Saranac Lake – To climb Mount Baker as part of the village’s 6er hiking challenge, hikers will have to start at the 6er bell from now on.
Saranac Lake Village Council is working with residents near Baker Trail on Forest Hill Street in an effort to mitigate parking and traffic issues, driveway erosion, and safety on the residential road where the trail begins. On Monday, the board passed a resolution that includes several actions aimed at addressing issues there and including Baker in the challenge’s work — including limiting the village’s promotion of the 6er Challenge and changing the starting point for Baker’s height.
If these changes do not have a file “A positive, lasting, or appropriate effect,” The decision states that the village will withdraw the entire 6er Challenge on May 25, 2023 – exactly a decade after it was introduced.
The Village established the 6er program on May 25, 2013. The Hiking Challenge includes Baker, the shortest hiking trip, along with St. Regis, Scarface, Ambersand, Hasstack and McKenzie.
Trustees Matt Scullen and Kelly Brunette voted to approve the decision, along with Mayor Jimmy Williams. Trustees Rich Shapiro and Tom Cattellas voted against it. Proposal passed 3-2.
Shapiro felt sections of this decision are not promoting the 6er challenge or retiring completely “Throw the baby with the bath water.”
The approved resolution states that starting from the Baker Trail will no longer be considered legitimate submission to the Mountain Challenge. The trip must start and end at the 6er bell in Berkeley Green. This adds about a mile of trail walking to the mile-long mountain pass, doubling the length of the trail, but not adding much elevation gain.
The village agreed to remove the 6er mountain streamers from the Light Pillar Banner Program Rotation Program, scrub the 6er mentions from its tourism site saranaclake.com and redirect the village-owned domain name saranaclake6er.com to its saranaclakeny.gov web page, where there will be an online registration page to challenge.
Trustee Kelly Brunette said the 6er page is the most visited page on saranaclake.com, the village tourism website operated by the Regional Office for Sustainable Tourism. Shapiro said the village’s state website page on the 6er gets fewer visits than AllTrails hiking site Baker Mountain list.
The village also agreed to allocate future 6er revenue to Saranac Lake Local Development Corporation for use in trail stewardship, advocacy, education, maintenance and improvements.
Shapiro said he doesn’t think Becker’s inclusion in the 6er program is responsible for its high use. He said it was a regional issue and felt that no distinction should be made between Baker or VI.
To date, about 5,600 6ers have registered for the hiking challenge. Assuming those are often in the summer months, Shapiro said, that only works out to four people a day.
“Four people a day is no cause for the parking and traffic problem you guys see on Moody Pond,” Shapiro said. “It’s not the 6er program that drives it. It’s the popularity of hiking all the peaks, all the trails, and everywhere in the park. In the past 10 years, the use of all trails everywhere in the north of the country, has gone up exponentially.”
Williams said he didn’t want to monetize a hike that hurts residents.
“There are 5,600 people who climbed Baker because we challenged them to do so,” Williams said.
If promoting Baker or 6er isn’t working, Shapiro asked, why would the village then retire from the program.
“If this doesn’t solve the problem for Becker, it’s not the 6er that’s creating the problem,” he said. Shapiro said. “If that doesn’t solve it, killing the program won’t solve it.”
Even with these changes, Williams said, Forest Hill Avenue residents will still have problems with parking and traffic. But he does not want the village to contribute to these issues.
“If that doesn’t solve the problem at Baker, how does retiring the other five mountains solve the problem at Baker?” Shapiro asked.
“Do you want to call her a 5er?” Williams said.
The brunette said this decision is not the answer, but it gives other groups time to find more solutions.
“This is the kind of long-awaited action taken,” said the brunette.
Several Forest Hill Street residents attended Monday’s meeting.
Jerry Pugh, who lives on the North Elba side of the road, said he thinks the 6er program has brought more hikers to Baker.
“It’s getting progressively worse over the years,” Bough said.
The town of Saint Armand has installed signs telling motorists where parking is and isn’t allowed, but said these signs are being ignored.
“We need something here,” Bough said. “They park their cars wherever they feel like it.”
The boardwalk has been on the Forest Hill Avenue site for 25 years.
Brendon Phelps said neighborhood residents have brought the case to the village before, but nothing has been done.
Becker compared Cobble Hill in Lake Placid, which had a small on-road parking lot provided by Northwood School. Last year, the Adirondack Land Trust, which takes care of 79 acres of private land in and around Cobble Hill, said parking was off-limits to hikers, and hikers were asked to start their summit from anywhere in town.
Trevor Jackson, who lives on the North Elba side of the road, said use of the mountain exceeds parking resources. Baker said he “Fabulous” but “Exaggerated Marketing” Origin.
“I don’t think excluding Baker from the 6er program or canceling the 6er program would have much of an impact because it’s a popular hiking activity anyway,” he said. Jackson said. “But I think it is a good faith effort on behalf of the village to try to solve the problem.”
“I bore the brunt of it because my house is there,” Bob Jackish said.
He wondered if he might not have built his house there, but said that when he did, it was a quiet and peaceful neighborhood. He said that has changed. He said motorists pull turns in the road all the time.
When Shapiro was saying he didn’t think the 6er was responsible for the hiker’s increase in Baker, Jackish shouted from the back of the room: “I beg your pardon, you don’t live there. You don’t see it every day. We see it every day.”
What is the problem with Baker?
The Baker Mountain Trail is actually located in St. Armand, just outside the Saranac Lake Village line. Forest Hill Street passes through the point where the towns of North Elba, St. Armand, and the Saranac Lake Village border meet. Although most of Forest Hill Street is in the village of Saranac Lake, the North Corner—a 0.2-mile stretch of road that contains the Mount Baker Trail—is outside the village limits in St. Armand.
There is no parking for the driveway. There are a few spaces in the dirt by the pool, but on busy days, cars are parked up and down the sides of the road. Davina Weinemler, the town superintendent of St. Armand, noted Monday that the road doesn’t have pavement or much shoulder.
Forest Hill Street is a narrow street with many blind curves. Hikers who park on both sides of the narrow Forest Hill, along with the loop around Moody Pond a popular place to walk and bike, make traveling in the neighborhood dangerous, says Winnemiller. She said it was “nightmare” for the residents there.
Winnemiller said residents on Forest Hill Street asked her for help, so she was asking for help from the village.
Last month, I asked the Saranac Lake Board of Directors to consider replacing Mount Pisgah with Baker in the Challenge. The village is not currently moving forward in discussing this, as there have been issues with Basga that have been brought up.
In 2021, the city formalized two volunteer law enforcement officers to issue tickets and warnings to drivers of vehicles improperly parked there, enforcing the local law adopted by the city a year earlier. Before that, it was Winemiller who issued tickets and warned themselves – go out and patrol improperly parked cars for 53 days in a row.
The city issues $25 tickets for vehicles that are parked dangerously or where they should not be on the road.