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Where can you park at Harriman State Park and Bear Mountain and (more importantly) how do you know?

A sign for Harriman State Park

What’s the big secret? Let people know where they can legally park in Harriman and Bear Mountain State Parks by placing small signs or markers in the lots and pull-outs where parking is allowed.

There are almost 50 legal parking areas within or adjacent to Harriman State Park and Bear Mountain (a few less during the winter, when seasonal roads are closed).  Those are plentiful options when it comes time to plan your next day or overnight hike through the park. But unless you have the trail maps, you couldn’t know this.  You could drive north from the city, enter and leave Harriman State Park, without ever suspecting that there are 200 miles of great hiking trails and lean-tos in the park.

What if this sign said, "Park Here", doing double-duty: Yes, there is a wonderful park, and it's right here.  And you can park here.

What if this sign said, “Park Here”, doing double-duty: Yes, there is a wonderful park, and it’s right here. And you can park here.

Unbelievably, the official web pages for Harriman, on the New York State Parks site, do not give the locations of legal parking areas (if you’re looking for a firewood map, though, you’re in luck!) If anything, they mislead one into thinking that the only places to park legally are in the lots at Lake Welch, Bear Mountain, Silvermine and Lake Tiorati, and the big lots at Anthony Wayne.  The Palisades Parks Conservancy site offers no better information. The only way to know where legal and official parking is allowed in Harriman and Bear Mountain is to purchase a map from the Trail Conference, or download our free map (a lesser option!).  So, if you’re just driving through the park and looking for a place to leave your car while you enjoy the trails, you’re out of luck.  This should change.

A mess of trail markers along the historic 1777 and 1779 trails in Bear Mountain State Park.

If you don’t mind the distraction of a man-made sign, why not post a sign where parking is legal is Harriman State Park? These markers are along the 1779 and 1777 trails in Bear Mountain.

It would be a nice touch (not to mention fair) to put signs up at all legal parking areas in Harriman State Park — not just the ones that get all the traffic.  And compared to some of the larger, more expensive park projects like repaving the Palisades Parkway and the engineering studies and repairs to low level outlets for some of Harriman’s dams, I’d think a parking sign project would be relatively inexpensive.  Maybe even an Eagle Scout project. I wonder, though, if the parks are playing a longer game with Harriman.  It’s so close to the humongous population of New York, but in some ways so undiscovered.  I wonder if there’s a fear that if more people know about Harriman, more will use Harriman.  And more money will need to be spend to maintain a park that is essentially passive, with little income stream. If that’s the case, isn’t it time to either pass the 2014 budget for New York State Parks, or look into alternate types of funding for Harriman?

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