LAKE PLACID - Glass tables showcasing High Peaks maps and trails, two cash registers and a working fireplace - hikers at the state's most popular trailhead will now depart from a spacious and light-filled High Peaks Information Center that looks vastly different from what it was pre-makeover.
Wes Lampman, the North Country operations director for the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK), said interior renovations should be 100-percent complete by the end of this month. As of last week, the center's bathrooms are open along with a new information center and equipment rentals. Lampman added that gear sale offerings are limited right now but will be expanded in coming weeks as retail displays are completed and installed.
No longer are HPIC employees working out of adjacent tents, as they did this winter, though porta-johns are still in place next to the HPIC.
Retail racks display shirts and hiking gear for purchase at the renovated Adirondack Mountain Club High Peaks Information Center. (News photo — Antonio Olivero)
"Many of the tasks still left to complete are small in nature, such as retail displays, storage shelves, et cetera," Lampman said. "The only outside contracted item left to do is the installation of the stove insert in the fireplace."
On Monday, staff at the HPIC, including Manager Michelle Minnoe and Assistant Manager Justin Ramos, said the renovated facility will provide new and expanded services. Other services will be moved to new locations outside the information center.
"It's beautiful," Minnoe said of the renovated information center. "It's going to be a much more opened-up space for all of us, staff and visitors included.
"The way that the building is going to be used is going to change quite a bit because we don't really have the gear-up space anymore that we used to have," she continued. "If you visited us before, we had tables that people could set up and lay all their gear out. People could come in and kind of have a picnic-style lunch, and that's not really the way the indoor space of this is going to be used anymore."
One free public amenity the HPIC will no longer provide is showers. Previously the HPIC was the only trailhead in the state to offer public showers.
Minnoe added that the single cash register at the old HPIC often created a bottleneck situation on busy days.
"So now we actually have space to offer two retail work stations, plus an area where people can take care of all of their information and rentals separately," she said. "So we'll hopefully be able to move the traffic along quite efficiently."
"And when the outdoor space gets finished, there will be covered picnic tables for folks to have that gear-up space," she added. "But it's just going to be a building with a different use. It's going to be much more retail-focused."
In December, Lampman said the most beneficial change of the HPIC is the new open floor plan, which ADK officials hoped would bring a new character to the facility.
Nearly complete on Monday, the center featured striking Adirondack-style carved-wood furniture, light shining through overhead beams and a renovated fireplace display along the entrance wall. Several retail displays are currently set up along the floor, a television is set to be hung from a side wall, and snowshoes and other rental gear sat in kitty-cornered bins next to the registers at the head of the room.
The renovation is part of a $291,000 project ADK has been undergoing for several months that will stretch at least several more months. In December, Lampman said 75 percent of the funding for the project is coming from a grant via the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. ADK is providing the other quarter of the total.
The renovation at the HPIC, originally built in 1972, also includes newly sanded and stained wooden floors, new paneling, newly sanded wooden trusses and two counters for equipment rentals and purchases as well as trip planning. The entrance has been moved to the right, and it's in the form of a new airlock vestibule entryway.
The HPIC will also have a station for hikers and skiers to fuel up on hot drinks such as hot chocolate and coffee.
Other grant-funded facets of the project that are yet to come include an expansion of ADK's wilderness campground and the construction of a new washhouse facility.
In addition to the campground and HPIC, this piece of property ADK owns in the heart of the High Peaks Wilderness also includes Heart Lake, Mount Jo, the Adirondak Loj and a large parking lot, which the club charges to use.
Lampman said at the end of 2016 that ADK sees more than 50,000 visitors sign into the Van Hoevenberg Trail register yearly, and a number approaching 100,000 at the Heart Lake property. Last summer, ADK's crew of summit stewards spoke with more than 33,000 hikers across about a half-dozen of the most popular mountains in the area.