I commend and support the hard work and wonderful collaborations going on with the Fiord Trail project. It is a bold and large vision. As I sat in the meeting room on April 29 at the Chalet, however, I could not help but to think that there was a big pink elephant in the room which no one seemed to be addressing, or at least during the parts of the meeting I attended.
That elephant is that there are simply too many people using Breakneck Ridge — a situation where the mountain and Route 9D are being loved to death. And the obvious fallout is the creation of a public nuisance in terms of traffic, safety and trail hygiene. There are close to 2,000 people using this very small area during a busy weekend — clearly a situation demonstrating that the state has failed for years to exercise wise management and get this sorted out and under control.
Mohonk Preserve had a similar problem for years along Routes 44-55 with endless rows of cars being parked alongside the edge of the highway and hikers and climbers walking on the dangerous roadside. The preserve solved the problem by building a few key parking lots with definite capacities, along with a flyer showing a variety of other nearby places from which to access the preserve. The roadsides were no longer available for parking, and those rules were enforced by the police.
We need to do precisely the same thing along Route 9D — limit the parking to large, designated and safe areas, and provide readily available information about other trails and parking spots along the ridge should those lots fill up. Block all the parking along the east side of 9D north of the Breakneck tunnel with concrete barriers so that there is very limited pedestrian crossing of the road, and much less chance of accidents.
The Fiord Trail project is a great one! But we also have to address the sheer numbers of people coming here, and become wise managers of our natural resource. That means understanding that there is a “carrying capacity” to all resources, and the present situation, especially at Breakneck Ridge, is out of control and needs to be reined in, for everyone’s good. Can New York State Parks and the State Department of Transportation please do their duties and exercise some very long overdue management? It may not be popular at first, but in the long run, it is our only option.