LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — After a busy season with parking challenges, the Mount Greylock Advisory Council will explore alternative ways to get people to the summit.
Becky Barnes of the state Department of Conservation and Recreation told the council Thursday that this summer and fall were busy on the summit of Mount Greylock and they often had to close the road once the parking lot was at capacity.
"We really need to explore other ways to reach the summit for our visitors especially on these high visitation days," Barnes said. "There has to be some other way to get visitors to the summit ... we have to do some outside of the box thinking."
Barnes said specifically on Columbus Day weekend the summit was so busy that staff could only let a car in once one left. She said cars were parking improperly and creating safety concerns.
Expanding the parking lot is not an option because there are so many endangered species on the summit. She felt the most viable solution would be to implement some sort of shuttle service that could drive people up and down the mountain.
Barnes added that there would still be issues to work out, and people would still have to park at the base of the mountain where there also is limited parking. Also, she said it is hard to drive larger vehicles up the summit road.
There is no funding for this, and it was unlikely that the state would fund a shuttle service.
The council felt that if the state plans to continue to advertise the mountain to visitors it needs to step up and provide resources for traffic management.
Councilors also suggested somehow allowing people to reserve spaces on the mountain to limit congestion.
Superintendent Travis Clairmont suggested that charging at the base of the mountain instead of the summit could discourage and limit traffic.
"Instead we had them drive all the way up the mountain, congest traffic, and then we get no money from them when we kick them off the mountain," he said.
Chairman Cosmo Catalano asked that the council continue to brainstorm and have some sort of solution in place before the return of the summer season.
Clairmont said staff has been extra busy on the mountain during the pandemic cleaning up trash and maintaining trails.
"Obviously it has been really different here than years past with having not everything open and ... just about every day is a weekend day," he said. "We have had a ridiculous level of visitation."
Barnes added that the trails have been also used a lot and some trail braiding, or new lines along a trail, has occurred as people try to socially distance during hikes.
"We think it is when people try to avoid each other on the trails," Barnes said. "There are almost three trails moving down the Thunderbolt and I am pretty sure it is people stepping off the trail because of the COVID situation."
She added there have also been quite a few lost hikers this season. She attributed this to the closure of the visitors' center during the summer.
"They were unable to get that information they really need to start their trip off," she said.
Clairmont said the last day the summit road will likely be open is Halloween, on Saturday, Oct. 31. He said personally he would like to close it even earlier. Typically the mountain closes Nov. 1.