I culled through a long discussion at ADKforums.com on the guidelines and rules for sharing lean-tos. Basically there are guidelines stating that it is nice to share lean-tos, however, there are no regulations requiring they be shared.
WildRiver stated “There is no regulation compelling lean-to users to share the shelters with latecomers. Latecomers have no regulatory right to move into lean-tos that are currently being occupied, even if there is room. On the other hand: No one can claim exclusive occupancy of any portion of state land, whether it be a lean-to or an off-trail campsite in the middle of nowhere. Basically, the state’s land use regulations are completely mum on the topic of sharing campsites. No matter where you go in the Forest Preserve, you have no guaranteed “right” to solitude, nor do you have the “right” to intrude on someone else’s.
However, there is by all means a valid expectation for solitude. The word is an integral part of the legal definition of “Wilderness Area,” meaning that solitude is a feature the state is officially trying to promote and perpetuate. In fact, the Five Ponds Wilderness UMP specifically addresses people “who go into the wilderness primarily as a social excursion seeking the company of others and facilities where they might congregate” by stating: “Users” in [this] category are not really seeking a wilderness or the experience of it. Therefore, the accommodation of user group 5 is not a goal in the management of this unit.
So there is an official obligation to provide “outstanding opportunities for solitude,” and in fact this is a key part of the wilderness experience. Most people that you meet in the back country are in search of privacy to one degree or another, and it is to everyone’s mutual benefit to give each other space when choosing a campsite.”
The formal DEC regulations can be read here.
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