Lake Placid, NY – February 3, 2020 – The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics has released a series of recommendations for managing recreation-related impacts across the Adirondack Park. Central themes in the report include a need for comprehensive park planning, natural resource and visitor research and monitoring, enhanced partnerships with local and state tourism agencies and a host of education, outreach and training strategies. The Adirondack Council commissioned the analysis after last August’s Leave No Trace Hot Spot in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness.
These recommendations come at a critical time. A state-formed High Peaks Strategic Planning Advisory Group is currently working through a seven-month long process to determine short and long-term solutions to address impacts associated with increased use of the High Peaks region. This group will be presenting their recommendations to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos in June. The Leave No Trace Center has provided a thorough selection of solutions that the advisory group can consider. These recommendations would not only strengthen the good work that DEC and other partners are already doing, but would also empower the public through education and stewardship opportunities.
“Leave No Trace has been an important partner in educating the public on how to enjoy wild lands responsibly,” said Seth Jones, Education Director for ADK (Adirondack Mountain Club). “This assessment is aimed at helping the state make good choices when it invests in new methods and infrastructure to handle the ever-growing crowds of visitors in the Adirondack Park. Leave No Trace’s expertise and fresh perspectives have been very useful.”
Managing Recreation-Related Impacts
The list of challenges associated with high use is long: overflowing parking areas, increased search and rescue missions, human waste on the trail, negative human-wildlife interactions and more. However, the root of many of these impacts lies in a lack of infrastructure, including public restrooms, sustainable trails, educational signage, and defined parking spaces. These challenges are compounded by a general lack of understanding from current user groups, many of which are first-time hikers, on how to minimize impacts. The Leave No Trace Center recommends a comprehensive planning framework—which would incorporate all of these variables and provide monitoring systems that would provide data to drive management decisions in the future. Ensuring that the DEC has adequate staffing would be critical to this effort.
“The Leave No Trace Center is recommending a comprehensive Park-wide approach that includes limits on use in some locations at some times,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway. “We are pleased to see the state and many others recognize that the Adirondacks need to have implemented a fully funded, staffed, comprehensive strategy to protect wilderness, expand education, improve infrastructure and trails, and manage use. Managed right, this park could welcome many more visitors than the 12.4 million who came in 2018. That would allow more people to access and enjoy the wilderness and help many more Adirondack communities to reap the economic benefits of green tourism.”
Building a Culture of Wildlands Stewardship
Instilling a stewardship ethic in visitors is also key to ensuring that the Adirondack Park remains protected for generations to come. By providing the public with opportunities to enjoy the Adirondacks and also give back, stakeholders in the Adirondack Park can foster a culture of stewardship that will help address the high use challenges going forward.
Stewardship programs, like the Adirondack High Peaks Summit Stewardship Program, have shown that public outreach efforts work, even in highly sensitive ecosystems. Since 2009, visitor numbers have doubled on high peaks where there is a summit steward presence, yet alpine vegetation surveys on those same mountains have shown no statistically significant changes in vegetation cover over the last decade. This suggests that stewardship programs have an impact and the DEC and other stakeholders need to continue to invest in them.
“The recommendations provided by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics not only support more robust land management practices, but will also empower visitors to become stewards themselves,” said Michael Barrett, Executive Director of ADK (Adirondack Mountain Club), “We encourage people to visit the Adirondack Park and become invested in it, whether as volunteers on the trails, participants in local communities, or advocates in the state capitol. The results of this assessment provide us all with methods to achieve that result.”
Leave No Trace is an internationally recognized outdoor educational program that protects the outdoors by teaching and inspiring people to enjoy it responsibly. Their experience in national, state, and municipal park systems gives them valuable insight on how to solve diverse and complex management challenges. This report provides a fresh perspective on potential paths forward for the Adirondack Park. With these recommendations made public, ADK looks forward to working with local partners to help implement these new strategies so that we can all better support the Adirondack Park and all who enjoy it.
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518-523-3441, ext. 126 (work)
518-523-3441, ext. 120 (work)