ADK (Adirondack Mountain Club) is preparing to educate and assist in the stewardship of the Adirondack High Peaks this upcoming hiking season. The upcoming Canadian Victoria Day holiday weekend (May 19-21) unofficially marks the start of the busy hiking season. The High Peaks region has received a significant increase in recreational use over the past seven years, something that ADK has been monitoring and experiencing for many years. Recently released data shows the significant need for management efforts to help address the high use of the High Peaks Wilderness.
“For over 90 years ADK has been a steward of New York’s wild lands and waters by putting boots on the ground to do trail maintenance, to monitor lakes and forests for invasive pests, by educating recreationists in Leave No Trace skills and ethics, and by advocating for public land protections,” says Wes Lampman, ADK’s chief operating officer. “ADK is ready to continue this legacy for the upcoming summer season.”
ADK owns and operates property adjacent to one of the busiest trailheads in the High Peaks – the main access point for Algonquin and Mt. Marcy, where 200 parking spaces fill to capacity on almost every weekend. ADK’s High Peaks Summit Stewards have seen a 64% increase in the number of people they have been interacting with on the summits over the past five years.
With the 2018 summer hiking season just around the corner, ADK is continuing its efforts to alleviate the pressures of so many people using this beautiful landscape. ADK is constantly trying new strategies to instill an outdoor ethic within a new wave of recreationists.
“We have a great opportunity to educate and inspire the recreationists who are coming to the High Peaks region,” says Julia Goren, ADK’s education director. “We can help folks be stewards and advocates for public lands in the Adirondacks and back where they live.”
ADK has been working closely with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
Over the winter ADK staff participated in focus groups facilitated by DEC on the future management of the High Peaks Wilderness to brainstorm ideas on how to manage the influx in use on this special resource. ADK staff advocated for better educational tools, resources for trail maintenance and creative ideas on management of the High Peaks Wilderness.
“20 years ago DEC took strong measures to protect the High Peaks Wilderness in the 1999 High Peaks Unit Management Plan by adopting regulations such as group size limits and a ban on fires. Addressing this new increase in recreational use twenty years later will take new measures and ADK is ready to be working with DEC to support them,” said Neil Woodworth, ADK’s executive director.
ADK’s Public Affairs office continues to advocate for more funding for DEC Forest Rangers along with increasing the amount of New York’s Environmental Protection Fund that provides critical funding for stewardship and land protection of the Forest Preserve.
ADK continues to invest in boots-on-the-ground stewardship efforts.
Last year ADK invested in an additional full-time educator helping increase Leave No Trace skills and ethics education by reaching 137,000 people, an increase from 47,000 people the year before. Programs for the public, as well as for camp and college groups, will continue throughout the summer and fall as well. These programs are geared to help High Peaks users have the knowledge to recreate as responsibly as possible.
The Professional Trail Crew will spend at least four weeks working on the trails in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness. Their work will be focused on Big Slide Mountain to help protect the natural resource in heavily used travel corridors. They will be kicking off the season in a couple of weeks with a patrol of over 50 miles of trails in the High Peaks by clearing down tree debris and cleaning trail water drainage structures.
ADK continues to make investments to the Heart Lake Program Center.
This year ADK will be completing its multi-year $1 million infrastructure investment to its Heart Lake Program Center to better serve the hiking public and to take some of the recreational pressure off of the High Peaks Wilderness. Investments include renovations to the High Peaks Information Center to improve visitor education, a new washhouse and septic system to manage human waste, a new campground loop to take camping pressure off of the High Peaks, and a new yurt village for educational programing.
ADK volunteers continue to inspire the hiking community.
ADK piloted a volunteer High Peaks Information Center (HPIC) host program this past August where volunteers helped HPIC staff educate hikers in the parking lot before they set out on their adventures. This program will continue this year. This past weekend ADK Summit Steward Coordinator Kayla White and Julia Goren trained forty Adirondack 46er Cascade Trailhead volunteers.
ADK initiated a new volunteer stewardship ambassador program this spring that uses social media to inspire outdoor enthusiasts to protect New York’s wild lands and waters. The hope is that this new program will use these powerful platforms to motivate recreationists to recreate responsibly.
“ADK would not be able to do the work that we do with out the support of our members, donors and many organizational partners,” says Neil Woodworth, ADK’s executive director. “This support ensures that ADK can continue to protect the High Peaks Wilderness and educate the next generation of recreationists.”