ADK’s (Adirondack Mountain Club) High Peaks Information Center (HPIC) is located at ADK’s Heart Lake Program Center, which abuts one of New York’s busiest trailheads. The HPIC serves as a gateway to the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness and is a major jumping off point for adventures in the High Peaks. In July and August of 2017 there were 27,251 registered hikers at the Heart Lake Program Center trailheads. Several problems specific to this area in recent years include: overuse in sensitive environments (especially the fragile alpine zone), improper disposal of human waste, improper food storage, illegal campfires and unprepared hikers. We felt that many of these issues would be preventable with increased public outreach.

In response ADK started the Volunteer High Peaks Information Center Host Program (Volunteer HPIC Host Program) to augment the staff member’s educational efforts.  This program ran for four weeks in August 2017. This year the program was expanded to nine weeks from the beginning of July through Labor Day weekend in September. Through the first four weeks of the program HPIC hosts’ have already interacted with 3,761 visitors. While on site the HPIC Host Volunteers represent ADK in an attempt to reach more visitors before they hit the trail. They are stationed in the HPIC’s hiker parking lots each morning from the time the HPIC opens until early afternoon. Hosts’ are responsible for performing a variety of functions such as helping to park vehicles, monitor parking lot capacity, giving trail information, spreading ADK’s mission of responsible recreation and stewardship, educating visitors on Leave No Trace principles and regulations specific to the area, suggesting alternative hikes in other locations and encouraging more visitors to stop inside the HPIC.

Visitors have been very receptive and appreciative of the hosts’ presence and our hosts’ have had a fun yet challenging experience interacting with the visitors. A recent host had this to say about the program, “I was very pleased with the reception to the program by all the people coming in. I felt it was very helpful and reached way more people than would have been reached if they had just parked and went onto the trails.” HPIC staff and ADK are very grateful for all of the volunteers who have helped with the program which has alleviated pressure on staff and resulted in more prepared hikers entering the backcountry.

The Volunteer HPIC Host Program is a great way to get involved with ADK and give back to help protect this beautiful place. For more information on volunteering please reach out to HPIC Manager Bobby Clark at bclark@adk.org.