New York is looking for volunteers as one way to help deal with the crush and negative impacts of new and inexperienced hikers on popular trailheads of hiking trails in the Adirondacks and Catskills.
Introduced in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2021 State of the State address, the “Adopt-a-Trailhead” program will be managed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The DEC is currently in the process of identifying those trailheads that will benefit most from the new program.
In recent years, particularly in 2020 as New Yorkers eagerly pursued safe outdoor recreation experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, the state has seen an increase in the number of visitors to parks, lands, and trails. This trend is expected to continue this year.
“While this uptick provides an opportunity for more New Yorkers to explore the state’s scenic natural areas, many of these new users are inexperienced in back-country recreation, leading to mistakes that are potentially harmful to themselves and the environment,” according to a press release from the governor.
Last year saw record crowds, particularly in the popular areas of the Adirondack High Peaks. The number of hikers and increase in the numbers of hiker rescues left state and local officials wondering whether it’s finally time to limit the numbers of hikers through paid permits for parking areas to popular trailheads.
The situation also emphasized the need to hire more state Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Rangers and other staff to help deal with things, some said.
Recently, the DEC announced a pilot program, in partnership with the Adirondack Mountain Reserve, for a pilot parking reservation system to provide reliable access and address public safety at a particularly crowded corner on Route 73 in the town of Keene in the Adirondack High Peaks region. The reservation system, effective May 1, will be operated by AMR.
Under the new Adopt-a-Trailhead program, volunteers will be asked to bolster “ongoing efforts to eliminate litter problems and educate trail users about hiker preparedness, thus eliminating the amount of trash left at trailheads and encouraging proper disposal of human waste while in the woods.”
Groups interested in volunteering for the program should submit an Adopt-a-Trailhead volunteer application to [email protected] (emailed applications are preferred), or via mail to: NYSDEC, Division of Lands and Forests, Attn: Adopt-a-Trailhead Coordinator, 625 Broadway, 5th Floor, Albany, NY 12233.
After applications are approved, groups and individuals will be assigned to a trailhead in their area.
Participation in the Adopt-a-Trailhead program will include:
* A series of online training courses focused on Leave No Trace principles, visitor interaction, and visitor education;
* Virtual meetings with DEC program staff to answer questions and share suggestions;
* Spending time at assigned trailheads during weekend mornings, including holiday weekends and some Friday afternoons, depending on the location; and
* Monthly reports highlighting statistics such as number of volunteers that participated and number of hours spent at the trailhead.
Meanwhile, volunteers and DEC will continue to encourage hikers to Hike Smart NY and follow the seven principles of Leave No Trace while hiking. LNT is a set of outdoor ethics developed to educate recreationists on how to best enjoy the outdoors while minimizing their impact.
In addition, DEC continues to encourage visitors to the Adirondacks to seek out nearby alternative hikes that provide an experience similar to a High Peaks hike, including great scenic views, but with fewer people.
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