October 24th, 2019
The High Peaks Information Center (HPIC) volunteer host program has finished its second full season of hosting at the Heart Lake Program Center. The host program was founded in 2017 in response to a recent trend in which we now routinely see 30,000 hikers visiting the property just in July and August each year. Despite this increase in visitors, we noticed that only a small fraction of them actually step foot inside the HPIC.
Historically, this has represented a major loss in terms of educational conversations that could have taken place between our staff and hikers before they travel into the backcountry. HPIC hosts have mitigated this in a number of ways. By working in the parking lots and directing traffic, they are able to reach more hikers before they hit the trail as an additional point of contact. Hosts not only provide trail information themselves, but also help direct hikers to the HPIC for further details and rentals. For new visitors, who may not be aware of important regulations—such as bear canisters being required for overnight backpacking trips—this helps ensure that they avoid errors that could result in negative impacts on the surrounding wildlife and landscape or a bad experience.
In 2018, volunteer hosts made contact with 9,436 hikers over the course of 72 days. This year, numbers have increased to 15,012 hikers contacted over 92 days. This is a fantastic result, as it indicates that our volunteers are contacting roughly a third of the hikers that start from our property. That makes 24,448 contacts—an average of 149 per day—since we started collecting data in May of 2018.
With high use dominating headlines throughout the Adirondack Park right now, we know that a major part of the solution is educational outreach. The HPIC host program is an effort by ADK and its volunteers to reach visitors before they enter the backcountry, thus equipping them to make more educated and safer decisions during their trip. With a high number of first-time visitors coming to the High Peaks Region every year, educational actions like this are imperative to both preserving the resource and keeping people safe.
If you are interested in volunteering as an HPIC host in 2020, please contact Bobby Clark, High Peaks Information Center Manager, at email@example.com.
The HPIC Host program was supported in 2019 by generous funding from Glens Falls National Bank