A Partnership between ADK, the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
The Summit Stewardship Program was founded in 1989 in response to alarming declines of alpine habitat in the Adirondack High Peaks in the latter half of the 20th Century. Through the leadership of Dr. Edwin Ketchledge and Kathy Regan, the program was developed to complete three main tasks within its mission: educate the public about alpine ecosystems, maintain trails above treeline, and perform scientific research. The program is a partnership between ADK (Adirondack Mountain Club), the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC).
Working from Memorial Day Weekend through Columbus Day every year, summit stewards educate the public through low-key informal interpretation. Stewards interact with visitors on a person-to-person level with the goal of inspiring them to become stewards themselves by staying off fragile alpine plants. Doing the “rock walk” is a key part of this, where stewards ask hikers to stick to bare rock surfaces when above treeline.
Focusing on mountains that have alpine vegetation and high volumes of hiker visitation, summit stewards spend seven days a week on Marcy and Algonquin, five days a week on Wright, weekends on Cascade, and work biweekly on Colden. They can also be found on more remote alpine summits doing research and trail work.
Part of protecting sensitive alpine vegetation is ensuring that trails above treeline are well-marked and clear for hikers. This ensures that people stay on bare rock surfaces, which are more durable than easily-eroded soil found on alpine summits. Summit stewards use less-busy days to build cairns, build scree walls, rock-pack eroded areas, brush-in undesignated trails, paint new trail markers, and other important trail projects.
The Summit Stewardship Program is on the front line of alpine research in New York State. Every three to five years, stewards perform photopoint monitoring to determine recovery rates of alpine vegetation, survey for alpine pollinator species, and other crucial research tasks that help determine the health of New York’s alpine ecosystems.
There is also a summit steward who is designated to perform alpine plant surveying: the Dr. Edward Norton Botany Steward. Stewards in this role focus almost exclusively on surveying to 27 rare, threatened, and endangered alpine plants found in New York State.
The Summit Stewardship Program is made possible by public funding and donations. If you want to help protect New York State’s fragile alpine ecosystems, you can do so by donating here.
There are also opportunities to get involved either as a professional or volunteer summit steward. Further information can be found below. Applications for professional stewards open in January each year and are due by mid-February.
For further questions, please contact Kayla White, Summit Steward Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.