DEC's website) and DEC's website on the High Peaks Wilderness page.
The hiker shuttle will operate from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays through Oct. 11, 2021. The final loop for return trips to Marcy Field will depart at approximately 6 p.m. There is no cost associated with riding the shuttle and no fee for parking at Marcy Field. One shuttle, which will accommodate up to 20 riders, is currently scheduled to operate. Boarding is available on a first-come first-served basis. Pets are not allowed on the county-operated shuttle; certified service animals will be permitted. The shuttle will operate according to State and federal COVID-19 protocols. All riders will be required to wear a mask on the shuttle, including vaccinated individuals. Riders are expected to provide their own masks and may be denied entry if not masked.
The shuttle service is supported through the Environmental Protection Fund with up to $2 million combined from the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 State budgets and was developed in response to persistent public safety concerns regarding parking along the busy Route 73 corridor. In recent years, pedestrian traffic, illegal parking, and roadside stopping along Route 73 have created a dangerous environment for hikers and motorists alike. A public shuttle from Marcy Field, which has safe and ample parking, will increase the ability of more visitors to reach their desired hike while limiting illegal and unsafe parking along Route 73.
The shuttle will not stop at the Adirondack Mountain Reserve (AMR) parking area nor is the AMR Parking area (aka St. Hubert's) accessible from the Roaring Brook/Giant Mountain lot where the shuttle will drop off and pick up riders. Advanced reservations to access parking for Round and Noonmark mountains and the AMR gate are still required as part of the joint DEC-AMR pilot parking reservation system announced earlier this year to increase public safety. The shuttle system is not part of the DEC-AMR Hiker Parking Reservation System. Visit AMR's website (leaves DEC's website) to learn more and to book a reservation.
The pilot Route 73 shuttle complements a long-standing service provided by the town of Keene that provides transportation to and from the Garden Trailhead from the Marcy Field parking area. The town shuttle will continue to run in conjunction with the Route 73 shuttle system. The town shuttle runs from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays when the Garden parking lot is full. There is currently a $10 cash-only charge ($13 Canadian) to ride the town shuttle. Once the pilot shuttle program begins on Aug. 21, the town of Keene shuttle will also be free. Masks are required to be worn on the town shuttle, even for fully vaccinated individuals. Well-behaved dogs on leashes are only permitted on the town shuttle, not the new hiker shuttle.
In addition, the pilot supports other State and local efforts underway to reduce dangerous and illegal parking in the Route 73 corridor, including variable electronic message boards and additional signage, the pilot parking reservation system at the Adirondack Mountain Reserve, bolstered social media outreach and education, and increased law enforcement presence and parking enforcement.
The pilot shuttle system was among recommendations in the High Peaks Advisory Group's (HPAG) final report (PDF) on promoting sustainable recreation in the Adirondack Park. In 2019, HPAG was tasked with providing DEC with recommendations on how to address critical issues associated with increased public use of High Peaks resources in order to protect these areas in the short and long term, as well as for future generations.
DEC reminds visitors to State-owned and managed lands to practice responsible recreation. Earlier this year, DEC launched the 'Love Our New York Lands' campaign in response to the steady increase in the number of visitors to state lands, both during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the decade prior, as more and more New Yorkers and visitors from other states and countries discovered the natural beauty of New York State. The campaign bolsters ongoing State- and partner-led efforts to educate the public about how to responsibly enjoy outdoor recreation on public lands without negatively impacting natural resources by promoting Leave No Trace™ principles, hiker preparedness and safety, sustainable use, and responsible trip planning. For details and more information, visit the Love Our New York Lands page on DEC's website.