ADK’s (Adirondack Mountain Club) Trailhead Stewardship Program (ADK TSP) has finished its fourth season of education at the Heart Lake Program Center. Normally running from Memorial Day Weekend through Columbus Day Weekend, the program saw a delayed start in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. After New York State came off of PAUSE in late May, ADK was able to start the 2020 TSP season a month later after developing safety protocols for volunteers. Despite these initial issues, the program saw another successful season as volunteers contacted 8,153 hikers at the Heart Lake Program Center—an average of 111 per day.

Two men stand by a buildingFor context, in 2018, volunteer hosts spoke with 9,436 hikers over the course of 72 days (131/day) and in 2019, they contacted 15,012 hikers over 92 days (163/day). With this year’s numbers included, this brings the grand total of hiker contacts to 32,601 since ADK started collecting data in May 2018. “Trailhead stewards have had a massive educational outreach impact since the program was founded three years ago,” said Seth Jones, ADK Education Director. “Even with a shortened season this year, they still reached thousands of hikers with stewardship messaging, including Leave No Trace outdoors skills and ethics.”

ADK’s TSP was founded in 2017 in response to a decade-long trend of increasing visitor numbers to the High Peaks Wilderness. At the Heart Lake Program Center’s trailheads, ADK sees approximately 30,000 hikers just in July and August each year—up from an estimated 15,000 hikers in the 2000s. By working in the parking lots and directing traffic, TSP volunteers are able to reach more hikers before they hit the trail and provide them with information on everything from trail conditions to backcountry regulations and low-impact recreational practices. “TSP volunteers are an important resource for hikers visiting the Heart Lake Program Center,” said Bobby Clark, High Peaks Information Center Manager. “Their educational presence helps hikers avoid mistakes in the backcountry that could result in negative recreational impacts on the surrounding wildlife and landscape, or even a rescue situation.”

If you are interested in volunteering as a Trailhead Steward in 2021, please contact Bobby Clark, High Peaks Information Center Manager, at bclark@adk.org.