An idea for the 6er program
To the editor:
As I read in the Enterprise about the village board’s dilemma regarding the crowded Mount Baker trailhead, an idea occurred to me. I don’t expect the village to adopt it wholesale, but I present it as food for thought.
Instead of swapping peaks (e.g., replacing Baker with Pisgah), maybe it makes more sense to put the 6er hiking challenge on hiatus and introduce a series of temporary, non-site-specific 6er challenges in which visitors and locals get to know our natural landscape a little better. For instance:
¯ A 6er paddling challenge, in which people submit photos of themselves paddling on six local water bodies of their choosing
¯ A 6er fishing challenge, in which people submit photos of themselves holding six fish they caught locally, with identification of each fish
¯ A 6er bird challenge, in which people submit identifications and evidence of six local birds: perhaps photos of the birds, photos of their feathers or nests, or digital recordings of bird calls
¯ A 6er tree challenge, with six local tree identifications, along with evidence such as photos of leaves or bark
¯ A 6er wildflower challenge — same as with trees.
I love that our village, under former Mayor Clyde Rabideau, took the initiative to introduce the 6er program. It was a great move, but since the beginning I have felt as Trustee Kelly Brunette does, that the village promoted trails that were not its to manage. That was bound to lead to problems. Also, hiking is just one small aspect of this well-rounded community. I am all for reintroducing the 6er hiking promotion in a few years, but in the meantime, rotating nature challenges would do less damage and do much to promote learning, conversation among family and friends, consciousness of science and environmental stewardship, and a sense of perspective about the world around us.
What counts as “local”? I would use the same parameters the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce uses — that is, within the Saranac Lake Central School District. Nearby communities such as Tupper Lake, Lake Placid and Malone should be free to develop their own models without feeling like we are stepping on their turf.
Who would run it? I expect the village would continue to be the primary agency that sets parameters and awards patches. The chamber of commerce already runs a visitor center and could be a second contact point for 6er candidates. One or more regional tourism development agencies could develop a website which, if designed well, could handle most of people’s interaction with the program. The village could also seek input from the local school district, and the towns of Harrietstown, North Elba, St. Armand, Franklin, Brighton and Santa Clara.
What do you think? I am very interested in hearing other people’s feedback and ideas.