KEENE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – On Monday, Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos came to the Adirondack Park to celebrate its successes – especially since the COVID-19 pandemic – and discuss its future.

“Whether it’s the Adirondacks or Catskills, you really get a sense of why people come to these places. This is paradise,” said Seggos on Monday, standing in front of a range of Adirondack mountains. “This is New York’s Yellowstone, and New Yorkers have discovered that.”

Seggos ran through a list of new DEC public safety projects, to be rolled out over the course of 2022. First on the list, a weekend shuttle program reaching several mountains in the Adirondack High Peaks is making a comeback after a successful 2021. In the program, shuttles travel Route 73, visiting Rooster Comb, Giant Mountain and Roaring Brook Falls trailheads, all starting from Marcy Field in the town of Keene.

Shuttles will run through the season, with a full schedule yet to be announced. Rides are provided free of charge. The program was first used last August, in order to lessen dangerous roadside parking conditions in the High Peaks region.

“It doesn’t come without challenges when you have that increased visitation,” Seggos said. “You see major questions about public safety. You see impacts to the backcountry as well, impacts even in the front country with many people who want to get into these beautiful spaces.”

Similarly, the pilot parking reservation system for the Adirondack Mountain Reserve recently returned on May 1. The system, which also started in 2021, allows hikers to reserve their spots to hike and use Adirondack Mountain Reserve land, in order to mitigate crowd sizes. In 2021, nearly 21,000 visitors made use of the program. Reservations for the 2022 season are open now.

Other new actions by the DEC include the hiring of 29 new Assistant Forest Ranger personnel. 19 of those will operate in the Adirondacks. New “Your speed is” signs and variable message boards are also set to be installed to help smooth out traffic.

Meanwhile, the New York Department of Transportation is at work on an $8.3 million project of its own, replacing barriers and guide rail portions along a trio of segments of Route 73. Those sections are located in the towns of Keene and North Elba. The new railing will allow for better views while maintaining safety. At the end of the day, public safety is the bottom line.

“Learn the rules of the road. Be prepared before you hit the trail. Make smart decisions, because if you don’t, it could cost you a life,” Seggos said. “It could send rangers and state police into the woods for hours and hours – endangering them as well.”

Much of what’s new from the DEC is thanks in part to $8 million from the State Environmental Protection Fund. Money is allocated specifically for both the Adirondack and Catskill wildnesses. The DEC is also creating new primitive tent sites in the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest; and deploying portable toilets to areas that previously lacked accommodations.