Time for 6ers to start giving back

Enterprise Sports Editor Morgan Ryan descends a tricky section of Scarface Mountain, one of the Saranac Lake 6, in summer 2016. (Enterprise photo — Antonio Olivero)

No one can argue with the success of Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau’s 6ers hiking program. Locals know the trailheads for Haystack and McKenzie, Scarface, Ampersand, St. Regis and Baker mountains are often packed to overflowing.

While not all of these hikers can be linked to the 6er program, the village has issued certificates to nearly 2,500 people who have summitted all six mountains in the nearly five years since it started.

On the the downside, it has worsened hazardous parking conditions at Ampersand and Baker, and the trails on some of these mountains have taken a beating. On the other hand, this is a good problem to have. The village clearly tapped into something people want, and now more people — visitors and locals — are getting outdoors and active in the area around Saranac Lake.

In the bigger picture, the Saranac Lake 6ers spawned a whole new phase in Adirondack hiking: the challenge.

Prior to the 6ers, the only list-hiking challenge in the Adirondacks was the 46 High Peaks — those that had been originally surveyed as being 4,000 feet or taller — but that goal is out of reach for most. The 6ers put an achievement patch within reach of more people, and the public responded. For that, Rabideau should be applauded.

But while the number of 6ers has grown, their presence on trails when not hiking is nonexistent. It’s time for the mayor to rally those numbers to do some good for the woods.

The 46ers do trail work, donate money to trail work efforts, rebuild lean-tos and now work as conservation stewards at High Peaks trailheads. The Adirondack Mountain Club has long engaged in similar stewardship of the state’s wonderful wild lands. At a time when the state Department of Environmental Conservation staff is stretched thin and Gov. Andrew Cuomo seems intent on adding to the Adirondack Forest Preserve without adding to DEC’s capacity to manage it, volunteers are needed more than ever to help maintain and improve trails on state land — especially those that are abnormally popular.

The 46ers and the Mountain Club have shown that the hiking public will respond if given some direction and a task. Out of the thousands of 6er hikers, surely some would volunteer to give back to the Adirondacks. Rabideau could provide the opportunity and direction.

Now that the mayor is running for re-election, this would be a good time for him to create a 6er Stewardship program.