46ers pledge big money to ADK High Peaks programs

A summit steward talks to hikers atop Mount Marcy, New York’s highest point, on Sept. 23, 2017. (Enterprise photo — Antonio Olivero)

LAKE PLACID — The Adirondack 46ers hiking group has pledged more than $70,000 over the next three years to help support the Adirondack Mountain Club trail crew and summit steward programs.

The ADK announced the plan Monday, saying that the 46ers will provide $15,000 per year for the next three years to the summit steward program, along with another $26,000 for the trail crew.

“The Adirondack High Peaks Summit Stewardship Program, a partnership of ADK, The Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy (TNC), and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC). Support from the 46ers will help summit stewards continue their efforts in protecting NY’s rare alpine plants by educating hikers to be responsible recreationists,” the ADK said in a press release.

“Summit Stewards spoke with 31,625 hikers on the summits in 2017, an increase of 12,000 since 2011. During the same period while hikers have been increasing in numbers, the Summit Steward Program has struggled to meet its funding needs. The 46ers have stepped in at a crucial time to close that funding gap.”

This is not the first time the 46ers have provided funds for the two programs. Since 2002, the group has given the ADK more than $200,000.

This round of funding will help pay the stewards’ salaries and the trail crew pay for training and spring patrols, as well as for a trail project on Big Slide Mountain.

The ADK, DEC and TNC have worked together on the summit steward program for years, and the 46ers joined the fray in a more visible way this year as well by starting a trailhead steward program.

The 46ers were set up at the trailhead for Cascade and Porter mountains every weekend during the height of hiking season, and trained alongside the summit stewards so the groups were putting forth a coherent message.

“I think that’s a great educational opportunity at both the bottom and the top. Hook them early, hook them young when they’re first starting this whole thing and hopefully they’ll take it with them,” 46ers President Brian Hoody said in June. “Even if there are a lot of people on the trails, maybe they’ll be a little nicer.”

The ADK’s summit steward program employs five stewards, but the group also has a host of about two-dozen committed volunteers. On a typical holiday weekend, such as Labor Day last month, the summit stewards will speak with several thousand hikers.

“There’s been a very clear exponential growth in the number of users from 2011 to now,” ADK Education Director Julia Goren said in September. “I can speculate that it’s social media, and I can speculate that people are doing more staycations. I can speculate that it’s the governor’s I Love New York campaign and all the ads about coming to the Adirondacks.

“But I think it was all of those things.”

Summit stewards speak with hikers about the surrounding mountains, alpine vegetation and the principles of Leave No Trace. They also tally the number of hikers that arrive at a given summit and sometimes assist DEC forest rangers in search and rescue missions. The ADK’s summit steward director said in the press release that the additional funding will help the group continue its mission.

“Summit Stewards have always played an important role in inspiring hikers, both new and experienced, to be stewards of our summits. The ever-increasing numbers of hikers pose new challenges” Summit Steward Coordinator Kayla White said in the release. “Thanks to the generosity of the 46ers, we’ll be able to continue to educate, protect our alpine summits and preserve the quality of the summit experience.”