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Buses, Bicycles and Canoes - Bringing New City Kids and Old Park Lovers to the Adirondacks in New Way

Tuesday, December 16, 2014
By: Jeff Bronheim - former Adirondack Council board member

The Adirondack Council is always looking for ways to broaden the group of people who know, love and support the Adirondack Park. Former Adirondack Council Board Member Jeff Bronheim shares a vision for improving the Adirondack Park’s economy by making it more accessible to urban-dwelling young people who may not have access to a car, and reducing car usage for others:

I want to share with you some ideas about economic development in an environmentally sensitive way, which meet modern Park-users’ needs. The key is to think wider than just single towns... to think across the Park as a destination. The Park has always been known for its waterways and hikes... the idea is to add better transportation among them, and add better bike routes between them.

The total cost would include: purchase/lease the local buses and equip them with drivers; purchase/lease the long distance buses (or subsidize a company to provide the service); improved road-side shoulders, clear/maintain bike paths; build and operate the hostels/grouped campsites.

These investments might seem expensive at first, but could return an enormous dividend in terms of new support for the Park. If the Adirondack Park of the future is going to be as green and healthy as the one we have today, we will need the next generation to cherish it as we do.

The cheaper and easier it is for all people to get here and enjoy the Adirondack Park, the more likely they are to recognize what a wonderful place this is to live, work and raise a family.

My vision has four parts, three of which involve transportation:

1. Local Buses: Initiate bus service among all of the towns and hamlets of the Park. Buses would have bike and canoe racks/trailers in the summer and space for luggage and bags. For local people, this will allow shopping in different towns and reduce the need for long drives. Some towns no longer have their own super-markets in the winter, or at all. Local and visiting people could travel around inexpensively and go shopping or for dinner or a drink in another town. This would encourage more compact, walking friendly communities near the bus stops. Stops could also be at major attractions such as the Wild Center and the Adirondack Museum; at Whiteface, Gore and Big Tupper chair lifts; Great Camp Sagamore, Fort Ticonderoga, Ausable Chasm, etc, and busses would also stop “on request” along the way. This would also allow residents to commute to work in other towns without a car.

Visitors would be able to stay in one town, then easily get to another without a car. They could bike between towns, or canoe, or take their bike or canoe/kayak on the bus to a more distant town -- and bike/hike or canoe back to where they started. Visitors could more easily arrange long-distance trail or river excursions that currently require two cars.

2. Overnight Sleeper Buses to the Park: Fewer and fewer urban residents now own cars (or even have driving licenses). Renting a car is time consuming and costly. The drive up to the Park from New York or Boston or Philadelphia is long. I propose overnight buses with decent sleeping seats and bike and maybe even boat racks. Customers would get the bus at 10 or 11p.m. on Thursday or Friday night, and arrive in the Park rested at 6 or 7 a.m. The buses won’t require changing in Albany in the middle of the night.

Overnight buses would stop in the center of hamlets and villages, but also at canoe rental places (Old Forge or Tupper Lake, for example) or even major trail heads. Travelers could arrive, get breakfast and set off with the entire day ahead of them. They could return to the same place for the return trip, or end-up in another village and/or take the local buses from one community to the next. This will give young people an easy way to enjoy the Park in a modern way. Residents or vacationers could leave their car in the Park, and come and go easily. This would allow longer, easier and more environmentally friendly summer stays.

3. Bicycle Routes: Improved bike trails between towns and on the road sides would allow even amateur bikers to enjoy the Park. Years ago, the Adirondack Council worked with state officials to require that every state highway reconstruction project involve “bike-able shoulders,” but there has been little coordinated planning. We look at snowmobile trails and canoe routes, but what about good/safe bike lanes along the roads? Most Adirondack communities are actually a nice riding distance apart -- even a novice can ride 10 miles in a day. The tiny hamlet of Inlet has a great bike shop and has created the Black Fly Challenge bike race. Spread this across the park. Since the buses will have bike racks, it will be easy to bring bikes to the Park and then ride around.

4. Rooms and accommodations: Many older motels and old-fashioned rental cabins are shutting down. But, the little cabins could work well for bike riders if they could be saved. I propose something like hostels or bunk houses or grouped serviced lean-tos in each town. Bike riders or those who arrive by bus or canoe/kayak or even on foot can stay simply and easily, and either prepare their own meals or use local eateries (within walking distance). Each town would have such a basic accommodation area suitable for bikers, walkers or canoers (depending on the location). This would ease the creation of a network of accommodations that prevents travelers from getting stranded.

Basic pricing should be uniform to encourage hamlet-hopping that spreads out the travelers across many locations – as Ireland does to encourage travelers to keep using its Bed & Breakfast network as visitors move from town to town. The Irish want people to take a long look around, spend money in many locations instead of just one, and generally spread the wealth a little.

Owners could turn a profit at just $20 per night for example, plus an additional fee for meals (if provided). You could get clean sheets if you don't bring a sleeping bag. You can get a blanket for $5 more. I suppose you could have more up-market options or private people competing. Of course wi-fi would add to the attraction.

Apps can be developed to link long distance and local bus schedules, bike and boat rental places, accommodations, attractions, weather information, fishing forecasts, river-levels, etc.

With these pieces in place, a huge number of people could easily visit the Park in a modern and efficient way. And local people and the economy would also be served. Paddlers, bikers, walkers or just town visitors can visit without a car, and those with cars can leave them for the long trip to and from the Park.

 

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Jeff Bronheim has spent all but one of his summers at Raquette Lake in the Adirondacks.  Born and raised in New York, he has lived abroad for almost twenty years, including in Madrid, Spain and London, England.  Jeff works as an International Alternative Asset Management attorney and writes and speaks frequently on European financial issues.  He is also a passionate Adirondacker and environmental activist - and especially loves fishing, rowing antique guideboats and sailing wooden boats.  He is married to Elvira Barroso of Madrid and they have two teen-aged daughters, all of who bring their own unique perspective to the Park.  He is particularly interested in modern uses and sustainable development of the Park. 

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